Military Downplayed in U.S. Role Overseas : Foreign policy: National security adviser says efforts to spread democracy and free enterprise should still be pressed.


Launching the Clinton Administration’s first broad-scale attempt to define an overall foreign policy for the post-Cold War world, National Security Adviser Anthony Lake said Tuesday that the United States should strive to spread democracy and free enterprise abroad--but not at the cost of undertaking military action.

“While there will be increasing calls on us to help stem bloodshed and suffering in ethnic conflicts. . , there will be relatively few (cases) that justify our military intervention,” Lake told an audience at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies.

Lake said the current crises in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Somalia are secondary issues that “do not by themselves define our broader strategy in the world.”

He complained that the debate over the use of American military force there has been “overdrawn.”


Aides said Lake’s speech had a twofold purpose: to rebut critics who have charged that Clinton has no clear principles guiding his commitments abroad and to prepare the way for the President’s own foreign policy speech at the United Nations on Monday.

The speech reflected a pattern of caution about military engagement abroad that has characterized the Administration since Clinton took office in January.

In May, Undersecretary of State Peter Tarnoff told reporters that U.S. engagements abroad would be limited by economic and political constraints.

Secretary of State Warren Christopher and other senior officials disavowed Tarnoff’s comments, but their statements since then--including Lake’s speech Tuesday--have largely agreed with Tarnoff.


In Bosnia-Herzegovina, Lake said, “a vast humanitarian tragedy” has prompted U.S. diplomatic action.

But American concern over the human suffering there “does not justify the extreme costs” of unilateral military action, he said, defending Clinton’s decision not to use force.

Lake said that in Somalia, where U.S. troops are trying to capture warlord Mohammed Farah Aidid, an American withdrawal “is only a matter of time” but must not occur in a way that would return the country to chaos.

On broader principles, the national security adviser said he worried that Americans were turning toward the isolationism of pre-World War II years. He warned that such a shift would hurt the nation’s economy as well as its security.


Just as Cold War foreign policy aimed at “containment” of the Soviet threat to democracy, he argued, post-Cold War policy should aim at “enlargement” of democracy. But he said the Administration would pursue that goal cautiously, and only where it coincided with U.S. economic and military interests.

“This is not a democratic crusade,” Lake said. “It is a pragmatic commitment to see freedom take hold where that will help us most. . . . Other American interests at times will require us to befriend and even defend non-democratic states for mutually beneficial reasons.”

Thus, for example, while he said the United States would like to see democracy take hold in China, “we cannot impose democracy.”