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Dole’s Take on Foreign Policy

The saying “Politics stops at the water’s edge” cannot have been coined by any close student of American politics, for the U.S. governmental system of checks and balances does not by any means stop at the water’s edge. As just one recent example of partisan wrangling over foreign policy, recall the somewhat successful effort by Democrats in Congress to rein in then-President Ronald Reagan’s hostility toward Nicaragua’s Sandinista regime in the 1980s.

Now the partisan tables are being turned. On Wednesday Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.) introduced a set of bills using the congressional power of the purse against President Clinton’s foreign policy, which Dole and other critics find unfocused and inconsistent. A summary of the Dole bills:

--In exchange for halting plutonium production, Clinton promised North Korea $4.7 million worth of fuel oil this month. (Japan and South Korea promised $4 billion in other aid.) Dole objects to any U.S. aid to North Korea.

--Money will also play a part in the transfer next month of peacekeeping responsibility in Haiti from the United States to the United Nations. Dole wants to reduce the overall U.S. contribution to the United Nations and, in particular, count money already spent in Haiti as part of that contribution.

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--On Bosnia, Dole would have the U.N.-imposed arms embargo lifted by the United Nations or, if necessary, broken by the United States. That makes sense. The vacillation of the Clinton Administration’s Balkans policy has left a vacuum that the Senate majority leader has, arguably, a moral duty as well as the legal right to fill.

However, if the 71-year-old Dole is to be convincing as elder statesman, he must make sure that his foreign policy agenda truly has policy and not the Democratic President as its target. A politically motivated foreign counter-policy, undermining the President at every point, would hurt the country as well as Clinton and, in the end, undercut Dole’s own well-known presidential ambitions.

U.S. Cold War foreign policy in its crucial opening years was, in good measure, the creation of a Republican senator, Arthur Vandenberg, and a Democratic secretary of state, George C. Marshall. A durable post-Cold War policy will require that kind of cooperation between Dole and Secretary of State Warren Christopher.


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