Arms Control Hypocrisy is the Real Threat to Security
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John Bolton was in Israel last week doing his job, fighting the spread of
weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Bolton is the U.S. Undersecretary of State
for Arms Control. But the way he was doing his job is enough to make you laugh
-- and cry.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told Bolton that after the U.S. demolishes
Iraq, it had better to move on to Iran. Not to worry, Bolton replied. Iran is
high on the Bush administration's to-do list. So is Syria. When it comes to the
danger of WMD in the Middle East, the U.S. and Israeli governments are on the
The joke, of course, is that only one nation in the Middle East has a massive
arsenal of WMD: Israel itself. Secretary Bolton was polite enough not to mention
that embarrassing fact. It would have been so rude to his hosts.
Bolton also stopped off to see Israel's Foreign Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
Perhaps Bolton took along his special advisor, David Wurmser. It would have been
a nice reunion, since Wurmser was once an advisor to Netanyahu. In 1996, Wurmser
co-authored a report for Netanyahu: "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for
Securing the Realm." The chief author, Richard Perle, and another
co-author, Douglas Feith, are now high-ranking Pentagon officials.
In that report, Perle, Wurmser and company laid out a truly messianic vision.
Israel can gain political control of the entire Middle East, they said. The key
is to contain "and perhaps roll back" Syria, by surrounding it with an
Israeli-led alliance including Turkey, Jordan, and Iraq. How to get Iraq into
the alliance? Simple. Use "the principle of preemption," get rid of
Saddam Hussein, and put a Hashemite king (from the family that rules Jordan) on
the throne in Baghdad. Meanwhile, Israel would also use Iraq's Shiites to weaken
the power of Iran.
But how to get the U.S. public to support such a plan? We are now seeing the
answer. Scare the public with claims that Iraq's WMD pose a vital threat to our
national security. Then follow Sharon's advice and link Iraq with Iran in the
"axis of evil." Bolton's comments revealed the next and crucial step:
"discover" that Syria also has a WMD program aimed at the U.S.
heartland. That will put Syria in the "axis" too. Once again, it will
be pre-emptive "regime change" time.
Once Israel has friendly governments in place throughout the Middle East, it
won't have anyone to threaten with its WMD. Then Bolton can claim a great
achievement in non-proliferation. This is not to say that Washington is taking
orders from Jerusalem. It's largely the other way around. He who pays the piper
calls the tune, and Washington pays Jerusalem plenty.
But Bolton's remarks in Israel have a much wider implication than U.S. - Israel
relations. With Bolton and Wurmser running our anti-proliferation program, it is
perfectly clear that the Bush administration sees nothing intrinsically wrong
with nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. They are not out to stop the
spread of these weapons. They just want to make sure that only the "good
guys," like the U.S. and Israel (and Britain, France, India, etc.), have
WMD. There are good WMD and bad WMD, good arms and bad arms. Bolton is
Undersecretary of State for Bad Arms Control.
How do you tell the difference between good arms and bad arms? Tom Friedman, the
liberal-pundit-in-chief at the New York Times, spelled it out recently in his
usual reader-friendly way. The globe is now "divided between the World of
Order and the World of Disorder," Friedman wrote. The World of Order
includes the U.S., the E.U., Russia, India and China, along with all the smaller
powers around them. The World of Disorder comprises "failed states,"
"rogue states" (the "axis of evil"), and "messy
states," like Pakistan, Colombia, Indonesia, and "many Arab and
African states," along with free-lance terrorists and criminals.
How times have changed. Now Russia and China are orderly "good guys."
That means their WMD arsenals are good arms too. They got that way by linking
their economic fortunes to the multinational corporate capitalist system. They
take their economic marching orders from the G-7. As long as there is no
imminent likelihood that they'll slip out of that system into Disorder, they get
to remain "good guys" with good arms.
John Bolton and Richard Perle apparently see it the same way. Bolton told the
Israelis that Syria would get a chance to prove it was behaving "in a way
worthy of the international community." Perle told an interviewer: "I
hope Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will consider reforms. Otherwise he may
say to himself, "'I could be the second target.'"
Now the Syrians have a choice to make. They can sign up, line up, play the U.S.
imperial game, and magically transform their bad WMD into good WMD. Or they can
refuse, keep their WMD bad, and await pre-emptive "regime change." All
those other failed, rogue, and messy states in the World of Disorder face the
Dividing the world into orderly "good guys" and disorderly "bad
guys" is an age-old habit. The first
immigrants on these shores brought that habit with them from England in
the 17th century, and white Americans have been doing it ever since.
Now, though, WMD technology makes it just too dangerous. The hypocrisy of
non-proliferation and arms control, Bush-style, is as clear as the Texas sky,
everywhere in the world except here in the U.S. Killing thousands of Iraqis to
"disarm Saddam" will only make the hypocrisy more obvious and stir
more anti-American indignation around the world. That will drive even more
people into what our political elites, liberal and conservative alike, call the
World of Disorder.
Some of those "disordered" people will have weapons of mass
destruction. As long as hypocrisy rules U.S. policy, they will see no good
reason to give them up. Why should they? If this is our chosen path to homeland
security, the World of Order will soon be the World of Plastic Sheeting and Duct
Ira Chernus is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado
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