William Jefferson Clinton is the forty-second President of the United States of America. He embraced this honorable position on January 21, 1993. At that time, the USA and the whole world entered a new era when old superpowers collapsed together with old values, and new aims, opportunities and needs emerged on the global geopolitical stage. Clinton recognized that the borderline between domestic and foreign affairs was gradually vanishing so that the USA and its government had to redefine its priorities and role, both at home and abroad. It meant that new leadership approaches were needed to lead the country into a decent future of this new era. Clintons approach to domestic policies brought the USA to a new level of social security and economic development, and his foreign policies brought global politics onto a new level of partnership in which the USA performed the leading role of the world hegemon and peacemaker.
The legacy of the former Presidents and historical events left Clinton a country shaken by recession, savings-and-loan crisis, unprecedented stock collapse of the 1980s and oil-price spike of the early 1990s, as well as growing poverty and crime rates. Clintons strategy was developed to address and solve these issues. The strategy focused on fiscal discipline, and the idea of bringing up education, healthcare, technology and opening foreign markets. The achievements of Bill Clinton in domestic affairs are numerous and equally important which is why it would be sound to name them all. The budget proposed by Bill Clinton resulted into the largest budget surplus in the history of the USA primarily due to a wise combination of tax increases on the wealthy and government spending cuts. Clintons presidency created more than twenty million new jobs which made unemployment rates decrease naturally to the 1960-ies level. Naturally, William Clinton went through painful failures in policymaking and in the process of making the country better overall. Among the failures is the healthcare reform program. Nevertheless, this failure only made Clinton reconsider and change the vector of his attempts. Consequently, he decided to address the problem indirectly by spending the effort to protect jobs of parents who had to take care of their sick children. It was done through the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993. Additionally, he introduced legislation to upgrade education (through the Federal Direct Loan program that provided low-interest college loans, and the AmeriCorps program), as well as paid attention to environmental protection issues. Clinton also addressed crime through the 1993 Brady Law which enforced checks for handgun buyers and imposed a ban on assault weapons, as well as through increased funding of community policing and programs of youth crime and drug abuse prevention. As a result, the crime rates fell to the lowest levels in generation. Bill Clinton also legislatively addressed the issue of terrorism in its puberty when the World Trade Center and the Oklahoma City bombing occurred in 1993 and 1995, respectively. The anti-terrorism policy which would later transform into the war on terror was established. On the global scale, Bill Clinton earned a name of a peacemaker in Bosnia and Iraq, and a fighter against global drug trafficking. But, perhaps, the most grandeur achievements of William Clinton as President are his contribution to an open international trade and expansion of NATO.
Many scholars view NATO reform and restructuring as the most crucial achievement of President Clinton in the foreign policy realm. NATO enlargement transformed the organization from an alliance consequential to the U.S. power in the late twentieth century into a security stronghold of the twenty-first-century Europe. Apart from prominent results, the very process of NATO reformation carried by Clinton became a demonstration of Presidential empowerment, initiative, leadership and insight in action. Clinton transformed NATO not structurally but essentially into a potent tool of managing threats and security in post-Cold-War Europe. The range of NATOs influence expanded and extended to address conflicts in countries like Yugoslavia or post-isolation state in ex-Soviet countries, such as the future superpower Russia. Through NATO, some of the kernel American values and dreams were shared and spread onto the European territory and even far beyond. Clintons leadership combined the basics of continuity, namely the legacy of the Bush Administration perspectives, with a novel, forward-looking approach of his own. Thus, President Clinton recognized and accepted the necessity to preserve NATO as a means for bridging America and Europe, but also went further in his politics. Inter alia, he accepted the need of the North Atlantic allied powers to stop the Bosnian conflict. Also, he identified NATO renaissance as a key to creating favorable political and economic environment for Central European countries. These two directions became unified but parallel courses for Clintons policy regarding NATO and its new status. Bringing down conflicts in different countries and bringing up the countries per se became NATOs new double frontier.
In regards to Bosnian conflict, the Clinton Administration developed what is called lift and strike policy. The first part of this concept referred to lifting controls on arms shipments, and the second part presupposed the use of NATO Air Forces to cast protection on the United Nations safe zones. In this attempt at gaining allied support, Clinton faced the ambiguous situation when, in theory, allies agreed to assist the USA and follow its lead on the initiative, but in practice, namely in field, this support never found its realization. At this point, Bill Clinton designed a package of reforms for the alliance. At the same time, the Presidents Administration proposed to create a new Partnership for Peace (PfP). PfP is said to be NATOs major achievement of the generation. The Partnership aimed at helping Central Europe to transform into NATOs allies and endure military challenges. For those countries which could not join, PfP granted an opportunity of close partnership with NATO. They would later play the role of the so-called buffer zone for the organization. President Clinton championed the first coming together of those regions [of Europe] ever as democratic states.
