Policy of Least Resistance
Diplomacy weakened by scandal? Impossible!
By Charles Krauthammer
No matter how long it takes or where it takes us, we will pursue
terrorists until the cases are solved and justice is done." So
declared President Clinton the day after the car bombing of U.S.
embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam.
Brave words, and familiar. Clinton, the day after the 1996 Khobar
Towers bombing that killed 19 American airmen in Saudi Arabia:
"We will not rest in our efforts to find who is responsible for
this outrage, to pursue them and to punish them."
But we did rest. The investigation of the Khobar Towers bombing
has completely collapsed. We suspect there was Iranian
involvement. But the Saudis are not cooperating with our
investigation. And Clinton is not prepared to risk either
offending an ally (Saudi Arabia) or confronting an enemy (Iran).
Jenny Haun, the widow of an Air Force navigator killed in the
Khobar bombing, summarized thus the Administration's handling of
the case: "They're weak."
Terrorists know how to read weakness. So does Saddam Hussein. Six
months ago, when Saddam blatantly violated the arms-inspection
regimen he had agreed to after the Gulf War, Clinton let Kofi
Annan broker a paper deal and called off the U.S. military
But oh, the talk was tough. "If Saddam refuses to accept full
access for U.N. inspectors," declared Madeleine Albright, "we are
prepared to use military force... If diplomacy fails, we will
deliver a serious blow."
Well, Saddam has called her bluff. Less than six months after
giving Annan his word--in a "written commitment," stressed a
comically satisfied Clinton at the time--Saddam took it back. He
has summarily ended all inspections. The agreement is dead.
Albright's response? A huff and a puff and not a mention of the
promised "serious blow." Not a hint, not a memory. And now we
learn that after talking tough, Albright had been secretly urging
the U.N. arms inspectors to hold off on searches lest they
provoke Saddam. Seeing the U.S. throw in the towel, Saddam has
grown even bolder, announcing now the effective end of even
long-term monitoring. With America prone, he can resume building
his doomsday weapons unmolested.
There is a theory abroad that Lewinsky has weakened Clinton's
diplomacy. Impossible. In a foreign policy so inert, any
weakening would be imperceptible.
Upon entering office, the Clinton team boldly touted its policy
of "dual containment" of Iraq and Iran. Five years later, that
policy is in dual shambles. The containment of Iraq has
collapsed: the coalition dead, the inspections stopped, the
embargo porous and teetering. And Iran? Even as it tests an
800-mile-range missile, even as it rushes to build nuclear
weapons, the new party line enunciated by Albright is detente,
bringing down "the wall of mistrust" between the two countries.
Just four months ago, Albright's State Department in its
"Patterns of Global Terrorism" report called Iran the "most
active state sponsor of terrorism in the world." Mistrusting
terrorists, it seems, is yesterday's foreign policy.
Diplomacy, it has been said, is the art of saying "nice doggie"
while looking for a stick. This Administration has given up even
pretending to look for a stick.
True, a foreign policy of least resistance has its attractions.
It avoids trouble--for now. It is always the credo of appeasers
that they saved real lives, which their critics would blithely
sacrifice--to what purpose? Saving face? Power? Principle?
Abstractions. If you prick them, do they bleed?
In the end, however, these scorned abstractions--credibility
above all--matter. They are intangible, yes, but indispensable.
Weakness breeds contempt. When you have no credibility, your
enemies will seek you out anywhere in the world and blow you up.
And what have you lost? Real blood, real lives.