Pity Bush, Gamely Shedding Treaties Like Dandruff

Pity Bush, Gamely Shedding Treaties Like Dandruff

Pity Bush, Gamely Shedding Treaties Like Dandruff

It is time to rally around our President and forego the constant drumbeat of criticism that has been his lot on the world stage ever since he discovered that foreign policy involves issues beyond


It is time to rally around our President and forego the constant drumbeat of criticism that has been his lot on the world stage ever since he discovered that foreign policy involves issues beyond those of the Tex-Mex border.

At a time when the US President is out of sync with virtually every other nation in the world, it ill behooves smart-alecky columnists to join in the chorus of disapproval. A bit of empathy, please, for a leader who is so painfully and publicly struggling with an extremely steep learning curve. Nor is he doing all that badly for one who never cared to travel abroad and rarely read up on foreign policy issues before the Supreme Court suddenly anointed him President.

For someone who lost the popular vote by more than a half-million ballots, he acts with stunning self-assurance in sweeping aside the concerns of his Democratic and moderate Republican opponents, as well as the fears of our most trusted international allies. Give the man credit for confidence, warranted or not. The world media howl that George W. Bush is a primitive American isolationist who cares not a whit for international solutions to make this a safer world. Have they no pity? What they choose to interpret as arrogant and even sinister in our President can more charitably be viewed as the confused performance of a struggling C student.

True, he has acted impetuously in tearing up every international standard that he has encountered, but that is hardly the result of sustained and studied conviction. Appearances to the contrary, a more forgiving view of George W. would suggest that he does not really believe that germ warfare, a nuclear arms race and global warming are good things. I don’t care what his many critics around the world say, Bush’s knee-jerk opposition to all international treaties designed to make this a safer and saner world may be stupid, but come on, it’s not malevolent.

Why, his critics ask, would any world leader seek to derail efforts to eliminate biological weapons of mass destruction? Sounds odd, I know, especially since it was the United States that had complained that the 1972 United Nations treaty banning germ warfare weapons did not contain sufficiently strong compliance safeguards. Now those tougher monitoring provisions have finally been accepted by fifty-six nations, but we obviously can’t be expected to go along.

The reason is that lobbyists for US pharmaceutical and chemical companies don’t want to open their plants to outside inspections for fear of jeopardizing their copyrights. Better to bring on the germ warfare plagues and let those same companies make a bundle selling the antidotes, which they are certain to come up with in a timely fashion.

This President is charming in his childlike faith that the wizards of science can forestall all harm. That is evidenced by his eagerness to abandon the antiballistic missile treaty negotiated by that grizzled cynic Richard Nixon. Forget arms control; soon “brilliant pebbles” will dot the sky poised as magical stars to prevent us from all missile harm.

You’ve gotta believe, the President keeps telling us as he champions a good defense over the enemy’s offense, and who are we to question his abandonment of the test-ban moratorium that has prevented a runaway explosion of the nuclear arms race? Of course it’s true that without testing, no other nation could ever hope to threaten seriously US nuclear weapons dominance, but then how could we beef up the defense budget to wartime levels? It’s plain old sour grapes to raise that old conservative maxim: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Just shows how Bush’s critics are hopelessly bound up with outdated paragons. Obviously, we have to make sure our nuclear weapons of mass destruction work by setting off a few from time to time. Imagine our disappointment if, after leveling the world with 6,000 city-busting warheads, the one intended for some obscure village in Siberia didn’t go off.

And let’s be honest: Just because we have the most sophisticated nuclear weapons simulation and stockpile reliability program in the world and spend $5 billion a year making certain that we still have the ability to end easily all human life, a computer simulation won’t ever give you that rush of popping a big one at the Nevada test site.

It’s all about thinking outside of the box. Bush, we are repeatedly told, is determined to leave his unique mark on foreign affairs, and it is therefore unfair for critics to hold his proposals to too high a standard of logic and sophistication. After all, this is George W. Bush we’re talking about.

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Katrina vanden Heuvel
Editorial Director and Publisher, The Nation

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