Good plan being messed up on politics today

Jack W. Germond & Jules Witcover

December 04, 1990|By Jack W. Germond and Jules Witcover

WASHINGTON -- A White House policy guru named James Pinkerton has been pushing a set of domestic initiatives to empower the poor -- such as school vouchers, enterprise zones and low-cost home rehabilitation and ownership -- as opposed to the old welfare approach. He has labeled it "The New Paradigm," meaning a conservative blueprint for dealing with social needs in the 1990s. (In case you don't have your dictionary handy, "paradigm" is an egghead's word for model or pattern.)

The label could just as well be assigned to the original effort by President Bush to establish what he has unfortunately called "a new world order" (apologies to Adolf Hitler) in the wake of the collapse of the Cold War. In skillfully rallying the world community into a coalition against Saddam Hussein's aggression against Kuwait, Bush was well on his way to creating a "new paradigm" for coping with international outlaws.

That model was harnessing the collective will of the world community to impose harsh economic sanctions against the aggressor while mobilizing enough military strength to discourage further aggrandizement, in this case in the direction of threatened Saudi Arabia. If the coalition against Saddam Hussein works, it could provide the pattern for international cooperation against other dictators who might disturb regional or global peace, without resorting to war.

But Bush's decision to greatly increase U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf, and to press the United Nations Security Council to pass a resolution authorizing the use of force to achieve the goals for which the coalition and sanctions were originally conceived, threatens to shatter that hopeful paradigm for dealing with future Saddam Husseins.

One who is disturbed by the shift in the gulf policy in terms of creating a long-term foreign policy model is Sen. Bill Bradley, D-N.J. "In changing the mission," he says, Bush "diverted attention from a strategy that was actually working. They talk about this being a paradigm of a new order. It seems to me that the paradigm that is most important is the paradigm of sanctions working. The idea is, how does the world, who has isolated an outlaw, a ruthless dictator who threatens to invade his neighbors, how do we counter that person, as a civilized world?

"It seems to me that the answer to that, if your objective is to find a paradigm -- in other words, an example of a process that will work again if there is another kind of dictator somewhere else -- it has to be that economic sanctions can actually bring such a tyrant to his knees.

"I view the move to add the additional forces and to now move toward potential land invasion of Iraq or Kuwait as not a paradigm. If the issue is some other dictator somewhere else, is the answer always that the United States will send 400,000 troops? That can't be it. It has to be that we now have, in the post-Cold War world, developed a process that consensus-building and economic sanctions, that combined . . . with military presence and psychological pressure can break the ruthless dictator."

Bradley says that the Bush administration should allow sufficient time for "the combination of economic sanctions [and] military presence sufficient to deter any expansion" to work, "and to punish if Saddam miscalculates." He argues that the sanctions are already working, and that, even if military force is to be used eventually, it will be better to hold off and let the sanctions undercut Iraq's military capacity before going to war.

"The most important thing for the longer term," he says, "is to demonstrate that you can break a ruthless dictator by collective action that is primarily economic, backed up by military deterrence and using psychological pressure."

"You take an action that risks splitting apart the whole coalition," Bradley says, "and that then jeopardizes the paradigm of the whole new order that you're trying to demonstrate. The paradigm cannot be sending 400,000 U.S. troops anywhere in the world where there is a ruthless dictator who invades another country. I don't think the American people will support that."

President Bush appears to have lost sight of his original objective of creating a model for a new world order for keeping the peace. If there is going to be a "new paradigm" in his administration, it apparently will have to be the one being dreamed up by his domestic thinkers to apply to America's inner cities, not to post-Cold War foreign policy.

Columnists Germond and Witcover, members of The Evening Sun's staff, also appear in the Perspective section of The Sunday Sun.

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