While the American body politic hangs in a state of suspended
animation awaiting a resolution of the 2000 presidential election, the
rest of the world is moving on. And in important respects, it is not
moving in directions favorable to U.S. interests.
The trouble is that, in the absence of the mandate being clearly
given to a new president-elect, America's foes, competitors and friends
are taking advantage of a lame-duck incumbent who was, on a good day,
regarded by many around the globe as irresolute and unreliable. Matters
are only made worse by the prospect that he may eventually be succeeded
by a man fully implicated in the hush-up the Clinton administration has
made of security policy over the past eight years.
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Consider a sampler of the international problems currently festering
due, at least in part, to the discounting of American leadership and
gotten under way this week for the purpose of hammering out specific
rules for compelling parties to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol to meet required
reductions in the production of greenhouse gases. There remain serious
questions about the science of global warming. These include: Is the
warming of the climate that can be discerned really the product of human
activity, and therefore likely to be influenced by curbs on such
activity? Or is it a function of solar activity or but a phase in our
planet's natural cycle that will not be ameliorated even if the internal
combustion engine were banned?
Meanwhile, European nations hoping to make their heavily socialized
economies more competitive by hobbling the relatively booming U.S. GNP
see a great opportunity in the Clinton administration's willingness to
permit the United States to be further implicated in the Kyoto process.
This is all the more outrageous insofar as Mr. Clinton has not deigned
even to submit the Protocol to the Senate for its advice and consent --
to say nothing of securing its approval by that body.
USS Cole is foundering in Yemen. According to Sunday's New York Times,
the State Department is backing the American Ambassador there, who is
resisting FBI efforts to follow the investigation wherever it may lead
-- including possibly to people in high places in the Yemeni government.
Similar fears of offending Middle Eastern potentates and impeding the
Clinton-Gore administration's efforts to normalize relations with
state-sponsors of terrorism throughout the region effectively aborted
the inquiry into the Khobar Towers bombing when it led unmistakably to
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against our ballistic missile and attack submarines -- intelligence that
may compromise the safety and security of these vitally important naval
assets and their crews. Under President Clinton, the American
government has chosen largely to ignore this activity, to the point of
making a non-person of a courageous Navy officer, Lt. Cmdr. Jack Daly,
whose eyesight was permanently damaged in April 1997 by a laser attack
from one of these trawlers as he and a Canadian colleague were
monitoring its hostile activities.
election, that they have no intention of further increasing their oil
production. In fact, the cartel intends to consider further production
cuts at its next meeting in 2001. These actions could have profound
effects on not only the U.S. economy and Americans' quality of life, but
on the global economic situation as well.
In addition, the head of one of OPEC's most important member nations
-- Venezuela's Hugo Chavez -- has begun to use his country's oil bounty
to extend the influence of his increasingly despotic regime elsewhere in
Latin America. Worse yet, he is doing so for the purpose of promoting
an explicitly anti-U.S. agenda, together with such ideological soulmates
as Fidel Castro and the Marxist narcoguerrillas trying to topple the
democratic government of Colombia.
recognized this nation's extraordinary vulnerability to the disruption
of its civil and military space assets. Although Beijing regularly
denounces American anti-missile programs and other defense systems that
use or could be based in outer space, the PRC is aggressively pursuing
with Russian help its own anti-satellite, jamming and electro-magnetic
pulse weapon systems that could, if used against us, have a devastating
effect on both U.S. national security and economic well-being.
In these and too many other areas to list in this limited space, the
perception has taken hold that the United States is, at best, not paying
attention and, at worst, a paper tiger. While there is, of course, a
government in place in Washington, its past record has contributed to
this perception and its present status only serves to compound it.
It remains to be seen to what extent a new president will be able to
ameliorate these and similar looming challenges. What is safe to say is
that the longer the national nightmare of an endless election persists
-- encouraging fair-weather friends and foes alike to believe they can
act against U.S. interests with impunity -- the more difficult it will
be for even a competent, visionary and principled American leader to
mitigate the damage inflicted by such actions.