Alexander Outlines a Foreign Policy
By David S. Broder
Republican presidential hopeful Lamar Alexander, a man best known for his views on education and other domestic problems, last night outlined the foreign policy priorities he would bring to the White House.
In an address at the American Enterprise Institute, Alexander called for expansion of trade, including a possible transatlantic free trade zone, a selective policy on peacekeeping intervention and stronger support for groups seeking to overthrow Iraq's Saddam Hussein.
"If we're serious" about toppling Saddam Hussein, he said, the United States should "identify and back a government in exile [and] openly support that government," while continuing to enforce the "no-fly" zones and providing humanitarian aid to his domestic opponents.
He said the Clinton administration has sacrificed credibility by "making repeated threats of action and then backing off" in Iraq and Kosovo, and said the president too often "has reacted to events, rather than anticipated and steered them."
His criticisms were framed in less harsh language than one of his rivals for the 2000 nomination, former vice president Dan Quayle, used in a similar Washington speech last month. Alexander, a former two-term governor of Tennessee and Bush administration education secretary, spoke discursively of impressions he gathered during a trip last November to London, Paris, Bonn and Moscow – appearing content for now to show his audience he was knowledgeable about world affairs.
"We need to be selective about our missions," he said, adding that he was opposed to use of U.S. ground troops in a peacekeeping force in Kosovo. "If our allies want to send in troops, fine," he said. "Our role should be to give them logistical and air support. This time, 'no American boots on the ground.'‚" Clinton has held open the possibility of deploying U.S. forces for a Kosovo peacekeeping operation, if the warring parties agree on a political settlement.
While suggesting trade ties with Europe, Alexander voiced caution on expanding NATO to include other countries that were part of the Soviet bloc. On his first visit to Moscow in 12 years, he said, a variety of Russian leaders pressed the argument that if NATO "expands to include the Baltic states and other immediate neighbors of Russia – but not Russia – should it not be seen as having hostile intentions toward Russia? You and I know that is not the case, but we need to explain it – often – to the Russians," and hold out the possibility that Russia itself may eventually be included in the alliance.
Like Quayle and other Republicans, Alexander criticized Clinton for making too many concessions to the Chinese government during his visit there last year. And he added his voice to the call for pressing ahead with development of a missile defense system, based on an upgraded version of the Navy's Aegis system. If that requires revision of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, those changes should be made, and "if this cannot be accomplished, we must be prepared to withdraw from it."
Aides said Alexander had conferred with a number of foreign policy veterans in preparing the speech, including former secretary of state Lawrence S. Eagleburger, former defense secretary James R. Schlesinger and former national security adviser Richard V. Allen.
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