Sunday, July 17, 2005

The Paradox Of Unilaterism

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The Paradox of Unilateralism: An Early Assessment of the George W. Bush Approach to Nuclear Arms Control

American national security policy has been rightly characterized as unilateralist since the inauguration of President George W. Bush, and especially since the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001.1 It is important, however, to clarify what unilateralism means in this context.

Rather than being an actual go-it-alone doctrine, unilateralism is practiced when going it alone is known by all to be a real option. For operations such as the British conducted in the Falklands/Malvinas Islands or the Americans in Grenada in the 1980s, literal unilateralism is sufficient and effective for the dominant power. However, in the current environment, with the United States involved in a multi-faceted, long-term effort to establish a favorable world order, foreign policies exhibit a complex mix of unilateralism, bilateralism, and multilateralism. Still, the unilateralist label persists and not without good reason. In some cases, it is the sheer dominance of the U.S. political and war machines that justifies the use of the term unilateral. For example, coalition warfare is the more accurate description of the war for regime change and disarmament in Iraq; however, unrevealed by the concept of coalition warfare is the discrepancy in capabilities and influence among the coalition members. In this case, the coalition is not subject to dissolution by the decision of any member except the United States.

In another indication of American unilateral impulses, there has been a shift emerging for some time in national security policymaking away from the Cold War threat-based perspective and toward a flexible, capabilities-based preparedness against a wide array of known and imaginable threats. This shift derives from the post-bipolar threat environment. In most policy areas the principle underlying contemporary American unilateralism is that national security measures should not be hemmed in by multilateral commitments except under conditions that allow specific and attainable gains. A premium is established on sovereign independence in framing policy options, implementing policies, and if necessary abruptly changing course to adapt to new circumstances.

It should be noted that unilateral foreign policy as currently practiced precludes neither bilateral nor multilateral negotiations, nor even commitments; the ongoing nuclear saga vis-à-vis North Korea testifies to this statement. However, old warnings about entangling alliances are getting a receptive audience in the Bush administration. To return to the case of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the American way of war is to establish rapid and assured domination over the enemy but also over the friendly alliance as well. By this logic, should military engagement proceed beyond the borders of Iraq, the United States would dissolve and/or remake the coalition as required.

Such preferences are illustrated clearly in the Bush administration’s approach to arms control as an element of national security policy. Formally institutionalized arms control and non-proliferation regimes are at best on the periphery of the Bush national security agenda. The record thus far indicates that American policies toward arms control and non-proliferation constitute a microcosm of the changes in national security strategy more broadly. The process by which institutionalized arms control is being replaced by unilateralism and counter-proliferation long predates the Bush administration but has been accelerated in the post-11 September environment. The priority for the president is flexibility in making, changing and implementing decisions affecting American national security. An alternative view would hold that the multilateral regimes disavowed for their constraining quality in reality offer opportunities for international leadership, crisis prevention and the peaceful management of cooperation. Restoring multilateral norms to American national security thinking may not obviate the need for coercive diplomacy or even the use of force. However, losing the diplomatic leverage and deterrent opportunities from the decline of multilateral arms control may leave the United States with fewer choices in reaching national security objectives, not more. In the current environment, implementing national security goals is a task increasingly concentrated in the Defense Department, and in particular in the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD).2 Consequently, counter-proliferation measures applied through military suasion are rapidly replacing non-proliferation policies typically involving regional and multilateral regimes.

Therefore, I take as my starting point Brad Roberts’ lead in his 2000 article, “The Road Ahead for Arms Control.”3 In this work, Roberts envisioned three paths requiring near-term attention: 1) continuing strategic reductions; 2) strengthening of the global treaty regime; and 3) restoring compliance by non-compliant states. In the section that follows, I briefly review the status of strategic arms reduction processes as part of broader changes in the American strategic posture, and of the multilateral nuclear non-proliferation regime in the post-Cold War era up to the Bush inauguration. Following that, I analyze relevant preferences and policies of the Bush administration over its first two years in office, 2001-2003, focusing again on the areas identified by Roberts – strategic reductions, global regimes, and problematic compliance with arms control commitments.

