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April 6, 2004
Clinton Report: Regional Priorities

Section 3 of the national-security report submitted to Congress in December 2000 deals with regional issues and strategies for confronting them individually as well as integrating approaches across regions. Interestingly, for an administration that Richard Clarke said was focused on al-Qaeda as the greatest threat to American security, the report leaves the two regions most closely associated with Islamofascist terror to last. The structure of Section 3 is shown in the table of contents:

Europe and Eurasia
East Asia and the Pacific
The Western Hemisphere
Middle East, North Africa, Southwest and South Asia
Sub-Saharan Africa

The first topic takes up over a third of Section 3 and covers a number of different state-on-state or ethnic-centered conflicts, mostly in Southeastern Europe, and reviews the Balkans in depth. After talking about the primary goal of the European strategy was to accomplish the complete integration of Europe into a democratic organization of nations, it mentions terrorism in passing:

Our second goal is to work with our allies and partners across the Atlantic to meet the global challenges no nation can meet alone. This means working together to consolidate this region's historic transition in favor of democracy and free markets; supporting peace efforts in troubled areas both within and outside the region; tackling global threats such as the potential use and continued proliferation of NBC weapons, terrorism, drug trafficking, international organized crime, environmental, problems, or health crises; mass uncontrolled migration of refugees, and building a more open world economy without barriers to transatlantic trade and investment.

As you can easily read, terrorism certainly gets its mention in the middle of a laundry list of issues that the US monitored in Europe. The next mention of terrorism comes in the report's review of Russia, noting that the means of the Russian government in confronting Chechnyan separatists were not effective in protecting its citizens from "terrorism and lawlessness". The strategic goals in the East Asia/Pacific region get the same laundry list in its second paragraph:

Our security strategy in East Asia and the Pacific encompasses a broad range of potential threats, and includes the following priorities: deterring aggression and promoting peaceful resolution of crises; promoting access to and the security of sea lines of communication in cooperation with our allies and partners; actively promoting our nonproliferation goals and safeguarding nuclear technology; strengthening both active and passive counterproliferation capabilities of key allies; combating the spread of transnational threats, including drug-trafficking, piracy, terrorism and the spread of AIDS; fostering bilateral and multilateral security cooperation, with a particular emphasis on combating transnational threats and enhancing future cooperation in peacekeeping operations; and promoting regional dialogue through bilateral talks and multilateral fora.

No serious discussion of terrorism takes place until you read all the way down to about the three-quarter mark and start reading about the Middle East, North Africa, Southwest, and South Asia region. There is one paragraph -- one -- about North Africa, despite the connections between al-Qaeda and terrorists in Morocco and Algeria. The only nation mentioned is Libya. Despite the claims of Madeline Albright, Libya as described in this report wasn't about to cough up its WMDs, and in fact this report gives no indication that Gaddafi was even interested in discussing better relations with the West other than the lifting of those sanctions regarding the Lockerbie bombing.

In regard to Iraq, which comes first in the section on Southwest Asia, the report discusses a long-forgotten "omnibus" UNSC resolution 1284, which gave Saddam Hussein yet another opportunity to thumb his nose at the UN. It "strengthened" the oil-for-food program which has now been revealed as a tremendously corrupt program that funded kickbacks to Saddam and bribes to foreign officials who were supposed to be keep containment on Iraq. In light of the scandal at the UN, this passage captures perfectly the folly of our twelve-year quagmire in Iraq -- and it even recognizes that the strategy will inevitably fail:

In December 1999, the United Nations Security Council passed UNSCR 1284, a new omnibus resolution on Iraq. The United States supports Resolution 1284 because it buttresses the containment of Iraq while maximizing relief for the Iraqi people. The resolution expands the humanitarian aspects of the oil-for-food program to ensure the well being of the Iraqi people. It provides for a robust new inspection and monitoring regime that would finish the work begun by UNSCOM. It would allow for a suspension of the economic sanctions in return for full Iraqi cooperation with UN arms inspections and Iraqi fulfillment of key disarmament tasks. This resolution would also lock in the Security Council's control over Iraqi finances to ensure that Saddam Hussein is never again able to disburse Iraq's resources as he would like.

Although Iraq continues to refuse to implement any of the requirements of Resolution 1284[emph mine], the United States and other members of the Security Council have already begun to implement those sections of the resolution intended to improve the humanitarian situation of the Iraqi populace. ... Nevertheless, we consistently maintain that sanctions on Iraq can only be lifted after it has met its obligations to the international community in full. Saddam's actions over the past decade lead us to conclude that his regime will never comply with the obligations contained in the relevant UN Security Council resolutions. For this reason, we actively support those who seek to bring a new democratic government to power in Baghdad. We recognize that this may be a slow and difficult process, but we believe it is the only solution to the problem of Saddam's regime.

Iran attracts attention for its terror ties, but three of the four paragraphs dedicated to discussing the Islamic Republic are dedicated to discussing the "positive changes in Iran," and winds up recommending initiating a dialogue with the mullahs "without preconditions" -- an eye-popping strategy for dealing with a country it describes as a state sponsor of terrorism!

Afghanistan gets two brief mentions in the regional report. In the opening paragraph, the only issue associated with the Taliban is the opium trade, despite Richard Clarke's contention that the administration's primary focus was terrorism. Four paragraphs later, Afghanistan gets one solitary paragraph at the end of the South Asia section:

Afghanistan remains a serious threat to U.S. worldwide interests because of the Taliban's continued sheltering of international terrorists and its increasing export of illicit drugs. Afghanistan remains the primary safehaven for terrorists threatening the United States, including Usama bin Ladin. The United Nations and the United States have levied sanctions against the Taliban for harboring Usama bin Ladin and other terrorists, and will continue to pressure the Taliban until it complies with international requests to bring bin Ladin to justice. The United States remains concerned about those countries, including Pakistan, that support the Taliban and allow it to continue to harbor such radical elements. We are engaged in energetic diplomatic efforts, including through the United Nations and with Russia and other concerned countries, to address these concerns on an urgent basis.

Again, as I wrote when I pointed out this passage in my first post on the subject, there is no indication that the terrorists sheltered by the Taliban represented a clear and present danger to the US, nor does this report propose any solutions other than multilateral diplomatic pressure, primarily relying on Russia. There is one additional mention of the Taliban and terrorists in the subsection titled Promoting Democracy and Human Rights, but it clearly demonstrates that the US was not prepared to consider a military solution to the Taliban's continuing refusal to deport the terrorists:

Respect for human rights also requires rejection of terrorism. If the nations in the region are to safeguard their own citizens from the threat of terror, they cannot tolerate acts of indiscriminate violence against civilians, nor can they offer refuge to those who commit such acts. We will continue to enforce UNSC sanctions against the Taliban for harboring terrorists such as Usama bin Ladin and look for other ways to pressure the Taliban to end its support for such groups.

More to come ...

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 6, 2004 6:06 PM

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