Bush, in Texas speech, defends interventionism but offers little advice on future

December 16, 1992|By Karen Hosler | Karen Hosler,Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- President Bush, who lost the White House partly because of what voters saw as a preoccupation with foreign policy, defended yesterday his place in history as an interventionist president but offered little guidance for statesmen of the future.

In a farewell speech that some aides had hoped would be a major policy address, Mr. Bush claimed credit for leading the nation through a tumultuous period in which U.S. commitment to democratic principles has been critical in fostering freedom around the globe.

"With the Soviet empire in its death throes, the potential for crisis and conflict was never greater, the demand for American leadership never more compelling," Mr. Bush told several thousand students at Texas A&M University. "And we did not look away."

He warned Americans that despite the country's economic woes, they should not turn inward now.

As the only superpower, Mr. Bush said, the United States has a special responsibility. It must inject itself not only into situations where its interests are threatened, such as in the Persian Gulf, but also into cases such as Somalia, where the starvation of innocent people is an affront to all mankind, he said.

"The challenge ahead . . . is as great as the one we faced at the end of the last great war," he said. "But the opportunity is vastly greater. . . . Success will require unity of purpose -- a commitment on the part of all

our people to the proposition that our nation's destiny lies in the hope of a better world."

His valedictory comments in College Station, Texas, at the site of his future presidential library, stopped short of projecting a clear Bush doctrine for how U.S. leaders should make the difficult decision to commit U.S. military forces.

"There can be no single or simple set of guidelines for foreign policy -- we should help," he said. "But we should consider using military force only in those situations where the stakes warrant, where it can be effective and its application limited in scope and time. As we seek to save lives, we must always be mindful of the lives that we may have to put at risk."

Tough choices loom over how the United States should respond to the civil strife and ethnic violence in Bosnia without putting its forces in an impossible situation. Some analysts had hoped the president would share more of his experience on how such choices are made.

"There's nothing new here," said George C. Edwards, director of presidential studies at the university. "It was mostly an argument for what he has done."

Mr. Bush, who basically shut down the domestic-policy side of the White House after the election, is still actively involved in pursuing foreign policy goals in Somalia and Bosnia, and in arms control talks with the former Soviet republics and Middle East peace negotiations.

But he seemed eager to avoid giving specific public advice to Mr. Clinton in these areas.

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.