I conclude that failing to exercise leadership in the multilateral regimes dedicated to the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), the options for the United States policy in unilaterally pursuing the same non-proliferation goal are more likely than otherwise to be reduced to military counter-proliferation operations. This leaves few avenues for conflict prevention and crisis management that could be pursued through multilateral channels. Furthermore, unintended and possibly violent consequences of a military-driven policy of arms control can exacerbate existing conflict scenarios, and can indeed further legitimize the use of force – including the use of WMD.

A Brief Survey of Arms Control from the End of the Cold War to the George W. Bush Administration
Strategic Arms Control in the Aftermath of Bipolarity
In the latter half of the 1980s, the United States and the Soviet Union concluded arms control agreements unprecedented in the openness of each side to verification measures. The Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) of 1987 stands out as the first arms control agreement to eliminate an entire class of nuclear-armed missiles, and for its on-site verification measures that were possible only in the rapidly changing strategic environment of the time. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Special Verification Commission (SVC) established by the INF Treaty has grown to a multilateral organization with the addition of the post-Soviet states of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine, each of which possessed nuclear arms in the aftermath of the Soviet collapse. Additionally, in July 1991 the treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (START I) was signed, which included the establishment of the Joint Compliance and Inspection Commission (JCIC). The 1991 START I agreement would reduce the stockpiles of strategic nuclear arms in the United States and Russia to about 6,000 warheads each. The 1992 Lisbon Protocol added Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine to the terms of START I, and the treaty entered into force in 1994 when all signatories deposited their instruments of ratification.

In 1991, President George Bush announced significant unilateral changes that greatly reduced the war-fighting role envisioned for nuclear weapons.4 The decision to remove short-range weapons from American ships and European bases and to “stand down” strategic bombers was taken in an international political context of great systemic change, and was both preceded and followed by arms control treaties with Mikhail Gorbachev’s and Boris Yeltsin’s governments. This context is vital to understanding Bush’s unilateral moves that otherwise would not be seriously considered by superpowers: in those turbulent times, the United States saw the opportunity to make a bold statement about the decaying security environment of the Cold War. The days of Mutual Assured Destruction as the determining factor in strategic stability were numbered. The post-MAD world would be threatened less by superpower standoffs and more by the potential for disaster from declining command and control systems in the collapsing Soviet Union.5

Arms control can provide the legal, political, and technical networks for productive relations in times like this, but only where there is the will to negotiate mutually acceptable terms. President G.H.W. Bush’s unilateral arms reductions would affect political relations with Moscow far more than they would affect military doctrine; rather, the reductions provided a budgetary savings to offer Congress and the people at home and a highly publicized demonstration of good will internationally. The impact of the Bush administration’s willingness to include major unilateral cuts in its nuclear arsenal during a time of great uncertainty is difficult to measure precisely, but surely it was a significant element in achieving strategic arms reductions in the post-Soviet era, given Russian President Gorbachev’s announcement of reciprocal unilateral cuts, and progress toward START II.

Further progress was indeed indicated when START II was signed in one of George Bush’s last acts as president in January 1993, and would have, if implemented, cut the strategic arsenals of the United States and Russia by another 50 percent, to about 3000 to 3500 warheads each. However, the United States would not ratify START II until 1996, and the Russian Duma did not ratify it until 2000. The lapse of time – and the strong conditions put in place by the Russian Duma that linked START II to U.S. behavior vis-à-vis the ABM Treaty – was filled with domestic political instability in Russia and strains between Russia and the United States brought about by such matters as NATO enlargement, the U.S.-led military operations Desert Fox and Allied Force against Iraq and Serbia, respectively, and continued advancement in the United States toward national missile defense in violation of at least the spirit if not the letter of the ABM Treaty.

