The Bush administration has made many of its major priorities clear through the selection of the president’s foreign policy advisers.
Foreign policy issues were mostly an afterthought during the 2000 presidential campaign, and they continue to take a back seat in President-elect George W. Bush’s discussions of the priorities of his incoming administration. But one critical foreign policy issue—U.S. nuclear weapons policy—demands immediate attention and debate. The Bush foreign policy team is quietly contemplating radical changes in U.S. strategy that could set off a global nuclear arms race that will make the U.S.-Soviet competition of the cold war period look tame by comparison.
Although we don’t yet know what a Bush cabinet will look like, the Pentagon will undoubtedly get a warm reception at the White House. In addition to whomever is selected as defense secretary, President Bush will be receiving advice from former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, and it is clear that former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Colin Powell will have an important role in the administration, probably as secretary of state.
We now face, with the global spread of AIDS, a human catastrophe that is beyond history. We have never witnessed anything so devastating. In sub-Saharan Africa, there is a pandemic that threatens to exceed the toll that the Bubonic Plague took on Europe in ushering in the Dark Ages. 23 million people are infected in Sub-Saharan Africa, with new infections coming at the rate of roughly five thousand a day.
President Clinton’s September 1st decision to delay deployment of the Pentagon’s proposed National Missile Defense (NMD) system is an example of good policy and good politics.
After more than a decade of gradual reductions in military spending, the Clinton administration and Congress increased Pentagon spending by $17 billion last year, and are planning to add a total of $120 billion over the next five years. While a decade ago there was widespread discussion of how to spend the “peace dividend” created by the end of the cold war, why have current plans to significantly increase military spending generated so little debate in this election year?
While the Clinton administration seeks to restrict handgun sales at home, it has quietly arranged to sell more and more weapons abroad.
I’m going to address two issues. One is a general critique of U.S. international drug control policy, the so-called War on Drugs that we’re waging, primarily in the Andean region of Latin America, and more specifically, U.S. policy toward Colombia and the $1.7 billion aid package, primarily military assistance for Colombia, that’s presently pending on Capitol Hill.
In February 1999, Defense Secretary William Cohen went to Redmond, Washington to meet with two hundred Microsoft workers and deliver a simple message: For all of the domestic prosperity produced by the high tech-firms of the “information age,” U.S. economic power is still dependent on military strength and a strong defense industry. As New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman aptly put it, behind the hidden hand of the market is a hidden fist. It is an article of faith among U.S. policymakers like Cohen that America’s projection of military power around the world both guarantees U.S. prosperity at home and protects the economic benefits to be gained for all by globalized trade. In reality, as the global “leader” in both military spending at home and the arms trade abroad, the U.S. is both diverting resources from such national needs as healthcare, education, and environmental protection to a cold war-sized military and seeding the world with the tools of conflict that disrupt economies around the globe.
President Bill Clinton’s visit to NATO allies Greece and Turkey is raising new questions about the ongoing strategic relationship the United States has with these two historic rivals, particularly in the light of the anti-American demonstrations which delayed and shortened the planned presidential visit.