Travelling by train, reading the recently published book Why Do People Hate America? , I was confronted by a florid American who said, politely enough: "Excuse me, sir, would you mind telling me why you bought that book?". I panicked, and was glad I had left my other book, Michael Moore's Stupid White Men , in my case. I tried to explain that because one wished to study a phenomenon, it did not mean one necessarily approved of it. I explained that I certainly did not hate Americans. Europeans of my generation (I was born in 1932) are very conscious of the fact that America saved our bacon in two world wars and protected us from possible communist invasion. It seemed to work, as my American interlocutor returned to his seat apparently contented.
The truth is that my affection for "old" America is being increasingly strained by the appalling actions of George W. Bush's administration. As a member of Pugwash, I spend much of my time at international conferences discussing the consequences of America's rightwing lurch towards unilateral policies in foreign affairs. I have to admit, though, that at these conferences the papers that are the most carefully researched, and that expose most vividly the folly of much of America's foreign policy, are almost invariably by American authors. These critics come from numerous well-endowed research and political analyses centres, such as the Monterey Institute, the Stimson Centre and the Carnegie Endowment.
Some two years ago, two such American research organisations, the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research and the Lawyer's Committee on Nuclear Policy, launched a study of US attitudes towards security-related international treaties. The outcome is an outstanding book titled Rule of Power or Rule of Law? An Assessment of US Policies and Actions Regarding Security-Related Treaties . The editors, Nicole Deller, Arjun Makhijani and John Burroughs, acknowledge assistance from various experts on particular treaties.
The treaties covered by the survey include those the US signed and ratified: the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC); those the US has refused to enter into: the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), the Treaty Banning Anti-Personnel Mines (TBAPM), the Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the Kyoto Protocol; and finally a treaty from which the US has unilaterally withdrawn: the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABMT).
The NPT, with its 186 state parties, is the most successful multilateral arms treaty in history. All five of the original nuclear weapon states, the US, the USSR (now Russia), China, the UK and France, are required under the treaty to take positive steps towards the complete destruction of their nuclear weapons. While some nuclear arsenals have been reduced in size, there is no evidence of any serious attempt to abandon nuclear weapons altogether. Most disappointingly, the US Nuclear Posture Review of 2002 made strategic nuclear arms reductions reversible, expanded the use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states and provided for the development of "earth-penetrating" tactical nuclear weapons. All these proposals flew in the face of the NPT.
Another requirement of the NPT is the banning of all nuclear tests and hence conformity with the CTBT. Sadly, in spite of strong support from President Bill Clinton and US public opinion, the US Senate voted in October 1999 to reject ratification of the CTBT. Bush also now appears to oppose the CTBT and will not resubmit the treaty to Congress for a further attempt at ratification. As far as the CWC is concerned, three presidential administrations supported it but again the Congress agreed ratification only after rejecting vital terms of the treaty relating to inspections, which destroyed the purpose of the convention. Something similar has happened with the BWC; this time inspections were objected to because they would reveal America's defence secrets and damage its companies' commercial interests.
This inauspicious litany continues. Although Clinton was the first world leader to call for the "eventual elimination of landmines", he demanded that certain types of anti-personnel mines be permitted. These demands were rejected and hence the US declined to sign the TBAPM treaty. The US signed and ratified the UNFCCC and Clinton signed the Kyoto Protocol, but Bush has rejected the protocol altogether. Concerning the trying of war criminals, the US voted against the Rome statute of the International Court in July 1998, but nevertheless Clinton signed the statute. Bush has said the statute will not be ratified and the US will assume it has no legal obligation arising from Clinton's signature.
President Ronald Reagan's "Star Wars" missile defence experiments cost more than $60 billion but came nowhere near providing an effective system. In spite of this, the Bush administration has launched an expanded missile-defence programme and used this as an excuse to withdraw unilaterally from the long-standing US-Russian ABMT. This is an act of sheer folly in the view of many commentators.
This is an excellent book for expert and layperson alike. It was published before the latest Iraq war, but this is something of an advantage because it provides an uninterrupted insight into the mind and motivations of those responsible for initiating the war.
The title of the book, Rule of Power or Rule of Law? , poses a question. I think recent US behaviour is all to do with the rule of power. Next time an American accosts me on a train, I shall be less accommodating.
Jack Harris, FRS, is vice-chairman of British Pugwash and co-author of a Pugwash briefing on nuclear terrorism.
Rule of Power or Rule of Law?: An Assessment of US Policies and Actions Regarding Security-Related Treaties
Editor - Nicole Deller, Arjun Makhijani and John Burroughs
ISBN - 1 891843 17 6
Publisher - Apex Press, New York www.cipa-apex.org
Price - £15.00
Pages - 2