President Clinton ends trade embargo of Vietnam

President Clinton ends trade embargo of Vietnam

President Bill Clinton lifts a 19-year-old trade embargo of the Republic of Vietnam. The embargo had been in place since 1975, when North Vietnamese forces captured the city of Saigon in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War.

President Clinton lifted the embargo primarily to encourage cooperative efforts between the U.S. and Vietnam to discover the fate of American prisoners of war (POWs) and missing in action (MIA) who had remained unaccounted for after the war. He also believed that improved business relations between the U.S. and Vietnam would benefit the economies of both nations.

American businesses interested in expanding in Asian nations like Vietnam applauded his move, while veterans’ organizations and families of servicemen killed during the Vietnam War erupted in outrage over the lifting of the embargo. They believed that the lifting of the embargo, as well as Clinton’s status as a draft dodger and his active participation in war protests during the 1970s, was an insult to the memories of those who fought and died during Vietnam in service to their country. They also believed that the Vietnamese could not be trusted, citing examples of the Vietnamese government’s habit of providing false information to U.S. officials regarding the whereabouts of American POWs.

In 2000, six years after lifting the embargo, Clinton became the first American head of state to visit Vietnam since before the war. During the visit he attempted to soothe ongoing U.S. internal conflict over the Vietnam War and his actions by stating, “The history we leave behind is painful and hard. We must not forget it, but we must not be controlled by it.”

According to the Department of Defense, 325 American servicemen were accounted for in the first 12 years after the lifting of the embargo.

READ MORE: How the Vietnam War Ratcheted Up Under 5 U.S. Presidents

President Clinton ends trade embargo of Vietnam - HISTORY

Vietnam Bilateral Trade Agreement


In 1993, President Clinton began a policy of normalization of relations with Vietnam to encourage Vietnam's cooperation on issues of interest to the United States and to promote Vietnam's integration into the region and the world economy. The decision to pursue the trade agreement was made after Vietnam had established a record of cooperation in accounting for POW-MIA's from the war, the highest priority in our relations.

The Bilateral Trade Agreement signed on July 13, 2000, marks a key step in the historic reconciliation between the United States and Vietnam. By normalizing trade relations and committing Vietnam to sweeping economic reform, it will help lay the foundation for a new American relationship with Vietnam.

The policy of normalization has led to:

  • Strengthened cooperation on the fullest possible accounting of our missing from the war. Since 1993, the United States has undertaken 39 joint field activities with Vietnam, repatriated 288 possible sets of remains, and identified the remains of 135 formerly unaccounted for American servicemen
  • Resettlement of tens of thousands of refugees through the Orderly Departure Program and related programs. Over 500,000 Vietnamese have emigrated as refugees or immigrants to the United States and only a small number of refugee applicants remain to be processed.
  • Enhanced cooperation in combating narcotics trafficking, promoting human rights and religious freedom and expanding economic linkages. Our human rights dialogue, begun in 1993, has led to release of prisoners and some improvements in the overall situation.

The process of normalization has been accomplished in a step-by-step manner, leading to the Bilateral Trade Agreement:

  • 1989 -- Vietnam withdraws from Cambodia and seeks admission into regional organizations, sending a clear message that Vietnam intended to play a positive role in regional security and economic liberalization
  • 1993 - The President authorizes the United States to support international lending for Vietnam and allows for U.S. firms to join in development projects
  • 1994 - The President lifts economic embargo to allow U.S. firms to export to Vietnam and compete for business opportunities in Vietnam that had been closed
  • 1995 -- Vietnam joins the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)
  • 1995 -- The United States opens normal diplomatic relations with Vietnam
  • 1996 -- The United States begins negotiations with Vietnam on a Bilateral Trade Agreement that would improve the opportunities and protections available to U.S. firms
  • 1997 -- Exchange of ambassadors. President Clinton appoints former Congressman and POW, Douglas "Pete" Peterson to be the U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam
  • 1998 -- Vietnam joins the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum
  • 1998 -- The United States grants the first waiver of the Jackson-Vanik amendment extending U.S. export promotion and investment support programs to Vietnam. The waiver was then renewed in 1999 and 2000
  • 1999 -- The United States and Vietnam reach an agreement in principle on key provisions of the Bilateral Trade Agreement and
  • 2000 -- The United States and Vietnam reach final agreement on the Bilateral Trade Agreement, fulfilling the President's goal of negotiating a comprehensive trade agreement with Vietnam that would advance reform by leading to significantly more open markets and to Vietnam's firmer integration into the global economic community.

Vietnam has made a comprehensive set of commitments on: tariffs and non-tariff barriers for industrial and agricultural goods, the full range of services, intellectual property rights, investment, transparency and other issues. This constitutes for the first time a broad opening of Vietnamese markets for the United States, and will provide a major stimulus to Vietnam's economic reform efforts. This agreement sends a positive signal regarding Vietnam's commitment to integrating into the world economy and is an important step toward both the development of the rule of law in Vietnam and its eventual membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Accuracy in Media

During an interview with CNN’s John King, conducted in Communist Vietnam, President Clinton insulted America’s Vietnam veterans and lied at the same time. Trying to establish his legacy as president, he told King that “students of American history, several of them, have come out in the last few weeks saying that I had kept a higher percentage of my campaign promises than any president in modern history.” This statement, coming during a tour in Communist Vietnam, represents the height of arrogance. He was confident that the media would not bother to point out that Clinton had broken a promise to the American people dealing with the subject of Vietnam and the fate of our soldiers there.

A complete compilation of Clinton’s promises was published back in the Washington Post on January 20, 1993. Under the category of international relations, Clinton was reported to have promised to get a “full accounting” of POWs and MIAs before normalizing relations with Vietnam. Needless to say, a full accounting has never been obtained. A total of 1,992 Americans are still missing and unaccounted for from the Vietnam War.

Even more seriously, evidence indicates that Americans known to be alive in captivity in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia were not returned at the end of the war. The National Alliance of POW/MIA Families says, “In the absence of evidence to the contrary, it must be assumed that these Americans may still be alive. As a matter of policy, the U.S. Government does not rule out the possibility that Americans could still be held.”

Ignoring all of this, Clinton terminated a trade embargo of Vietnam in 1994, opened diplomatic relations in 1995, and signed a trade agreement with the Communist dictatorship this year. There were reports that former Commerce Secretary Ron Brown was offered a bribe to put the U.S. on the road to diplomatic and trade relations with Hanoi. Brown later died in a controversial plane crash.

The National Alliance of Families declined to participate in the Clinton trip to Vietnam, after learning that it would be a massive official delegation, including over 30 private corporations. League Chairman of the Board Jo Anne Shirley stated that, “With a delegation of this size and composition, no serious dialogue on the issue would be expected unless in private. Since the Clinton Administration has repeatedly stated that this issue is their highest priority with Vietnam, we provided.

serious input to the White House on our concerns and urged they be raised privately with Vietnam’s leaders.”

The League strongly rejected statements by administration officials that Clinton’s trip would in some way put the Vietnam War behind us. The group said, “Given their official statements that reflect an expectation of reparations in one form or another, even the Vietnamese do not view it that way. We see this visit as the last step of the Clinton Administration to normalize economic and political relations with Vietnam…” The League said that since Clinton had pursued the path of normalizing relations with Hanoi, the burden was on his administration to obtain increased accountability from the Communists. Clearly, however, Clinton doesn’t care about the issue, and the major media won’t insist on accountability, either.

Reed Irvine and Cliff Kincaid

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Vietnam embargo is ended

WASHINGTON -- President Clinton dropped a 19-year trade embargo against Vietnam yesterday in a major step toward reconciliation with the United States' old Cold War nemesis.

The action, sought by U.S. companies eager for trade and investment ties with the poor but resource-rich Southeast Asian nation, moved the United States closer to normal relations with Vietnam. Already, banks, law firms, cigarette companies and other businesses have obtained licenses to open offices in Vietnam. Now, each nation will set up a liaison office in the other.

The nation's largest veterans groups strongly oppose Mr. Clinton's decision -- and its leaders told him so in a 2 p.m. meeting at the Oval Office yesterday.

But Mr. Clinton, whose youthful draft avoidance and anti-war protest still haunt him politically, is cushioned in his decision by a growing bipartisan momentum in Congress to move on from the Indochina conflict.

The president insisted yesterday that his decision had nothing to do with trade, even though he has made expansion of commerce with Asia a foreign policy priority.

Instead, he said, it was guided by strides made in accounting for American servicemen still missing in Southeast Asia and the belief that lifting the embargo would be the best way to ensure continued cooperation from Vietnam on that issue.

Mr. Clinton also said it was the consensus of military advisers and other experts that the United States "would lose leverage [with Vietnam] if there were no forward movement" in ties between the two countries.

The president cited "significant, tangible progress" in several areas: recovery and return of remains, resolution of discrepancy cases involving servicemen who were last seen alive, cooperation from Vietnam and Laos in conducting searches along their border, and release of Vietnamese documents.

But families of those still missing, the staunchest holdouts against lifting the embargo, condemned the decision, arguing that Vietnam would cooperate only if continued pressure were applied.

"He's clearly broken his promise," said a bitter Ann Mills Griffiths, executive director of the National League of Families of Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia. Her group boycotted a meeting at which Mr. Clinton explained the decision.

"We felt the decision was wrong -- and told him so," John Sommer, executive director of the American Legion, added after meeting with the president yesterday.

Mr. Sommer insisted that his group's sole concerns are Vietnam's record regarding MIAs and POWs as well as human rights, but other veterans suggested that the past is not entirely behind the president, who avoided the draft during Vietnam, evaded questions about it during his presidential campaign and was jeered by some when he visited the Vietnam Memorial last year.

But Jack Powell, the central Florida director of the Paralyzed Veterans of America -- wounded severely in Vietnam in 1970 -- said: "I understand the organizations are opposing it, but I'm not. I think it's logical. It's time to get on with life."

John Y. Averella, president of Baltimore's Vietnam Veterans of America chapter, and Maryland VFW Commander Joseph W. Nassar of Cheverly both took issue with Mr. Clinton's move last night.

Mr. Averella said the chapter members voted last Thursday night to continue opposing the lifting of the trade embargo and were urging congressional representatives to oppose it as well.

Mr. Nassar said the Veterans of Foreign Wars passed a resolution at last summer's national convention in Dallas that the embargo not be lifted until Vietnam has cooperated on the POW-MIA issue, and sent a letter to Mr. Clinton recently to reinforce that view.

The embargo was imposed on North Vietnam in 1964, in the early days of a war that claimed 51,000 American lives and bitterly divided the United States. It was expanded to cover the whole country in 1975 after Saigon fell and Vietnam was unified under Communist rule.

Mr. Clinton announced his decision in the Roosevelt Room, where he was joined by top aides and Sen. John F. Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat and decorated Vietnam War veteran who headed a Senate inquiry into the MIA issue last year.

In recent weeks, supporters of lifting the embargo inside and outside the government have bent over backward to make the decision politically less risky for the president.

The most important step was last week's strong 62-38 Senate vote, in a nonbinding resolution co-sponsored by Mr. Kerry, favoring an end to the embargo. It was also supported by Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, and Sen. Robert Kerrey of Nebraska, a former Democratic presidential contender who lost part of a leg in the conflict.

