Congressman calls for unified US foreign policy. Solarz sees potential for bipartisan effort on such issues as Gulf war
``Our country is always most effective abroad when it is united at home,'' says Rep. Steven Solarz (D) of New York. A kind of ``genuine bipartisan foreign policy'' has emerged with respect to the Philippines and South Korea and ``is very much in the interests of the United States,'' says Mr. Solarz, the chairman of the Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs in the House of Representatives. He sees the potential for such agreement on Gulf policy and even on the difficult issue of aid to Pakistan.
Solarz, who traveled to the Gulf recently, meeting with top officials there, sees ``no justification whatsoever for the administration's refusal to invoke'' the War Powers Resolution by sending men and ships to the Gulf. This is ``a very serious legal and political mistake.''
The congressman has often been a critic of Reagan administration foreign policy. However, foreign affairs officials in the administration respect the No. 4 ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee for what they regard as a hard-working and professional approach to foreign policy. He has been a welcome partner in a number of areas and a respected adversary, when there is disagreement.
On his Gulf visit, Solarz found a clear threat to US men and ships in the region. He supported the recent US capture of an Iranian mine-laying boat. Despite the concerns of some in the administration, he says, Congress would approve ``by a very substantial margin'' any notification under the War Powers Resolution, thus ``legalizing and legitimizing'' the US presence. This would broaden support at home and send a signal of US resolve to Iran, he adds.
Solarz contends that a compromise between the administration and the congressional leadership is possible on this issue, whereby Congress would support the US Gulf presence and the administration could preserve its argument that the War Powers Resolution is unconstitutional.
The congressman found very strong support for US policy among all the Gulf Arab countries, ``much stronger than I had been led to believe here in Washington.'' He also found a much greater degree of cooperation with the US than is ``publicly recognized here at home.''
Solarz returned from the Gulf a firm supporter of moves for sanctions against Iran in the UN and wants the US to announce a boycott of Iranian oil as a means of pressing Iran to end the war. He argues that the US has great interest in bringing the Iran-Iraq war to an end before it escalates ``in a way that could conceivably suck in the United States.''
In his recent Monitor interview, Solarz discussed a range of foreign policy issues, giving special emphasis to those that fall in his subcommittee's domain, which stretches from Pakistan to the Pacific. He praised the administration's strong ``political support'' of Philippine President Corazon Aquino and of democracy in her country. Solarz, however, says that more is needed.
``I don't think the administration has been as supportive as it could have been or should have been, in terms of the amount of our assistance to the Philippines. ... We have an enormous amount at stake in the survival of democracy [there].''
The ability of the Aquino government to overcome the challenges ``from the communists ... to the dissidents on the right is clearly related'' to available resources, he says. Though he says Congress shares the blame here, he faults the administration for not supporting his request for an extra $100 million in economic aid for the Philippines.
Turning to South Korea, Solarz says that ``what is happening [there] is one of the great political miracles of our times.'' However, ``it remains to be seen whether the move toward democratization is fully carried out. ... We should be doing all that we can to support and consolidate'' that process. ``On this, the administration is taking a very helpful and constructive position.''
One of the stickiest foreign policy dilemmas that Solarz's subcommittee faces this fall is aid to Pakistan. A Pakistani national was indicted in July for trying illegally to export 50 tons of specialty steel, apparently for use in Pakistan's clandestine nuclear weapons program. If Pakistan's government is involved, as many believe, all US aid could be stopped.
Pakistan, however, is the base for Afghan resistance fighters and one of America's closest friends in the strategically important region. Regional specialists also argue that cutting off US aid could push Pakistan to develop nuclear weapons even more quickly, because of its fear of India and set off a nuclear arms race on the subcontinent.
``King Solomon himself would probably be hard pressed to come up with a solution'' that satisfies all the interests involved here, Solarz begins. However, ``above all else we must uphold the laws of our land. ... It certainly appears on the face of it that Pakistan has violated the law.'' At a minimum, Solarz argues that President Reagan should make a determination under existing law whether the export attempt was aimed at advancing Pakistan's nuclear weapons program. If it was, the President is bound to terminate US aid or to waive the cut off.
The question then becomes whether a waiver can be justified and that depends on Pakistan's ongoing policies, Solarz says. ``I would attempt to square that circle ... by renewing our aid to Pakistan, contingent on a presidential report to Congress that Pakistan is not producing fissile material capable of being used in the manufacture of weapons.'' Solarz explains that the Pakistanis have continuously said that they are not producing such material.
``By making our aid conditional on their compliance with their own commitments, it should be somewhat easier for the Pakistanis to comply than if we were imposing demands on them'' that required a public contradiction of their stated policy, he says. Solarz argues that it is reasonable to assume that Pakistan may be willing to take the steps necessary to assure continued US aid. Even if it chose not to, he adds, it is far from clear that aid to the Afghan resistance would suffer ``as that is in [Pakistan's] own national security interest.''