Leading Article: Clinton earns himself two foreign cheers

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The Independent Online
WHISPER it not too loudly, but on a couple of foreign policy fronts the besieged Clinton administration is enjoying a measure of success. Not, perhaps, the success which crowns initiatives conceived from disinterested motives and pursued with steadfast resolve, but, as the batsman who edges a couple of boundaries past first slip would say, they all count. For perhaps the wrong reasons, Mr Clinton's handling of the utterly different problems of Haiti and Northern Ireland is yielding some promising results.

Barely a fortnight ago the President was on the brink of a Caribbean calamity, having boxed himself in to an unpopular and costly military intervention. At the eleventh hour he dispatched envoys to Port-au-Prince in search of a diplomatic solution that he had ruled out 24 hours earlier.

Once more, even his dwindling band of friends in the media noted, the President had blinked. Now he seems to have secured the best of all worlds. With a little prodding from Messrs Carter, Powell and Nunn, it turned out to be the Haitian generals who blinked. After a few days of violence, the US military has imposed its authority and seems well on course to re-instal President Aristide. It becomes harder every day to see how General Cedras and his henchmen can stay in the country. Haiti, screamed Mr Clinton's critics, was not worth the loss of a single American life. So far, miraculously, not one has been lost.

Over Northern Ireland, too, a controversial policy is paying off. Washington, it is worth repeating given the paranoia surrounding Gerry Adam's current visit, has only a bit-part in the peace process, and the Americans know that. But in hindsight the February visa, against which the British argued so strenuously, made its contribution to the August ceasefire.

Mr Clinton may have allowed Mr Adams into the US partly to pander to Irish-American voters and to take revenge on the Tory government for supporting George Bush in 1992. In the event a media frenzy masked a precious learning experience for Mr Adams. Today, Washington is bending over backwards to be even-handed, offering itself as a 'facilitator'. Through clenched teeth, the British government concedes that US involvement may have been 'helpful'. For once, on matters of foreign policy, Mr Clinton deserves praise.

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