In a letter of despair written to me by the mother of a young woman killed in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, she grieved that President Bush recently held a face-to-face meeting with Hafez Assad of Syria, who harbors the very terrorists who murdered her daughter.

"What's next?" she asked in frustration.The answer wasn't long in coming.


While that Caribbean communist state may not be as high on the terrorist list as Syria, it has been, for three decades, an enemy of the United States - a regime with which we have had no formal relations, a government we openly wish to see overthrown. Along with Iran and Libya, Cuba has been our most vocal antagonist.

Yet, there was Secretary of State James Baker sitting down with Cuban Foreign Minister Isidoro Malmierca a week ago in an effort to convince the Cubans of the righteousness of a United Nations resolution permitting the use of military force if Iraq does not remove itself from Kuwait.

Everyone knew there was not the slightest glimmer of hope that the Cubans would vote in favor of that resolution, so why was Baker going through this charade?

Most likely, it was because the Bush administration wants it on the record that it tried every bit of diplomacy possible to avoid a military solution to the Iraqi crisis. So much so that on the day after it won the vote in the U.N. Security Council - with Cuba voting against it - the president shocked a lot of people by extending an olive branch to Saddam Hussein and inviting high level meetings with the Iraqis to discuss the crisis.

I really don't know what there is to meet about. The situation is this, according to Bush's own lips: Saddam Hussein unconditionally must withdraw from Kuwait and the previous regime is to be restored.

Not much to negotiate about on that, not much to meet about.

In an effort to placate the opponents of his Desert Shield policy and to save the lives of thousands of Americans he placed on the front lines in Saudi Arabia, Bush has become desperate and unpredictable. In doing so, he has further eroded the image and purpose of American foreign policy.

Henry Kissinger once said that the problem with American foreign policy is that it usually changes drastically with each new administration. The world could not count on America to be saying the same things for more than four years at a time.

In the case of George Bush, foreign policy changes by the week, day and hour.

Remember his promise of huge chunks of aid to Panama after the U.S. invasion left part of the country in ruin? Very little in the way of aid has come to Panama. We seem to have forgotten that country.

Recall that it is his administration and that of his fatherly predecessor that had Syria declared a terrorist state, then explain why he sat down with Assad.

Our courtship of the Iranians is an embarrassment that encompasses the past two administrations, countless congressional investigations and several court trials, and tends to ignore the hostages of more than a year.

Go back to Bush's statements and actions immediately after the horror of Tiananmen Square and the subsequent kangaroo court trials and explain why he once again is wooing China, both for the U.N. resolution against Iraq - in which China abstained - and as a continued ally and trading partner.

While it may be to Bush's credit that he is traveling every avenue to avoid armed conflict, it must be questioned what will be left of U.S. foreign policy when he is finished. Currently, it is in shambles - and those who would wish us harm, people like Assad and Fidel Castro, are having a fine chuckle while many of their victims wonder what is going on.