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The fall of the Iron curtain in the 1990’s brought a close to a chapter in history that brought the world to the brink of global nuclear-armed conflict. However, at the dawn of the 21st century President George W. Bush’s administration is poised to reopen that chapter by pursuing a unilateral defense posture that will only serve to modernize and expand current nuclear war fighting capabilities and break the taboo of nuclear non-use.
This paper will argue that the failure of the United States to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) as well as the pursuit of a National Missile Defense (NMD) will lock the United States back into its Cold War security dilemma in which striving to increase security breeds more insecurity. CTBT Since the 1950s, opposition to nuclear testing has been spurred by concerns over its health and environmental effects and by testing being one of the more visible signs of the nuclear arms race.
Most recently, in 1995-1996, massive worldwide criticism of French nuclear tests in the South Pacific, caused France to curtail its test program. Public opposition and the dangers of an arms race fueled by nuclear testing have lead governments to try to limit and stop nuclear testing for over 40 years. However, in 1999 the United States Senate refused to implement the CTBT, which would have put an end to nuclear weapons testing and development. The United States failure to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty guarantees a future end to the ten-year moratorium on testing.
The events of September 11th and the subsequent war on terrorism have the Bush administration searching for new options on the battlefield. Recently the administration began studying options for the development and production of a small, low-yield nuclear weapon called a “bunker-buster” which would burrow into the ground to destroy buried hideaways of “rogue” leaders like Saddam Hussein or Osama Bin Laden. This pursuit not only guarantees no chance of the CTBT ever coming into law in the US but it also guarantees the breakdown in the firewall between conventional warfare and nuclear warfare.
Using nuclear weapons in conventional warfare guarantees the escalation of conflict that would spiral out of control and only serve to hurt future arms reductions negotiations. The development of low yield nuclear weapons is also likely to spur a new arms race between the US and Russia because of an increased reliance on tactical nuclear weapons, in which the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction is no longer employed as deterrence but as procedure.
1 Therefore the United States effort to increase its security by developing weapons to defeat terrorists would only serve to escalate its own insecurity and showcase US military paranoia. The failure of the US to ratify the CTBT also makes it less likely that other states will enter into the treaty. Pakistan and India, known nuclear states that are the most likely to start a nuclear confrontation have long been waiting to see what the US is going to do on CTBT before they take a stance. The effect of the US ratifying the CTBT would be the equivalent of saying “Gentlemen, start your engines.
“2 Every government in the world that is considering the treaty would race to get the treaty to enter into force. If those countries were to continue on their current course of nuclear development it is likely that the Bush administration would have to uphold its doctrine that it is using against Iraq in order to prevent the spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction to terrorist organizations. Ratification of the CTBT would not only halt US weapons development at its current state but it would also help pave the way for eventual disarmament.
The ratification of the CTBT would also help undermine the current security dilemma the United States is locked in to. NMD NMD first appeared under President Reagan in the early 1980s. It was popularly known as “Star Wars” because it was intended to be a space-based system for the reconnaissance and prompt in-flight destruction of long-range missiles fired at the US3. However, due to its complexity and cost, the Star Wars system was never built. However, anti-missile systems continue to be explored, as for example the Exo-Atmospheric Kill Vehicle developed under President Clinton.
4 NMD represents an attempt to ensure that the US is forever safe from any kind of attack, especially from irrational rogue states armed with long-range missiles. It shows clearly that an interdependent world and globalisation bring with them a sense of insecurity. This sense of insecurity could be said to verge on paranoia, considering the disparity of forces between rogue states and the US. Indeed, as ‘there’ is brought here, every threat is magnified under the lens of Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites and must be hedged against.
Echoing President Clinton, British Prime Minister Tony Blair argued that in an interdependent world, extensive multilateralism was the only choice that could lead to true security from multiple, global threats. 5 However, President Bush seems to have chosen the opposite path by seeking to protect the US unilaterally, resulting in the logic of the Cold War arms race. NMD in particular, as it is a space-based defense system, seems particularly vulnerable to the logic of the arms race. Indeed, today only one in eight active orbiting satellites belong to the US military.
6 This proportion is set to decrease, as launching satellites into space continues to become more and more affordable to companies and smaller countries. Therefore, in the unilateralist logic, space-based weapons will also become increasingly available to possible enemies, presenting a new threat to US security that must be overcome by ever more expensive technological fixes. Furthermore, since “i?? la carte multilateralism” undermines the ABM Treaty, the arms race perspective becomes even more likely, as it “contains the most explicit protections of satellites on the books.
