With Dole Legislation, GOP Seeks to Redefine Use of Troops Abroad
DETERMINED to make a deep imprint on foreign as well as domestic policy, Republican lawmakers are seeking to redefine the ground rules for sending US troops into post-cold war hot spots around the world.
A measure sponsored by Senate majority leader Bob Dole (R) of Kansas would ``untie the president's hands'' by making it possible to put United States troops in harm's way without the permission of Congress.
At the same time, Senator Dole and House Republicans are seeking to tie the president's hands by restricting US participation in the kind of United Nations peacekeeping mission that last year cost the lives of 42 US soldiers in Somalia.
The likely result: a less cooperative, more go-it-alone approach for the US in world affairs.
Dole's ``Peace Powers Act'' is likely to be the object of an intense jurisdictional debate this year between Congress and the White House.
The Dole proposal would repeal the key provision of the Vietnam-era 1973 War Powers Resolution that requires the president to secure congressional approval within 60 days of placing US troops in dangerous circumstances.
It would ``untie the president's hands in using American forces to defend American interests,'' Dole says.
But even as it gives the president a freer hand to dispatch troops under US command, it would substantially restrict the ability of a US president to commit troops to a multinational force operating under a UN mandate.
The ``peace powers act'' would also require the administration to say how it will pay the costs of any new or expanded peacekeeping missions before voting for them in the UN.
In addition, the measure would reduce from 31 to 25 percent the maximum United States share of the UN peacekeeping budget, a reduction that is already slated to take effect in October under a State Department appropriations bill enacted by Congress last year.
``It would basically neuter the capacity of the UN to respond to any number of trouble spots around the world,'' complains Edward Luck, president emeritus of the United Nations Association.
``If all 185 member states imposed the same kind of unilateral restrictions, it would be impossible to implement Security Council peacekeeping mandates,'' Mr. Luck says.
The War Powers Resolution, which was passed by Congress over President Richard Nixon's veto during the Vietnam war, grew out of a jurisdictional debate between the president, who is commander-in-chief, and Congress, which has the sole right under the Constitution to declare war.
But although recent presidents have often consulted with Congress - as President Bush did before the start of the Gulf war -
they have ignored the law's reporting requirements.
Congress, in turn, has invariably if reluctantly deferred to the president, as it has in the case of Haiti, where, four months after being dispatched, US troops still patrol dangerous streets without the specific consent of US lawmakers called for under the 1973 resolution.
Legislation to circumscribe the US role in UN peacekeeping has also been introduced in the House as part of the GOP's ``Contract with America.''
Republican lawmakers say they are determined to restrict US participation in operations led by the UN because the goals of restoring peace, building democratic institutions, or providing humanitarian relief are hard to justify strictly on the basis of US national interests.
There is one other measure sponsored by Dole that is certain to draw the ire of the White House.
It would exempt Bosnia from a 1991 UN arms embargo on the former Yugoslav republics. State Department officials say Clinton is likely to veto the measure if it is approved by Congress.