Clintons politics regarding NATO were proactive rather than reactive. At the time of NATO expansion aimed at including Central European states, there was no direct or visible threat. Nevertheless, the turbulent history of the twentieth century showed that the threat is always present, it emerges or evolves, and there comes a time when it manifests itself in a conflict. Thus, the President envisioned NATO as a reformed and enlarged entity to be able to withstand this looming, then only hypothetical, threat. The enlargement, ironically, had an obstacle on its way to fulfillment. The obstacle was an already existing conflict in Bosnia the conflict Clinton called for being mitigated via the allied forces. It took years for the allies to agree on Clintons initiative unanimously. Finally, all sixteen allies agreed to apply military force to end the conflict in Bosnia. The timing of this collective approval of Clintons vision of Bosnian problem coincided with and resulted from the newly established architecture of NATO. On the one hand, NATO was meant to level the conflict in Bosnia, and on the other hand, it was capable of doing so. Thus, Presidential leadership and initiative concerning NATO modernization brought the organization onto a qualitatively new level. Despite general skepticism, PfP was not a substitute for the enlargement but its tool and guarantee, and NATO did not become weaker, but only stronger. The European security was renovated, and President Clinton confirmed the U.S. power and purpose on the European continent.
Another major achievement is Bill Clintons accomplishments in the sphere of free trade expansion. During the first years of his presidency, Clinton urged the Congress to ratify the North American Free Trade Agreement. The second victory came in 1994 when the US Senate and the US House of Representatives endorsed the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). The destiny of GATT was in the hands of Republicans whose votes were needed for passing the agreement. In order to procure GATT passing, President Clinton decided to make a deal with Robert Dole, the leader of Republicans and Clintons opponent in the race for presidency in 1996. This personal alliance allowed the President to champion GATT and dispel concerns that it would result in job losses and jeopardize the American sovereignty. Like in the case of Clintons policies regarding NATO, GATT was also an act of continuity. It was rooted in the decades-old ideas and dated back to the times of World War II. Later, in the 1980s, a new attempt at expanding the global trade was undertaken under the Administration of Ronald Reagan. The successor in this marathon was George Bush. Finally, in 1994, during Clintons presidency, the USA and one hundred sixteen more states gathered in Marrakesh. The event became the apogees of the free trade debate, and, using Clintons own words, GATT became the largest world trade agreement in history. It was assumed that it would result in a global tax cut in the amount of more than seven hundred billion dollars. GATT did even more as it gave the USA protection of intellectual property rights for products like films or software, opened markets for farmers, and created new opportunities for business services, inter alia, construction and accounting.
Above all, GATT was important because it established the World Trade Organization. WTO got authorization for enforcing trade agreements. As soon as WTO was established, concerns regarding the threats it might pose to the national sovereignty arouse. President Clinton addressed and leveled these concerns by agreeing to Senator Doles deal to create the U.S. commission consisting of federal judges that would be empowered to review the WTO rulings regarding the USA. The limit of tolerance was set at a point of three unfair rulings per five years. If this limit was exceeded, the Congress could nullify the participation of the USA in the trade agreement. However, Bill Clintons second term brought a new wave of protests. Political activists protested against WTO, as well as against other manifestations and instruments of global trade, such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The protests were supported and echoed by other activists, such as environmentalists and trade unionists who organized demonstrations in November-December 1999. These activists claimed that GATT threatened environmental and labor regulations, respectively. Some debated that GATT was also a threat for the developing countries, whereas GATT and international trade proponents parried this argument by claiming that developing countries, on the contrary, benefitted from such a situation because global trade agreements promoted their economic growth. At that time, no one could foresee the actual benefits of WTO and GATT. However, they are vivid now, which makes the achievements of President Bill Clinton in the sphere of free global trade significant for the history of the USA, as well as the whole world.
The era of William Jefferson Clintons Administration is traditionally associated with peace and economic welfare. Among Clintons major achievements as the President are the lowest unemployment rate in the modern American history, the lowest inflation level in three decades, the highest index of home ownership in the history of the USA, as well as declining negative trends like crime rates. Clinton developed the first balanced budget in decades and managed to achieve a budget surplus. Leading the USA into a new millennium, Bill Clinton addressed the nation with an initiative to put an end to centuries-long racial discrimination in the country and banned discrimination of gay people in the military. To conclude, Clinton contributed greatly to the development of the open international trade and expansion of NATO. One may conclude that personality of William Jefferson Clinton, who is better known and remembered as simply Bill Clinton, was crucial for the history of the American and world democracy, peace and well-being.