Clinton Eases Restrictions on Trade With Vietnam : Commerce: His action falls short of lifting a longstanding embargo. Fate of MIAs remains an issue.

President Clinton eased the U.S. trade embargo against Vietnam on Monday by clearing the way for American companies to take part in projects financed by international institutions such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

The action marks the first time since the downfall of the former South Vietnam that American companies will be permitted to do actual business inside the country. Last year, the Bush Administration opened the way for U.S. firms to open offices and bid on contracts for future work.

It was the furthest the Clinton Administration has gone in the gradual move toward normalization of relations with Hanoi. Informed sources said it is privately contemplating fully lifting the U.S. trade embargo before the end of the year.

The big development projects that Clinton will now allow U.S. companies to participate in may mean work for at least one Orange County company, the giant Irvine-based Fluor Corp. An official there said the construction firm is interested in Vietnam, but any deals are still a way off.

“We’re tracking that market,” the spokesman said. “But we tend to follow our clients, like the big mining and oil companies. So it could be a while before we’re doing business there.”

The President’s announcement was disappointing news, at least for now, to a handful of the county’s smaller companies, which had already opened offices in Vietnam hoping to sell products. (Several local concerns, for instance, are vying to sell earth movers to the Vietnamese.)

It is important for U.S. companies to get a foothold there, said Ken Kraemer, a business professor at UC Irvine, before the Europeans and the Pacific Rim nations tie up the market. Still, optimistic entrepreneurs tend to forget that the Vietnamese market--especially for high technology--isn’t large, said Kraemer, who has studied computer markets in the Pacific Rim.

While refusing to confirm the year-end timing, a senior Administration official said Monday night: “As soon as we see what we consider full cooperation on MIAs (Americans missing in action since the Vietnam War), the President will move on the embargo question. It doesn’t have to be a full year from now but could be done whenever he wants to.”

By law, the trade embargo, which dates from the end of the war in 1975, must be renewed each year by Sept. 14. Acting a day before the deadline, Clinton refused Monday to lift the embargo entirely because, he said, Vietnam has not yet cooperated fully in accounting for American MIAs. Instead, he extended his general legal authority to impose a trade embargo against Vietnam.

But the President also announced that he was making an adjustment in the embargo to let American companies compete with their overseas rivals for international development projects in Vietnam. Over the next year, Hanoi, for the first time since the 1970s, will be able to borrow from financial institutions such as the World Bank.

“The President is committed to achieving the fullest possible accounting of our POW/MIAs from the Vietnam War,” the White House said in a statement. “Today’s action will advance that goal.”

Orange County’s Vietnamese community--the nation’s largest at 200,000--is still deeply divided over whether to normalize relations with their homeland. Even for business people, it’s an explosive issue.

“What the President did today was the right step,” said Dr. Co Pham, president of the Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce in Orange County. “We can now force them to respect human rights if we hold out a little more of this carrot.

“We have some leverage, and I think Vietnam has gotten the message.”

Pham acknowledges that not every local Vietnamese agrees with him. But, he says, he is in the majority.

“Some of us are still very bitter,” said Pham, a former South Vietnamese army surgeon.

Mai Cong, who chairs the Vietnamese Community of Orange County Inc. community center, said: “This is not a lifting of the embargo. This is just a test to make sure Vietnam keeps its word.

“I hope that we do not lose sight of the POW and MIA issues, and also of human rights conditions in Vietnam.”

Administration officials estimated that the World Bank will finance about $300 million in loans to Vietnam over the next year and that the Asian Development Bank will lend another $200 million.

The loans will pay for projects for port rehabilitation, telecommunications, electricity generation, road construction and agricultural development, the officials said.

A senior Administration official said Monday’s action will not change the situation for American oil companies, which will still be subject to the embargo. Oil exploration projects are not generally funded by international lending institutions.

The Administration has been under increasing pressure to lift the trade embargo because American companies fear that competing companies from Japan, France, Taiwan, South Korea and other countries will land big contracts while the U.S. embargo is still in effect.

This pressure has intensified over the last few months because Vietnam is in the process of clearing up its debts to the International Monetary Fund. As a result, it will be eligible this fall to begin borrowing large sums from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

On the other hand, organizations representing families of American MIAs have urged Clinton to delay normal relations with Vietnam until Hanoi turns over all it knows about the MIA cases.

Times staff writers Michael Flagg and Alicia Di Rado in Orange County contributed to this report.

Vietnam Welcomes U.S. Decision on Embargo

In the crowded streets of a city still better known to the world as Saigon, there was a sense today that the war was finally over, the last battle concluded half a world away in the corridors of the White House.

The news that President Clinton had decided to lift the American trade embargo against Vietnam reached here today shortly before dawn, and by breakfast it was the only topic of conversation to be found in much of Ho Chi Minh City, the city that the Americans had to flee in humiliation a generation ago.

"A heavy burden has been lifted," said Lam Thanh Sy, a 38-year-old high school mathematics teacher who recalls the boyhood terror of rushing into a bomb shelter with his parents. "We in Vietnam have felt that we were not allowed to participate in the world as full citizens because of the embargo. Now at last we are allowed to forget the war." A Matter of Perspective

He was standing in the shadow of a large statue of Ho Chi Minh, the Vietnamese revolutionary leader, in a small, well-tended public park near city hall. A few feet away, a photographer, Hoang Hon Thanh, was snapping pictures of happy families posed beneath the statue.

"Me? I'm happy too," he said. "And I'm happy for a simple reason. Five years ago, I bought a Polaroid. Now that the embargo is lifted, I can finally buy some film for it."

The Vietnamese Government said in a statement released in Hanoi today that it was thankful to President Clinton for his decision to lift the embargo. The statement by Deputy Foreign Minister Le Mai pledged Vietnam's continued cooperation in determining the fate of 2,200 Americans still missing from the Vietnam War, the issue most often cited by the United States in keeping the trade embargo in place for so long.

"This decision meets the desire of the American and the Vietnamese peoples," Mr. Mai said, praising the President for having opened "a new page in U.S.-Vietnam relations." He called on Washington to consider establishing full diplomatic relations with Vietnam. Fast-Growing Market

American corporations have been planning for years for the moment when they would be allowed back into Vietnam, a market of nearly 71 million consumers that even with the American embargo in place has emerged as one of the fastest-growing and most dynamic in Asia.

And so only hours after they heard the announcement from Washington, Americans began marching back onto the streets of Ho Chi Minh City, this time armed with checkbooks and marketing plans and wearing suits and ties.

Vietnam remains one of the world's poorest countries, with a per capita annual income of less than $500, but economists agree that with its diligent, well-educated work force and untapped natural resources, Vietnam has the potential to catch up with its booming Southeast Asian neighbors.

In a country where smuggled Coca-Cola is the most popular drink, Pepsi was the first to act. This morning, Pepsi began legitimate distribution for the first time since the 1970's, handing out bottles free to passers-by. This weekend, Pepsi says, television viewers here will see a new commercial featuring Miss Vietnam, 18-year-old Ha Kieu Anh, one of Vietnam's most popular celebrities.

Other American companies were not far behind in the battle to make their presence felt here. Coca-Cola announced that it would spend $45 million in Vietnam over the next five years. American Express said that Vietnam's foreign trade bank had agreed to accept the American Express charge card, making it the first American card to return to Vietnam since 1975. United Airlines reported here that it would soon begin service to Ho Chi Minh City from Los Angeles under a route authority it purchased in 1986 but, because of the embargo, had not been able to use.

In the streets of Ho Chi Minh City, many Vietnamese reacted to the lifting of the embargo with a sort of giddy excitement. There was for some the thought of renewing ties to an old, prosperous friend, the United States.

"My mother told me that when the American soldiers were here, there was lots of candy and many television sets and nice cars," said Tran, the 8-year-old son of a factory worker. "I think it will be fun to have the Americans here."

The end of the American embargo only made worse the usual crush today at the international airport in Ho Chi Minh City, once the American-run Tan Son Nhut Air Base. Anxious to Return

Nineteen years after they joined the panicked evacuation out of what was then Saigon, large American corporations were struggling today to get their salesmen and marketing executives on the first flights heading back into the city.

John R. Guy, director of international sales at Briggs & Stratton Corporation, a Milwaukee-based manufacturer of gasoline engines, arrived in Ho Chi Minh City on a flight from Bangkok, Thailand, and went immediately to work. He is here to search for a Vietnamese partner.

His enthusiasm about his first trip to Vietnam was tempered by worries about his competitors, Asian and European manufacturers that were not hobbled by the American embargo. Some have been at work in Vietnam for years. "All of my major competitors are Japanese," he said. "And they are already in Vietnam."

Can Briggs & Stratton hope to catch up with the Japanese? "It's my job to make sure that we can," Mr. Guy said with some confidence. "This isn't impossible." Briggs & Stratton, he said, thinks that Vietnam could become the company's major Asian market within four years.

Trade In Vietnam: Lift The Embargo

The U.S. involvement in Vietnam ended in 1975, but the economic war has dragged on for the past 18 years. Recently, President Clinton announced that Washington will stop blocking international efforts to help Vietnam pay off its debts to the International Monetary Fund, thereby allowing Vietnam to tap the IMF and the World Bank, as well as international commercial banks, for new development loans. Now, Clinton should go further and let the trade embargo expire in September, as it is set to do. It&aposs time to declare an end to America&aposs economic war with Vietnam.

For some years, the embargo on U.S. trade with Vietnam made sense. Vietnam had been an enemy, it occupied neighboring Cambodia for 11 years, and its government was not helpful in responding to inquiries about the fate of more than 2,000 American GIs listed as missing in action.

But with time, the hardened attitudes have eased on both sides. U.S. investigators say Vietnamese officials have cooperated fully in resolving MIA cases, Vietnam signed the 1991 Cambodia peace accord, and the Vietnamese clearly welcome the prospect of foreign, especially U.S., investment. So far, only a trickle of foreign investment has flowed into the country of 70 million--a country that many believe is poised to become the next Asian tiger.

It would be a shame if the U.S., whose history has been so intimately, if disturbingly, entwined with Vietnam&aposs, failed to seize this opportunity to help remake Vietnam into a modern and market-oriented economy. Already numerous U.S. companies are in Vietnam, but they are allowed to operate only small representative offices.

Leases on choice offshore oil fields have already been awarded to consortia from Australia, France, and Japan, and many Japanese companies are reportedly gearing up to go into Vietnam in a big way. Telecommunications and infrastructure projects will require large investments and the participation of major multinational equipment suppliers. American business is ready to pitch in. President Clinton should resist political pressure from the MIA lobby and let the trade embargo against Vietnam expire.


President Clinton plans to lift the 19-year trade embargo on Vietnam within a few days, senior Administration officials said today.

While the President has not yet formally signified his assent, a senior Administration official said Mr. Clinton had concluded that the time had come to begin normalizing relations with Vietnam by taking the highly sensitive step of resuming trade. Mr. Clinton's avoidance of military service during the Vietnam War adds to the political peril.

A second senior official said: "It's a done deal. The President has made up his mind."

It could not be learned whether the United States had informed the Government of Vietnam of its decision. No White House Confirmation

The President is also expected to approve the opening of a formal liaison office in Hanoi to help American business ventures there, a senior State Department official said. The United States has only a very low-level diplomatic office in Hanoi now and a recently opened military mission to deal with the issue of service personnel missing since the Vietnam War.

