A Clinton 'Enemies list' Suggests Policy Directons

November 15, 1992|By MICHAEL T. KLARE

Experts trying to predict what foreign policy directions Bill Clinton will take are reduced to sifting out the merest of clues from occasional remarks. But a look at the countries Mr. Clinton singled out for criticism during the campaign suggests an "enemies list" quite different from that of his predecessor.

The countries likely to be subjected to hostile scrutiny at least during the early days of the Clinton administration are China, Syria, Serbia, South Africa and Iran.

During the Bush administration, China was an old ally going back to Nixon days and Syria was a new ally beginning with the Persian Gulf crisis in 1990. Serbia -- or the new rump Yugoslavia -- didn't even exist in the Reagan-Bush era. Iran, while a major enemy during the Reagan years, attracted less attention under President Bush. And while the conservative Bush administration only reluctantly pressured white-ruled South Africa, a liberal Clinton administration is sure to be more hostile.

China falls at the top of the hypothetical enemies list given Mr. Clinton's outspoken condemnation of its current leadership, the numerous irritants coming to the fore in Sino-American relations and alarm over China's growing economic and military strength.

In one of the few exchanges on foreign policy during the presidential debates, Mr. Clinton savaged Mr. Bush for "coddling" the Chinese leadership and for failing to support the pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square. In the future, he said, we must "stand up" to Beijing, and insist that continuation of its most-favored-nation trading status be accompanied by greater political openness and an improvement human rights.

Mr. Clinton also focused on China in a number of major speeches on foreign policy issues. At a December 1991 speech at Georgetown University, for instance, he attacked the Chinese leadership for its "brutal subjugation of Tibet," for its "irresponsible export of nuclear and missile technology" and for its "support of the homicidal Khmer Rouge in Cambodia." All of these issues remain unresolved as Mr. Clinton prepares to resume office.

Syria is on the list because Mr. Clinton is likely to back away from the even-handed approach adopted by Secretary of State James Baker in arranging the Middle East peace talks, and to tilt more decisively toward Israel. Given the dynamics of Middle Eastern diplomacy, any further tilt toward Israel will undoubtedly alienate Syrian leaders.

The President-elect hinted at his views on Syria during his 1991 ++ speech at Georgetown University. Suggesting that the administration's polite dealings with Syria's Hafez el Assad were akin to its "earlier policies of deference to Saddam Hussein," Mr. Clinton noted that "We must deal with Hafez Assad in Syria, but we must not overlook his tyrannical rule and domination of


Serbia is on the enemies list because of its aggression in Bosnia and a sense that Washington must demonstrate resolve in the face of such blatant provocations. Although careful to avoid giving the impression that he would send U.S. ground troops into Yugoslavia, Mr. Clinton has criticized Mr. Bush for not taking more vigorous action against Serbia.

"The United States should take the lead in seeking U.N. Security Council authorization for air strikes against those who are attacking the relief effort [in Bosnia]," Mr. Clinton said in July, adding that "the United States should be prepared to lend appropriate military support to that operation."

When White House Spokesman Marlin Fitzwater characterized these remarks as "reckless," Mr. Clinton went on the offensive, suggesting that the Bush administration was overly timid in its response to Serbian aggression.

South Africa will remain on the enemies list so long as the current white leadership fails to make continuing progress on the transition to a democratic, multi-racial state. "We must align America with the rising tide of democracy [in South Africa]," Mr. Clinton declared last December.

During the campaign, he chided Mr. Bush for moving too quickly to dismantle economic sanctions against South Africa. "The administration and our states and cities should only relax our remaining sanctions as it becomes clearer that the day of democracy and guaranteed individual rights is at hand," he said at Georgetown. It is likely, therefore, that Mr. Clinton will intensify pressure on South Africa to dismantle the remaining vestiges of apartheid and to adopt a one-man-one-vote constitution.

Finally, Iran is on the enemies list because of its growing military might and the threat it poses to Israel.

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