After eight years of a feckless foreign policy, where friends challenged our leadership and potential adversaries doubted our resolve, President-elect George W. Bush and his Secretary of State-designate, General Colin Powell, have an opportunity to renew America's predominance in world affairs.
Instead of promoting real change in Russia, the outgoing administration showered corrupt leaders with U.S. and international aid, and crafted secret agreements designed to cover-up dangerous arms dealing by Russian leaders with Iran.
In the Caspian Sea, America failed to seize a dramatic opportunity to unleash vast new supplies of oil and natural gas because our political leaders were too distracted to focus on the thorny political and economic problems involving pipelines and energy export routes.
For eight years in the Middle East, President Clinton engaged in tinsel-town diplomacy and endless late-night policy-wonking with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, while failing to comprehend the basics of Arafat's vision for the region's future: a vision that saw a Middle East judenfrei, without Jews.
President-elect George W. Bush has the opportunity to reassert America's leadership around the world by focusing once again on the guiding principles of America's genius: freedom and the rule of law. An activist foreign policy can also bring domestic benefits, by recementing the political alliance that President Reagan so skillfully 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. The causes must be just. They must be winnable. And they must be supported by broad-based coalitions here at home. Here are three areas where the Bush administration can score big:
Iraq. In 1997, the U.S. Congress passed legislation that was signed into law by President Clinton, that authorized our government to spend $97 million per year to train and equip an army of resistance in Iraq to fight for freedom against Saddam Hussein. Until now, that money has gone unspent, except for paltry sums wasted at the State Department's bidding on office equipment, press releases, and conferences.
Saddam has been emboldened by Washington's lack of resolve. It is time for a new President to help Iraqi freedom-fighters rid the world of Saddam Hussein once and for all. A win in Iraq would reassure America's allies in the region, bring stability, and break the spoiler's drive by France, Russia and China to re-legitimize Saddam.
Iran. Twenty-one years ago, Islamic militants seized America's embassy and took our diplomats hostage. Today, young people in Iran are rising in revolt against an oppressive clerical regime. And yet, under President Clinton, America has made gestures of appeasement and offered commercial concessions that have bolstered the resolve of Iran's oppressive leaders to hang onto power, whatever the cost.
The situation in Iran differs in many ways from that of Iraq. Iran's leaders, while strong militarily and in full possession of all the means of oppression of a police state, are yet fragile and vulnerable to popular pressure. Military assistance is not required to help bring freedom to Iran: but a clear American voice in defense of freedom could be decisive in emboldening the Iranian people to throw off tyranny. We can do this through broadcasting, public diplomacy, and the judicious use of trade sanctions.
Afghanistan. Under President Reagan's leadership, America helped Afghan patriots expel an occupying Soviet army, thereby hastening the collapse of communism and the end of the Cold War. In recent years, the Taliban militia led by fundamentalist zealots has seized control of most of the country, destroying the secular system and driving Afghan women to suicide and despair. And yet, the Taliban has won a measure of international recognition, arguing that they have brought stability.
Here again, the next U.S. president stands at a crossroads. He can seek an accommodation with the Taliban, perhaps even persuade them through commercial incentives to expel the renegade Osama Bin Laden and his terrorist horde. Or he can assert American principles and leadership and advance American interests, by helping freedom fighters in Afghanistan return that country to secular rule.
The stakes in Afghanistan are larger than generally thought. A stable, free Afghanistan presents an ideal export route for the land-locked petroleum resources of Turkmenistan, which has more than 1 trillion cubic meters of proven natural gas reserves. Until now, Turkmenistan has been blocked by Russia and frustrated by Iran. Its only option today is to build an expensive 4,000 mile-long pipeline to China and return its vast petroleum reserves to Communist control. A better alternative is a pipeline through Afghanistan. But it cannot be built until that country has a stable government that guarantees basic freedoms to its people.
Churchill once said that great nations have no permanent friends: they have permanent interests. America is the only nation whose permanent interest is the rule of law and freedom. It has made our nation thrive where other democracies have fallen or "reinvented" themselves to accomodate more virile neighbors.
Instead of policies driven by personal profit and greed, America must once again reassert her genius. Only by building a world where freedom can assert herself without fear, and where the rule of law trumps dictators or the tyranny of mob rule is America's interest served. All three cases cited here meet that test.
Kenneth Timmerman is the Executive Director of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran (FDI). FDI is a private, non-profit corporation registered in the State of Maryland. FDI materials, including the FDI News Update, are available free-of-charge via the Internet at http://www.iran.org/.