Clinton Takes On the World

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It's kind of lonely being the world's only superpower. Bill Clinton plans to set out U.S. foreign policy goals in a speech in San Francisco, Friday, and the world is all ears. "Most countries we deal with believe Washington doesn't really have a coherent foreign policy right now," says TIME U.N. correspondent William Dowell. "We tend to rely on short-term tactical responses to crises as they arise, but there's no sense that our responses to situations such as Iraq or Kosovo are governed by a long-term strategic vision."

Foreign policy was a lot easier during the Cold War, where U.S. interests were clearly defined by its conflict with the Soviet empire. "Since then, many countries have struggled to redefine their interest, but the challenge is greater for Washington because the U.S. is so much more powerful than anyone else," says Dowell. Don't expect any bold new directions from Clinton's speech. Aides have stressed that the President will primarily restate the case for U.S. involvement in distant conflicts. The world will have to wait for a mission statement that goes beyond putting out brush fires.