Under assault on several foreign policy fronts, the Clinton administration put three successes on display in Baltimore yesterday to make the case that it is learning to cope with post-Cold War chaos.
The U.S.-led occupation of Haiti, aid to the former Soviet republics and expansion of trade and relations with Asia were touted as policies that are going well.
"We're slowly finding patterns and approaches that work," said James F. Dobbins, the administration's Haiti coordinator, the first of three speakers at a "foreign policy town meeting" sponsored by the State Department and the Baltimore Council on Foreign Affairs at the Omni Inner Harbor Hotel.
The administration's successes have been overshadowed lately by its failure in Bosnia, with peace efforts there virtually in collapse and the whole structure of European security weakened.
And administration policies in numerous areas are under attack by Congress's aggressive new Republican majority.
One GOP attack is aimed at Haiti. Many Republicans insist the operation should never have occurred and want U.S. troops withdrawn promptly, but Mr. Dobbins offered substantial evidence for his claim that it has gone better than anyone involved had dreamed.
Mr. Dobbins said a reduced U.S. troop force would hand over its authority to a United Nations peacekeeping force "in the early months of next year." Privately, officials cite a deadline of March 31. The U.N. force will be up to one-half American and led by a U.S. general and isn't due to leave until a new Haitian president is inaugurated in early 1996.
The U.S. force is committed to trying to rid Haiti as much as possible of heavy and automatic weapons and make sure owners of light weapons carry permits.
While parliamentary elections had been expected before the handover took place, Mr. Dobbins said in an interview yesterday that delays in arranging the elections might make that impossible.
But he said in his speech that Haiti would announce arrangements "early in the new year." In the interview, he voiced concern at the prospect of a legislative vacuum after the current Parliament leaves office in January.
Haiti has yet to see new investment and job creation, Mr. Dobbins acknowledged.
But it now enjoys less political violence than at any time in the past 40 years, and President Jean-Bertrand Aristide has exceeded even his admirers' expectation with his efforts to reconcile Haiti's bitter divisions, he said.
Mr. Dobbins said Haiti represents a more central role for human rightsand democracy in policy-making. He said the operation has worked so far because, unlike in Bosnia, the United States set goals it was fully prepared to back up with force.
Winston Lord, assistant secretary of state for East Asia, said relations with that dynamic region had "regained momentum" with a target of regional free trade by 2020, a decision to maintain trade with China and an end to a trade impasse with Japan.
The region saw one of the biggest flip-flops of President Clinton's tenure: his decision not to link China's most favored nation [MFN] trade status with progress on human rights.
Mr. Lord acknowledged that "we've made very little progress since the MFN decision." China is also being stubborn on terms for joining the world trade agreement, he said. Agreement will be "almost impossible" before the new World Trade Organization starts in January, he said.
Defending the recent agreement under which North Korea will freeze and eventually dismantle its nuclear-weapons program in exchange for billions of dollars' worth of nuclear technology less usable for weapons, he insisted that North Korea was giving up far more than was required by the nuclear nonproliferation treaty.
With a Republican majority in Congress, he expects "a grilling on Korea, grating on Taiwan and grandstanding on Vietnam."
Darryl Johnson, an aid coordinator for the former Soviet Union, said that despite harsh economic problems, "it is surprising that most of the countries have done as well as they have." Recent arms-control agreements capped by Ukraine's decision to be non-nuclear had made the world safer, he said.
Against congressional charges of a "Russia-first" aid policy, he said 55 percent is now directed to the other countries. The United States should be able to stop all aid by the end of the decade, he said.