Bush administration foreign policy started out as a "status quo-plus" operation, with the emphasis on status quo, and more than three years later the description still fits. Well, let's make it "status quo-plus-plus-plus." The Bush-Baker-Scowcroft team did pull off the gulf war, seize the moment on German reunification and push Middle East negotiations. But on the whole this administration was and remains as compulsively cautious as any American government could be.
This week, after months of hesitation, President Bush will unveil his plan for long-range economic support for the tottering states of the former Soviet Union. Foreign leaders futilely implored him to take action months ago. Richard Nixon called the U.S. effort "pathetically inadequate." Only as an International Monetary Fund deadline approaches will the president step forward to put his personal authority behind fulfillment of a $12 billion IMF pledge. If it passes Congress in an election year, it will be because Democrats restrain themselves.
This pattern is repeated on many fronts. Mr. Bush has been loath to move front and center on world trade reform as protectionism flares in both parties. He has taken the role of chief foot-dragger on international environmental issues in advance of the "Earth Summit" in Rio de Janeiro. He has resisted changes in the European security scene that might endanger the position of NATO. On Yugoslavia's breakup and Turkey's human rights violations against its Kurdish minority, he has essentially left matters to the Europeans.