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Editorial Bite that bullet

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Early indications from the Bush presidential camp are that the United States will not indulge in particularly expansive foreign policy programs in the next four years.

Foreign policy can be broken down easily enough into constituent parts. There is, for one, the matter of a strategic vision for the world’s only superpower. How might a seemingly isolated action in one corner of the globe affect U.S. interests in another corner, or indeed throughout the world?

Clearly, there was a view for many years in Washington that intervening in the Irish-British conflict over Northern Ireland had undesirable consequences beyond just the island of Ireland. For one thing, such intervention would have been viewed by Britain, the controlling power in Northern Ireland, as interference in its domestic affairs. Alienating Britain during the Cold War years was simply too great a price to pay for a sustained U.S. presidential effort to broker a peace deal, even in a corner of the world that retained ties to America that were, to say the least, strong and lasting.

The end of the Cold War and the arrival of Bill Clinton in the White House was a combination of events that few would have envisioned right up to the end of the 1980s. But both did occur, and in what was to become a highly potent confluence of a new man in a new time, a novel foreign policy initiative was directed at a problem that had been crying out for third-party intervention for three decades.

Clinton’s efforts in Ireland did not cost American blood or treasure. Indeed, the Ireland that emerged in the 1990s was one increasingly viewed as an asset to the United States, both in an economic sense and as an example to the broader world of what the U.S. can do to promote peace and reconciliation where before there was violence and deep mistrust.

In his interview with the Echo, published in this issue, President Clinton made the valid point that continued U.S. efforts to bolster the peace process would now be aided by the fact that both the Irish and British governments, as well as the main political parties on the islands, are more or less on the same page when it comes to the way forward. This was not the case at the beginning of Clinton’s first term of office.

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The president also suggested that, given the that there is now such a degree of shared political sentiment in both Ireland and Britain, his successor should bite the bullet and take up where he leaves off on Ireland.

We concur with this view. Much remains to be accomplished and the office of the U.S. presidency is quite clearly better suited than any other to the demands of a political process not yet ready for consideration purely in the past tense.

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