Where does Clinton get her morale from


"Indispensible nation" - "lonely superpower" - "world's policeman" - "rogue superpower": The characterizations of the USA at the end of William Jefferson Clinton's presidency are varied and controversial.

I. Ambivalences in American Foreign Policy at the End of the Clinton Era

"Indispensible nation" - "lonely superpower" - "world's policeman" - "rogue superpower": The characterizations of the USA at the end of William Jefferson Clinton's presidency are varied and controversial. On the other hand, it is undisputed that American foreign policy at the beginning of the 21st century is more the result of ad hoc reactions against the background of strongly polarized domestic political power constellations than the expression of a clear strategic concept. The foreign policy of the 42nd President of the United States appears correspondingly contradictory. Vigorous international leadership goes hand in hand with a decided renunciation of leadership, stricter economic sanctions collide with efforts for further trade liberalization, the call for a greater international division of labor is offset by the tendency towards "global unilateralism".

These contradicting tendencies are commonly associated with the erosion of presidential power during Clinton's tenure. "Divided government" and "impeachment politics" are the key words here, and Clinton's room for maneuver was undoubtedly severely restricted by the sharp party-political tug-of-war with the Republicans in Congress from 1995 and the attempted impeachment proceedings in the wake of the "Lewinsky Affair" in 1998/99.

After all, Clinton is the first Democrat since Franklin Delano Roosevelt to be re-elected. From the point of view of his critics, he has some foreign policy successes to show, especially in foreign trade policy: the approval of Congress to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the creation of the WTOWTO (World Trade Organization), the economic stabilization package for Mexico , the management of the Asian crisis and the normalization of trade relations with the People's Republic of China. However, individual successes do not add up to a foreign policy legacy in the sense of an innovative reorientation of American foreign policy, as appeared in principle possible after the USA was freed from the constraints of the East-West conflict and thus foreign policy no longer follows the logic of a preferably military one defined global containment policy.

However, in view of the bureaucratic routine and firmly established interests and coalitions, innovation in foreign policy should also have been promoted by the president. But William Jefferson Clinton, who started with a domestic policy program, showed little, or at least not that constant, interest in foreign policy that is an important prerequisite for innovative leadership. The leadership style was too indecisive, the foreign policy priorities too unclear for a lasting foreign policy legacy to grow. However, the structures of the "security state", which had grown under the conditions of the East-West conflict and in which the representatives of a threat-oriented foreign policy that relied heavily on military means had gained a privileged position, made reorientation difficult. This is especially true since the republican-dominated Congress, which insisted on a greater say and often questioned the president's claim to leadership, acted as a guarantor of the "security state" and, with the end of the threat from the Soviet Union, the underlying reasoning that American presidents had for decades had dissolved had been used to secure their claim to leadership in the formulation of foreign policy. In this respect, President Clinton encountered structural framework conditions under which any president would have found it difficult in terms of foreign policy