The Unthinkable, by Jonathan Schell
Source D. Ohmans
Date 99/11/03/02:44

The Nation, November 8, 1999



...A recent speech by George W. Bush, the front-runner for the Republican
presidential nomination, is of great importance. In domestic affairs, Bush
has shown that, for reasons of political advantage as well, perhaps, as
conviction, he knows how to distance himself from the radical Republican
right that has taken control of the party in Congress. Just a few weeks ago,
he famously rebuked them for trying to "balance
the budget on the backs of the poor." There is so far no counterpart in
foreign affairs. In a prepared speech given at the Citadel on September
23, he painted a dire picture of the world. It is "a world of terror and
missiles and madmen," he said. He added, "We see the contagious spread of
missile technology and weapons of mass destruction." "This era of American
pre-eminence," he elaborated, "is also an era of car bombers and plutonium
merchants and cyber terrorists and drug cartels and unbalanced dictators."
What solutions did he offer? The value of international treaties went
Rather, it was "American armed forces" that "have an irreplaceable role
in the world." Painting a picture of an earth seemingly at the mercy of
the US military, he called for forces that were deployable anywhere in the
world "in days or weeks rather than months." They must identify targets
by "a variety of means" and "destroy those targets almost immediately, with
an array of weapons." America's Air Force must be able to "strike from
the world with pinpoint accuracy." "Stealthy" ships "packed with long-range
missiles" should be built to "destroy targets from great distances." Weapons
should be built to "protect our network of satellites." Unspecified "diffuse
commitments" and "uncertain missions" would be avoided, and "focused ones"
embraced. But what was needed above all was "homeland defense" against
chemical and nuclear terrorism"--defense to be provided chiefly by "anti-
missile systems, both theater and national." If Russia did not agree, the
United States would unilaterally withdraw from the anti-ballistic missile
treaty in force since 1972. A few weeks later, during the test ban debate
in the Senate, Bush completed the picture by quietly joining his party in
opposing the treaty.

President Clinton and others have, with some justification,
called this emerging Republican view neo-isolationism--a "Fortress America"
policy--but it is in truth something different. It engages the world, but
solely on the basis of unchallengeable force. In this vision, the United
States, impervious to any attack yet itself capable of striking at a
notice anywhere on earth, seems to preside, withdrawn yet omnipotent, over
a world otherwise left to stew in its own anarchy. If there is a role in
it for alliances, negotiations or arms control treaties--not to speak of
the United Nations--it goes unmentioned. It is in the embrace by the
Party of this policy, on which Bush and his Congressional colleagues are
at one, not in the style in which the goals are pursued in the Senate and
elsewhere, that the deepest roots of the defeat of the Comprehensive Test
Ban Treaty lie.

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