By Michael Frank, Nuclear Engineering, UC Berkeley. Mr. Frank is a former national security policy analyst.
First India explodes a nuclear device, and now Pakistan. President Clinton "can't believe" it's happening, this bewildering step backward for disarmament and, most assuredly, this slap in the face of (supposed) U.S. world leadership.
Well, believe it or not, Mr. President: It's your fault, and the reasons are clear as day.
Simply stated, the Clinton administration's willingness to bow to China has incited the South Asian nuclear crisis. The abdication of US leadership in the region - under the guise of "engagement" - has been an implicit signal for China to exert its domineering communist aggression on multiple fronts.
Why should India (or Japan or Taiwan or Korea, for that matter) feel secure when the U.S. seems to reward bolder and bolder Sino expansionism? Who can blame these countries for covering their own backs in the absence of a check on the new Chinese regional hegemon? Mr. Clinton may try, with his high-horse rhetoric, but it just rings hollow.
Listen to what Indian representatives are saying when they talk about their nation's need to test nuclear weapons. China, not Pakistan, is the predominant issue. The last major war India lost was with China, under Nehru's leadership. China, to this day, makes militaristic claims to millions of square miles of Indian land. China has invaded and brutalized Tibet. It has armed Pakistan. Why would China arm Pakistan? The reason, from the regional point of view, is clear - to further threaten and weaken India.
Consider the region in general. China felt so unconstrained in light of U.S kowtowing that they found it appropriate to fire missiles at Taiwan in response to the island's first-ever democratic election for president, an act of shameless political thuggery. China continues to make claims on territories throughout Asia. Yet all the U.S. seems to focus on is growing markets in China. The almighty buck.
And aside from salutary gestures or toothless reprimands, Clinton's foreign policy consists of economic activity - as if all countries and leaders made national security decisions based on Clinton's own down-home mix of economic-political calculus and wishful thinking. No, it is too obvious that Clinton's so-called "engagement" policy is really about profiteering and procrastination. Why do anything difficult today when there are tidy profits (and campaign contributions) to be had?
The answer, of course, is exploding in the Administration's face right now.
The Clinton administration has approached international affairs much like Clinton himself has approached the more personal and domestic aspects of The Presidency. Rely on charm and affable persuasion, focus on economic quid pro quo and back-channel deals to grease the skids see how much you can get away with, rush in at the eleventh hour when your negligence and malfeasance have spiraled out of control, and finally in the face of obvious failure and culpability, deny responsibility, shake your head, and point the finger elsewhere. Pick the issue. Pick the scandal. The pattern applies too often.
The President's charm and persuasion seem to play domestically, but they surely don't translate into effective foreign policy. One of the architects of Clinton's China policy, former Assistant Secretary of Defense Joseph Nye, has dubbed the persuasive powers of our nation as "Soft Power". Our lifestyle, culture and values, combined with the technology to spread them (television, internet, etc.), should be force enough to win over our enemies in the long run. If we can simply engage them at the table and in the marketplace, they will surely see it our way.
Unfortunately, it seems China still likes to play hardball, a fact not lost on India. President Clinton may think that the appeal of the U.S., our lifestyle, or culture, and persuasive capacity is enough to win out in the long run. But more likely, this "policy" is just a convenient rational for inaction, brought down the mountain by his Harvard advisors. Real soft power has the force of principle behind it and is built from true conviction. Behind the Clinton flavor of soft power, we see dollar signs and approval ratings.
Here's a reminder to you, Mr. President. Economies surge and pause. Employment fluctuates and earnings-per-share reach new highs and lows. But as Americans, our love of liberty endures, and the mantle of responsibility for defending and nurturing democracy is constant. Some things aren't for sale, and not everything is about the economy.
A recent opinion poll conducted in the United States in the beginning of May 1998 shows that a large majority of American people believe the Clinton Administration should "firmly support" preserving Taiwan's security even if that means irritating the Beijing government. That is the view of 75 percent of respondents in a national public opinion poll conducted during the second week of May 1998.
The telephone survey of 1,000 American adults was conducted from May 8th through 13th, 1998 by Frederick Schneiders Research in Washington, D.C.
An even larger percentage, 81 percent, said they would be "very or somewhat" concerned if agreements reached at the upcoming Clinton-Jiang summit meeting jeopardize Taiwan's security.
|Treat Taiwan and the PRC as two separate countries or as "One China"?|
According to the survey, 59 percent of the respondents said the United States should not consult with Beijing in advance of selling defensive arms to Taiwan as long as Beijing refuses to renounce the use of force against Taiwan in its efforts to absorb the island, while only 27 percent said the US should consult with Beijing before striking weaponry deals with Taipei.
Poll results also show that nearly two-thirds of respondents view Taiwan as a "separate and sovereign" country rather than as a part of China.
Other key findings of the survey include:
The poll further found that opinion leaders defined as those who follow international news closely, have at least a college education and annual income of US$50,000 and above are even more supportive of Taiwan than the public at large across the board.
On the question whether Clinton should firmly support Taiwan's security during his meeting with Jiang, for instance, the 75 percent majority in the whole sample rises to 86 percent among opinion leaders. Those viewing Taiwan as a sovereign country rises from 60 percent of the general public to 78 percent among opinion leaders.
The full results of the poll can be found at the website of the Taiwan Research Institute at http://www.taiwaninformation.org
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