Gore Misses in Malaysia
By Sara McPeak
December 1998

As a guest in the country of Malaysia, at a meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Business Advisory Council, Al Gore outraged his host, Prime Minister Mohamad, by choosing to support a protest movement aimed at ousting Mohamad. Gore's praised the protesters and accused the Malaysian government of suppressing a democratic movement.

Has anyone in the Clinton cabinet bothered to educate Mr. Gore on the basics of foreign policy?

Here are a few basics, to get Gore started: As global partnerships are steadily replacing nationalistic corporations, U.S. foreign policy becomes a paramount issue. U.S. foreign policy equals detente plus strong commitment on stated perimeters covering actions which might be perceived as threatening. In each and every foreign country mores, customs and religions form the basic identity of that nation and U.S. foreign policy should not and cannot be perceived as a moral or religious tool to bring other nations into the fold of democracy and freedom. U.S. foreign policy must be set in place prior to any global summit meetings whether financial or technical in nature, as a basic necessity for successful and orderly progress.

Meanwhile, Malaysian reaction to Gore's faux pas included expressions of disgust and outrage as well as calls of bigotry and prejudice. The very movement Gore sought to uphold is worried about a backlash due to U.S. interference. A concerned Universiti Malaya professor and supporter of the reform movement was quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying, "It's much easier now for people around Mahathir and the local media to say that this whole movement for change is sponsored by people outside -- an American agenda."

Malaysians reacted nationalistically which should surprise no one. It is acceptable to push a political and social agenda in one's own country, but quite another matter in a setting where the culture is not understood by the speaker.

Our agenda should not have been an attempt to push American policy as our foreign policy. But because this administration waffles in each and every instance of foreign concern, Gore had no earlier decisive precedents boosting his credibility at the podium. In fact, the Malaysian incident became one more loss for America in the yardstick or global status. The U.S. will continue to be the loser in international pursuits as long as this administration refuses to develop and follow a strong foreign policy -- one that will be understood and believed by the other nations of the world.

This article copyright © 1998 by Sara McPeak, and may not be reproduced in any form without the express written consent of its author. All rights reserved.