In the Clinton years, scant progress was made in furthering strategic nuclear reductions. Rather, regarding Russia, the emphasis was on implementing the technical assistance policies under the Nunn-Lugar legislation to ensure the safety of Russian nuclear weapons technology, especially in the START I-mandated warhead dismantlement processes. There was a significant shift in attention toward China and the usual list of “rogue” nations, however, as revealed in Presidential Decision Directive-60, or PDD-60. This document presaged many of the elements of George W. Bush’s Nuclear Posture Review discussed below, although the Bush document takes a more strident tone, for example, by actually naming “rogue” nations seen as threats to American interests. In general, both documents touted a policy of “adaptive planning” with an emphasis on flexibility in targeting decisions that reflects the end of the Cold War single-minded focus on the Soviet threat; in one report a former Clinton official was quoted as saying, “There were no immediate plans on the shelf for target packages [for those countries] to give to bombers or missile crews, but we could produce targeting information for those countries within hours."6

By January 2001, START II remained ratified but had not entered into force, as Russia would not exchange ratification instruments with the United States, the requirement for entry into force. Rather, the Russian Duma, controlled by communists and nationalists attempting to balance against the Russian presidency’s dominant position in government and also hoping to constrain U.S. advancement in missile defense technology, established conditions to which the United States would not agree. To the newly inaugurated George W. Bush administration, moreover, these considerations were exemplary of a relationship mired in the past. Arms control as a means of managing relations with Russia was and is seen as an anachronism, given the drastic political changes in post-Soviet Moscow and the growth in the United States’ wealth accumulation and technological advancements (particularly of a military nature) over the previous decade. Rather, U.S. foreign policy went truly global, for instance, bringing Russia into closer ties with NATO, a process begun under the Clinton administration but delayed by differences over Operation Allied Force, while waging war and establishing a long-term presence in Central Asia in the aftermath of 11 September 2001.

The Long Decline of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Regime
The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) since 1970 has been at the hub of an international regimes network for the control of nuclear weapons technology. States attempting to manage their relations in regard to NPT-relevant issues have worked toward test ban regimes, export control regimes, and regional nuclear weapons free zones, among other confidence- and security-building measures. International commercial relations are also affected by regime commitments, given the treaty’s support for developing peaceful nuclear technology in states agreeing to remain non-nuclear weapons states (NNWS).

However, the nuclear non-proliferation regime has suffered serious setbacks in recent years, certainly predating the Bush inauguration. The celebrated decision in 1995 to indefinitely extend the NPT was followed by challenging times for the regime and its verification agent, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The list of damaging events and decisions between the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference and the January 2001 inauguration of George W. Bush includes:

  • The weakening of the ABM regime of strategic stability, as the United States pursued missile defense research and the Russian Duma tied START II ratification to the preservation of the ABM Treaty;
  • Problems implementing and verifying the Agreed Framework vis-à-vis North Korea, a member of the NPT beginning in 1995 (although extent of these problems were not clear until the North Korean admission of non-compliance in September 2001);
  • The recall of UNSCOM inspectors from Iraq, a member of the NPT, and subsequent escalation of tensions regarding Iraqi WMD proliferation, including the use of force in Operation Desert Fox in December 1998;
  • The Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests – although neither have signed the NPT, the norm of non-proliferation was dealt a strong blow;
  • The failure of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) to garner consent for ratification in the U.S. Senate.
  • A marked lack of progress in the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament, since the 1950s the only multilateral arms control negotiating body, and which in previous years laid the groundwork for the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference.
  • The globalizing black market among state and non-state actors for radiological technology that can be used in fashioning a variety of “dirty bombs” has risen as a threat to the NPT regime.

It is worth mentioning that the multilateral regimes for the prohibition of biological and chemical weapons have not fared much better. The United States did ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) after a long-negotiated agreement between President Clinton and Senate Foreign Relations Chairperson Jesse Helms (R-NC) that also resulted in the abolition of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA). The United States ratified the CWC in time to qualify for membership in the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), though reports on this international organization have emphasized leadership and budgetary struggles more so than mission success. Recent efforts to reach agreement on a verification protocol to the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention were stalled in July 2001 when the Bush administration announced its withdrawal from any further negotiations toward the protocol, which at the time were nearing completion on a final text. This situation remains unresolved.

