Wednesday, November 10, 2004

George, what big teeth you have!

By way of response to the`optimistic view’ on Bush's second term

The war on terrorism has been a useful but increasingly irritating distraction for George W. Bush and his neo-conservative friends in the White House but his re-election gives them an opportunity to get back to the really big issues that were obliged to take a back seat during his first term. The biggest of these, from a non-domestic point of view, is the deployment of a National Missile Defence System.

Known amongst the Bush clique as the `Ring of Confidence’ after the long-time Colgate toothpaste slogan, and in the media as `Son of Star Wars’, it is hoped that NMD will allow the US to bare its perfectly polished, if rather large, teeth to the rest of the world with impunity and give it the ability to act more unilaterally than ever before. It is designed to make wannabe nuclear states give up the ghost and those who have already got them wonder why they bothered. It works on the premise that Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles armed with nuclear warheads can be shot down by interceptor missiles relatively early on in their flight.

Of course, the Democrats argued that 9/11 showed that NMD was an irrelevance in the face of the new realities of global terrorism that required robust but multilateral action amongst all nations to combat. But with Al Qa’ida and other like-minded groups now holed up in small enclaves in Afghanistan and Iraq and this achieved, virtually, unilaterally, it will now be possible to re-focus on the real enemy. For the neo-realist theorists of international politics who inhabit Bush’s White House when it comes to the real enemy `it’s other states, stupid’. In fact, like a self-fulfilling prophecy, the War on Iraq, rather than demonstrating the dangers of unilateralism and global terrorism, has merely confirmed to the Bush camp just how traditional in form and just how many enemies there are out there. From Iran to North Korea, to China and Russia and even France and the EU, potential enemies are everywhere frustrating US power projection.

This is all very ironic in the face of post-election opinion poll analysis which suggests that voters voted four-to-one Democrat if they thought Iraq was the most important issue but overwhelmingly for the Republicans if terrorism topped their concerns. Such was the strange dialectic of the presidential campaign. Actually, perhaps not so strange as Bush had successfully, and without scruple, managed to manipulate public opinion in the wake of 9/11 in to supporting his already existing policy of attacking Iraq on the grounds that it supported Al Qa’ida. Bush’s so-called War on Terrorism is a sham and the fact that a January deadline has been set for democratic elections in Iraq, despite the obvious need for a great deal more ground work, shows just how anxious the Bush team are to move on to next business. Witness the criminal assault on Falluhjah born of impatience. This is why the War on Terrorism, whilst initially useful, has now become an irritation preventing triumphalism over the fall of Saddam and making it more difficult for Bush to fulfil his original programme of taking on the increasing number of `rogue states’. This will not however prevent him from trying. The Bush spin-machine now believes it is capable of selling sand to the Arabs. His claim that he wants to unite America will surely prove as hollow as Mrs Thatcher’s promise to bring harmony where there was discord and is far more dependent on a brutal foreign policy to cover up an assault on the vulnerable at home.

Returning to the question of NMD, the doctrine of nuclear deterrence with all the myriad treaties and institutions that go along with it was, in its own way, as physical a structure to emerge during the Cold War as the Berlin Wall used to be. When first elected Bush vowed to tear this institution down just as comprehensively as the wall had been. He declared NMD to be `an important opportunity for the world to re-think the unthinkable, and to find new ways to keep the peace’. Bush was announcing America’s intention to escape the constraints of this institution with its financial and politico-military constraints and go it alone. America no longer wanted alliances only followers. It would no longer accept other states placing limitations on its right or ability to act. It had won the Cold War and it wanted to realise that victory in the fullest possible way. Democrats, by clinging on to outdated institutions were preventing this from happening.

NMD immediately puts in to doubt the validity of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and its verification system designed to prevent cheating, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the Anti Ballistic Missile Treaty, the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaties and a host of separate agreements between the US and Russia designed to prevent proliferation and to help manage decommissioning. It jeopardises by-product agreements on chemical and biological weapons which prevent their being substituted for nuclear weapons but more importantly in reintroduces the inability of even allies to trust each other into the international system. Bush is determined to reshape the international order to America’s, or more precisely the neo-conservative’s, taste and NMD, in his second term, will play a much bigger propaganda and instrumental role in realising this end than it did in his first.

When Bush and Blair first met they discussed NMD behind closed doors and when asked what he thought he had in common with the British Prime Minister, Bush cryptically replied that they both used Colgate toothpaste. An agreement, we later found out, had been struck to incorporate the RAF Fylingdales Base into proposals for planned NMD system. Little did we know at the time that that agreement went much, much further and allowed for the stationing of US interceptor missiles on British soil. Not only do they use the same toothpaste, it appears, but they share the same tooth brush as well.

Those who expect a more moderate Bush in his second term are living more through hope than experience and I think it is safe to predict increasing global conflict from this belligerent President.


Post a Comment

<< Home