What Dole's Foreign Policy Would Look Like

A tougher military posture, a tilt toward China, stability for business

When Bob Dole delivered the first major foreign policy speech of his Presidential campaign, he showed both the perils and promise of his global approach. Behind the scenes, his advisers were squabbling over his Asia policy. Should he call for stern conditions on U.S.-China trade? How specific should he be in defining U.S.-Asia relations?

In the end, when he addressed a packed audience at Washington's Center for Strategic & International Studies last month, Dole failed to issue a compelling new vision of how to deal with China and the post-cold-war world. Instead, he fell back on a core of long-held beliefs. The free-trade Kansan backed unconditional extension of most-favored-nation trading status for China. A defense hawk, he supported antimissile defenses for South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan. And as an old-school anti-Communist, he blasted President Clinton for "appeasing" North Korea by cutting a bilateral deal with Pyongyang on nuclear arms.

"STEADY AND STRONG." Indeed, consistency would be the hallmark of a President Dole's foreign policy. The goal: reducing the temptation for testing Washington that experts say President Clinton's reversals invite. The result would be "a more stable world order," says Joshua S. Goldstein, a professor of international politics at American University. That, he adds, would provide "better conditions for American business and American interests in general."

Dole's game plan has been devised by 200 or so GOP foreign policy stalwarts, including former U.N. Ambassador Jeane J. Kirkpatrick and former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft. Their long track record suggests the approach this team would take. When intervening abroad, they would use overwhelming force, not Clinton's incrementalism. They would lead broad coalitions, with rubber-stamp approval from the U.N., rather than letting the U.N. control troops.

In the political campaign, they will use these contrasts to try to cast doubt on Clinton's character and leadership ability. "Dole is seen as steady and strong," says Robert B. Zoellick, a Dole adviser and top Bush Administration State Dept. aide, while Clinton's policy demonstrates "weakness, indecision, and flip-flops."

Dole declares that there are "vast and fundamental" differences between his strategy and Clinton's. For instance, the challenger wants to mandate now deployment in 2003 of a scaled-down Star Wars even if it violates the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and Moscow objects. This defensive shield is intended to protect America against a handful of incoming missiles. Dole also backs rapid expansion of NATO, an issue that could flare up in the campaign if the Communists win the Russian election. Yet Clinton also wants deployment of a missile defense in 2003; the two candidates differ over when to make the decision. And Clinton favors speedy NATO expansion.

The biggest shift under a Dole Administration might be global peacekeeping. With an increasingly populist GOP, Dole opposed sending U.S. troops to Bosnia. Unlike Clinton, Dole would try to avoid helping the oppressed in peripheral countries such as Somalia and Haiti, what one wag calls the White House's "instinct for the capillaries" instead of the jugular.

But Dole might have trouble avoiding such entanglements. Like his GOP predecessors, who intervened in Grenada and Somalia, Dole may have to enter small conflicts that get global coverage on CNN if he wants to show America standing tall. "You end up not being a leader if you don't do something," says Chester A. Crocker, a former State Dept. official.

Still, a Dole Administration would put consistent emphasis on traditional allies in Europe, and on strategic approaches for dealing with Russia and China--the critical geopolitical concerns in the 21st century. Dole advisers, who are pessimistic about Russia, insist they would avoid the Clintonites' lovefest with President Boris Yeltsin. "You judge a nation by its behavior, not the personality of its leaders," says Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), a Dole confidant and adviser. If Russia tries to block NATO expansion, for instance, a Dole Administration might bar Russian participation in the Bosnia contact group and meetings of the Group of Seven industrialized nations.

The key to China, Dole aides say, is to emphasize shared interests: China needs close ties to its largest export market and fears both Japan to the east and Islamic influences to the West. "A sense of strategic interest is a solvent" and could prompt concessions on human rights and trade, says Dole adviser Peter Rodman, a Nixon Peace & Freedom Center national security expert.

The Clinton Administration has slowly edged toward similar approaches to Russia and China. On topics such as MFN for China and the North American Free Trade Agreement, Dole and Clinton largely agree. In the Middle East, where the peace process has been compicated by Israeli politics, Dole would take a tougher stance toward Syrian President Hafez Al-Assad. Whether Dole could produce a better-oiled foreign-policy machine depends on whether he can impose a chain of command that contains the differences among his aides.

Take trade. Influential aide Robert E. Lighthizer is an economic nationalist who would use antidumping sanctions and other clubs against countries with closed markets. But Zoellick would put geopolitical concerns above economic issues. He has blasted the Clinton Administration for jeoparding strategic ties with Japan by bashing Tokyo on trade.

TROUBLE-FREE? Some foreign officials already are casting their lot with the devil they know. "Second-term presidents don't cause a lot of trouble because they want to end up in the history books," says a trade negotiator with the Japanese Foreign Affairs Ministry. Tokyo also may prefer Clinton because, as one Democratic congressional aide puts it, he turns the Teddy Roosevelt axiom on its head: "He talks loudly and carries a wet noodle."

As the campaign gains momentum, Clinton is sure to boast about his successes in Bosnia, the Middle East, and the Japan trade front. But if another crisis erupts during the campaign, no one knows if Clinton the waffler or Clinton the winner will be on display. That could be an opportunity for Dole. If he can exploit it, the Republican foreign-policy warriors who claim that they won the cold war will start gearing up for their next mission.

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