In sum, multilateral arms control efforts were beginning to fray on many fronts well before the inauguration of George W. Bush. As early as 1993, Roberts expressed concern over “disarray” and declining “efficacy” in the non-proliferation regime.7 Gilles Andreani employed similar characterizations at the turn of the century. His conclusions are worth quoting at length:

Non-proliferation has always been a careful balancing act between international consensus-building, on the one hand, and the development of punitive and defensive options to protect one’s security should non-proliferation fail, on the other. In reviewing American non-proliferation policy throughout the 1990s, one finds convincing signs of a gradual shift from the former to the latter: presentations of the proliferation threat as unamenable to deterrence or political persuasion; a growing appetite for military options designed to counter proliferation once it has occurred; and a distinct skepticism of treaty-based arms control, and especially of international verification.8

By 20 January 2001, the national security role of arms control as traditionally defined by negotiating processes and technical verification regimes was clearly diminished. The Clinton Administration’s balance sheet can be interpreted in many ways, but overall the United States ended the first post-Cold War decade with little progress either in keeping the non-proliferation regime a key ingredient of international security concerns or in replacing it. Meanwhile, bilateral arms control measures vis-à-vis Russia by the turn of the century were mostly concentrated on implementing the Nunn-Lugar assistance policy to ensure the safety of Russian nuclear materials. The effort to restore compliance in Iraq through the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) provided occasional high drama, as with Operation Desert Fox in 1998, and soon after was stalled until its replacement by the ill-fated United Nations Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC).

The Bush Administration and Arms Control
As is often the case, foreign policy-related matters were considerably less a part of the 2000 presidential election cycle than were domestic issues. There were a few strong themes of the Bush campaign, however, that would come to fruition early in the administration. Aside from critical statements regarding the Clinton-Gore administration’s nation-building forays, candidate Bush promoted a broad re-thinking of American nuclear policy, with particular attention given to advancing ballistic missile defenses and to restructuring the nuclear posture of the United States. Indeed, within the first two years of the Bush administration, the United States withdrew from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, redefined the long-standing concept of the strategic triad, and agreed to a bilateral arms reduction treaty with Russia. During the same period, the nuclear non-proliferation regime remained imperiled; the aftermath 2000 NPT Review Conference has been unremarkable, with little to celebrate after the Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests and other countervailing developments, and the 2005 meeting is unlikely to be much different, given the unilateral and militarized counter-proliferation being practiced by the United States in Iraq.

Strategic Nuclear Weapons in George W. Bush’s National Security Policy
The end-of-Cold War policies and agreements forged by the G.H.W. Bush administration demonstrated an understanding that America’s strategic environment was rapidly changing, and indeed that certain bold moves could shape the direction of these changes more favorably, resulting in a less high-profile role for nuclear weapons in American highest-priority relationships. National security policies between the two presidents Bush were dominated domestically by budgetary concerns and internationally by nationalist wars, humanitarian interventions, and an increasingly ad hoc approach to the nuclear proliferation problem. At the international level, the International Atomic Energy Agency did In the 1990s attempt to strengthen the performance of its tasks by demanding more full-scope safeguards in the inspection regimes it negotiates bilaterally with NPT member-states. However, these efforts were overshadowed by the activities of non-compliant NPT members such as Iraq and North Korea, and by non-NPT members India and Pakistan. Thus far in his administration, George W. Bush has elevated a neorealist view of national security above the concern for balanced budgets, and has initiated a broad restructuring of the U.S. nuclear posture. Three developments are essential to understanding this vision of national security: 1) the May 2002 Moscow Treaty, also known as the Strategic Offensive Reduction Treaty (SORT); 2) the May 2002 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR); and 3) the September 2002 release of the U.S. National Security Strategy. The principles underlying these documents comprise the clearest illustrations of the unilateral mindset of foreign policy in the Bush administration. A brief discussion of each will lead to allow me to relate these national strategic principles to international regime ramifications.

