Lone Wolf Policy.
When Bush snipped at the ABM treaty, the comprehensive test ban treaty, the biological weapons protocol, and the small-arms convention, he sent an unmistakable signal that the United States doesn't care about arms control. This will only encourage other nations to bolster their own arsenals, and the arms race will accelerate on every track.
And when Bush led the United States out of the Kyoto accord on global warming, he turned Washington into a laughingstock, with 178 nations on one side and the United States on the other. By not requiring U.S. companies, which produce a huge chunk of the world's carbon dioxide, to curb their emissions, Bush showed a reckless disregard for the environmental health of the planet.
Several unfortunate attitudes underlie this wolfishness.
The first is old-fashioned know-nothingism, a studied ignorance of the outside world that is a peculiar strain of the American culture. Bush plays this to the hilt: fuzzy math meets smoggy air. Global warming, what global warming?
The second is a severe and pronounced superiority complex. Like many know-nothings, he believes the United States is better than any other country. They're foreigners; what do they know? So what if 178 nations disagree with us? We've got the Holy Grail. We're so different from all these other nations that our interests can't possibly coincide with theirs. Bush has the swagger that is symptomatic of this complex. After returning from Europe on his first trip, he bragged to Peggy Noonan, his dad's speechwriter, that he stood down more than twenty leaders (no matter they were our allies) so he could stand up for America. Bush may not look like Arnold Schwarzenegger, but he admires the role.
Bush seems to feel the resentment that afflicts many an emperor. He views other countries as his subjects, and when they won't do what he wants them to do, he says to hell with them. If they won't trim the Kyoto agreement according to our specifications, we'll take our globe and go home.
Bush also has Kissinger's phobia: the morbid fear that other countries will drag U.S. soldiers or statesmen to The Hague or elsewhere for prosecution. Belgium is already trying to get its hands on Kissinger, and Bush wants to make sure that Americans elude any court outside our borders.
The one job Bush takes seriously is that of chief executive of the corporate class. Boeing, Lockheed, and Philip Morris want to be able to ply their wares without interference from any international body, so Bush undercuts those bodies at every opportunity.
The World Health Organization, for instance, is trying to get countries to sign on to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which would, among other things, limit advertising, raise cigarette taxes, eliminate subsidies, and consider the possibility of expanding the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice so that tobacco companies could be tried for crimes against humanity. Tobacco killed four million people last year, according to the World Health Organization, which predicts that ten million people a year will die by 2030, with most of those coming from the developing nations.
The Bush Administration has tried to weaken the framework "at every turn," Judith Wilkenfeld of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids told The Wall Street Journal (Further repaying a campaign debt to the tobacco companies, the Bush Administration has gone to bat for them in South Korea. "American trade officials have intervened on behalf of U.S. tobacco companies to stop South Korea from imposing new requirements on foreign firms seeking to sell and manufacture cigarettes in that country," The Washington Post reported. One of those requirements would have been a 40 percent duty on all imported cigarettes. Philip Morris applauded the Bush Administration's move. "When it comes to high duties and barriers to our entering markets, we think the U.S. government has a role to play," said Mark Berlin, associate general counsel for the company.)
U.S. arms manufacturers are equally grateful to the Bush Administration for sabotaging the U.N. effort to regulate the traffic in small arms. In July, more than 170 nations met to impose restrictions on these arms, which include assault rifles, grenade launchers, and shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles. U.S. arms manufacturers are the leading exporters of small arms, accounting for $1.2 billion of the $4 billion annual trade, according to the Swiss-based Small Arms Survey. The United Nations estimates that small arms "are used to kill at least half a million people each year," The Washington Post reported. "More than 80 percent of the victims are children and women."
The U.N. conference wanted to ban personal ownership of military weapons and prohibit governments from selling such weapons to rebel groups. The United States opposed both of those measures. "The vast majority of arms transfers in the world are routine and not problematic," said John Bolton, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs. "We do not support measures that would constrain legal trade and legal manufacturing of small arms and light weapons."
