“First things first are the people who live in America” was the message from George W. Bush yesterday during his second news conference as president. He was trying to explain his torpedoing of the Kyoto environmental treaty, but that attitude is emerging as the dominant one toward virtually all international issues his administration is dealing with. The problem is not that he wants to look out for America, I would hope everyone in Washington D.C. is doing that. It is that Bush has a very disturbing view of what America”s interests are.
The Kyoto treaty was killed at the behest of big American polluters who were also behind Bush”s recent breaking of a campaign pledge to cut carbon dioxide emissions. “Too expensive,” they said. “Not in America”s interest,” said Bush. Never mind that he apparently thought it was in our interest during the campaign.
As things that are in America”s interests go, one would think preventing global warming and environmental devastation, not to mention working with in good faith with other countries on those issues, would rank fairly high.
Bush, or whoever is really pulling the strings, seems to think it is in the interest of the United States to piss off every friend we”ve ever had. Welcome to the new Bush unilateralism where America decides it doesn”t need those pesky other countries, we”ll be fine on our own.
When South Korean President and Nobel-laureate Kim Dae-jung came to Washington, he probably wasn”t expecting to be told that America had lost interest in peace between North and South Korea and no more help would be forthcoming. What Bush might have said had he cared to let anyone in on the Machiavellian machinations of Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who are calling the foreign policy shots, was that America”s interest had simply shifted to needing a convenient enemy. Bush spent much of his loosing presidential campaign explaining how a ballistic missile defense was needed because of threats from various “rouge states” and especially North Korea. Upon coming to office, his administration was no doubt horrified to learn that the South Korean President had decided to try and work things out with North Korea and in the process deprive them of a stellar talking point.
Not to mention that besides screwing the Koreas, the disturbing interest of the Bush administration in a missile defense system is also causing a great deal of friction with every ally and adversary the U.S. has and is undermining the strategic doctrine that has prevented the use of nuclear weapons for the last 50 years. Russia has made clear that if the U.S. violates the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which prohibits ABM systems, it will end compliance with every arms control treaty ever signed with the U.S. Considering that Russia is an incredibly poor country with one extremely valuable and easily exportable asset, nuclear weapons technology, Bush seems remarkably unworried about that. Or is it blissfully unaware?
Also, China a country with remarkably poor relations with many of its neighbors, has kept its nuclear weapons force small over the years. But if the U.S. builds an ABM system, it has promised to build enough weapons to get through any U.S. missile shield, understandably to prevent the nullification of its nuclear deterrent. This would likely cause India, an old enemy of China to increase the number of its nuclear weapons, which would obviously cause Pakistan to do the same. Hooray, a new arms race.
Then there was the Bush Administration”s criticism of the new European joint defense force, the beginning of a collective military which is the centerpiece of a new integrated foreign policy system for the European Union. Administration officials, especially the hard-line Rumsfeld and Cheney, oppose the European cooperation, saying it could undermine NATO. However, the force will actually allow Europeans to be much more engaged in NATO, especially in military operations where a frequent American complaint over the past few years has been that the U.S. has been carrying all of NATO”s military burden. What the Bush people probably really, and irrationally, fear is a force with the potential to rival our own. But a European military isn”t a threat to NATO or our safety, it is a threat to our ego. These are friendly liberal democracies with deep historical, cultural and economic ties to the United States. We have nothing to fear from them deciding they want to be able to better take care of themselves in military and foreign policy matters.
The Bush Administration has decided that doing what is right for America means not working with anybody else. Ripping up treaties, responding to perceived nuclear threats by taking steps that will pump the world full of new nuclear weapons and discouraging allies” attempts to improve their ability to defend themselves are the result of this outlook.
You would think a man whose father presided over the end of the last Cold War would seem to be so stupidly stumbling toward another one.
Peter Cunniffe”s column runs every other Friday. Give him feedback at http://www.michigandaily.com/forum/ or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.