White House aides refused to provide confirmation of the end of the embargo, and other Administration officials said there was a reluctance to make an announcement until veterans' groups and others opposed to the decision had been briefed.

John Sommer, executive director of the American Legion, called the impending decision a betrayal of Mr. Clinton's past promises to veterans and family groups. A Betrayal, Legion Says

"If the President decides now to lift the trade embargo on Vietnam," he said, "he will have broken the promises made to the American Legion, the family members of missing servicemen and other Vietnam veterans, and he will have betrayed those who are missing and their families.

"As a candidate for President, he told the delegates to the 1992 national convention of the American Legion, in essence, that he would not lift the embargo or move toward normalization until the fullest possible accounting of our P.O.W.'s and M.I.A.'s had been received." Announcement Within Days

Administration officials said tonight that Mr. Clinton hoped to make his announcement by the end of the week. But they cautioned that it could slip until early next week, depending on how long it takes to consult with opponents of the move.

"It's just a timing thing," an Administration official said.

The reported decision follows months of debate within the Administration on whether Vietnam had cooperated fully in determining the fate of more than 2,200 United States service personnel who are still officially listed as missing in the war, which ended in 1975.

At a meeting at the White House in late December, senior officials reached a broad consensus that the embargo should be lifted. But Mr. Clinton held off making a final decision until his Administration could take the political temperature of Capitol Hill and public opinion. Senate Resolution Helped

Mr. Clinton's decision was made much easier when the Senate voted Friday, at the Administration's urging, to ask that the embargo be lifted. The vote was 62 to 38.

After an emotionally charged debate about the lessons of Vietnam and the fate of the missing, a majority agreed with the bill's chief sponsor, John F. Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat and Vietnam veteran, that it was time "to put the war behind us."

Although the resolution is not binding, it enjoyed broad bipartisan support and gave the President sufficient political cover to close a chapter on the war, in which more than 58,000 Americans died.

Mr. Clinton, who has made the economic security of the United States a pillar of his foreign policy, had come under increasing pressure from business executives to end the embargo so they can compete with Europeans and Japanese who have been scrambling to secure business in Vietnam. 'Time to Move Forward'

Senator John S. McCain, an Arizona Republican and a navy pilot who was shot down over Vietnam and imprisoned for almost six years, said tonight that ending the embargo would be "a natural consequence of the vote in the Senate, which gave the President sufficient political cover to move forward."

"And I think it's appropriate," Senator McCain went on. "I think it's an appropriate time to move forward and I think it's in the United States' national interest to have an economically strong Vietnam as a counterweight to the growing economic and military strength of China.

"I think it will help rather than hinder our efforts to obtain further accounting of the M.I.A.'s. And more importantly than that, perhaps, the Vietnamese are in compliance with the road map that the Bush Administration laid down for them." 'It's Wrong'

But Senator Robert C. Smith, a New Hampshire Republican who has made the cause of the missing service personnel the focus of his Senate career, said it was wrong to lift the embargo.

Mr. Smith, one of the most outspoken Senators on the issue, said: "We do not have a full accounting, we have not been provided all the information that the Vietnamese can unilaterally provide us. Now it's 'lift and hope,' hope that the Vietnamese by their good graces will give us that answer. I do not agree with that.

"I just think that it's wrong to reward the Vietnamese for the 20 years of intransigence, when they have grudgingly given us 200 sets of remains, when all the intelligence we have shows that they're holding back. I just don't think that the Vietnamese should be rewarded for that.

"He wanted to do it all along," Mr. Smith said of the President. "Now he has the political cover.

"I think it's a mistake and I regret it, but I lost the fight and I know when I'm whipped. The only problem is I think the families lost as well." Political To and Fro

After the Senate vote, it became only a matter of time before the President would make the announcement.

The Administration had debated lifting the embargo since Mr. Clinton came into office. During the debate, the Administration offered Vietnam incentives to for its cooperation on the M.I.A. issue, while pressing for still more assistance in finding air crash sites, remains and documents related to the missing.

For weeks, White House officials have made no secret that Mr. Clinton was leaning toward lifting the embargo. But they had also expressed concern about opposition from veteran's groups, and acknowledged that Mr. Clinton's avoidance of military service could leave him open to particularly harsh criticism.

But the mood changed sharply after Winston Lord, the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, returned from Vietnam in December with a favorable report on Hanoi's increased cooperation.

In a Dec. 21 briefing, a senior State Department official said Mr. Lord's trip had proved that "Clinton's policies have paid off and we have made progress." A Year's Worth of Pressure

Referring to the situation since Mr. Clinton came into office, the official added, "We have had a high degree of cooperation from Vietnam, whether it is measured in the numbers of remains returned, which is about the third-highest since the war the documents that we have been provided, the files we haven't gotten to before."

While some officials urged that the White House take more time in sounding out likely critics, the stronger view among Mr. Clinton's advisers was that he should move quickly.

Among the gestures Mr. Clinton made toward Vietnam was ending Washington's opposition to development loans by the World Bank and modifying the embargo to allow United States companies to bid on projects.

Even after the Senate vote, in which 42 Democrats and 20 Republicans voted to end the embargo, the White House was cautious on predicting what the President would decide. Always, the M.I.A. Issue

Asked about the vote last week, Dee Dee Myers, the White House spokeswoman, said, "We welcome the Senate's sentiment on that," but added that the Administration was still considering whether Vietnam had made sufficient progress toward providing information about M.I.A.'s.

And Mr. Clinton put himself into a political box by telling family members of service personnel still unaccounted for that their fate was a "moral" issue.

As recently as Dec. 10, Mr. Clinton wrote to Senator Smith, the New Hampshire Republican, that he was "deeply committed to resolving the cases of all personnel missing since the Vietnam war."

"For this reason," the President wrote, "I have made achieving the fullest possible accounting for our P.O.W./M.I.A.'s the test of our relationship with Vietnam. Like you, I seek an honorable solution to this issue."

But that was before Mr. Lord made his tide-turning trip to Vietnam. A Final Warning

A senior Administration official cautioned that the lifting of the embargo did not mean that Washington would rush to restore diplomatic relations, which he said would not enjoy widespread domestic support and would not be an appropriate signal to send to the Vietnamese.

"No one is talking about normalization,"the official said.

The United States imposed the embargo against North Vietnam in 1964 and extended it to cover all of Vietnam after the fall of the South Vietnamese Government on April 30, 1975. The President of the United States has always had the authority to lift it by executive order.

President Clinton ends trade embargo of Vietnam - HISTORY

VET asked three US stakeholders about the impact of the US lifting the trade embargo on Vietnam in 1994.

February 3 marks 25 years since President Bill Clinton lifted the US trade embargo on Vietnam. The US has become a leading trade partner of Vietnam since then, making trade promotion activities an ongoing point of interest for the business community. Since the Vietnam-US Bilateral Trade Agreement (BTA) came into effect in December 2001, two-way trade has grown from $1.4 billion to $60.2 billion as at December 2018.

Given that the lifting of the trade embargo saw trade and investment boom, VET interviewed Ms. Amanda Rasmussen, Chairwoman of AmCham Vietnam&rsquos Ho Chi Minh City Chapter, Mr. See Chong Chan, Managing Director of First Solar Vietnam, and Mr. Michael Kelly, Executive Chairman of The Grand Ho Tram Strip.

To what extent did the lifting of the trade embargo 25 years ago affect US-Vietnam bilateral relations?

Ms. Rasmussen: Lifting the trade embargo was the first step in laying a strong foundation for US-Vietnam bilateral relations, of which trade and investment relations are a critical part. Following the lifting, our two countries negotiated the Vietnam-US BTA, which was signed in July 2000 and, after ratification by both countries, entered into effect on December 10, 2001.

The BTA opened the door to greater US-Vietnam trade, which has expanded rapidly. The BTA also laid the foundations for Vietnam&rsquos WTO accession on January 11, 2007, and Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) status with the US. As a result of these two moves, Vietnam-US trade increased rapidly, from $1.2 billion in 2000 to $15.7 billion in 2008, then an estimated $59.8 billion in 2018 (based on figures to October 2018), and is projected to reach about $70 billion in 2020 if present trends continue.

Of particular interest is the textiles and apparel sector, which still accounts for about 25 per cent of Vietnam&rsquos total exports to the US, and Vietnam&rsquos market share of US imports has increased steadily, from 4.7 per cent in 2007, when US quotas on Vietnam&rsquos exports were removed, to 11.8 per cent in 2018. This sector will likely continue to be a strong performer.

Mr. Chan: While we cannot speak for the entire country, it is fair to say that in our case, the decision to lift the trade embargo in 1994 paved the way for our investment into Vietnam. We look very closely at potential investment destinations in terms of cost, regulatory environment, taxation framework, and so forth, and had President Clinton not normalized trade then, Vietnam simply would not have met our criteria, and our manufacturing facility - the largest in the world of its type - would be housed elsewhere.

Mr. Kelly: Up until recently I was the national Chair of the American Chamber of Commerce, and there, with my interactions with countless US businesses operating in Vietnam, I saw first-hand the impact of the removal of the trade embargo by President Clinton in 1994. That move - really more than any other up until its entry into the WTO - proclaimed Vietnam &ldquoopen for business&rdquo to the world. Everything from the waves of investment that followed and the prevalence of US brands in everything from FMCG and automobiles to high-end resorts, can all be traced back to that one move. It was a monumental step in Vietnam&rsquos economic development.

As one of the leading US companies doing business in Vietnam, how would you comment on your company&rsquos opportunities and challenges in the country?

Mr. Chan: We have just scratched the surface of what we can achieve in Vietnam. We have only recently begun manufacturing at our site and are currently in ramp-up mode as we head towards full capacity. Our plant has the potential to be the Series 6 module manufacturer the world depends upon, and we obviously see huge opportunities here, which is why we chose to invest in this country and its people.

In terms of challenges, the country needs to continue to develop its infrastructure, develop strong and robust legal frameworks around its key industries, and work towards the upskilling of its workforce, as well as offer an open and transparent business environment.

Mr. Kelly: Vietnam needs to continue the process of making its administrative and bureaucratic systems more transparent for US companies. This means the creation of a completely even playing field for local and international investors in the country. While great strides have been made in this direction in the past 25 years, there is still much to be done. This is key to continuing the growth of US investment into the country. Indeed, we see now with the current trade war between the US and China just how seriously this is being treated by the current administration, and while Vietnam &ldquoflies under the radar&rdquo compared to its larger northern neighbor, the country should take these lessons now. Ensuring this kind of business environment will open up more opportunities for investors from the US.

What do you plan to do to boost your company&rsquos business growth in the near future?

Mr. Chan: 2019 is set to be an extremely exciting year for us. 2018 saw us complete construction on our facility and commence manufacturing. We are in ramp-up mode at present, and this will be the year that we reach full production capacity on the world&rsquos largest series 6 solar module factory. It is going to be a huge year and we are really looking forward to the challenges ahead.

Mr. Kelly: 2019 will be yet another watershed year for us at the Ho Tram Strip, with the opening of our second resort, The Beach Club, which will add 560 rooms to our inventory. We have long been regarded as Vietnam&rsquos premier entertainment destination with our resort, our golf course, our bars and restaurants, our pools, The Spa, and so forth. We are more than doubling in size with The Beach Club and this will see such facilities as a waterpark and an amphitheater added to our site, and we will have a huge marketing program that goes with that to ensure that all of our properties experience significant growth in the year ahead.