“7 The ABM Treaty effectively blocked the development of anti-missile defense systems,8 thus ensuring that any country launching a missile attack would be unable to defend itself from a retaliatory strike. Were this treaty to disappear, aggressive acts towards satellites, most probably by present or future rogue states, would only become more likely – a self-fulfilling prophecy. This logic serves only to reiterate the fact that “The basis of security is that it never works for just one. You have to have security for everyone or it fails. “9.
That entering the arms race logic is the result of paranoia rather than realism is shown by the fact that the widening access to satellites to both businesses and countries could equally be seen as reinforcing the US’s dominant position. Indeed, because of the US’s undoubted technological advantage, it has developed many of the technologies which have become commonplace. For example, the Australian army relies on the American GPS system,10 and it is further woven into the fabric of daily life by being used “by navigators in the world’s airlines and ships – and even in ordinary people’s boats and cars.
“11 Thus it is possible to say that the GPS system is universal and is no longer being tied to any particular territory. A more liberal approach than that taken by the Bush administration would suggest that overall, this diminishes the likelihood of an attack upon the satellites. Indeed “By sharing GPS, no one feels so threatened to compete with it,” and because of its widespread use “any country that damaged it would provoke a global fury. “12 US insecurity is further demonstrated by frequent inversions of its actual military posture. Hence, the US is often represented as a weak military nation, despite its crushing military superiority.
For example, Condoleeza Rice, President Bush’s national security advisor, claimed during President Clinton’s tenure that US soldiers had been turned into social workers, and that the armed forces as a whole were as weak as in 1940. 13 The current Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld spoke of the “increasing vulnerability of the US,” and evoked images of a space-based “Pearl Harbor” early on in President Bush’s tenure. 14 This constant fear of vulnerability is mirrored in academic circles. Kagan states that “the defense budget needs to be increased rapidly, by as much as $50-100 billion per year.
“15 As a budgetary recommendation, this figure seems fanciful, considering the combination of a slowing US economy, the $1. 35 trillion tax cut promoted by President Bush and the difficulty of pushing a far more modest budget increase through Congress this past budgetary session. However unrealistic, it does serve to reflect the condition of institutionalised paranoia. Insecurity is clearly shown when the US, by far the world’s leading military power in terms of budget, technology, logistics and training, is portrayed as being highly vulnerable to “people such as Osama Bin Laden,”16 the alleged terrorist.
Rather, the US is creating the conditions of its own insecurity. Indeed, the combination of “i?? la carte multilateralism,” dreams of ‘Full Spectrum Dominance’ and the idiosyncratic branding of certain states as rogues can only serve to antagonize friends and foes alike. Rather than defusing possible threats at the source, President Bush’s policies seem more likely to provoke attack. Of course, any attack would be taken as a justification of these policies, feeding into a vicious circle of insecurity resolved through the deification of technology and the abandonment of the human contact represented by treaty negotiation.
In Der Derian’s words, President Bush symbolizes the leader who has “given up on peace on earth and now [seeks] peace of mind through the worship of new techno-deities. “17 Rumsfeld’s drive to reform the military on the basis of NMD and other space-based technologies implies “deep and risky reductions in conventional forces, such as cuts in the number of Army divisions, Navy aircraft carriers and Air Force fighter wings. “18 This further reinforces the fact that techno-strategy is supplanting humanity in security considerations.
The search for unilateral absolute security, especially through technology and unilateralism, is a form of the necessarily doomed search for “a single power or sovereign truth that can dispel or control the insecurities, indeterminacies, and ambiguities that make up international relations. “19 The negative consequences of “smart warfare” are one instance of the risks of President Bush’s logic. It is clear that if the United States continues to pursue it’s misguided foreign policy the world will soon witness a new wave of arms races and decreased securitization.
Only by pursuing confidence building, regime oriented measures can the United States help avert the next Cold War. Ratification of the CTBT and ending the pursuit of a National Missile Defense seem to be the first steps in the process toward paving the way into the 21st century. The United States can either sit back a not take on its role as a champion of the free world or it can take a proactive stance in stomping out the possibility of a renewed arms race and break out of its Cold War security dilemma.
1 Alexander, B. and Millar, A. (www. fourthfreedom. org/php/print. php? hinc=DefenseNewstnw. hinc) July 11, 2001 2 Kuchta, A. Dickinson Journal of International Law “A Closer Look: The US Senate’s Failure to Ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty,” 19 Dick. J. Int’l L. 333. 3 http://www. nuclearfiles. org/chron/80/1980s. html 4 http://www. msnbc. com/news/845497. asp? 0cv=TB10 5 Blair, T. , ‘Doctrine of the International Community,’ speech delivered in Chicago, 23 April, 1999, http://www. number-10.gov. uk.