STAKEFew major gaps separate President Bush and...


September 26, 1992


Few major gaps separate President Bush and Bill Clinton on foreign policy, but their differences of generation, experience and outlook are wide.

George Bush fought in World War II and served in government through the middle and end of the Cold War, a period when containing Soviet expansionism dominated American policy.

As Soviet leadership moderated, he stepped up negotiations on arms control and ending the proxy conflicts of the Cold War. After it collapsed altogether, he eventually embraced and helped Boris Yeltsin and other leaders of now-free republics.

Mr. Bush articulates a New World Order of expanding free-market democracy and respect for borders. He has been the most aggressive among post-Vietnam era presidents in projecting powerful military force when American interests are directly threatened, as with Iraq's invasion of oil-rich Kuwait. He draws the lesson from Vietnam that American forces must be given all the support they need to win, and as fast as possible. He is loathe to use force for an ideal alone. And he is tolerant of dictators who are, or might be persuaded to be, on America's side.

Mr. Clinton has avoided frequent attacks on what he recognizes is Mr. Bush's strong suit. In crisis situations involving real or potential use of force, he has been supportive.

If elected, Mr. Clinton would be compelled primarily to fulfill his domestic economic agenda, and give less attention than Mr. Bush to foreign affairs. The foreign relationship getting the most attention in a Clinton administration, he has said, is that with America's chief economic rival, Japan.

He draws advice from a range of thinkers and lawmakers from the Democratic Party's internationalist wing. Their views, stressing America's role in fostering democratic regimes worldwide, promoting human rights and bolstering multilateral organizations like the U.N., signal a departure from the Bush years. So does Mr. Clinton's background: He reached adulthood during the Vietnam conflict, avoiding being drafted, and still believes the war was wrong, saying, "It weakened and divided America and made us reluctant to use our strength in other parts of the world."


George Bush

"The fear of nuclear Armageddon between the superpowers has vanished. And we are proud to have done our part to ensure that our schoolchildren do not have to practice hiding under their desks for fear of nuclear attack ... With the Cold War's end, I believe we have a unique opportunity to go beyond artificial divisions of a first, second and third world."

Bill Clinton

The notion that the Republicans won the Cold War reminds me of the rooster who took credit for the dawn. . . . Our first foreign priority and our first domestic priority are one and the same: reviving our economy. America must regain our economic strength to play our proper role as leader of the world. And we must have a president who attends to prosperity at home..."


President Bush presided over the reunification of Germany and pressed to lock in U.S.-Soviet arms cuts. He invaded Panama and removed a dictator. After working to improve relations with Iraq, he was forced into reverse after the invasion of Kuwait. He built a Western-Arab coalition under U.N. authority and went to war to push Iraq out.

Mr. Clinton has backed President Bush's military intervention in the Persian Gulf -- although he voiced misgivings beforehand -- and subsequent air patrols in the north and south. He faults Mr. Bush for allowing Iraq to keep a powerful military and suppress domestic uprisings after the war. He backs the Mideast peace process but has faulted Mr. Bush for "browbeating" Israel.


The Middle East and free trade will likely get top priority as Mr. Bush seeks to build a lasting legacy. On the first, he will continue pressuring both sides while offering the incentive of major economic benefits once a deal is cut. On the second, he will push for passage of the North American pact and completion of a worldwide reduction in tariff barriers. He is likely to try to help along reforms in the ex-Soviet republics.

Mr. Clinton would stress building America's competitive economic position over free trade. He would try to maintain the Middle East peace process, but probably lean more toward Israel. His rhetoric indicates he would disdain "familiar tyrants" in favor of budding democrats, link trade ties with human rights performance and stress worldwide cuts in arms sales. The Third World, particularly Africa, would get more attention.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.