Clinton Seeks Diversity In Foreign Policy Advisers
Mix of internationalists and conservatives would face new era of spreading democracy
CAN hawks and doves roost in the same nest? Bill Clinton may be about to find out.
To guide him through the complexities of the post-cold-war era, the Arkansas governor has gathered birds of various feathers into his circle of foreign policy advisers. So far they have easily coalesced around a broad platform that accents economic recovery at home, promoting democracy abroad, and international engagement to deal with regional conflicts. But if Clinton is elected, say diplomatic analysts, they could find devils in the details as they attempt to hammer out a new American foreign policy.
"The Clinton team ranges from Wilsonian internationalists, who want to make the world over in America's image, to realists who have a sharper view of the limits of what we can do overseas," says John Judis, author of a new book on the American foreign policy establishment. "There might be tension between those wings."
"The fit will actually be pretty good," responds Harvard professor Joseph Nye, a Clinton adviser.
"If hawks and doves used to differ on the degrees of disarmament and relations with the Soviet Union, they don't differ at all on things like stopping nuclear proliferation, which will be the major issues now. The kinds of things that used to be so divisive are greatly diminished." Experts from Carter era
Clinton has brought onto his foreign policy team former Carter administration officials known to favor working through multilateral institutions like the United Nations, including State Department veterans Anthony Lake, now a professor at Mount Holyoke College, and Samuel Berger, a Washington lawyer.
The Clinton circle also includes Rep. Les Aspen (D) of Wisconsin, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Michael Mandelbaum, a Johns Hopkins University professor, and others who are more conservative. Clinton has also reached out to a group of hawkish Democrats - among them former Reagan State Department human rights chief Richard Schifter - some of whom broke with the party during the McGovern era.
At odds back then on issues ranging from the Vietnam War to military spending to whether to negotiate arms agreements with the Soviet Union, Democrats now are far less divided and on far less apocalyptic issues. Cold-war venom removed
"A lot of the venom of the fight has been extracted by the end of the cold war," says Charles William Maynes, editor of Foreign Policy magazine. "You can disagree with someone over the trade issue, but you don't think he's a traitor because he doesn't share your position."
"I wouldn't say that it's healed, but it's knitting," adds Penn Kemble, a Washington foreign-affairs consultant with ties to conservative Democrats, speaking of the rift that once divided Democratic hawks and doves.
Analysts say unity within the Clinton camp would be tested on four main issues if the Arkansas governor is elected:
* Promoting democracy abroad. Responding to an impulse defined by Democratic presidents like Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt - and underscored in a major policy speech delivered by Clinton in Milwaukee last week - many Clinton advisers say America's primary mission is to make the world more democratic.
But as conservative journalist Michael Lind and others have noted, promoting democracy could be hard to reconcile with the views of key US allies. Turkey and Saudi Arabia, for example, have solid reservations about the spread of democracy among Iraq's Shiites.
More troubling is the issue of what to do when democracy threatens to empower antidemocratic groups, such as Muslim fundamentalists in Algeria.
"We have to face the issue of whether Islam is, ipso facto, antagonistic to American values," says Mr. Maynes. "In that case you have to decide which has the higher priority."
* Trade. As a candidate, Clinton has stressed that foreign policy is economic policy. As president, Clinton would receive conflicting advice about how to manage US trade policy. Free trade is an article of faith for liberal internationalists in Clinton's coterie of advisors. Others in the Clinton circle speak of "managed" trade, including quotas, tariffs, and "special trade actions" to retaliate against closed markets.
The battle will be joined on the issue of whether to deal with Japan by imposing trade sanctions or better adapting American products to Japanese consumer tastes.
Behind different policy prescriptions lie different assumptions. Free-traders emphasize global interdependence, while "fair" traders stress growing competition between regional trade blocs.
* Defense budget. Clinton has pledged to cut military spending gradually. But liberals in a Clinton administration would call for deeper and faster cuts to pay for domestic programs. Gradualism could work against the priority of building the US economy.
"All the domestic liberals will be going after the defense budget big time," the American Enterprise Institute's Ben Wattenberg says. "But the hard-liners will be saying, keep your hands off."
Underlying the timing of defense cuts is the difficult issue of defining the role of the military in the post-cold-war era.
"Do we preserve a military strength adequate to help sustain the democratic idea in the world or do we make massive cuts and rely solely on persuasion and example?," asks Mr. Kemble, one of a group of 33 "neoconservatives" who endorsed Clinton in a recent New York Times advertisement.
* Military intervention. Closely tied to the issue of defense budgets is the matter of when and where the US should deploy its forces. To choose one example, Clinton's conservative advisors have applauded his promise to use US military, if needed, to support UN relief efforts in Bosnia.
"There are possibilities in these places that haven't been explored short of a Desert Storm for Bosnia," Kemble insists.
But "realists" within the Clinton camp argue that the US should not intervene under any circumstances because its interests are not on the line in the former Yugoslavia. Some commentators dismiss Clinton's hard-line rhetoric as campaign talk that will be tempered if and when he has to make the hard choices that now confront Bush.
"These are all differences of degrees, not things that will be deeply divisive," says Professor Nye of the main differences that would have to be reconciled by a Clinton foreign policy team.
Some former Reagan Democrats say they have switched back to the Democratic Party because they believe Clinton will do a better job of implementing the new world order pronounced by Bush after the end of the cold war. New test: playing offense
"We needed a president who knew what a sword was, who believed in strong national defense" says Mr. Wattenberg, who supported Bush in 1988. "But now the test of an American president is not going to be whether he can play defense but whether he can play offense. The prime goal of American foreign policy should be to purvey American democracy, and Clinton just may be better at that."
"It's the best single issue in American politics, telling Americans that we should stand for something great," he adds.