The May 2002 Moscow Treaty between the United States and Russia had its origins in President Bush’s November 2001 announcement that the U.S. arsenal of deployed strategic warheads would be reduced from 6,000 to between 1,700 and 2,200 over a ten year period. The policy would not be contingent on Moscow’s decision to act in kind or not. Rather, the cuts were part of a much broader realignment of the U.S. strategic posture in which future possible developments in Russia were taken into account but were in no way the sole driving force behind the restructuring process. As stated earlier, the overall perspective was not focused on identifying a hierarchy of threats and then adapting the national security policy to match, but rather was geared toward ensuring that the United States maintained flexible and asymmetric capabilities in order to deter and defeat any emerging threat, whether national or transnational, regional or global. The revolutionary advancements in both the precision and destructiveness of conventional weaponry provided the opportunity to remove thousands of strategic weapons from active deployment. Furthermore, the Bush administration saw no need for a return to the long, technically detailed treaty negotiations of the Cold War to implement these decisions.9 As one report summarized the view of Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, “Treaties, he said, could be useful for dealing with enemies like the Soviet Union of 1972, but not the Russia of today. In a new era when America’s enemies are less powerful, less obvious but potentially more numerous, treaties might be too formal, too restrictive and take too long to negotiate to address fast-changing threats….”10 The Russian position, however, was driven both by domestic politics and diplomatic custom. Signing a strategic arms reduction treaty with the United States would gain President Vladimir Putin credibility against domestic political forces skeptical of an increasingly open relationship with the United States, especially with the American president traveling to Moscow to sign the accord.

The brief treaty, lacking in any verification measures and requiring only the removal – not the destruction – of nuclear warheads over a 10-year period was signed in May 2002 and the United State Senate voted unanimously in favor of ratifying the treaty in March 2003.11 However, the Russian Duma is once again linking arms control matters to broader U.S.-Russian relations, specifically, postponing a vote on ratification in protest of the United States’ invasion of Iraq. According to one Russian observer, “Not many in Washington will cry if the treaty is never ratified,”12 alluding to the degree to which the unilateral intentions behind Washington’s policy override concern for Russian reciprocation.

In the immediate aftermath of 11 September 2001, the Pentagon released its Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) calling for broad restructuring of military doctrine and structure. Inside the military there was dissatisfaction with both the process and the outcome, as radical change is often seen as threatening to careers and institutionalized habits. In the frenzy following the terrorist attacks, the Rumsfeld Defense staff continued to assess American strategic doctrine, and in May 2002 elements of a new document, the Nuclear Posture Review, were leaked to the press. The NPR picks up from the QDR a reconceptualization of the “strategic triad” away from the menu of deterrent land-based, sea-based and air-based offensive nuclear weapons and toward a more complex mix of offensive and defensive weapons of both nuclear and conventional quality. Deterrence remains at the heart of the American strategic posture, but in the post-Cold War anarchy, “regional powers are developing the capabilities to conduct strategic warfare against the United States.”13 In addition, threats from transnational actors such as al Qaeda create conditions under which contemporary deterrence is not defined against one clearly identifiable aggressor, but more broadly against a wide array of imaginable threats – and known ones: the Bush NPR specifically mentions potential targets of the administration’s ire, stating that Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea and Syria are “among the countries that could be involved in immediate, potential or unexpected contingencies” and also mentioning China and Russia as worthy of sustained attention.14

The three elements of the new strategic triad are: 1) strategic offensive forces, both nuclear and conventional; 2) defensive forces, including ballistic missile defenses across the spectrum from tactical to strategic; and 3) a responsive military infrastructure, with emphasis on rapidly mobile forces empowered by technologically advanced capabilities to respond to a wide range of crisis conditions.15 The contrast with the old ICBM-SLBM-Bomber triad of means to deliver nuclear weapons is clear. The new triad encompasses the military instrument of national security in its totality, including space-based and information technologies, rather than focus only on the deterrent nuclear triad. In general, the new triad is one of a hegemon facing an uncertain world rather than of a superpower facing a peer competitor; the purposes of the new triad are four-fold: to assure Americans and allies of security as well as to dissuade, to deter, and to defeat potential adversaries.16

