The Clinton Doctrine

Knut Rognes (
Fri, 02 Apr 1999 20:05:44 +0200


sakser noe fra The Nation idag fredag 2. april

Knut Rognes

The Clinton Doctrine
By Michael Klare
President Clinton's decision to use military force against the Serbs was
not simply a calculated response to Slobodan Milosevic's intransigence. A
careful reading of recent Administration statements and Pentagon documents
shows that the NATO bombing is part of a larger strategic vision.
That vision has three basic components. The first is an increasingly
pessimistic appraisal of the global security environment. "In this last
annual threat assessment of the twentieth century," Director of Central
Intelligence George Tenet testified on February 2, "I must tell you that US
citizens and interests are threatened in many arenas and across a wide
spectrum of issues." Those perils range from regional conflict and
insurgency to terrorism, criminal violence and ethnic unrest.
The second component is the assumption that as a global power with
far-flung economic interests, the United States has a vested interest in
maintaining international stability. Because no other power or group of
powers can guarantee this stability, the United States must be able to act
on its own or in conjunction with its most trusted allies (meaning NATO).
The third component is a conviction that to achieve global stability, the
United States must maintain sufficient forces to conduct simultaneous
military operations in widely separated areas of the world against multiple
adversaries, and it must revise its existing security alliances--most of
which, like NATO, are defensive in nature--so that they can better support
US global expeditionary operations.
Combined, these three propositions constitute a new strategic template for
the US military establishment. This template is evident, for example, in
the $112 billion the President wants to add to the Defense Department
budget over the next six years, which will be used to procure additional
warships, cargo planes, assault vehicles and other equipment intended for
"power projection" into distant combat zones.
Less public, but no less significant, is the US effort to convert NATO from
a defensive alliance in Western Europe into a regional police force
governed by Washington. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright first
unveiled this scheme this past December at a meeting of NATO foreign
ministers in Brussels. Claiming that missile-armed "rogue states" pose as
great a threat to Europe as the Warsaw Pact once did, Albright called on
NATO to extend its operational zone into distant areas and to combat a wide
range of emerging threats. "Common sense tells us," she said, "that it is
sometimes better to deal with instability when it is still at arm's length
than to wait until it is at our doorstep."
Herein lies the essence of what might be termed the Clinton Doctrine--the
proposition that the best way to maintain stability in the areas that truly
matter to the United States (like Western Europe) is to combat instability
in other areas, however insignificant it may seem, before it can intensify
and spread. Perhaps the most explicit expression of this doctrine was
Clinton's February 26 speech in San Francisco--an important statement that
clearly foreshadowed the decision to bomb Serbia:
It's say that we really have no interests in who lives in this or
that valley in Bosnia, or who owns a strip of brushland in the Horn of
Africa, or some piece of parched earth by the Jordan River. But the true
measure of our interests lies not in how small or distant these places are,
or in whether we have trouble pronouncing their names. The question we must
ask is, what are the consequences to our security of letting conflicts
fester and spread. We cannot, indeed, we should not, do everything or be
everywhere. But where our values and our interests are at stake, and where
we can make a difference, we must be prepared to do so [emphasis added].
This is an extraordinary statement; not since the Vietnam era has a US
President articulated such an ambitious and far-reaching policy. Moreover,
as we have seen in the Balkans, Clinton has every intention of acting on
its precepts. His decision to bomb Serbia is consistent with a clearly
delineated strategic plan.
There is a growing debate over the wisdom of bombing Serbia. Certainly many
people are concerned about the humanitarian dimensions of the Serbian
actions in Kosovo. But in the course of this debate it is essential not to
lose sight of the larger strategic doctrine behind the bombing. If the
newly hatched Clinton Doctrine is not repudiated, the bombing of Yugoslavia
may be only the first in a series of recurring overseas interventions--a
prospect that should galvanize peace and disarmament groups across America.
Michael T. Klare

Michael T. Klare, professor of peace and world security studies at
Hampshire College, is The Nation's defense correspondent.