In just two months since taking office without any policy mandate whatever, President George II ("W") Bush has threatened the world with a complete unravelling of the arms control agreements which have maintained the military balance of power for half a century. By announcing his high-priority project to resurrect the Star Wars missile defense fantasy (which was inspired 18 years ago in a speech on March 24,1983, by Ronald Reagan), W proposes to abbrogate the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty of 1972, the most fundamental arms control agreement between the US and our number one nuclear competitor, Russia.
Now being called "National Missile Defense" (NMD), with a subplot known as "Theater Missile Defense" (TMD), the proposed $60 billion project has no actual upper spending limit. The potential economic and diplomatic costs are far beyond anyone's immagination. W's Administration has already fundamentally contradicted itself as regards the missile defense proposals, throwing the international arms-control discussion into turmoil. The US major media are distracted by the Administration's radical economic proposals and have extended the W honeymoon on foreign policy.
Numerous media commentators and world leaders have, however, expressed shock and dismay at the reckless and confusing statements coming from Bush and his advisors. One of the most distressing has been the repeated assertion by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld that the "ABM Treaty is an anachronism." "Mr. Rumsfeld underscored that the Bush administration was determined to proceed with an antimissile defense of United States territory even if it could not overcome the objections from the Russians, the Chinese and the Europeans. He described a missile defense as nothing less than a moral imperative." (NYTimes, U.S. TRIES DEFUSING ALLIES' OPPOSITION TO MISSILE DEFENSE, 2/4/01, Michael R. Gordon)
On March 8, US Secretary of State Powell did an apparent 180-degree reversal, stiffing both North Korea and South Korea, as the Bush Administration fumbles to get all their foreign policy ducks lined up. Powell now says the continuation of arms reductions negotiations with North Korea which he announced on Tuesday will be put into slow motion.
Reviewing these contradictions in the March 12,2001, NY Times, "Divergent Voices Heard in Bush Foreign Policy," JANE PERLEZ says,
First, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell suggested that the administration would continue tentative steps toward normalizing relations with reclusive North Korea. Less than 24 hours later, President Bush offered a warier view, and officials scrambled to quash the notion of real fissures opening in the new foreign policy team.
The commentary by Thomas Friedman (NYT, 3/9/01) was even more direct:
This is the second time in two weeks that Mr. Powell has been out of step. Last week it was his signaling a willingness for "smarter," but smaller, sanctions on Iraq to hold our Arab allies together. That sparked grumbling from the Dick Cheney-Don Rumsfeld camps. (If this were the Clinton administration, the New York Post headline would read "White House in Chaos - Who's in Charge?")
A less rhetorical question is whether Bush thinks before he speaks. Concerning the President's 3/8/01 contradiction of Powell on N Korea, Friedman quotes Bush:
"We're not certain as to whether or not they're (North Korea) keeping all terms of all agreements." But as the Times reporter David Sanger pointed out, the U.S. has only one agreement with North Korea - the 1994 accord that froze its plutonium processing. And Bush aides admitted there was no evidence that this deal was being violated. Later a White House official, trying to clean up for the president, said Mr. Bush was referring to concerns about whether North Korea would comply with a future deal, even though he didn't use the future tense. "That's how the president speaks," the official said. O.K.
Friedman concludes that if Bush, "is so wedded to his own Star Wars missile shield he doesn't want anything to get in the way, or he is so worried about being accused by Republican hard-liners, as his father was, of being a 'wimp' that he'll never take yes for an answer from the North ‹ then, Houston, we have a problem."
And it appears the revival of Star Wars is the real bottom line in Bush foreign policy - much as drilling for oil in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge is the bottom line in the Administration's policy on environment and energy. Bush needs N. Korea as an enemy, a threatening ROGUE STATE, as a justification for Star Wars. He also needs SADDAM and OSSUMABINLADEN for the same reasons: Highly publicized international bad guys are essential in persuading voters to continuing to support Cold War level military spending. The temptation is irresistable to speculate whether the Bush Administration may resort to covertly provoking terrorist threats as a means of advancing the Star Wars project.