The NPR has come under criticism, though at least at this early stage (and with doctrines being tested on the ground in Iraq), the criticism is not monolithic – some say the Bush NPR is too radical of a change that will make the proliferation and the use of WMD more likely, not less, while others claim it does not sufficiently alter the U.S. strategic posture. Overall, the nuclear force structure will remain essentially the same, divided between air, land and sea-based arsenals, but the number of operationally deployed warheads will be reduced to by the amounts and on the timeline specified in the Moscow Treaty.17 For my purposes, Sokolsky’s conclusion about likely short-term effects of the NPR is most relevant:

In the near-term, the most serious consequences of the NPR are the diplomatic and geopolitical problems it causes for America’s standing and image in the world, rather than its direct effects on international security and the prospects for war and peace.18

The above quote is from an autumn 2002 publication, and thus did not take into account the fall 2002 release of the United States National Security Strategy and its emphases on preemptive military operations and American hegemony. The U.S. National Security Strategy provides the broadest political context within which the Nuclear Posture Review is infused with meaning.

Required by law since 1986, the U.S. National Security Strategy documents an administration’s vision of the challenges to and goals of American national security policy.

In the mid-1990s, the internationalism of the Clinton presidency was documented in the U.S. National Security Strategy of Engagement and Enlargement. The principles therein promoted activist policies toward the expansion of democratic political systems, and are exemplified by the expansion of the North Atlantic Alliance and the ties of this process to stabilizing the democratic transitions of Eastern European nations. The military operation against Serbia for human rights violations against the Albanian Kosovars illustrated the willingness to implement by force the democratic-expansionist aspects of the strategy; however, Operation Allied Force also revealed a risk-averse foreign policy in the Clinton White House in spite of an increasingly obvious lead in military technology over the allies that has since contributed to strains within the alliance.

The Bush National Security Strategy reflects many of the same values expressed in the Clinton documents regarding the national security value of democratic expansion; for example, the 2002 document proclaims the United States in support of a “balance of power that favors freedom.” In implementing his strategy against Serbia, Clinton established a precedent repeated by Bush in Iraq by initiating military force without an expressed resolution of the United Nations Security Council. Some important differences between the cases, however, are that the 1999 Operation Allied Force was an official NATO operation, however dominated it was by the United States, and received post hoc approval from the United Nations, whereas Operation Iraqi Freedom (like Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan) involved the United States leading an ad hoc coalition of the willing and created a troubling rift among Security Council members. While these and other differences between the military engagements are significant, there is a discernible progression from one to the other, actually from Desert Storm in 1991 to Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 that reveals a continuum among the cases that overcomes their distinctions. The dominant characteristic of this progression is the waning of multilateral norms as an element of American national security policy. In the place of formal multilateral conflict management as institutionalized over the post-World War II era has emerged a process by which each security issue be addressed distinctly, driven by what is perceived as best for American national security. Put another way, the current Bush strategy is for the exact mix of unilateral, bilateral, and multilateral policy making and implementation to be determined on a case-by-case basis and so as to preserve American dominance in the international system. This is clearly illustrated in the war to restore Iraqi compliance with arms control commitments.

Implementing the Bush Strategy in Iraq and Consequences for Multilateral Regimes
The first nine months of the current Bush administration, and specifically of the Rumsfeld Pentagon, were occupied with a proliferation of tasks forces dedicated to assessing the threat-capability environments and recommending ways to transform the American armed forces correspondingly. The terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 occurred as the Quadrennial Defense Review was being completed; while some key elements of the QDR would carry over to future documents, the Bush administration came away from 11 September with a strong determination to take national security reform further than the QDR process allowed. The terrorist attacks were followed within a year by the announcement (or revelation) of U.S. unilateral strategic arms reductions, the Moscow Treaty, the Nuclear Posture Review and the National Security Strategy. Soon after, American and coalition forces were massing in Kuwait and elsewhere in preparation for war, and the prospect of resolving the Iraqi compliance problem through diplomatic means was dissipating rapidly in a Security Council impasse.

