Clinton moves violate foreign policy principles

ON POLITICS

September 16, 1994|By JACK GERMOND & JULES WITCOVER

WASHINGTON -- In all the talk about the need to assert the United States' "essential reliability" in Haiti, with force if necessary, and the clever deal with Fidel Castro to stem the latest tide of Cuban refugees to our shores, the Clinton administration seems to have lost sight of two basic American principles.

The first, regarding Haiti, is that Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution empowers Congress, not the president, "to declare war." Pathetically, the White House cites President Ronald Reagan's invasion of Grenada and President George Bush's invasion of Panama as justifying precedent.

The second, regarding Cuba, is that the United States is a signer of the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, upholding the right of people to leave countries that oppress them. Ever since the start of the Cold War, the United States accordingly has offered itself as a haven against communism -- until now.

Now we have Secretary of State Warren Christopher and National Security Adviser Anthony Lake embracing the notion that President Clinton has the authority to invade -- not from Congress, but from a United Nations resolution the Clinton administration artfully concocted. Lake has called it "a critical test of our commitment to defend democracy, especially where it is most fragile."

But democracy in Haiti is not "fragile," it's nonexistent, and there are plenty of other places around the globe where democracy is equally imperiled or absent. The real reason Haiti has risen to the forefront of the American foreign policy agenda, as has Cuba, is the threat of uncontrolled immigration. Unable or unwilling to cope with either flood by other means, such as offering sanctuary in the best tradition of the United States, President Clinton has turned from principle to expediency.

Of the two problems, the prospective invasion of Haiti poses the greater political threat to Clinton. You don't have to accept former Vice President Dan Quayle's typically simplistic harangue that Clinton is drumming up the invasion "to try to increase his standing in the public opinion polls" to recognize that pressures from the Congressional Black Caucus are moving the president toward that action.

Ross Perot put his finger on the personal political peril to Clinton in an invasion. He warned of the public backlash against this president who had dodged the draft during the Vietnam War. "I suggest that particularly in this case, since as a young man he declined to risk his life in combat," Perot said, "he go . . . to those people in Congress who understand what war is all about. . . . It's one thing to send someone else to combat; it's another to go yourself."

To protect himself against such sentiments, not to mention the basic constitutional imperative, if Clinton believes in the justice and necessity of invading Haiti, he should go to Congress first. The strong public and congressional opposition to that step already expressed is a warning that if such an invasion is anything but surgically successful, Clinton will get a lot more grief politically at home than he is getting currently from the Congressional Black Caucus.

It will be argued that an open and heated congressional debate will only encourage Haiti's military dictators to hold on, but they tTC are doing so anyway. Perhaps the administration in such a debate can make the case for invasion; perhaps in trying it will appreciate the political hornet's nest it will be stirring up, and wisely decide against it.

This whole notion that the "essential reliability" of the United States is at stake is another Clinton-hatched chicken coming home to roost, thanks to his undisciplined tongue. If you talk yourself into a corner, as he has in Haiti (and as he did on threatening to veto anything less than universal health care coverage), you create your own reliability problem.

As for Cuba, just because the Cold War is over shouldn't mean we pull in the welcome mat to the remaining oppressed of communism. In Berlin, we demanded that the wall barring escape be torn down. In Havana, we negotiate to have Castro resume active measures to bar escape. What kind of defensible, honorable American foreign policy is this?

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.