Three Targets for an Activist ForeignPolicy

by Kenneth R. Timmerman

Washington Times (editorial page),

Dec. 22, 2000

© Copyright 2000 by Kenneth R. Timmerman



After eight years of a fecklessforeign policy, where friends challenged our leadership and potentialadversaries doubted our resolve, President-elect George W. Bush andhis Secretary of State-designate, General Colin Powell, have anopportunity to renew America's predominance in world affairs.

Instead of promoting real change in Russia, the outgoingadministration showered corrupt leaders with U.S. and internationalaid, and crafted secret agreements designed to cover-up dangerousarms dealing by Russian leaders with Iran.

In the Caspian Sea, America failed to seize a dramatic opportunityto unleash vast new supplies of oil and natural gas because ourpolitical leaders were too distracted to focus on the thornypolitical and economic problems involving pipelines and energy exportroutes.

For eight years in the Middle East, President Clinton engaged intinsel-town diplomacy and endless late-night policy-wonking withPalestinian leader Yasser Arafat, while failing to comprehend thebasics of Arafat's vision for the region's future: a vision that sawa Middle East judenfrei, without Jews.

President-elect George W. Bush has the opportunity to reassertAmerica's leadership around the world by focusing once again on theguiding principles of America's genius: freedom and the rule of law.An activist foreign policy can also bring domestic benefits, byrecementing the political alliance that President Reagan soskillfully crafted and that has fallen victim to partisanship,cynicism, and the politics of personal gain.

Certainly the next president must pick and chose his fights. Thecauses must be just. They must be winnable. And they must besupported by broad-based coalitions here at home. Here are threeareas where the Bush administration can score big:

• Iraq. In 1997, the U.S. Congress passed legislation thatwas signed into law by President Clinton, that authorized ourgovernment to spend $97 million per year to train and equip an armyof resistance in Iraq to fight for freedom against Saddam Hussein.Until now, that money has gone unspent, except for paltry sums wastedat the State Department's bidding on office equipment, pressreleases, and conferences.

Saddam has been emboldened by Washington's lack of resolve. It istime for a new President to help Iraqi freedom-fighters rid the worldof Saddam Hussein once and for all. A win in Iraq would reassureAmerica's allies in the region, bring stability, and break thespoiler's drive by France, Russia and China to re-legitimizeSaddam.

• Iran. Twenty-one years ago, Islamic militants seizedAmerica's embassy and took our diplomats hostage. Today, young peoplein Iran are rising in revolt against an oppressive clerical regime.And yet, under President Clinton, America has made gestures ofappeasement and offered commercial concessions that have bolsteredthe resolve of Iran's oppressive leaders to hang onto power, whateverthe cost.

The situation in Iran differs in many ways from that of Iraq.Iran's leaders, while strong militarily and in full possession of allthe means of oppression of a police state, are yet fragile andvulnerable to popular pressure. Military assistance is not requiredto help bring freedom to Iran: but a clear American voice in defenseof freedom could be decisive in emboldening the Iranian people tothrow off tyranny. We can do this through broadcasting, publicdiplomacy, and the judicious use of trade sanctions.

• Afghanistan. Under President Reagan's leadership, Americahelped Afghan patriots expel an occupying Soviet army, therebyhastening the collapse of communism and the end of the Cold War. Inrecent years, the Taliban militia led by fundamentalist zealots hasseized control of most of the country, destroying the secular systemand driving Afghan women to suicide and despair. And yet, the Talibanhas won a measure of international recognition, arguing that theyhave brought stability.

Here again, the next U.S. president stands at a crossroads. He canseek an accommodation with the Taliban, perhaps even persuade themthrough commercial incentives to expel the renegade Osama Bin Ladenand his terrorist horde. Or he can assert American principles andleadership and advance American interests, by helping freedomfighters in Afghanistan return that country to secular rule.

The stakes in Afghanistan are larger than generally thought. Astable, free Afghanistan presents an ideal export route for theland-locked petroleum resources of Turkmenistan, which has more than1 trillion cubic meters of proven natural gas reserves. Until now,Turkmenistan has been blocked by Russia and frustrated by Iran. Itsonly option today is to build an expensive 4,000 mile-long pipelineto China and return its vast petroleum reserves to Communist control.A better alternative is a pipeline through Afghanistan. But it cannotbe built until that country has a stable government that guaranteesbasic freedoms to its people.

Churchill once said that great nations have no permanent friends:they have permanent interests. America is the only nation whosepermanent interest is the rule of law and freedom. It has made ournation thrive where other democracies have fallen or "reinvented"themselves to accomodate more virile neighbors.

Instead of policies driven by personal profit and greed, Americamust once again reassert her genius. Only by building a world wherefreedom can assert herself without fear, and where the rule of lawtrumps dictators or the tyranny of mob rule is America's interestserved. All three cases cited here meet that test.



Kenneth Timmerman is the Executive Director of the Foundationfor Democracy in Iran (FDI). FDI is a private, non-profit corporationregistered in the State of Maryland. FDI materials, including the FDINews Update, are available free-of-charge via the Internet at