In addition to the WMD allegations, Saddam Hussein’s alleged support for international terrorism and his legacy of brutal human rights abuses left President Bush with seemingly no lack of confidence in the appropriateness of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Around the world, however, a vociferous dissent from this view continued throughout the war and is having as of yet indeterminate effects on the ongoing situation in Iraq and on broader international relations. While it is too soon as of this writing to know the international ramifications of the war on Iraq, or if further armed conflict in the region is on the horizon, the war in several ways represents a clear manifestation of the Bush administration’s national security approach.

For example, the war was an application of the National Security Strategy’s expressed (previously implied) allowance for preemptive military action against a perceived adversary suspected of possessing WMD. In addition, the conduct of the war involving unified command over joint forces able to adapt quickly to changing circumstances and to carry out missions with unprecedented precision reflected the logic of military transformation and the new strategic triad as envisioned in the NPR. As succinctly summarized by the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard B. Myers, "When you can adjust your plan across the spectrum of all capable joint forces and focus that firepower, those combined effects, you can realize tremendous results."19

In sum, the national security strategy under the Bush administration has thus far disallowed multilateral norms from constraining sovereign choice, a predilection solidified after 11 September 2001. This has affected what we typically refer to as arms control in two ways.

First, the strategic posture of the United States is no longer subject to international negotiation. The Moscow Treaty does not contradict this assertion given the United States’ pronounced plans to unilaterally implement its terms regardless of whether it is ever ratified; the treaty itself, like its currently stalled status in the Russian Duma, was more a product of Russian President Putin’s domestic situation than it was of international engagement. One question that remains unresolved is whether the current strategic posture heightens, or lessens, the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. foreign policy. On the one hand, the strategic triad that was once a purely nuclear construct now is formulated such that offensive strategic weapons are but one part of one leg of the triad that also includes non-nuclear offensive weapons. This could arguably mean a reduced role for nuclear weapons among a more complex mix of options. On the other hand, there is a greater potential under the Bush strategy for renewed nuclear testing, the production of new nuclear weapons, and discovering specialized usages for nuclear weapons such as to reach reinforced underground facilities.

This uncertainty is a contributing factor to the second arms control impact of contemporary American national security policy: the weakening of multilateral non-proliferation norms and institutions. The continued, and potentially enhanced, reliance on nuclear weapons even if greatly reduced in number does little to enhance confidence in nuclear non-proliferation norms. The same can be said for disarming even a “rogue” state like Iraq by unilateral military action and putting the world on notice that Operation Iraqi Freedom may not be an isolated case. The Bush approach to national security is generally indifferent-to-hostile in regard to multilateral norms and institutions, and so as in other areas of foreign policy, arms control and non-proliferation regimes are assigned value only in accordance to their contribution to American interests in given situations. Formally established diplomatic institutions such as the Conference on Disarmament and the five-year NPT Review Conferences are likewise accorded low priority in U.S. foreign policy. Absent this disdain for multilateralism, the likelihood would be higher that actions such as Operation Iraqi Freedom, if followed by determined leadership in the right forums, could spark a rejuvenation of multilateral regimes and diplomatic resolution to proliferation problems. For example, the United States could work toward strengthening the International Atomic Energy Agency and its inspection regimes for deterring and detecting non-compliance with the NPT, taking full advantage of the technical expertise garnered since the IAEA’s founding in the late 1950s. The key problem with this scenario is that while the United States has embarked upon significant reductions in the nuclear arsenal, and has done so in a way that some argue lessens the country’s reliance on nuclear weapons, it does not appear to be associated with a full disarmament program or even apart of a general denuclearization philosophy, as the United States continues to rely on nuclear weapons for deterrence and maintains a policy of ambiguity regarding nuclear use. Indeed, the potential use of nuclear weapons in response to a chemical or biological weapons attack was clearly indicated in both Clinton’s PDD-60 and in George W. Bush’s Nuclear Policy Review.20 The point is that while significant nuclear reductions can arguably be cited as evidence of a nuclear power conforming to Article VI of the NPT, which calls on nuclear weapon states to work in good faith toward disarmament, it is clear that NPT-inspired disarmament is not the raison d’etre of recent cuts, even if the cuts are interpreted as lessening the chance of nuclear warfare. As former UNSCOM director Richard Butler pointed out in 2001, when Bush once said that “few other nations had nuclear weapons” during the Cold War, there was no credit to nor mention at all of the nuclear non-proliferation regime.21 Crediting multilateral regimes simply does not come easily to this administration. Butler critiques this approach: “The administration’s inclination toward unilateral action has the ring of single-minded dedication to national self-interest, muscularity and determination. That may play well in some reaches of the popular imagination, but it gravely misleads the public by implying that the United States can impose its preference.”22 Given the recent events in Iraq, one wonders if the Bush posture has been misleading after all.

