ANY President of the United States who takes office believing that he
will be able to treat foreign affairs as a minor part of his job is
tempting fate. For Bill Clinton the temptation has been especially
perilous. Unlike his eight immediate predecessors, Mr Clinton became
president at a time when the simplifying rigors of the cold war had
evaporated. This removed the only conceivable threat to America's
existence, but at the cost of depriving the United States of a clear
idea of its role in the world just when--as the sole superpower--its
ability to perform that role became more important than ever.
The result for Mr Clinton has been a series of muddles, zigzags,
fiascos and falling opinion-poll ratings. etc.
a condition that makes life difficult, challenging, or uncomfortable
especially : extremity of cold
the rigors of a New England winter
strict precision : exactness. logical rigor.
Tentatively one might suggest that what characterizes science is the rigor of its methodology …
I think it refers obliquely to the cold of winter, and also makes reference to the rigidity of cold war relations.
During the cold war, things were black and white. Simple. The Soviets were the bad guys. The US and its allies were the good guys. (From a US president's point of view.) This schematic could be used (in those days) to simplify complex international relationships.