Foreign Policy Briefing No. 40

Instinct for the Capillary: The Clinton Administration’s Foreign Policy “Successes”

By Jonathan Clarke
April 5, 1996

Executive Summary

President Clinton and his senior advisers have claimed a lengthy list of foreign policy successes in such places as Bosnia, Haiti, Northern Ireland, North Korea, and the Middle East. Those claims should be viewed skeptically. The recent terror bombings in Britain and Israel, conducted by the Irish Republican Army and Hamas, respectively, underscore the ephemeral nature of Washington’s alleged diplomatic achievements. Events in Haiti, North Korea, and Bosnia likewise provide little cause for optimism in the long run.

Even if the administration’s claims are accepted at face value, most of the “successes” involve countries that have little relevance to America’s vital interests. At the same time, Washington’s relations with such crucial nations as Russia, China, Japan, and the West European powers are in disarray. Indeed, the United States appears to be drifting toward confrontations with both Russia and China. A string of miscellaneous policy successes on peripheral matters cannot begin to compensate for such a dangerous intellectual vacuum at what should be the epicenter of foreign policy.

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Jonathan G. Clarke is a research fellow in foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute and coauthor of After the Crusade: American Foreign Policy for the Post-Superpower Age (Madison Books, 1995).