Rattled by foreign fiascos, Clinton turns on allies

BILL CLINTON'S criticism of Britain, France and the United Nations at the weekend is a measure of White House irritation that the administration's political recovery from a disastrous first six months is being torpedoed by foreign policy fiascos. It is also clearly rattled by television pictures of downed helicopters and American dead in Somalia which look like the Vietnam war revisited.

But Mr Clinton's remarks do not mark any change in policy. In Bosnia, he said, the British and the French felt it more important to keep the arms embargo than to save the country. This is sharper rhetoric than he has used before but he has also made it clear to the Bosnian Muslims that they can expect no help from the US. The only surprise is that Mr Clinton should revive an issue over which Americans have ceased to show much concern.

The burden of Mr Clinton's remarks on Somalia is that he made a mistake in over-relying on the UN and did not realise that the political process gradually was being abandoned. There is some truth in this but the policy of pursuing Mohamed Farah Aideed was carried out by forces provided by the US that never came under UN command.

The UN Security Council had responded to the death of 24 Pakistani peace-keepers at the hands of General Aideed's militiamen on 5 June by calling for his arrest. But it was retired US admiral Jonathan Howe, the special UN envoy, who used his contacts in Washington to obtain fresh troops. According to an aide to the Defence Secretary, Les Aspin, Admiral Howe engaged in 'frenetic and obsessive' lobbying for more military forces.

For the moment, however, it is extremely tempting to present the debacle in Somalia as the result of an overtrusting US trying to do its humanitarian duty by following the more militant policies of the UN General-Secretary, Boutros Boutros-Ghali. But on 17 June, after US gunships were used against General Aideed's headquarters, Mr Clinton said: 'The purpose of the operation was to undermine the ability of Aideed to wreak military havoc in Somalia. The military back of Aideed has been broken. A warrant has been issued for his arrest.'

The danger for the administration is that in accepting the thesis that the US was shanghaied into Somalia it will make it difficult to get domestic support for co-operation with the UN in future. In the shorter term, blaming the UN is convenient because it satisfies the right, which wants nothing to do with multilateral ventures, and the left which wants an end to foreign ventures of any sort.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones