George Will

WASHINGTON -- President William McKinley, said a fellow Republican, had an ear so close to the ground it was filled with grasshoppers. Democratic presidential candidates, with Iowa and New Hampshire insects swarming in their ears, have honed answers to questions from Democratic primary voters. Now for some different questions:

-- Democrats denounced George W. Bush's ``unilateralism'' long before the Iraq War, partly because of his refusal to seek Senate ratification of the Kyoto Treaty on global warming. The Clinton administration, which negotiated the protocol for two years and signed it in 1998, refused to send it to the Senate, which had voted 95-0 against ratifying anything resembling it. The European Union's environmental commissioner says 13 of the 15 EU members will not meet this year's emissions targets stipulated by the Protocol. Only Britain and Sweden will comply; France, which lectures America about multilateral responsibilities, will not. Europe is failing to limit emissions even though its economy is stagnant, which makes compliance easier. Canada, another of America's moral auditors, is having second thoughts about a climate treaty that does not regulate such developing nations as China and India (more than one-third of the human race in those two nations) because the treaty is an impediment to economic growth. An adviser to President Putin says Russia will not sign the Protocol. Doing so would sap Russia's economic vigor, ending Putin's dreamy goal of doubling Russia's GDP by 2010. So what exactly is distinctively unilateral with Bush's policy regarding Kyoto?

-- Exhibit B for the prosecution of the president's ``unilateralism'' is his wariness of the International Criminal Court, lest it target U.S. military personnel. How does Bush's policy differ from President Clinton's?

-- Exhibit C in the ``unilateralism'' indictment is that Bush withdrew from the 1972 ABM treaty, an agreement with a deceased entity, the Soviet Union, to inhibit development of defenses against things now proliferating -- ballistic missiles. Bush's withdrawal was in complete compliance with the treaty provision for either party to unilaterally conclude that the treaty no longer serves its national interest. Given that since 1972 the world has been transformed, technologically as well as politically, should the treaty have been immortal? And why were Democrats more disturbed than Putin by the withdrawal?

George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
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