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Bush versus his critics

By Jackson Murphy
web posted July 30, 2001

It has been just over six months since George W. Bush was sworn in as the 43rd President and the criticism over his foreign policy has already reached a feverish pitch. In the past few weeks Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), former President Jimmy Carter, and editorials from coast to coast and beyond have tried to paint Bush as an isolationist.

The refusal by Bush to sign on to the Kyoto Protocol aimed at reducing manmade greenhouse gasses, the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), holding up a U.N. meeting on small arms trafficking, refuting the International Criminal Court, and pushing to move beyond the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) have caused many to label the current administration as acting at the very least unilaterally or at the very most acting downright isolationist.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., talks about the first six months of the Bush presidency on July 22 on NBC's 'Meet the Press'
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., talks about the first six months of the Bush presidency on July 22 on NBC's "Meet the Press"

In an interview with USA Today/Gannett Mr. Daschle said, "I think we are isolating ourselves, and in so isolating ourselves, I think we're minimizing ourselves." All this from the man who according to sources sits upon stacks of phone books to give the illusion of his stature and size.

Then came the strong words of criticism from the former President. "I have been disappointed in almost everything he has done, " Carter told the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. He added that the Bush proposal for missile defense was, "technologically ridiculous" and that any changes to the ABM treaty would be a blow to US, "prestige and respect due our country."

The Bush administration has made it clear that the Kyoto protocol is not in America's best interests. It would seriously impede the US economy while giving developing nations such as China a virtual free pass to pollution. Currently only Romania has ratified the treaty and if Bush wants to prove his point about this he should send it back to Congress and watch it go down in flames-it would demonstrate some bipartisanship as the last time the Senate voted on Kyoto it was defeated 95-0.

The desire by Bush and his team to proceed with a missile defense system makes total sense-and it seems to be well on the way to working after this month's successful test. Contrary to Mr. Carter the system is closer to reality than he thinks and Bush wants to move beyond the Cold War mentality of Mutually Assured Destruction. We no longer are living in 1972-there is no Cold War. The strategic climate is different and calls for different thinking-what's isolationist about that?

Bush has shown concern over other agreements, such as the International Criminal Court and the Convention on Small Arms, as they have provisions that run contrary to the US constitution. The Small Arms Convention in particular reveals some of the folly of multilateral agreements. In addition to the implications to domestic law, like the Second Amendment, the real danger was in language that forbids the sale of arms to any non-governmental group including those who may be fighting against genocidal government.

The refusal to sign onto the BWC is not about producing more Germ Warfare, but insuring US top-secret installations stay that way. According to Frank Gaffney, president of the Center for Security Policy, the US already made this mistake once on the Chemical Weapons Convention. "Thanks to that treaty, countries like Iran that are known to have ongoing covert chemical-weapons programs are being a wholly unwarranted clean bill of health," wrote Gaffney in a recent National Review Online column.

The reality is, and many commentators agree, that the comments by the Senate Leader and the Former President are a case of back stabbing pure and simple. They violated long-standing conventions of not criticizing the president while he is representing the nation and that former presidents have not criticized those who come after them.

Richard Haass, the director of policy planning at the State Department, has publicly explained that while the administration is committed to working with allies on many issues the Bush Administration is unwilling to compromise American interests for multilateralism's sake. "What you're going to get from this administration is a la carte multilateralism," Haass told the Associated Press.

Moreover the US continues to play a huge role throughout the world. Ceasefire negotiations in the Middle East, peacekeeping in the Balkans, pushing for more hemispheric and global free trade, and the desire to build a missile defense system are far from being isolationist.

While the US does not seem to be going with the international flow this does not tell the whole truth. The US seems to be the only nation on the planet to take into consideration their own domestic laws and ensure the lifestyles of their citizens. In the race to sign international agreements the US, and Bush specifically, seems to be the only one who takes their implications seriously.

The reason this seems so sudden for the world and the Democrats in particular is that after eight years of Clinton's, "I-feel-your-pain-diplomacy" any move back to a foreign policy based on US interests seems isolationist. ESR

Jackson Murphy is a young independent commentator from Vancouver, Canada writing on domestic and international political issues. He also writes weekly at suite101.com. You can reach him at jacksonmurphy@telus.net.

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