It might be helpful at this point to remember that, during the Presidential campaign, a senior official of the National Rifle Association said the NRA would be operating out of the Oval Office if Bush won. The group seems to have taken up residence.
Even something as seemingly unobjectionable as verifying and enforcing the 1972 ban on biological weapons became an issue for Bush. In Geneva in late July, the Administration deep-sixed the effort. Why? Because it didn't want international inspectors to be able to look at the Pentagon's efforts or at the work of U.S. pharmaceutical and biotech companies.
"In our assessment, the draft protocol would put national security and confidential business information at risk," said Donald Mahley, the chief U.S. negotiator. But it's in the interest of U.S. national security to make sure that other countries are not violating the ban on biological weapons, and the U.S. reluctance to go along suggests that it might still have its own notions of developing such weapons. What's more, the Bush Administration's concern for protecting "confidential business information" instead of protecting against biological warfare shows just how messed up its priorities are.
Similarly, the Bush Administration opposed European efforts to crack down on money-laundering. European countries wanted to penalize places like the Cayman Islands that protect investors from legal scrutiny. But Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill said the United States wouldn't go along, as Lucy Komisar noted in The Nation. And according to The Wall Street Journal, the Administration "will consider easing draft regulations aimed at curbing tax evasion by foreigners" and "is looking at ways to ease anti-money-laundering regulations." For Bush, the war on drugs ends the second a dirty dollar arrives at a U.S. bank.
Most notoriously, the U.S. decision to stand on the sidelines of the Kyoto protocol showed not only how isolated the Bush administration is but also how myopic. Bush officials said they need more time to study the science of global warming and that they will propose their own ideas for reducing greenhouse gases, but they won't get around to doing so any time soon. The United States accounts for as much as 25 percent of the world's greenhouse gases, and Bush was solidly behind the power plants and factories that produce those gases.
Ironically, however, some U.S. companies take a more enlightened--or frightened--approach on global warming. "Corporate executives are getting increasingly worried that a backlash from irate foreign countries could hurt their efforts for some coveted goodies. ... They also worry that U.S. businesses could see their profit margins hit because of anti-American sentiment, or perceptions that they don't care about the global environment," The Wall Street Journal reported. "Some U.S. business leaders fear the decision to boycott the Kyoto protocol could cost U.S. companies business in the area of environmental technology."
So even if Bush's ultimate objective is to boost the bottom line of U.S. corporations, he may be going about it the wrong way.
While mangy, Bush's lone wolf foreign policy is not a separate species from those of his predecessors. Presidents typically apply situational ethics to international bodies and treaties. If the United States can dominate them, then they're a good thing. But if the United States feels impeded by them, why then it's time to go it alone.
Ronald Reagan showed no concern whatsoever about the World Court's determination that the U.S. mining of the harbors of Nicaragua was illegal. George Bush the Elder cared little for international law when he invaded Panama. But he appreciated the cover of consensus during the Gulf War, lining up allies and getting a green light from the United Nations.
Clinton, who liked to join hands and sing "We Are the World," was not afraid to be a unilateralist, either. Recall his obstinate refusal to sign on to the international treaty to ban land mines, his decision not to push for ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, his opposition to the international criminal court, and his continued bombing of Iraq with just Boy Wonder Blair behind him. On Kyoto, lest we forget, Clinton and Gore went out of their way to water down the treaty and block provisions unfavorable to U.S. companies.
We should not be surprised by the predatory nature of U.S. foreign policy. Until the U.S. government and the American people get over their superiority complex, until they understand that the United States and most other nations have common interests that transcend borders and jingos, that cooperation not domination is the way of the future, the foreign policy of the United States will have a familiar snarl.
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|Title Annotation:||Presidential campaign on weapons|
|Date:||Sep 1, 2001|
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