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Clinton And Congress Agree: Guns, Not Diplomacy

Analysis by Jim Lobe

on Pentagon windfall
(IPS) WASHINGTON -- If defense spending is any indication, the U.S. government is betting that military power and related forms of coercion will be more effective than diplomacy in the early 21st century.

The huge omnibus budget bill featured significant, real increases in money for the Pentagon, intelligence, and the drug war. At the same time, spending on foreign aid and the State Department, which are far below Cold War levels, will remain more or less unchanged next year.

Clinton avoids fights with the right over foreign policy
Although President Clinton succeeded in prying loose $18 billion for the International Monetary Fund (IMF), he could not get Congress to approve almost $1 billion in arrears to the United Nations -- yet one more indication that Washington has not yet arrested the isolationist drift which began with the end of the Cold War.

That notion is bolstered by Congress' failure this year to act on a number of pressing international issues. For example, the Republican-led Senate refused to even take up the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) which Clinton submitted for ratification in 1997.

It also failed to ratify the long-pending U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea despite a last-minute push by the Clinton administration based on major concessions it obtained in 1994 on the governance and operations of the sea-mining regime created by the treaty. That failure means that Washington will lose its guaranteed seats on the mining authority.

"These two treaties fell victim to the Republican Right's visceral distrust of anything multilateral," said one Congressional aide whose boss pushed hard for the Senate to at least take up the two treaties. "It shows that the isolationist wing of the party is alive and well, even if Clinton got the IMF money."

It was not only Congress which bolstered the impression of creeping isolationism this year. In refusing to sign the treaty to ban landmines and in rejecting the creation of an independent international criminal court, Clinton himself has contributed to that impression.

In both cases, the President, who always has preferred to avoid fights with the right over foreign policy, apparently deferred to the military brass in the Pentagon, by far the most politically potent of Washington's national-security bureaucracies.

In contrast to the stagnation in the 1999 foreign aid and State Department budgets, the Pentagon's budget is set to rise to $279 billion next year. That will be the first real increase in defense spending since 1985, just before Cold War tensions began to ease with the rise to power of Mikhail Gorbachev in the Soviet Union.

That increase, which includes extra money for Washington to develop a controversial anti-ballistic missile system, should bring the U.S. share to more than one-third of all military-related spending worldwide. For the last several years, total U.S. defense spending has exceeded the military budgets of all of its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies and Russia combined.

Similarly, funding for U.S. intelligence agencies will rise to about $29 billion in 1999, an increase of more than seven percent and the biggest single annual increase in intelligence spending in 15 years. Most of the additional money will be used for new spy satellites, although some will also be devoted to recruiting more human spies on the ground, according to published reports.

Exact figures for the intelligence budget, which is divided among half a dozen civilian and military agencies, remain classified.

At the same time, Clinton was barely able to hold the line against Republican efforts to slash foreign aid and State Department spending, which are already close to their lowest level since the Cold War began more than 50 years ago.

on "War Against Drugs" windfall
Washington will spend only $13.5 billion on foreign aid next year, about half of what it spent in real terms in 1985. Of the world's wealthy industrialized nations, Washington has long spent the least on foreign aid either as a percentage of its gross domestic product (GDP) or on a per capita basis. That tradition will continue next year.

Not counting the IMF allotment, which does not require the disbursement of funds, total spending on diplomacy will come to less than $19 billion, or just over one percent of the entire U.S. federal budget and barely 10 percent of Pentagon spending.

"We're the world's only military superpower, the world's economic superpower," John Rielly, head of the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, recently told a blue-ribbon commission on the future of U.S. diplomacy. "Yet our influence around the world is diminished by the fact that we don't have a comparable strength in the field of diplomacy."

Symptomatic of these priorities are next year's increases in spending on Washington's "war against drugs."

In the closing days of this year's session, Congress added about almost $2 billion to next year's budget over the $16 billion it spent in 1998, an increase of more than 10 percent. Most of the increase will be used to cut the supply of drugs abroad, rather than the demand for them at home.

That will mean more money for use by the police and military establishments of Andean nations and Mexico to eradicate drug crops at their source, and for use by the U.S. Coast Guard and other military and police agencies to interdict them as traffickers ship them from refineries to the United States.

While Republican sponsors argued that increased spending to reduce drug supplies abroad restores the correct balance of demand and supply measures to fight the drug war, opponents warned that more arms to fight trafficking amounts to a dubious policy given past performance.

"Despite militarization and massive funding for Washington's drug war," according to Peter Zirnite, an analyst at the Institute for Policy Studies here, "illegal drugs are more readily available now, at a higher purity and lower cost, than they were when the drug war was launched."

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Albion Monitor November 23, 1998 (

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