WASHINGTON--While Washington wasn't looking--distracted by tax cuts,
campaign finance reform and the exquisite spectacle of Jim Jeffords
wrestling his conscience to a draw--the Bush administration gave the nation
a new foreign policy. It is far from fully developed, but it is clear and
carries enormous implications.
After eight years during which foreign policy success was largely
measured by the number of treaties the president could sign and the number
of summits he could attend, we now have an administration willing to assert
American freedom of action and the primacy of American national interests.
Rather than contain American power within a vast web of constraining
international agreements, the new unilateralism seeks to enhance American
power and unashamedly deploy it on behalf of (BEG ITAL)self-defined(END
ITAL) global ends.
Ends such as a defense against ballistic missiles. (We are--most
Americans do not know--entirely defenseless against them today.) Indeed,
the Bush administration's most dramatic demonstration of the new
unilateralism was its pledge to develop missile defenses and thus abolish
the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with the Soviet Union. And the most
flamboyant demonstration of the new unilateralism was Bush's out-of-hand
rejection of the Kyoto protocol on global warming, a refreshing assertion
of unwillingness to be a party to farce, no matter how multilateral.
With ABM and Kyoto, the new unilateralism is earning notice. It began
with a great gnashing of teeth by our allies: Nations that spent the better
part of the last 500 years raping and pillaging vast swaths of the globe
now pronounce themselves distressed at the arrogance of the United States
for refusing, at the height of its power, to play the docile international
The French have charmingly dubbed us not a superpower but a
``hyperpower.'' The newly Democratic Senate is already giving tremulous
voice to similar misgivings about the new unilateralism, though without the
charm. ``I have great concerns about a unilateral decision (on missile
defenses),'' worried Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the top Democrat on the
Senate Armed Services Committee, ``because I believe that it could risk a
second cold war--Cold War II, I call it.''
On Tuesday, Levin and other committee Democrats pilloried Douglas
Feith, President Bush's nominee for undersecretary of defense for policy,
for daring to suggest--as he did in a brilliant legal brief he co-authored
two years ago--that the 1972 ABM Treaty expired when its only other
signatory (the Soviet Union) expired. Another defense nominee, Jack Dyer
Crouch II, was similarly attacked for daring to oppose the Comprehensive
Test Ban Treaty--an unenforceable agreement that the Senate itself voted
down in 1999.
A more measured response came from The Washington Post, which
editorialized that ``unilateralism (is) not an end in itself.'' True. It
only describes (BEG ITAL)how
one will conduct foreign policy.
Nonetheless, how one conducts foreign policy immeasurably affects (BEG
one actually ends up doing.
When you start, as did the Clinton administration, with a
self-declared foreign policy of ``assertive multilateralism''--a moronic
oxymoron that, if it meant anything, meant submerging American will in a
mush of collective decision-making--you have sentenced yourself to either
reacting to events or passing the buck to multilingual committees with
Small countries are condemned to such constraint. Nations like Israel
and Taiwan have almost no freedom of action. Their foreign policy is driven
by destiny, dictated by the single goal of sustaining their own existence.
Even middle powers, like Great Britain and Germany, find foreign policy
largely dictated by necessities of power and geography.
An unprecedentedly dominant United States, however, is in the unique
position of being able to fashion its own foreign policy. After a decade of
Prometheus playing pygmy, the first task of the new administration is
precisely to reassert American freedom of action. That means:
--Cutting our anachronistic offensive nuclear arsenal--a legacy of a
bipolar world that no longer exists--whether or not Russia follows.
--Intervening abroad, not to ``nation-build'' where there is no nation
to be built, but to protect vital interests.
--Shaping our defenses against new enemies--like Iran and Iraq--rather
than, absurdly, against a former enemy, namely Russia.
--Dismissing environmental agreements so bizarrely self-flagellating
that they exclude India (population 1 billion), China (population 1.3
billion) and the rest of the Third World from their pollution restrictions.
For a decade after the Cold War, reactionary liberalism gave us a
foreign policy frozen in the habits and conventions of the dead bipolar
era: foreign policy dominated by treaties, summits, arms control, signing
ceremonies. The time warp is over. The new unilateralism recognizes the
uniqueness of the unipolar world we now inhabit and thus marks the real
beginning of American post-Cold War foreign policy.