Clinton Doctrine

The Clinton Doctrine is not a clear statement in the way that many other United States Presidential doctrines were. However, in a February 26, 1999, speech, President Bill Clinton said the following, which was generally considered to summarize the Clinton Doctrine:[1]

It's easy ... to say that we really have no interests in who lives in this or that valley in Bosnia, or who owns a strip of brushland in the Horn of Africa, or some piece of parched earth by the Jordan River. But the true measure of our interests lies not in how small or distant these places are, or in whether we have trouble pronouncing their names. The question we must ask is, what are the consequences to our security of letting conflicts fester and spread. We cannot, indeed, we should not, do everything or be everywhere. But where our values and our interests are at stake, and where we can make a difference, we must be prepared to do so.

Clinton later made statements that augmented the doctrine of interventionism:

"Genocide is in and of itself a national interest where we should act" and "we can say to the people of the world, whether you live in Africa, or Central Europe, or any other place, if somebody comes after innocent civilians and tries to kill them en masse because of their race, their ethnic background or their religion, and it's within our power to stop it, we will stop it."

The Clinton Doctrine was used to justify the American involvement in the Yugoslav Wars. President Clinton was criticized for not intervening to stop the Rwandan Genocide of 1994. Other observers viewed Operation Gothic Serpent in Somalia as a mistake.

National Security Strategy

In Clinton's final National Security Strategy, he clarified this doctrine by differentiating between national interests and humanitarian interests.[2] He described national interests as those that: not affect our national survival, but ... do affect our national well-being and the character of the world in which we live. Important national interests include, for example, regions in which we have a sizable economic stake or commitments to allies, protecting the global environment from severe harm, and crises with a potential to generate substantial and highly destabilizing refugee flows.

Clinton's National Security Strategy provided Bosnia and Kosovo as examples of such interests and stakes. In contrast, it described humanitarian interests as those that force the nation to act:[3]

because our values demand it. Examples include responding to natural and manmade disasters; promoting human rights and seeking to halt gross violations of those rights; supporting democratization, adherence to the rule of law and civilian control of the military; assisting humanitarian demining; and promoting sustainable development and environmental protection.

The NSS also declared the right of the United States to intervene militarily to secure its "vital interests," which included, "ensuring uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies, and strategic resources."[4]

See also


  1. Michael T. Klare (1999-04-19). "The Clinton Doctrine". The Nation. Archived from the original on 2006-03-18. Retrieved 2008-09-16.
  2. Clinton, William J. (December 2000). A National Security Strategy For A New Century. The White House.
  3. Clinton, William J. (December 2000). A National Security Strategy For A New Century. The White House.
  4. "DEFENSE STRATEGY" Archived 2015-07-06 at the Wayback Machine. U.S. Department of Defense, 1997

Further reading

  • Meiertöns, Heiko: The Doctrines of US Security Policy - An Evaluation under International Law, Cambridge University Press (2010), ISBN 978-0-521-76648-7.
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