Still, the decline in arms control regimes was not created by Bush administration policies. Rather, as demonstrated in this article, the changing role and status of arms control has long been determined by the evolving U.S. national security strategy. The rhetoric of national security strategy since 11 September 2001 has constituted more of a continuance than a departure from past policy, though in the post-9/11 era the willingness to take risks and the determination to assertively and unilaterally carry out national security policies have grown considerably. Still, important questions arise that cannot at this point be answered: which of the two following possible outcomes, or what combination of them, will result from current unilateral policies regarding the role of nuclear weapons in American national security strategy? Will the war on Iraq and the continued use of coercive diplomacy achieve disarmament results – returning rogue states to compliance with the NPT regime – without resort to military combat, and can this lead to a rejuvenation of the multilateral regime? Or will a policy based on hegemonic preferences and preemptive war be implemented militarily, while the institutions and conventions of non-proliferation continue to whither? And will this in turn legitimize preemptive war, setting a precedent for unilateral counter-proliferation measures by others?

Summary and Conclusions
In 1961, President Kennedy signed legislation creating the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, an independent executive agency established to ensure that for arms control-related considerations were included in the design and implementation of national security policy. The agency was dismantled in 1999, its staff and functions transferred to a State department bureau. The demise of the ACDA was indicative of the diminishing role, indeed, the changing definition of arms control in the post-Cold War era. In addition, the failure of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty membership to prevent or reverse the non-compliance of Iraq, North Korea et al, or to convince non-members such as India and Pakistan that the regime’s benefits outweighed those of the nuclear option, indicated a marked decline in international norms as factors in national security policies worldwide. However, the heightened potential for catastrophic terrorism or interstate war employing nuclear or radiological weapons should alert the U.S. government like never before that these are threats not only to American interests but to international security, to the domestic well-being of all nations and to the relations among them.

Throughout the post-Cold War era the American advancement toward geopolitical hegemony was both sustained and driven by a growing tendency for independent action on the world stage. After 11 September 2001, the Bush administration released its National Security Strategy giving official notice that the United States was now far more prone to take risks and would not recoil from sovereign prerogatives in the name of national security. Broadly characterized as unilateralist, U.S. foreign policy under President Bush is less concerned with international norms than with internationalizing American norms as a means of protecting American interests. Therefore, when the opportunity was perceived as right for overturning a despotic regime while reversing alleged illicit WMD proliferation, the United States led an ad hoc coalition against Iraq. On the other hand, while it is too early to speculate with any confidence on the direction of the North Korean situation, thus far the Bush administration has insisted on a multilateral approach to resolving this crisis, either through the United Nations formally, or through ad hoc negotiations among states with the greatest interest in resolving it.

Far from challenging the unilateralist characterization of American arms control policy, this confirms the assertion that the Bush administration will choose on a case-by-case basis the political and/or military mechanism(s) with which to advance its interests.


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