Got International Stability? Not with Bush

- by Jeff Barger

Americans are not safe, the United States is not secure, freedom is under attack and civilization itself is in peril! Have no fear, the white knight from Texas is here to continue leading America and the free world to victory against 'evil doers'. World opinion and international agreements are nonsense and merely an obstacle to saving civilization from the terrorist apocalypse. We will lead even if nobody follows because real leaders don't need followers. So we must do the patriotic thing and put are unambiguous trust in George Bush and follow his oily foot prints to victory and security. Right? Wrong! George W. Bush's handling of foreign policy during his term has made America and the world far less secure.

Some of George Bush's guiding principles that have endangered America are laid out clearly in his National Security Strategy. They are principles that have redefined Americas place in the world and the rules it will play by.

The President declared that when considering military action he will follow the logic of preventive war. Not merely preemption, where a country acts against forces that present a imminent threat but prevention where the only considerations taken into account before we can attack a country is the "countries capabilities and objectives" (Bush). So only a theoretical or hypothetical danger is required. Little evidence may be required for such speculative danger because as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld notes "absence of evidence is not evidence" (Ikenberry 51). Professor Ikenberry states in Foreign Affairs that this doctrine renders international laws dealing with self defense meaningless (51). More simply, this new doctrine lowers the bar of aggression for every country and may make war "not the prerogative of international criminals, but the first resort of the righteous" (Shaw). This doctrine of preventive war is the most alarming principle of the Presidents foreign policy.

Supporters such as Henry Kissinger are quick to note though that it cannot be "a universal principle available to every nation" (Chomsky). Notable critic of American foreign policy, Professor Noam Chomsky, states that for one to accept this view one must reject what he calls "the most elementary of moral truisms, the principle of universality" (you hold the same standards to others as you hold to yourself). So it seems unreasonable to expect no other countries will follow suit. In the wake of Bush's policies our old cold war adversary is already taking military countermeasures. Russian Defense Minister Sergei and other Russian generals state in response to Bush's provocative policies they are deploying "the most advanced state-of-the-art missile in the world" (Chomsky). In May Vladimir Putin announced that Russia will soon begin work on new nuclear weapons (Heuvel). Preventive war is not a entirely new concept. When adopted previously it lead to disastrous consequences. As historian Arthur Schlesinger notes, prevention is "alarmingly similar to the policy that imperial Japan employed at Pearl Harbor."

The doctrine of prevention explains and helps clarify George Bush's withdraw of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Defense Treaty. The withdraw also adds to the idea that America should not be restrained in exercising its military might.

It is assumed that a Ballistic Missile Defense shield (BMD) has little to do with defense and more to do with offense. It is an "enabler of US action". In the National Review Andrew Bacevich describes the purpose of a BMD as a way to "facilitate the more effective application of the US military power abroad." The purpose of BMD is "arguably more in order to preserve US...freedom of action than because US really fears North Korean or Iranian threat." This is advice Canadian military planners gave their government (Pugliese). This concept of missile 'defense' is very destabilizing. China is predicted to expand its nuclear arsenal many times over and to develop new nuclear armed missiles. It is predicted that India (since it is a regional competitor of China) will then build up its own nuclear armaments with Pakistan obviously responding in kind. George Bush's actions will help erode decades of arms control agreements and "provoke a new arms race" (Chomsky) Having a BMD is also very compatible with another stated goal of President Bush.

The other bomb-shell in the National Security Strategy is one that will further advance the undermining of existing arms control treaties and stall further ones. It is the stated intention that America will keep and defend its complete unrivaled military power in the world.

America has now officially stated to the world that it will keep its total military hegemony. In June 2002 Bush stated part of his logic for this at a West Point speech; Americas unrivaled military strength will "make the destabilizing arms race of other eras pointless" (Ikenberry). To believe this naive statement one must accept the view that the world sees America as a benign power with nothing but noble intent in foreign affairs. Whether this is true or not is of little relevance since other countries don't perceive that about our foreign policy and as such will not sit idly by and accept this unrivaled military dominance. In international relations, perception is what matters. According to Daniel Yankelovich, an opinion expert, and reported by Daniel Schorr in the Christine Science Monitor an average of 77% of Germans, French, Britons and Italians think the US is acting solely in its own interest. These are America's closest allies so this gives an indication of what countries who aren't our allies, but 'strategic competitors' or official enemies, perceive our intentions to be and how they will react.

This goal of military dominance has had an extremely adverse effect on many international treaties that are meant to bring stability to the world and curve weapons proliferation.

The administration has recently lifted a ban on research and development on new nuclear technology. This will allow the development of "low-yield" nuclear bunker busters that are apparently for battlefield use. This itself violates the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). William Hartung, an arms trade researcher and analysis notes in World Policy Journal that non-nuclear members of the treaty have committed themselves to staying free of nuclear weapons activity in exchange for nuclear states to work towards the elimination of their own arsenals. This is "the basic bargain the NPT is" build upon (7). Bush's policy of creating a new generation of nuclear weapons undermines this treaty that has been a lynchpin of stopping the proliferation of weapons. Unfortunately though, the biggest victim of George Bush's unilateral and reactionary policies has been the advancement of global justice.

Well over a hundred nations have signed on to the International Criminal Court (ICC), except for one major exception. The United States. George Bush declared that he doesn't accept the idea of international law. If he does then violators should only continued to be punished on a ad-hoc and selective basis and any international courts should have absolutely no legitimize over the United States. One of the presidents defenses is that we need "to avoid complications in our military operations" that might arise from signing the ICC. The reason the ICC was rejected is because it would impede Americas goal of maintaining an unrivaled military and the new doctrine of prevention, which seems to come before strengthening international law. Why have laws if there is no proper court to back them up? It is neutral courts that give strength and force to laws. Self appointed Sheriffs who throw together ad-hoc posses for their own purposes do not strengthen laws, but make a mockery of them.

The neo-conservative view that we live in an "anarchic Hobbesian world"(Kagan) is wrong. There is no doubt that there is violence and hate in the world, but we have made great strides in the past half century to build some kind of rudimentary world order. "The result has been the most stable and prosperous international system in world history" (Ikenberry 49). The most common response by the United States to provocation is to answer back with a higher level of provocation. There is never backing down or compromising with threats. The president seems to think that other nations in the world will not follow this same policy (which shows a lack of historical knowledge) and will only respond to our provocation with submission. World order is built upon cooperation which in turn is built on trust. Trust is created by making and keeping treaties it's how a country earns moral authority. When you sweep away (or block) treaties, agreements and other nations general concerns, you're sweeping away other countries trust in you and hinder international cooperation and world order.

Today, every pretense for the Iraq war is dissolving like an Alka-Seltzer tablet in water. Other nations trust in America and America's moral authority in the international arena has been dissolving in parallel. With proliferation spiraling, terrorism surging, and anti-Americanism sky rocketing all over the world can we really take the chance of having George Bush cement his policies and continue this trend with another four years as president?

Jeffrey Barger, 20, goes to Pennsylvania State University and is registered with the Green Party. He welcomes feedback at

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