It is too early to tell if the NATO air strikes against Serbia will force Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic to call off his war against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. Will NATO employ pinprick strikes to send a "signal" to Milosevic, or will it carry out a sustained campaign to eliminate Serbia's war-making potential? Success demands the latter.
Unfortunately up to now, the Clinton administration has preferred the former--the theatrical use of force that has little effect other than to encourage further aggression on the part of a Milosevic or a Saddam Hussein.
The current crisis in Kosovo cannot be understood in a vacuum. It must be examined within a broader strategic context. Such an examination does not encourage optimism.
The Clinton administration's foreign policy and grand strategy can be faulted on a number of accounts. First, the general approach is flawed. Second, it has increased military commitments while cutting the instrument necessary to carry out those commitments. Finally and most importantly, the steps this administration has taken have actually increased the threat that the U.S. will face in the future.
As Charles Krauthammer observes, the foreign policy of the Clinton administration rests on three questionable pillars. The first is internationalism, the idea that objectives established by international institutions such as the United Nations take precedence over mere national interests. The second is legalism, the belief in the efficacy of treaties and international law. The third is misplaced humanitarianism, the idea that the primary role of the United States in the international arena is to slay the dragons of injustice and oppression worldwide with little or no regard for our long-term national interests.
As a result of the first and third pillars, American commitments abroad have proliferated, although few are undertaken to protect U.S. national interests.
Kosovo is a case in point. On the one hand, President Clinton has invoked humanitarian goals rather than national interests such as stability in Europe and the credibility and viability of NATO to justify American actions, as if foreign policy were social work. On the other, he has rationalized our intervention on the basis of multilateral internationalism and the approval of the "international community."
Meanwhile, as military operations for humanitarian purposes have proliferated, the military force structure necessary to carry out these operations has been cut during the Clinton presidency. As a result, operational tempo is extremely high, placing tremendous stress on both personnel and equipment. Readiness has suffered, modernization has been deferred, service members are leaving the military in record numbers, and recruitment shortfalls have developed over the last year. We are on our way to a "hollow force," reminiscent of the 1970s.
It is bad enough that the Clinton foreign policy has created a risky policy-strategy-force structure mismatch. More dangerous yet is the likelihood that certain steps taken by the administration will increase the threat the United States will face in the future. One source of this danger is the administration's approach to the use of force. Another is the wholesale subordination of national security to commercial goals and the imperatives of Democratic electoral politics.
The administration's approach to the use of force has adversely affected the credibility of the United States and encouraged brinkmanship on the part of such petty tyrants as Milosevic and Saddam Hussein. The pattern is well-established. The administration threatens the use of force to reverse some step taken by Saddam or Milosevic. The dictator persists. Deadlines are announced as the U.S. deploys its forces to the region. At the last minute the president accepts some fig leaf as an excuse for not following through on his threats, while claiming that the "international community" has prevailed.
When the Clinton administration actually has used force, it has resembled a drive-by shooting. We can only hope that the current air strikes are part of a coherent strategy that will sustain the use of force until NATO's goals are achieved. Otherwise, the outcome will be a more dangerous region. Milosevic will acquire most of what he wanted in the first place, encouraging him to escalate tensions again when it suits his purpose. At some point, miscalculation may lead to a general Balkans war and to casualties that could have been prevented if force had been used properly in the first place.
As serious as the crisis in Kosovo may be, it should not be permitted to distract us from by far the most troubling aspect of the Clinton foreign policy: the administration's penchant for subordinating national security concerns to the dictates of commercial policy and the imperatives of Democratic Party fundraising.
China's apparent penetration of the nuclear weapons program of the Los Alamos National Laboratory and acquisition of the technology for the W-88 nuclear warhead is only the latest manifestation of this concern. Most disquieting about this affair is not Chinese espionage against the U.S., but the administration's apparent foot-dragging after learning of evidence of espionage in order to protect its policy of "engagement" with China.
This incident is only the latest, albeit the most egregious, example of what critics see as the Clinton administration's anything-goes China policy. This involves both political fundraising for domestic election purposes and the expansion of commercial ties. Another is the evidence of a link between Clinton-Gore fundraising from illegal Asian sources and a turnabout in trade policy with China. Yet another is the connection between substantial campaign contributions from Bernard Schwartz, CEO of Loral, a U.S.-based defense firm, and a subsequent shift in U.S. technology-transfer policy that allowed Loral to have its satellites launched by China.
The consequence? China has improved the accuracy of its ballistic missiles. W-88 technology, the most advanced in America's arsenal, permits China to load multiple independently targeted warheads on its ICBMs. These two advances alone enable China to jump a decade ahead in modernizing its nuclear arsenal.
Much is made of President Clinton's concern for his "legacy." He hopes to be remembered for what he and his supporters believe to be his domestic policy triumphs. We can only pray that his real legacy is not failure on some future battlefield arising from a flawed foreign policy that ultimately strengthened our potential adversaries.