What should Vietnam do to attract more US investors to Vietnam in the years to come?
Ms. Rasmussen: AmCham regularly offers suggestions on how to attract more US investors to Vietnam at the Vietnam Business Forum and other business-government consultations. The fundamental suggestion is that Vietnam should create an &ldquoenabling&rdquo business environment where business and government cooperate in establishing the procedures and regulations in key sectors of economic activity, such as food safety, trade enforcement and facilitation procedures, energy, and transportation infrastructure, etc. Currently, a top priority is the implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement commitments, which would reduce Vietnam&rsquos trade costs by about 20 per cent, making it a much more competitive and attractive investment destination.

How would you assess the prospects for the two countries&rsquo trade and investment relations in the years to come?

Ms. Rasmussen: I believe that our trade and investment relations will continue to flourish in the years ahead. With the great progress made since the lifting of the trade embargo, the BTA, and Vietnam&rsquos accession to the WTO, a firm foundation has been laid for cooperation between business and government. While progress is not always as fast as we would hope, nevertheless there has been and will continue to be good progress, I think.


As a campaigner for election, Clinton promised to devote his main attention to domestic policy, in contrast to what he called the overemphasis on foreign policies by his opponent George H. W. Bush. On taking office he told his top advisers he could only spare one hour a week meeting with them. [1] However, Clinton had attended graduate school in England, and increasingly took a personal interest in foreign affairs, especially in his second term. His main foreign policy advisors were Secretaries of State Warren M. Christopher and Madeleine Albright and National Security Advisors Anthony Lake and Sandy Berger. Other key advisors include Secretary of Defense Les Aspin, and Strobe Talbott who as Ambassador at large dealt with Russia and India.

Political scientist Stephen Schlesinger argues that Warren Christopher was:

a cautious, discreet, and patient counselor who, reflecting his habits as a corporate lawyer, made few very bold moves without his client's [Clinton's] prior approval. Albright, is a more outspoken, even swashbuckling, character, who tends to grab hold of issues and run with them--even if this means stepping on the feet of others in the administration or foreign officials. The result has been a more activist regime in the second term. [2]

Favorable world scene Edit

For the first time since the mid-1930s the international scene was highly favorable. Old enemies had collapsed with the fall of Communism and the Soviet Union. Other problems seemed far less pressing and Clinton, with little expertise in foreign affairs, was eager to concentrate almost entirely on domestic issues. as Walter B. Slocombe argues:

Germany. had been reunified peacefully and its partners in the European Union were moving toward economic integration with political integration a long-term, but now less implausible, prospect. The former Warsaw Pact satellites were on the way to stable democracy and market prosperity. North and South Korea had agreed on a process of denuclearization. China seemed absorbed in its internal development, having cast off revolutionary zeal in exchange for growth (and continued regime control) under market principles. Iraq was humbled by recent defeat in the Gulf War and under pervasive international surveillance and supervision. Apartheid was ending in South Africa, and peacefully so. Most of Latin America was emerging from rule by juntas and coups to democratic order. Taiwan and South Korea had cast off authoritarian regimes while remaining strong friends of the United States. Even in the Middle East, the Madrid agreements appeared to open the path to resolution of the Israel-Palestine problem. [3]

Less attention was being paid to the remaining minor trouble spots, as Slocombe lists them:

Iran, Haiti, the wreckage of Yugoslavia, the seemingly endless tragedy of Africa exemplified by the chaos in Somalia, and even Northern Ireland, as well as nontraditional security challenges ranging from environmental degradation to terrorism. [4]

Realizing that increasing international trade would support Clinton's highest priority of economic growth, Secretary of Commerce Ronald H. Brown led delegations of entrepreneurs, businessmen and financiers to South Africa, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel, the West Bank, Gaza, Egypt, Russia, Brazil, Argentina and Chile, China and Hong Kong, Ireland India and Senegal. He was on a trade mission to war-torn Yugoslavia in 1996 when they all died in an accidental plane crash. A special prosecutor was appointed when it was alleged that contributions to the Democratic Party enabled one to join the trade party. [5] Over its eight years in office, the administration signed 300 trade agreements with other countries. [6]

China Edit

The Chinese communist regime had crushed the pro-democracy movement at Tiananmen Square in 1989. President Bush voiced American outrage, but quietly reassured the Chinese that trade would continue. In the 1992 election campaign, Clinton criticized Bush for not punishing China more. As a presidential candidate Clinton adopted the position of congressional Democrats, who strongly attack Bush for prioritizing profitable trade over the promotion of human rights. [7]

However, as President Clinton continued the Bush trade policies. Clinton's highest priority was to maintain trade with China, boost American exports, expand investment in the huge Chinese market, and create more jobs at home. [8] By granting China temporary most favoured nation status in 1993, his administration minimized tariff levels in Chinese imports. Clinton initially conditioned extension of this status on Chinese human rights reforms, but ultimately decided to extend the status despite a lack of reform in the specified areas of free emigration, no exportation of goods made with prison labor, release of peaceful protesters, treatment of prisoners in terms of international human rights, recognition of the distinct regional culture of type at, permitting international television and radio coverage, and observation of human rights specified by United Nations resolutions. [9] [10]

In 1998, Clinton paid a friendly nine-day visit to China. Albright defended the trip by saying, "Engagement does not mean endorsement." [11] In 1999 Clinton signed a landmark trade agreement with China. The agreement–the result of more than a decade of negotiations–would lower many trade barriers between the two countries, making it easier to export U.S. products such as automobiles, banking services, and motion pictures. The Chinese citizens ability to afford and purchase U.S. goods should have been taken into consideration. However, the agreement could only take effect if China was accepted into the WTO and was granted permanent "normal trade relations" status by the U.S. Congress. Under the pact, the United States would support China's membership in the WTO. Many Democrats as well as Republicans were reluctant to grant permanent status to China because they were concerned about human rights in the country and the impact of Chinese imports on U.S. industries and jobs. Congress, however, voted in 2000 to grant permanent normal trade relations with China. [12] In 2000, Clinton signed a bill granting permanent normal trade relations to China, and American imports from China massively increased in the subsequent years. [13] Clinton's last treasury secretary, Lawrence Summers, argued that Clinton's trade policies were technically "the largest tax cut in the history of the world" in that they reduced prices on consumer goods by lowering tariffs. [14]


In 1993 Clinton worked with a bipartisan coalition in Congress to overcome objections by labor union and liberal Democrats. They passed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that Bush had negotiated with Canada and Mexico in 1992. It joined the American, Mexican and Canadian economies in a free trade pact. It removed many restrictions of trade in agriculture, textiles, and automobiles, provided new protections for intellectual property, set up dispute resolution mechanisms, and implemented new labor and environmental safeguards. NAFTA cost jobs at first, but in the long run it dramatically increased the trade among the three countries. It increased the number of jobs in the United States, but unions complained that it lowered wage rates for some workers. [15] However, unions blocked his 1997 and 1998 proposals to provide the president with the power to quickly negotiate trade liberalization pacts with limited congressional comment. [16] Clinton's advocacy of trade agreements sparked a backlash on the left among opponents of globalization. A 1999 World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle, Washington, was overshadowed by major protests that descended into violence. [17]

The end of superpower rivalry had freed the UN and NATO and regional security institutions from their previous Cold War mind-set, and created new opportunities for them to play a more active, collective role. Despite international norms of state sovereignty and non-intervention, the idea that the international community should intervene in a country for the good of its own people gained greater legitimacy. International organizations such as the UN and regional security such as NATO, the OAS, and the OAU would play a role in bestowing legitimacy on the operations and in organizing a collective response. Domestically however, these new developments at the international level became enmeshed with a long-standing struggle between Congress and the president over war powers, [18] [19] and differences in treaties between domestic and international understandings of the term. [20] [21] Which branch of government was to control the deployment of American troops occupied these debates almost as much as the merits of the individual interventions. These debates were not new, with the struggle over war powers being a constant feature of American foreign policy, especially since WWII when it first gained superpower status, joined international organizations, and signed its first mutual defense treaty in more than 150 years. Clinton would utilize both the multi-national cast and the explicit blessing of international organizations for support in most of these involvements. These largely humanitarian operations during his term met much more congressional opposition, and enjoyed less frequent congressional authorization, than did operations during the Cold War. This involvement suggests that the president had found international organizations to be a useful ally in part to decrease and to overcome the resistance of the national legislature. [18]

Genocide, war crimes and UN Peacekeeping Edit

Embarrassed by its slow response to Rwanda, Kosovo showed Clinton his administration had to be prepared to deal with genocide and war crimes. It recognized some conflicts as genocidal, helped organize military force, and supported the International Criminal Court treaty. Finally it established the Atrocities Prevention Interagency Working Group, the forerunner of the Obama administration's Atrocities Prevention Board. [22] [23]

Although the Clinton and the George W. Bush administrations started from opposite perspectives they came to adopt remarkably similar policies in support of peace operations as tools for American foreign policy. Initial positions formed by ideological concerns, were replaced by pragmatic decisions about how to support UN peace operations. Both administrations were reluctant to contribute large contingents of ground troops to UN-commanded operations, even as both administrations supported increases in the number and scale of UN missions. [24] [25]

The Clinton administration faced significant operational challenges. Instead of a liability, this was the tactical price of strategic success. American peace operations help transform its NATO alliance. The George W. Bush administration started with a negative ideological attitude toward peace operations. However European and Latin American governments emphasized peace operations as strategically positive, especially regarding the use of European forces in Afghanistan and Lebanon. However American allies sometimes needed to flout their autonomy, even to the point of sacrificing operational efficiency, much to the annoyance of Washington. [26]

Somalia Edit

In December 1992, President Bush sent troops to Somalia, a coastal nation on the Horn of Africa. [27] [28] This intervention, called Operation Restore Hope, saw U.S. forces assuming the unified command in accordance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 794 with the intent to facilitate airlifted humanitarian supplies and prevent the items from falling into the hands of regional warlords. Following Clinton's assumption of the Presidency, his administration shifted the objectives set out in Operation Restore Hope and began pursuing a policy of attempting to neutralize the Somali Warlords, in particular Mohamed Farrah Aidid, as part of the second phase of the United Nations’ intervention in the country, known as UNOSOM II. It was during UNOSOM II the Battle of Mogadishu occurred, resulting in the death of 19 American Servicemen. Following these deaths, the mission quickly lost popularity with the American people. Fearing chaos resulting in the starvation of Somalia's civilians and to help U.S. Forces defend themselves, [29] Clinton increased troop presence in the country. The mission remained unpopular, however. Following a national security policy review session held in the White House on 6 October 1993, Clinton directed the Acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral David E. Jeremiah, to stop all actions by U.S. forces against Aidid except those required in self-defense. He reappointed Ambassador Robert B. Oakley as special envoy to Somalia in an attempt to broker a peace settlement and then announced that all U.S. forces would withdraw from Somalia no later than 31 March 1994. On 15 December 1993, U.S. Secretary of Defense Les Aspin stepped down, taking much of the blame for his decision to refuse requests for tanks and armored vehicles in support of the mission. [30] [31] American opinion became strongly opposed to sending American ground troops on combat missions, and while Clinton seemingly agreed, he continued sending US forces abroad, intervening in places such as Haiti, Yugoslavia, Sudan, and Iraq. [32] [33] [34]

Rwanda Edit

In April 1994, genocide in Rwanda erupted due to a long-standing conflict between the majority Hutu and dominant Tutsi ethnic groups. In little more than 100 days, Hutu militia massacred about 800,000 Tutsi men, women and children. The small UN force on the scene was helpless. European nations flew in to remove their own nationals, then flew out. There was a strong consensus in the United States at both the elite and popular levels that the United States should not send in large-scale combat forces to stop the massacres. American officials avoided the word "genocide" because that would justify military intervention. Clinton later called his inaction his worst mistake. [35] [36]

The Hutu militia were highly effective in killing Tutsi civilians, but they were ineffective when a large Tutsi armed force based in neighboring Uganda invaded in July and seized full control of the entire nation of Rwanda. By the end of July, 1994, nearly two million Hutus fled the country for safety, flooding into refugee camps in neighboring countries. [37] As many thousands of refugees died of disease and starvation, Clinton ordered airdrops of food and supplies for the Hutu refugees, including known genocidaires. In July, he sent 200 non-combatant troops to the Rwanda capital of Kigali to manage the airport and distribute relief supplies. These troops were withdrawn by October 1994. Clinton and the United Nations faced criticism for their non-response to the genocide. When Clinton traveled to Africa in 1998, he said that the international community, presumably including the US, must accept responsibility for the failure to respond to the massacres. [38] When speaking about the Rwanda Crisis, Clinton called it his worst failure, admitting "I blew it." [39] During his African trip, Clinton also referred to the concept of the "new generation of African leaders". [40]

Osama bin Laden attacks in Africa Edit

In August 1998, terrorists bombed the United States embassies in the capitals of two East African countries, Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. About 250 people were killed, including 12 Americans, and more than 5,500 were injured. After intelligence linked the bombings to Osama bin Laden, a wealthy Saudi Arabian living in Afghanistan who was suspected of terrorist activity, Clinton ordered missile attacks on sites in Afghanistan and Sudan in retaliation for the bombings at the U.S. embassies and to deter future terrorist attacks. [41] The Clinton administration maintained that the sites—a pharmaceutical factory at Khartoum (the capital of Sudan) and several alleged terrorist camps in Afghanistan—were involved in terrorist activities. [42]

The Balkans Edit

Bosnia Edit

Much of Clinton's reluctant focus was the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a nation in southeastern Europe that had declared its independence from Yugoslavia in 1992. The Bush administration decided with the Cold War over, Yugoslavia was no longer a high American priority. Trouble there could be left to Europe to handle. But Clinton was outraged by the humanitarian disaster, and decided to play a role. [43] This declaration was the catalyst of a war between Bosnian Serbs, who wanted Bosnia to remain in the Yugoslav federation, and Bosnian Muslims and Croats. The Bosnian Serbs, who were supported by Serbia, were better equipped than the Muslims and the Croats as a result, they populated and controlled much of the countryside in ways including besieging cities, such as the capital of Sarajevo. This caused widespread suffering.

In early 1993 the Clinton administration decided on aggressive action, ignoring both the United Nations and key European allies. The proposed policy was called lift and strike. The plan was to "lift" the arms embargo the UN had imposed on all sides, which left the Bosnian Muslims unarmed. The US would arm them so they could defend themselves. until they were fully prepared to fight for themselves, the US would hit the Bosnian Serbs with air strikes to keep them back. Christopher traveled to Europe to win support from Britain, France and Germany, but they were all staunchly opposed. By the time Christopher returned to Washington, support for the plan had evaporated, based on memories of Vietnam and fears of being plunged into a chaotic war with no end in sight. [44] [45] In 1994, Clinton opposed an effort by the Republicans in Congress to lift the arms embargo, as it were, because American allies were still resistant to that policy. [46]

Clinton continued to pressure western European countries throughout 1994 to take strong measures against the Serbs. But in November, as the Serbs seemed on the verge of defeating the Muslims and Croats in several strongholds, Clinton changed course and called for conciliation with the Serbs. [47] After the 2nd Markale massacre, in which Bosnian Serb forces reportedly shelled a crowded market-place in Sarajevo, NATO, led by the United States launched Operation Deliberate Force with a series of airstrikes against Bosnian Serb targets. In July 1995, as the tide of war was turning against the Bosnian Serbs, local Bosnian forces under the command of General Ratko Mladić forced the surrender of the Bosnian stronghold of Srebrenica, near the eastern border with Serbia. A small UN force was helpless and the defenders surrendered, with the promise that no civilians or soldiers would be harmed if they surrendered. Instead, Mladić's forces massacred over 7000 Bosnians. It was the worst massacre in Europe In 40 years, and galvanized NATO Intervention. [48] The escalating air campaign, along with a counter-offensive by better-equipped Muslim and Croatian forces, succeeded in pressuring the Bosnian Serbs into participating in negotiations. In November 1995, The U.S. hosted peace talks between the warring parties in Dayton, Ohio Clinton put Richard Holbrooke in charge. The goal of the complex negotiations was an agreement to permanently end the three-way civil war and establish an internationally recognized, unified, democratic, multiethnic Bosnia. [49] The parties reached a peace agreement known as the Dayton Agreement, making Bosnia as a single state made up of two separate entities together with a central government. Debate continues into the 21st century on how successful the project was. [50] [51] In 2011, Serbia was forced to turn over Mladić to the United Nations, and in 2017 he was sentenced to life imprisonment after being convicted of genocide. [52]

Dayton was a turning point for the Clinton Administration's foreign policy specifically and America's role in the world generally. In less than six months during 1995, the U.S. had taken charge of the Transatlantic Alliance, pushed NATO to use overwhelming military force, risked American prestige on a bold diplomatic gamble, and deployed thousands of American troops to help implement the agreement. That the administration ran such risks successfully gave it confidence going forward. This success also reinforced the logic of the administration's core strategic objective in Europe – to help create a continent "whole and free" by revitalizing and enlarging institutions like NATO. In the wake of Dayton, Clinton seem to be more confident foreign-policy president. [53]

Enhanced roles of NATO and the United States Edit

According to historian David N. Gibbs: [54]

In bolstering America’s hegemonic position, the significance of the Srebrenica massacre cannot be overstated: The massacre helped trigger a NATO bombing campaign that is widely credited with ending the Bosnian war, along with the associated atrocities, and this campaign gave NATO a new purpose for the post-Soviet era. Since that time, the Srebrenica precedent has been continuously invoked as a justification for military force. The perceived need to prevent massacres and oppression helped justify later interventions in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, as well as the ongoing fight against ISIS. The recent UN doctrine of Responsibility to Protect, which contains a strongly interventionist tone, was inspired in part by the memory of Srebrenica.

Kosovo Edit

In the spring of 1998, ethnic tension in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia–the state formed from the former Yugoslav republics of Serbia and Montenegro–heightened when the military forces responded in the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija. More than 90 percent of the residents of Kosovo were Muslim and ethnic Albanians, many of whom wanted independence from the country. Yugoslav forces were mobilized into province to quell Albanian rebels.

Through attempting to impose the Rambouillet Agreement, Clinton, who strongly supported the Albanians, threatened the Yugoslav administration with military strikes. On 24 March 1999, NATO, led by the United States, launched the two-month bombardment of Yugoslavia. The strikes were not limited to military installations and NATO targets included civilian targets such as factories, oil refineries, television stations and various infrastructure. The intervention, which devastated Yugoslavia, was not approved by the UN General Assembly or the UN Security Council, and was strongly opposed by both Russia and China. [ citation needed ] It was the first time in NATO's history that its forces had attacked a sovereign country, and the first time in which air power alone won a battle. In June 1999, NATO and Yugoslav military leaders approved an international peace plan for Kosovo, and attacks were suspended after Yugoslav forces withdrew from Kosovo.

Northern Ireland Edit

Clinton also sought to end the conflict in Northern Ireland by arranging a peace agreement between the nationalist and unionist factions. In 1998 former Senator George Mitchell—whom Clinton had appointed to assist in peace talks—supported an accord that became known as the Good Friday Agreement. It called for the British Parliament to devolve legislative and executive authority of the province to a new Northern Ireland Assembly, whose Executive would include members of both communities. Years of stalemate have followed the agreement, mainly due to the refusal of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), a nationalist paramilitary group, to decommission its weapons for some years [ quantify ] and after that the refusal of the Democratic Unionist Party to push the process forward. Mitchell returned to the region and arranged yet another blueprint for a further peace settlement that resulted in a December 1999 formation of the power-sharing government agreed the previous year, which was to be followed by steps toward the IRA's disarmament. That agreement eventually faltered as well, although Clinton continued peace talks to prevent the peace process from collapsing completely. In 2005 the IRA decommissioned all of its arms and, in 2007, Sinn Féin expressed a willingness to support the reformed Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI). Power was restored to the Assembly in May 2007, marking renewed promise for the fulfillment of the Good Friday Agreement.

Russia Edit

The Clinton policy was to support the Yeltsin government in Russia, which had abolished communism but faced severe economic stresses. Clinton himself took primary responsibility for Russian policy. Yeltsin finally resigned as president at the end of 1999, replaced by his prime minister Vladimir Putin. [55] Strobe Talbott, a close friend who became chief expert on Russia, has argued that Clinton hit it off with Russian Boris Yeltsin, the president of Russia 1991-1999:

The personal diplomacy between Clinton and Yeltsin, augmented by the channel that Gore developed with Yeltsin’s longest-serving prime minister, Victor Chernomyrdin, yielded half a dozen major understandings that either resolved or alleviated disputes over Russia’s role in the post–cold war world. The two presidents were the negotiators in chief of agreements to halt the sale of Russian rocket parts to India remove Soviet-era nuclear missiles from Ukraine in exchange for Russian assurances of Ukraine’s sovereignty and security withdraw Russian troops from the Baltic states institutionalize cooperation between Russia and an expanding NATO lay the ground for the Baltic states to join the alliance and ensure the participation of the Russian military in Balkan peacekeeping and of Russian diplomacy in the settlement of NATO’s air war against Serbia. [56]

After Yeltsin took the lead in overthrowing Communism in 1991 relations remained generally warm. However, by Clinton's second term, relations started to fray. Moscow grew angry about Washington's intentions in the light of the first phase of the NATO eastward expansion toward the Russian border. [57] [58]

In March 1999 Russia stridently opposed the U.S.-led NATO military operation against Serbia—a historic ally of Russia that was mistreating Kosovo. [59] [60] In December 1999, while on a visit to China, President Yeltsin verbally assailed Clinton for criticizing Russia's tactics in suppressing rebellion in its Chechnya province (at the start of the Second Chechen War) emphatically reminding that Russia remained a nuclear superpower and adding: ″Things will be as we have agreed with Jiang Zemin. We will be saying how to live, not [Bill Clinton] alone″. [61]

For further information on the overarching strategy of President Clinton's approach to the Middle East, particularly Iraq and Iran, see dual containment.

Israeli–Palestinian conflict Edit

Clinton was deeply involved in the Middle East peace process to negotiate peace agreements between Israel and Palestine, as well as with the governments of Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. [62] Secret negotiations mediated by Clinton between Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Chairman Yasser Arafat led to a historic declaration of peace in September 1993, called the Oslo Accords. Clinton personally arranged for the peace accord to be signed at the White House on September 13, 1993. The agreement allowed a limited Palestinian self-rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Following up after Oslo, Secretary of State Christopher encouraged Jordan's King Hussein to make a peace treaty with Israel. Christopher offered Hussein $200 million in military equipment and $700 million in debt forgiveness to sweeten the deal. On October 27, 1994, Rabin and Jordanian Prime Minister Abdelsalam al-Majali signed the Israel–Jordan peace treaty. It was the second peace treaty for Israel after Egypt. Christopher sought to obtain a Third treaty between Rabin and Syrian President Hafez al-Assad, but to no avail. [63]

The 1993 and 1995 peace agreements between Israel and Palestine, however, did not end the conflict in the Middle East. As the peace process came to a stall, Clinton invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to peace talks on the Wye River in October 1998. The two leaders signed yet another agreement, known as the Wye River Memorandum, which called for Israel to transfer more territory in the West Bank to the Palestinians. In return, the Palestinians agreed to take steps to curb terrorism. They also agreed to a timetable to negotiate a final resolution of the Palestinian fight for an independent state.

After an abrupt outbreak of violence sparked by the agreement, [64] however, Netanyahu refused to cede any more West Bank territory and placed new demands upon Palestine. His ceding of territory had shaken his own coalition, though, and together with other factors, this contributed to the downfall of the Netanyahu government in Israel. [65] As a result, in May 1999 Israelis elected Ehud Barak, the leader of a political coalition that favored resuming the peace process, to replace Netanyahu as prime minister. Clinton continued to work passionately [66] on negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Throughout his last year in office, Clinton came close to arranging a final peace settlement but failed, according to Clinton, as a result of Arafat's reluctance. [67] Clinton related a phone conversation he had with Arafat three days before he left office. "You are a great man," Arafat said. Clinton replied, "The hell I am. I'm a colossal failure, and you made me one." [68]

Iraq Edit

Clinton was also confronted with problems in Iraq. In 1991, two years before Clinton became president, the United States under President George H. W. Bush participated in the Persian Gulf War to liberate Kuwait from the Iraqi occupation. In 1991, the warring parties signed a cease-fire agreement and the United Nations Security Council passed United Nations Security Council Resolution 687 requiring Iraq to eliminate its weapons of mass destruction and allow inspectors from the United Nations Special Commission (UNS-COM) to monitor the country's adherence to the agreement. [69] In addition to UN inspections, to ensure the Iraqi compliance of Resolution 688 which called for Iraq to end its oppression of Iraqi citizens, the no-fly zones over Iraq were established by the U.S. and its allies to protect the Kurds in Iraqi Kurdistan and the Shiites in southern Iraq from aerial attacks by the Iraqi government.

On June 26, 1993, Clinton ordered a cruise missile attack on the Iraqi Intelligence Service's (IIS) principal command and control complex in Baghdad, publicly announced as retaliation for the assassination attempt by the IIS on former President George H. W. Bush while he was visiting Kuwait in April of that year to commemorate a coalition victory over Iraq in the Gulf War. Fourteen cruise missiles were launched from USS Peterson and nine of them launched from USS Chancellorsville. Sixteen hit the target, while three struck a residential area, killing nine civilians and wounding 12 others. Four missiles were unaccounted for. [70] This strike was in violation of international law, although that point is contentious. [71]

In October 1994, Baghdad once again began mobilizing around 64,000 Iraqi troops near the Kuwaiti border because of their expressed frustrations of economic sanctions imposed on Iraq by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). [72] [73] In response, the U.S. begins to deploy troops in the Persian Gulf to deter Iraqi aggression against Kuwait. Code-named Operation Vigilant Warrior, 1st Brigade of the Fort Stewart, Georgia-based 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) deployed and drew pre-positioned equipment in Kuwait. The 23rd Wing's (Flying Tigers) 75th Fighter Squadron (Tigersharks) and its full complement of A-10s initially deployed from Pope AFB, North Carolina to Dhahran Air Base, Saudi Arabia, followed by the first forward deployment to Ahmad al-Jaber Air Base, Kuwait. This allowed better face-to-face coordination with tactical air control parties (TACP) assets further forward deployed at Camp Doha, Kuwait and points north. Iraq would later withdraw troops near the Kuwaiti border in response to a massive U.S. military buildup. This served to increase U.S. and Coalition resolve to contain Iraqi aggression against their neighbors in the Middle East. [72] [73]

In September 1996, Clinton ordered Operation Desert Strike, and ships from the USS Carl Vinson Battle Group, including USS Laboon, and USS Shiloh, in conjunction with B-52 bombers escorted by F-14D Tomcats from USS Carl Vinson, launched 27 cruise missiles against Iraqi air defense targets in southern Iraq. [74] A second wave of 17 was launched later that day. [75] The missiles hit targets in and around Kut, Iskandariyah, Nasiriyah, and Tallil. [76] This was done in response to Saddam Hussein, an Iraqi dictator, attempting to launch an Iraqi military offensive campaign in the Kurdish town of Arbil in Iraqi Kurdistan.

In his 1998 State of the Union Address, Clinton warned the U.S. Congress of Hussein's possible pursuit of nuclear weapons, saying:

Together we must also confront the new hazards of chemical and biological weapons, and the outlaw states, terrorists and organized criminals seeking to acquire them. Saddam Hussein has spent the better part of this decade, and much of his nation's wealth, not on providing for the Iraqi people, but on developing nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and the missiles to deliver them. The United Nations weapons inspectors have done a truly remarkable job, finding and destroying more of Iraq's arsenal than was destroyed during the entire gulf war. Now, Saddam Hussein wants to stop them from completing their mission. I know I speak for everyone in this chamber, Republicans and Democrats, when I say to Saddam Hussein, "You cannot defy the will of the world", and when I say to him, "You have used weapons of mass destruction before we are determined to deny you the capacity to use them again." [77]

The UNS-COM team faced resistance from Iraq, which blocked inspections and hid deadly germ agents and warheads. [78] Clinton then threatened military action several times when Hussein, who turned out to be Iraq's president, tried stalling the UNS-COM inspections. [79]

To weaken Hussein's grip of power, Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act into law on October 31, 1998, which instituted a policy of "regime change" against Iraq, though it explicitly stated it did not speak to the use of American military forces. [80]

Between December 16 and 19, 1998, Clinton ordered four-day period of concentrated air attacks against military installations in Iraq. This was in response to Saddam's refusal to cooperate with UN inspectors. After the bombing, Hussein blocked any further UN inspections and announced its attempt to shoot down Coalition aircraft in the no-fly zones over Iraq. For several years afterward, U.S. and Coalition aircraft routinely attacked hostile Iraqi defense installations in Iraq, in response to what the Clinton administration claimed were "provocations" by the Iraqi military, including antiaircraft fire and radar locks on U.S. and Coalition aircraft.

The UN sanctions against Iraq that the United Nations Security Council imposed after the Gulf War remained in place during the Clinton administration. These sanctions were alleged to have contributed to increased child mortality there, [81] [82] although this was disputed. [83] Albright later wrote "Saddam Hussein could have prevented any child from suffering simply by meeting his obligations. [84] Recent research has shown that commonly cited data were fabricated by the Iraqi government and that "there was no major rise in child mortality in Iraq after 1990 and during the period of the sanctions." [85] [86] [87]

Iran Edit

In 1993, the Clinton Administration announced that containing the "hostile" and "dangerous" government of Iran would be a basic element of its Middle East policy. Clinton continued the same policy of his predecessor, George H.W. Bush, who had concluded that Iran's support for terrorism and pursuit of nuclear technology warranted a strong response. Henry Rome argues that Israel did not shape that decision. [88] Clinton sought to contain Iranian ambitions as part of the dual containment strategy. [89] On May 6, 1995, Clinton signed Executive Order 12957, which implemented tight oil and trade sanctions on Iran and made it illegal for American corporations or their foreign subsidiaries to participate in any contract "for the financing of the development of petroleum resources located in Iran." On May 6, 1995, Clinton issued Executive Order 12959, which banned almost all trade between U.S. businesses and the Iranian government with the exception of informational materials. [90] A year before, the President declared that Iran was a "state sponsor of terrorism" and a "rogue state," marking the first time that an American President used that term. [91]

In 1996, Clinton signed the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act, that imposed economic sanctions on firms doing business with Iran and Libya. [92]

In 1996, the Clinton administration agreed to compensate the Iranian government for the deaths of 254 Iranians in a 1988 incident in which an Iranian commercial passenger plane was shot down by mistake by an American warship the USS Vincennes. In Clinton's second term as president, beginning in 1997, the administration began to take a softer approach towards Iran, particularly after the election of reformist Mohammad Khatami as President of Iran.

Clinton at one point offered to open up an official dialogue with the Iranian government and renew diplomatic relations with the country after 20 years of no such relations. However, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei refused to accept the offer for dialogue unless the U.S. formally withdrew its support for Israel, lifted the '95 sanctions imposed on the country, stopped accusing Tehran of attempting to develop nuclear weaponry, and officially ended its policy of considering Iran a "rogue state that sponsors terrorism." Although Clinton did privately weigh the idea of revoking the executive orders he signed in the spring of 1995, the administration refused to comply with Iran's other demands.

Eventually, President Clinton did ease restrictions on export of food and medical equipment to Iran. In 2000 Albright mentioned the CIA role in the 1953 military coup that overthrew Prime Minister, Mohammed Mossadegh, and replaced him with the Shah. Albright also acknowledged that the U.S.-backed government of the Shah "brutally repressed political dissent." [93] [94] Albright announced in 2000 that the U.S. would begin to "enable Americans to purchase and import carpets and food products such as dried fruits, nuts, and caviar from Iran" and also was confident that Iran would provide cooperation with the United States in the battle against narcotics and international drug abuse. In 1995, the State Department had warned U.S. citizens against traveling in Iran due to that government's rampant anti-Americanism, In 2000 Albright decided to repeal this warning.

Vietnam Edit

In 1994, the Clinton administration announced that it was lifting the trade embargo on Vietnam, citing progress on the Vietnam War POW/MIA issue regarding the search for American soldiers listed as missing in action and the remains of those killed in action, as well as the market reforms that Vietnam implemented from 1986. On July 10, 1995, Clinton announced that his administration was restoring full diplomatic relations with Vietnam, citing the continued progress in determining the whereabouts of MIA's and locating the remains of soldiers killed in the Vietnam War. Clinton nonetheless stressed that the search for Americans would continue, especially for the soldiers listed as "discrepancies" namely 55 American soldiers believed to still be alive when they went missing. On November 16, 2000, Clinton arrived in Hanoi with his wife, Senator-elect Hillary Clinton and daughter Chelsea shortly before his second term in office ended. [95] The next day Clinton spoke to the Vietnamese people publicly about both the conflict as well as the promise renewed relations meant.

China and Taiwan Edit

In 1995, tense relations with China and the imprisonment of an innocent American in the Communist nation, led to pressure for the U.S. to boycott the 1995 United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. The U.S. delegation, chaired by First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and Madeleine Albright, then the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, was assigned with the task of confronting China about its human rights abuses, but not so strongly as to damage sensitive relations. Hillary Rodham Clinton gave a successful speech before the entire Chinese leadership and the Conference where she, without bringing up China or any particular nation, attacked human rights abuses against humanity in general, and women and girls in particular.

In 1995-96 the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis happened between Taiwan and China. Chinese concerns about the upcoming Taiwanese presidential election as well as the possibility of the declaration of Taiwanese independence led to a series of missile tests right off the coast of Taiwan that could have escalated out of control. The Clinton administration responded in March 1996 by staging the biggest display of American military might in Asia since the Vietnam War. Numerous aircraft carrier groups were stationed near Taiwan. USS Nimitz and her group as well as USS Belleau Wood sailed through the Taiwan Strait in a demonstration of support for Taiwan. Eventually a ceasefire was declared and China declared the 'missile tests' to be completed.

North Korea Edit

North Korea's goal was to create nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, creating a serious problem for the Clinton Administration that remains an issue into the 2020s. [96] In 1994, North Korea, a signatory of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, refused to allow international inspectors to review two nuclear waste sites. The inspectors wanted to see if North Korea was in violation of the treaty since they were suspected of reprocessing spent fuel into plutonium, which could be used to manufacture nuclear weapons. [97] Despite diplomatic pressure and repeated warnings by Clinton, [98] North Korea refused to allow the inspections and even raised the prospect of war with South Korea, an ally of the United States. In 1994, Clinton also considered a US military strike on bombing the Yongbyon nuclear reactor. He was advised that if war broke out, it could cost 52,000 US and 490,000 South Korean military casualties in the first three months, as well as a large number of civilian casualties. [99] [100]

With private diplomacy by former president Jimmy Carter, the Clinton administration reached a breakthrough with North Korea in October 1994 when North Korea agreed to shut down the nuclear plants that could produce materials for weapons if the United States would help North Korea build plants that generated electricity with light-water nuclear reactors. These reactors would be more efficient and their waste could not easily be used for nuclear weaponry. [101] The United States also agreed to supply fuel oil for electricity until the new plants were built, and North Korea agreed to allow inspection of the old waste sites when construction began on the new plants. [101] KEDO was established based on this agreement in 1995. [102]

This 1994 Agreed Framework, as it was known, kept the Yongbyon plutonium enrichment plant closed and under international inspection until 2002. However, economic supports by the agreement and KEDO gave an advantage to North Korea, and North Korea broke off from the treaty and restarted plutonium production. In October 2006, North Korea tested its first nuclear weapon. President Bush warned that he was not pleased by such actions as it is he invited the international community to take a stand. As a result, North Korea, the United States, Russia, China were involved in negotiations and North Korea agreed to close down their nuclear station temporarily.

India Edit

Under Clinton and P. V. Narasimha Rao (Prime Minister 1991-1996) both sides mishandled relations, according to Arthur G. Rubinoff. Clinton simultaneously pressured India to liberalize its economy while criticizing New Delhi on human rights and nuclear issues. India’s refusal to accept the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty became a serious barrier. In the face of criticism from Washington and opposition at home, Indian leaders lost their enthusiasm for rapprochement and reverted to formalistic protocol over substantive diplomacy. The Brown Amendment that restored American aid to Pakistan in 1995 was an irritant. In returning to angry Cold War style rhetoric, Indian parliamentarians and American congressmen demonstrated their unwillingness to establish a new relationship. [103] [104]

Haiti Edit

Continued instability in Haiti led to difficult decisions about military intervention. [105] The 1991 Haitian coup d'état, led by Lieutenant General Raoul Cédras, had ousted the country's elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who barely escaped to the United States. Shortly thereafter tens of thousands of Haitians also tried to flee to the United States in leaky boats [106] in 1993 increased opposition to Aristide supporters would increase these numbers. Relatively few refugees would be allowed legal entry, with most being sent back to Haiti or Guantanamo by the Coast Guard. Clinton had previously criticized President George H. W. Bush for doing much the same. [107]

American opinion generally favored Aristide but opposed military intervention. [18] Clinton was highly sensitive to his black constituency, and the black leadership in Congress pushed for action. Vice President Gore and advisor Anthony Lake strongly agreed, while Sandy Berger, Strobe Talbott, Warren Christopher and Defense Secretary William Perry went along. Clinton agreed, but worried about going against the democratic will in his own country to enforce democracy in some other country. Clinton tried to rally public opinion with a forceful televised address that denounced the military junta as armed thugs engaged in "a reign of terror, executing children, raping women, killing priests." [108] Clinton demanded it leave immediately. As American warplanes were being readied for an invasion, suddenly former President Jimmy Carter proposed to negotiate a settlement. Clinton sent Carter, Colin Powell, and Senator Sam Nunn to Haiti to convince the junta to leave. In a matter of 48 hours, Carter's group achieved the desired transfer of power without any violence. In Operation Uphold Democracy American forces landed after the departure of the junta. Anthony Lake attributed the success to a combination of power and diplomacy. Without Clinton's threat of force, the junta would never have left. Without Carter, there would have been fighting. Aristide returned to power, and Clinton's prestige was enhanced. Nevertheless, six years later conditions were still terrible in Haiti. [109] [110] [111] [112]

Mexico Edit

After securing the NAFTA treaty that integrated the Mexican and American economies, Clinton faced yet another foreign crisis in early 1995. The Mexican peso began to fall sharply and threatened the collapse of the Mexican economy. Clinton feared that a collapse would have a negative impact on the United States because of their close economic ties. He proposed a plan to address the financial crisis in Mexico, but many in Congress, fearing that constituents would not favor aid money to Mexico, rejected the plan. In response, Clinton used executive authority to create a $20 billion loan package for Mexico to restore international confidence in the Mexican economy. The loan Went through and Mexico completed its loan payments to the United States in January 1997, three years ahead of schedule. However, issues such as drug smuggling and immigration continued to strain relations. [113]

Cuba Edit

American foreign policy toward Cuba had been hostile since Fidel Castro aligned the country with the Soviet Union in 1960. Clinton basically continue the policy especially regarding trade embargoes, but he faced a difficult problem on what to do with Cuban refugees trying to reach asylum in the United States. [114]

After negotiations with representatives of the Cuban government, Clinton revealed in May 1995 a controversial policy reversing the decades-old policy of automatically granting asylum to Cuban refugees. Approximately 20,000 Cuban refugees detained at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba were to be admitted to the United States over a period of three months. In order to prevent a mass exodus of refugees to the United States, all future refugees would be returned to Cuba. The influx of refugees into Guantanamo Bay overwhelmed the facilities, necessitating Operations Safe Haven and Safe Passage involving Panama. Clinton also implemented the wet foot/dry foot policy for Cuban refugees. This policy meant that Cuban refugees caught at sea were returned to Cuba (wet foot), while Cuban refugees that made it to dry land (dry foot) were allowed to stay in the U.S. This changed the refugees' tactics from slow rafts to speed boats.

Relations between the United States and Cuba deteriorated in February 1996 when Cuba shot down two American civilian planes. Cuba accused the planes of violating Cuban airspace. Clinton tightened sanctions against Cuba and suspended charter flights from the United States to Cuba, hoping this would cripple Cuba's tourism industry.

In their response to the incident, the U.S. Congress passed the Helms–Burton Act in March 1996. The bill strengthened an embargo against imports of Cuban products. Title III, however, made the bill controversial because it allowed American citizens whose property was seized during and after the 1959 Cuban Revolution to sue in American courts foreign companies that later invested in those properties. Title III sparked an immediate uproar from countries such as Mexico, Canada, and members of the European Union because they believed that they would be penalized for doing business with Cuba. In response, Clinton repeatedly suspended Title III of the legislation (the act gave the president the right to exercise this option every six months). [115]

Clinton softened his Cuban policy in 1998 and 1999. In March 1998, at the urging of Pope John Paul II, Clinton lifted restrictions and allowed humanitarian charter flights to resume. He also took steps to increase educational, religious, and humanitarian contacts in Cuba. The U.S. government decided to allow Cuban citizens to receive more money from American friends and family members and to buy more American food and medicine.

On February 26, 1993, thirty-six days after Clinton took office, terrorists who the CIA would later reveal were working under the direction of Osama bin Laden detonated a timed car bomb in the parking garage below Tower One of the World Trade Center in New York City (see the World Trade Center bombing). Clinton responded by ordering his National Security Council, under the direction of Anthony Lake, and the FBI to find and punish those responsible. The FBI was able to quickly identify the vehicle used in the bomb from a remnant found in the rubble: a Ryder rental van, which had been reported stolen in Jersey City, New Jersey the day before. The truck was rented by Mohammed Salameh, whom the FBI immediately detained. Similar evidence led to the arrests of other plotters behind the attack, including Nidal Ayyad, Mahmoud Abouhalima, Ahmad Ajaj, and Ramzi Yousef—who was identified as the key player in the bombing. All men were tried and convicted for the bombing and other terrorists activities. [116]

In his 1995 State of the Union address, Clinton proposed "comprehensive legislation to strengthen our hand in combating terrorists, whether they strike at home or abroad." [117] He sent legislation to Congress to extend federal criminal jurisdiction, make it easier to deport terrorists, and act against terrorist fund-raising. [118] Following the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Clinton amended that legislation to increase wiretap and electronic surveillance authority for the FBI, require explosives to be equipped with traceable taggants, and appropriate more funds to the FBI, CIA, and local police. [119]

In June 1995, Clinton issued Presidential Decision Directive 39, which stated that the United States "should deter, defeat and respond vigorously to all terrorist attacks on our territory and against our citizens." Furthermore, it called terrorism both a "matter of national security" and a crime. [120] The implementation of his proposals led to a substantial increase in counter-terrorism funds for the FBI and CIA.

In 1996, the CIA established a special unit of officers to analyze intelligence received about bin Laden and plan operations against him, coined the "Bin Laden Issue Station". It was this unit that first realized bin Laden was more than just a terrorist financier, but a leader of a global network with operations based in Afghanistan. Given these findings, the NSC encouraged the Department of State to "pay more attention" to Afghanistan and its governing unit, the Taliban, which had received funding from bin Laden. The State Department requested the Taliban to expel bin Laden from the country, noting that he was a sponsor of terrorism and publicly urged Muslims to kill Americans. The Taliban responded that they did not know his whereabouts and, even if they did, he was "not a threat to the United States." The CIA's counter-terrorism division quickly began drafting plans to capture and remove bin Laden from the country. However, Marine General Anthony Zinni and some [ who? ] in the State Department protested the move, saying that the United States should focus instead on ending the Afghan civil war and the Taliban's human rights abuses. [121]

In 1998, Clinton appointed Richard Clarke—who until then served in a drugs and counter-terrorism division of the CIA—to lead an interagency comprehensive counter-terrorism operation, the Counter-terrorism Security Group (CSG). The goal of the CSG was to "detect, deter, and defend against" terrorist attacks. Additionally, Clinton appointed Clarke to sit on the cabinet-level Principals Committee when it met on terrorism issues. [116]

Clinton's Counter-terrorism Center began drafting a plan to ambush bin Laden's compound in Kandahar. The CIA mapped the compound and identified the houses of bin Laden's wives and the location where he most likely slept. The plan was relatively simple, at least on paper. Tribals would "subdue" the guards, enter the compound, take bin Laden to a desert outside Kandahar, and hand him over to another group of tribals. This second group would carry him to a desert landing strip—which had already been tested—where a CIA plane would take him to New York for arraignment. When they completed a draft plan, they ran through two rehearsals in the United States. [122] Confident that the plan would work, the Counter-terrorism Center of the CIA sought the approval of the White House. While they acknowledged that the plan was risky, they stated that there was "a risk in not acting" because "sooner or later, bin Laden will attack U.S. interests, perhaps using WMD." [123]

Clarke reviewed the plans for Sandy Berger, the National Security Director, and told him that it was in the "very early stages of development" and stressed the importance of only targeting bin Laden, not the entire compound. The NSC told the CIA to begin preparing the necessary legal documents to execute the raid. [124]

The senior management of the CIA was skeptical of the plan, and despite objections, canceled the operation, fearing that the risk to their operatives and financial costs were too high. It is unclear whether or not Clinton was aware of the plan.

As the Counter-terrorism Center continued to track bin Laden, they learned in 1998 that the Saudi government had bin Laden cells within the country that were planning attacks on U.S. forces. CIA Director George Tenet, encouraged by the Saudi's show of force against bin Laden, asked them to assist in the fight against bin Laden. Clinton named Tenet as his informal "personal representative" to work with Saudi Arabia on terrorism. The Saudis promised Tenet that they would do everything they could to convince the Taliban to release bin Laden for trial in America or elsewhere. The Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Turki bin Faisal, held various meetings with Taliban chief Mullah Omar and other leaders and received assurance that bin Laden would be removed. Omar, however, reneged on that promise. [116]

On August 7, 1998, Bin Laden struck again, this time with simultaneous bombings on the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. (see above) The CIA, having confirmed bin Laden was behind the attack, informed Clinton that terrorist leaders were planning to meet at a camp near Khowst, to plan future attacks. According to Tenet, "several hundred," including bin Laden, would attend. On August 20, Clinton ordered cruise missile strikes on Al-Qaeda terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and a pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum, Sudan, where bin Laden was suspected of manufacturing biological weapons. While the military hit their targets, bin Laden was not killed. The CIA estimated that they had missed bin Laden by "a few hours." [121]

At the time of the attacks, Clinton was embroiled in the Lewinsky scandal (see below). This led many Republicans in Congress to accuse the president of "wagging the dog"—launching a military attack simply to distract the public from his personal problems. Clinton and his principals, however, insist that the decision was made solely on the basis of national security. [116]

After the attacks failed, Clinton moved his focus to diplomatic pressure. On the advice of the State Department, Clinton encouraged Pakistan, whose military intelligence agency was a patron of the Taliban, to pressure the Taliban to remove bin Laden. After numerous meetings with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the Pakistani's would still not cooperate. [116] Sharif eventually agreed to allow the United States to train Pakistani special forces to find bin Laden. When Sharif was ousted by Pervez Musharraf, the plan was abandoned. [125]

After encouragement by Richard Clarke, Clinton issued an executive order in July 1999 declaring the Taliban regime as a state sponsor of terrorism. [126] This was followed in October 1999 by Resolution 1267 sponsored by the United States placing economic and travel sanctions on the Taliban. [127] The Taliban, however, stood by bin Laden, and the United States, along with Russia, proposed yet another UN resolution (Resolution 1333), this time imposing an embargo an arms shipments to the Taliban. [128] The move was meant to weaken the Taliban in their fight against the Northern Alliance in their civil strife. However, the resolution did little to limit the illegal flow of arms from Pakistan. [116]

In August 1999, Clinton signed a Memorandum of Notification ordering the CIA to develop another plan to capture bin Laden, and giving the CIA the authority to order bin Laden be killed. [ citation needed ]

Near the end of 1999, the Clinton administration, working with the government of Jordan, detected and thwarted a planned terrorist attack to detonate bombs at various New Year millennium celebrations around the world. The CIA confirmed that bin Laden was behind the plot, which was disrupted just days before the New Year. [121] While many credited Clinton's new CSG for playing a role in the foiling of these plots, critics claim it was "mostly luck." [129]

The CIA informed Clinton that they feared the thwarted attacks were just part of a larger series of attacks planned for the new year. Clinton asked Clarke and the CSG to draft plans to "deter and disrupt" al Qaeda attacks. [116]

On October 12, 2000, terrorists bombed USS Cole in the harbor of the Yemeni port of Aden. The attack on USS Cole, a U.S. Navy destroyer, killed 17 Navy sailors, and there was no clear indication during the last months of Clinton's term of who was responsible. [116] The CIA reported that they had "no definitive answer on [the] crucial question of outside direction of the attack—how and by whom. Clinton did not think it would be wise to launch an attack based on a "preliminary judgment," stating that he would have taken further action had he received definitive intelligence. The CIA was eventually able to confirm bin Laden's involvement with certainty a week after the Bush administration took office. [121]

As Clinton's second term drew to a close, the CSG drafted a comprehensive policy paper entitled "Strategy for Eliminating the Threat from the Jihadist Networks of al Qida: Status and Prospects." [130] The paper outlined a method to "roll back" al Qaeda over "a period of three to five years." Clarke stated that while "continued anti-al Qida operations at the current level will prevent some attacks, [it] will not seriously attrit their ability to plan and conduct attacks." This policy paper was forwarded to the incoming Bush administration. [121]

Criticism of Bill Clinton's inaction towards Bin Laden Edit

In the years since September 11, 2001, Clinton has been subject to criticism that he failed to capture Osama bin Laden as president. In a September 24, 2006, interview with Fox News' Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday, Clinton challenged his critics. According to Clinton, he faced criticism from various conservatives during his administration for being too obsessed with Bin Laden. Clinton also noted that his administration created the first comprehensive anti-terrorist operation, led by Richard Clarke—whom Clinton accuses the Bush Administration of demoting. [131] Clinton also said he worked hard to try to kill Bin Laden. [132] Former international negotiator and current businessman, financier and media commentator Mansoor Ijaz claimed that from 1996 to 1998, he had opened up unofficial negotiations with Sudan to lift terrorism sanctions from that country in exchange for intelligence information about the terrorist groups Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah and Hamas. He claimed that Sudan was also prepared to offer custody of terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden, who had been living in the country and launching operations. According to Ijaz, neither Clinton nor National Security Advisor Sandy Berger responded to the situation. [133] Bin Laden later left Sudan and established his operations in Afghanistan under the protection of the Taliban and, with his network, planned out terrorist attacks against American interests worldwide, including attacks on American embassies in Tunisia and Sudan as well as the bombing of USS Cole. The most infamous were the attacks of September 11, 2001 that occurred under Clinton's successor, George W. Bush nine months after Clinton left office. However, the 9/11 Commission Report later found no credible evidence to support the Sudan custody offer as the American Ambassador to the Sudan had no legal basis to ask for custody due to no indictment against Bin Laden:

Sudan's minister of defense, Fatih Erwa, has claimed that Sudan offered to hand Bin Ladin over to the United States. The Commission has found no credible evidence that this was so. Ambassador Carney had instructions only to push the Sudanese to expel Bin Ladin. Ambassador Carney had no legal basis to ask for more from the Sudanese since, at the time, there was no indictment outstanding. [134]

Clinton acknowledged that, following the bombing on USS Cole, his administration prepared battle plans to execute a military operation in Afghanistan to overthrow the Taliban and search for bin Laden. The plans were never implemented because, according to Clinton, the CIA and FBI refused to certify that bin Laden was responsible for the bombing until after he left office and the military was unable to receive basing rights in Uzbekistan. [135] In relation to Afghanistan, Clinton criticized the Bush Administration when he said "We do have a government that thinks Afghanistan is one-seventh as important as Iraq". [135] Clinton also said that his administration left the plans and a comprehensive anti-terror strategy with the new Bush Administration in January 2001. [131]

In 2014, a September 10, 2001, audio containing Clinton's conversation at a business center at Melbourne, Australia, 10 hours before the 9/11 attacks regarding the topic of terrorism was revealed. In this audio, Clinton stated that according to intelligence agencies, Bin Laden was located in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in December 1998, and thus, a missile strike was proposed. However, he decided not to kill Bin Laden because of conflicting reports of intelligence information to his true whereabouts as well as the potential risk for civilian casualties. He stated that, "I'm just saying, you know, if I were Osama bin Laden—he's a very smart guy, I've spent a lot of time thinking about him—and I nearly got him once." And then he said that, "I nearly got him. And I could have killed him, but I would have to destroy a little town called Kandahar in Afghanistan and kill 300 innocent women and children, and then I would have been no better than him. And so I didn't do it." [136]

In 1996 Clinton signed the United States onto the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), a landmark international agreement that prohibited all signatory nations from testing nuclear weapons. The following year, he sent the treaty to the Senate for ratification. Conservative Republicans took the lead in defeating the treaty in October 1999 by vote of 48 in favor and 51 against, far short of the two thirds it needed to pass. International reaction to the Senate's action was uniformly negative, and the rejection was a political setback for Clinton, who had lobbied actively for its approval. One scholar blames the failure on:

an accident of politics, an executive- legislative stalemate that resulted from clashing institutional interests, partisan struggle, intraparty factionalism, and personal vindictiveness. Certainly it was a story of zealotry, conspiracy and incompetence in which all the key players share responsibility for an outcome that only a minority really desired. [137]

Despite the rejection of the treaty, Clinton promised that the United States would continue to maintain a policy of not testing nuclear weapons, which had been in place since 1992. [138] [139]

Throughout the 1990s, the Congress refused to appropriate funds for the United States to pay its dues to the United Nations. By 1999 the United States owed the UN at least $1 billion in back dues. That same year Clinton reached a compromise with Republicans in Congress to submit more than $800 million in back dues. Republicans in the House of Representatives had insisted that UN debt repayments be accompanied by restrictions on U.S. funding for international groups that lobbied for abortion rights in foreign countries. [140] Clinton had vetoed similar measures in the past, but he agreed to the restrictions when faced with the prospect that the United States would lose its vote in the UN General Assembly for nonpayment of dues.

During his first term, argues two political scientists:

He earned the nickname "William the Waffler" for his administration's supposed inconsistency in linking rhetoric with policy on human rights violations in China, refugee problems in Cuba and Haiti, and in haphazardly getting the United States involved in the long-running tragic conflict in Bosnia. [141]

Public opinion in the United States about the role the country should have in the Bosnian genocide was negative. A series of Gallup polls through 1995-1997 showed that public disapproval of military intervention in Bosnia hovered around 52%, with the only outlier occurring in January 1997, where 58% of the population disapproved. The polls also found that public opposition was bipartisan, with 49% of Republicans and around 40% of Democrats and Independents disapproving. [142]

Americans were even less supportive of involvement in Kosovo. A Gallup poll in March 1999 showed that about half of the American public supported NATO air strikes in Yugoslavia. That was the weakest support for any American combat mission in the past decade. [143] Fewer people were following the news about US involvement in Kosovo, falling from 43% to 32% in two months. [144]

The public and the media paid little attention to the Rwanda genocide. [145] [146] One reason why the United States did not enter Rwanda is because of the public reluctance to enter combat after the Vietnam War. [147]

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