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WHEN IT COMES TO FOREIGN POLICY TRIUMPHS, PRESIDENTS NEED LUCK AND LOTS OF MONEY

Successful presidents always have a lot of luck. They also know how to spend other people's money.

The possibly historic breakthrough to peace in Northern Ireland, which the White House insists President Clinton worked "very hard" to help bring about, involved both luck and money.So did the Middle East peace breakthrough.

So did the Russian troop withdrawal from the Baltic countries that was completed last week.

In fact, it is a rare foreign policy initiative that does not involve luck and money these days.

With more and more Americans who once sent contributions to support the Irish Republican Army beginning to realize they were doing more harm than good, the IRA had little to gain by continuing its violent resistance.

With the hot-headed generations that fanned the flames of hatred growing tired and old, it was time for a different approach.

Thus, Clinton was lucky that the timing was right last February when he agreed to permit Gerry Adams, head of Sinn Fein, the political arm of the IRA, to visit the United States.

The act infuriated British officials but sent the signal from the United States that it was time to stop shooting and talk.

And, by the way, more aid for Ireland has already been promised if it all works out.

When Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin shook hands on the White House lawn a year ago, again, Clinton was lucky that the timing was right.

Even though the United States had not brokered the peace, it was Clinton who was in the middle in the photograph that went around the world.

Oh yes, more aid for Israel and new aid and development assistance for the PLO would be now be available.

And when Jordan's King Hussein and Rabin ended their 46-year-old "state of belligerency" at the White House in July, word went out the United States would forgive Jordan's $700 million debt.

After communism collapsed in Russia, Clinton was poised to take advantage of the opportunity to convert it to a market-oriented democracy.

For every move Russia has made toward economic reform, another $3 billion or so has been dangled before its worried leaders.

When Russia agreed to pull its troops out of Estonia and Latvia this year, a $25,000 housing allowance was to be provided for each soldier with nowhere to go.

All this comes from U.S. taxpayers, of course.

Americans spend about $20 billion in foreign aid, less than it used to spend but much of it hopelessly misdirected because the foreign aid program needs overhaul.

The Clinton administraton wants to make foreign aid more flexible, given to him to dispense for such goals as promoting peace, democracy and growth through trade and providing humanitarian aid.

But with legislators jealous of their right to hold the purse strings, the administration's flexibility reform plan hasn't gone anywhere in Congress.

However, that doesn't stop Clinton from simply turning to Congress for more money for foreign initiatives whenever he needs it.

When Cubans and Haitians began fleeing their countries, Clinton decided to pay for sheltering and feeding them indefinitely.

When the unexpected Rwandan refugee crisis exploded into a major disaster, Clnton asked Congress for $320 million more.

That meant that for fiscal year 1994, one-twentieth of U.S. foreign aid suddenly was going to a small African country many Americans had never heard of until this year.

Luckily, some other world crises such as Somalia had abated for awhile.

But luck isn't always enough. George Bush was lucky enough to have the Cold War end on his watch. But he was unable to translate that and his skill in the Persian Gulf War into a second term.

Now that the United States has promised to send 10,000 soldiers into Haiti in a few weeks, as sure as night follows day and vice versa there will be an emergency aid request from the White House.

Millions of dollars will be sought for Haiti to help undo the damage that the military junta and the U.S.-led trade embargo have done to the Haitian people.

With a little luck, Clinton will send U.S. soldiers into Haiti and pull them right out again with few casualties, leaving democracy in their wake. Or maybe he'll need a lot of luck.

In either case, he'll undoubtedly need a lot of money.