Changing world needs unchanging U.S. role

Clinton speech: His remarks follow half-century tradition of bipartisan foreign policy.

November 10, 1999

ONE WORLD was a slogan made famous by a defeated Republican nominee for president, Wendell L. Willkie, supporting the national effort in World War II. If once an ideal, one world is now an inescapable reality.

It comes with cheap air fares, global pop culture, the Internet, satellite telephones, semesters abroad, a global market and massive world trade.

Isolationism, retreating behind the walls of Fortress America, was the opposition to Willkie's idea then. A few revisionists, such as Pat Buchanan, think it was the better idea back then. It is not an option now.

What is most striking about President Clinton's address to Georgetown University students on Monday is how nonpartisan, or bipartisan, he sounded. Commemorating the tearing down of the Berlin Wall 10 years ago, Mr. Clinton sounded like Presidents Harry S Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, Gerald R. Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald W. Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Republicans in Congress would be smart to take note. The current congressional obstruction to a fully engaged foreign role for the United States is not traditional Republicanism, nor is it productive. Human rights, free trade, encouragement of open markets were priorities of all administrations.

Withholding dues to the United Nations was a tactic of the Reagan administration to bring about changes. It worked. What Washington demanded was done. Arrears should be paid. Starving international lending institutions is not a Republican tradition.

Denying the Pentagon weapons development it deems essential while forcing on it weapons for which it has no use is un-Republican. Protectionism is not modern Republicanism. Extending the benefits of free trade is.

Mr. Clinton was not partisan when he told the Georgetown audience he hoped we are now moving to re-establish and preserve the bipartisan center that believes in Americas role in the new post-Cold War world. That echoed a national consensus.

"I think it's worth devoting some small fraction of this nations great wealth and power," Mr. Clinton said, "to help build a Europe where wars don't happen, where our allies can do their share and we help them to do so; to seize this historic opportunity for peace between Arabs and Israelis in the Middle East; to make sure that nuclear weapons from the former Soviet Union don't fall into the wrong hands; to make sure that the nuclear scientists have enough money to live on and to feed their families by doing constructive, positive things so they are not vulnerable to the entreaties of the remaining forces of destruction in the world; to relieve the debts of the most impoverished countries on earth so they can grow their economies, build their democracies and be good positive partners with us in the new century; and to meet our obligation to, and through, the United Nations so that we can share the burden of leadership with others when it obviously has such good results."

That is not Democratic thinking. It is the great tradition of bipartisan foreign policy since 1945.

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.