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Jewish World Review June 11, 2001/ 21 Sivan, 5761

Charles Krauthammer

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The New Unilateralism -- WHILE Washington wasn't looking -- distracted by tax cuts, campaign finance reform and the exquisite spectacle of Jim Jeffords wrestling his conscience to a draw -- the Bush administration gave the nation a new foreign policy. It is far from fully developed, but it is clear and carries enormous implications.

After eight years during which foreign policy success was largely measured by the number of treaties the president could sign and the number of summits he could attend, we now have an administration willing to assert American freedom of action and the primacy of American national interests. Rather than contain American power within a vast web of constraining international agreements, the new unilateralism seeks to strengthen American power and unashamedly deploy it on behalf of self-defined global ends.

Ends such as a defense against ballistic missiles. (We are -- most Americans do not know -- entirely defenseless against them today.) Indeed, the Bush administration's most dramatic demonstration of the new unilateralism was its pledge to develop missile defenses and thus abolish the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with the Soviet Union. And the most flamboyant demonstration of the new unilateralism was Bush's out-of-hand rejection of the Kyoto protocol on global warming, a refreshing assertion of unwillingness to be a party to farce, no matter how multilateral.

With ABM and Kyoto, the new unilateralism is earning notice. It began with a great gnashing of teeth by our allies: Nations that spent the better part of the last 500 years raping and pillaging vast swaths of the globe now pronounce themselves distressed at the arrogance of the United States for refusing, at the height of its power, to play the docile international citizen.

The French have charmingly dubbed us not a superpower but a "hyperpower." The newly Democratic Senate is already giving tremulous voice to similar misgivings about the new unilateralism, though without the charm. "I have great concerns about a unilateral decision [on missile defenses]," worried Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, "because I believe that it could risk a second cold war -- Cold War II, I call it."

On Tuesday, Levin and other committee Democrats pilloried Douglas Feith, President Bush's nominee for undersecretary of defense for policy, for daring to suggest -- as he did in a brilliant legal brief he co-authored two years ago -- that the 1972 ABM treaty expired when its only other signatory (the Soviet Union) expired. Another defense nominee, Jack Dyer Crouch II, was similarly attacked for daring to oppose the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty -- an unenforceable agreement that the Senate itself voted down in 1999.

A more measured response came from The Post, which editorialized that "unilateralism [is] not an end in itself." True. It only describes how one will conduct foreign policy. Nonetheless, how one conducts foreign policy immeasurably affects what one ends up doing.

When you start, as did the Clinton administration, with a self-declared foreign policy of "assertive multilateralism" -- a moronic oxymoron that, if it meant anything, meant submerging American will in a mush of collective decision-making -- you have sentenced yourself to reacting to events or passing the buck to multilingual committees with fancy acronyms.

Small countries are condemned to such constraint. Nations like Israel and Taiwan have almost no freedom of action. Their foreign policy is driven by destiny, dictated by the single goal of sustaining their own existence. Even middle powers, such as Great Britain and Germany, find foreign policy largely dictated by necessities of power and geography.

An unprecedentedly dominant United States, however, is in the unique position of being able to fashion its own foreign policy. After a decade of Prometheus playing pygmy, the first task of the new administration is precisely to reassert American freedom of action. That means:

Cutting our anachronistic offensive nuclear arsenal -- a legacy of a bipolar world that no longer exists -- whether or not Russia follows.

Intervening abroad, not to "nation-build" where there is no nation to be built but to protect vital interests.

Shaping our defenses against new enemies -- like Iran and Iraq -- rather than, absurdly, against a former enemy, namely Russia.

Dismissing environmental agreements so bizarrely self-flagellating that they exclude India (population 1 billion), China (population 1.3 billion) and the rest of the Third World from their pollution restrictions.

For a decade after the Cold War, reactionary liberalism gave us a foreign policy frozen in the habits and conventions of the dead bipolar era: foreign policy dominated by treaties, summits, arms control, signing ceremonies.

The time warp is over.

The new unilateralism recognizes the uniqueness of the unipolar world we now inhabit and thus marks the real beginning of American post-Cold War foreign policy.

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