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Revamp Foreign Policy

INCREASINGLY, I feel a kind of perplexed wariness as I see the Clinton administration pursue the role of the United States in world affairs.

The president's agenda for social healing at home is inextricably linked to his efforts in charting a course for the US through the global shoals ahead. But sadly, Bill Clinton faces huge problems in both the content and the form of his administration's engagement with the world outside our borders.

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Content-wise, no one in the administration has the clarity of purpose on international questions of, say, Vaclav Havel. He told a recent meeting of the Council of Europe: ``The common basis of any effort to integrate Europe is the wealth of values and ideals we share. Among them are respect for the uniqueness and the freedom of each human being, the principles of a democratic and pluralistic political system, a market economy, and a civic society with the rule of law....''

To compare such stirring words with the stumbling rhetoric that President Clinton employs on global issues is to acknowledge some embarrassment. But then, Clinton was elected precisely because of his emphasis on domestic matters. So where is the intellectual giant on foreign affairs whom he should have at his shoulder, and to whom he should give enormous authority? I am not sure if I can see one in the present line-up.

The other huge problem that the president faces has been inherited but not yet recognized: the dysfunctional nature of our country's foreign policy-making apparatus, which was designed in 1947 to coordinate the massive military-political venture that became the cold war.

Since 1947, each of the agencies involved has shown a kudzu-like adherence to the principle of growth. Each set up within itself small ``shops'' to mimic the work of the other agencies. The shops grew, until each shop in each agency now seeks to mimic the whole apparatus.

What a waste of time - and our money. The bureaucratic bloat has blurred lines of responsibility so that even those who are supposed to control the lines cannot see where they run. Soldiers in Mogadishu launch a punishing operation against Gen. Mohamed Farah Aideed - more than a full work-week after that policy was supposedly changed. The CIA, whose director reports to the president, sends a man to Capitol Hill to bad-mouth the elected president of Haiti - whose restoration Clinton has pledged to support. Who is in charge? Does nobody - except, reportedly, National Security Council adviser Anthony Lake - have the seriousness of commitment to offer to resign? (That reported offer was refused.)

If the republic is to run any kind of an effective foreign policy, the bureaucracy has to be reorganized and massively down-sized. The president needs to remind the bureaucrats that the cold war is over. Congratulate them on the success of their efforts and send them out to do something useful in the world.

We could send a flock of deputy assistant secretaries of defense to feed the starving in Sudan and a passel of deputy under-secretaries of State to work as human rights monitors in Bosnia. You get the idea.

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Some administrative boldness is definitely in order, along with a lot more high-level commitment and vision, if the president is to chart a successful course beyond the cold war. Let's see it happen.

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