A Majority of One

· Aug 8, 2001 Tweet

At the recent summit on the Kyoto Accord in Bonn,
Germany, the United States was not an official
Participant. Nonetheless, perhaps per force of habit,
a U.S. representative was in attendance, and at one
point rose to address the delegates on the Bush
administration’s approach to global warming. She was,
in no uncertain terms, booed off the stage. It was a
small incident, but one that represents a larger trend
of resentment toward a recent U.S. foreign policy that
seems to follow the “eight hundred pound guerilla”
pattern of selectively sleeping wherever it pleases.

Of late, the United States has pulled away from a
number of international accords and negotiations which
had been previously supported under the Clinton
administration. The most high-profile of these recent
schisms have been the unilateral U.S. position on
creating a missile defense shield, in violation of the
1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and the
renunciation of the 1997 Kyoto Treaty on greenhouse
gasses. However, the Bush administration has also
pulled away from or scuttled a panoply of other
agreements. Among these have been the International
Criminal Court, supported by 138 nations but dismissed
by Bush as “flawed”, the U.N. Conference on Small
Arms, designed to reduce illegal trafficking in
weapons, and the U.N. Accord to Enforce the 1972
Biological Weapons Convention, which the
administration claimed “would put national security
and confidential business information at risk.”

During President Bush’s recent tour of Europe,
Senate Majority Leader Dick Gephardt accused the Bush
administration of being isolationist. It is difficult
to argue that the United States does not involve
itself extensively in international affairs. In this
light it cannot be called isolationist. It simply
involves itself on its own terms, often without
feeling the need to consult its neighbors or strategic

If there is a pattern to the continual refusal to
participate in international treaties regulating
everything from landmines to global warming, it is an
apparent hesitance to place any fetters whatsoever on
the United States itself. In a world in which the U.S.
is the sole remaining superpower, this has remained
possible, with no visible repercussions other than
grumbling among foreign diplomats. It would be
foolish, however, to assume that the U.S. will forever
remain capable of maintaining hegemony against a
rapidly evolving economic and strategic background.

With the increasing economic strength of areas such
as China and previously unheard-of levels of
cooperation in new partnerships like the European
Union, the U.S. may eventually find itself merely one
of several competing monoliths. This will not occur in
the next ten years, and perhaps not in the next
twenty, but history makes it seem unlikely that the
twenty-first century will end with power resting
precisely as it did at the beginning.
Unilateral foreign policy may have its appeals, and
even, on occasion, its merits, yet cumilatively the
United States must remain a participant in global
affairs by dint of more than simply its military and
economic might.


This article was published Aug 8, 2001 at 12:00 am and last updated Aug 8, 2001 at 12:00 am


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