Bush Bombs in Britain

Bush Bombs in Britain

Bush Bombs in Britain

What the foreign papers are saying.
May 3 2001 9:00 PM

Bush Bombs in Britain

"President Bush's missile defence plan has met, at best, muted support in Europe, ill-disguised irritation in Moscow and outright hostility in Beijing," said Britain's Daily Telegraph of the international reaction to Bush's May Day statement that the United States will abandon the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and develop a missile-defense shield.

In Britain, the Guardian called the policy a "historic mistake that will have dangerously negative repercussions worldwide." It said missile defense, "alongside its reduced but still superior offensive systems" would give the United States a "domineering, deeply threatening, global military posture." Looking into a gloomy crystal ball, the editorial prophesied:

June Thomas June Thomas

June Thomas is managing producer of Slate podcasts.

As disproportionate US military strength grows, as the imbalance of forces increases, as new arms races accelerate and as collective anti-proliferation efforts shred, international insecurity is likely to increase exponentially. Nor will the US itself escape this degradation, the very opposite of what it purportedly intends, even as a docile Congress pays through the nose for flash gear of unproven worth. The "hegemonistic" US will become, even more than now, the target of every ideological or religious fanatic and of every terrorist network from Afghanistan and beyond.

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The Independent agreed, taking little comfort in the Bush administration's decision to "discreetly … drop the word 'national' from the phrase National Missile Defense, as a sop to European concerns about the increasingly introverted quality of US defence policy." The editorial complained of the "sour taste" left by Bush's readiness to tear up the ABM treaty, and concluded, "America cannot behave as though it were the only country in the world, happy (as one analyst put it) to 'unleash nuclear anarchy.' "

Across the English Channel, Le Figaro of Paris reported that "some Europeans" judged the missile-defense system "useless and dangerous." Le Temps of Switzerland deduced that Bush had learned from the hostile reaction to his unilateral rejection of the Kyoto protocols, when he announced Tuesday that he would send representatives to key world capitals to discuss the new U.S. policy: "George Bush 'The Polluter,' doesn't also want to be known as 'Bush the Warmonger.' " Nevertheless, the paper suggested the visits and "strokes" won't be enough "to make the administration's policy revolution easy to swallow. It will be a big morsel for America's allies to digest."

In Canada, the Globe and Mail called upon Ottawa to "make it clear that it will not go along with this dangerous, costly and unnecessary scheme." It declared:

No one wants to live forever with the murder-suicide pact known as [mutually assured destruction]. … But it's far from clear that what Mr. Bush proposes would make things any better. In fact, it might make the world a much more dangerous place. A large-scale missile-defence system … would undermine MAD without putting anything in its place. … If Libya is not deterred by the prospect of a massive U.S. nuclear counterattack that would reduce its civilization to dust, it's hard to see how it would be deterred by missile defence.

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The London Times' Moscow correspondent suggested that Russia will continue to defend the ABM treaty so that it can "exact maximum concessions from Washington in exchange for an eventual agreement to rewrite it." It is essential that any cuts in U.S. forces the Bush administration makes to compensate Russia for the scrapping of the treaty be presented as "a concession to Russian strength." Otherwise, "[t]o show the Communists in the Russian Parliament that he is not intimidated by America's tough stance on NMD, Mr Putin may be tempted to threaten to boost his nuclear stockpile."

Le Temps quoted a Chinese official's assessment that building the missile shield is like "drinking poison to quench your thirst," while an op-ed in Hong Kong's South China Morning Post declared missile defense "dangerous for Asia." The piece said that an effective U.S. nuclear monopoly would drive countries such as China and, perhaps, India to develop new kinds of weapon delivery systems. Better, therefore, for Asian stability and prosperity would be a program of economic engagement:

Recent history has shown that the greatest carrot the US can offer potentially hostile countries is trade and investment. North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-il, has demonstrated that his biggest preoccupation at present is developing his wretchedly poor country and opening it to the outside world. … Rather than spending billions of dollars building missile shields that might not even work, the US would be better off engaging with countries such as North Korea and demonstrating to their leaders the benefits that would flow from a co-operative rather than a confrontational relationship.

To be sure, there were some favorable reactions to Bush's speech. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung said there was "no reason to panic." The Daily Telegraph editorial, headlined "Bush on target," declared, "Nato … should be reassured that the new system, unlike that proposed by Mr Clinton, will offer protection to Europe as well as to America itself. If doubts over its practicality can be put at rest, no responsible European government will be in a position lightly to pass up the offer of future protection against the likes of Libya and Iraq." The Times said, "[M]issile defence will be as indispensable a part of the armoury of modern military strategists as the nuclear umbrella was to their elders." The editorial encouraged Britain to embrace the American scheme because "[n]o nation that is serious about defending itself, or projecting power, or even being in the forefront of science, can afford not to be part of it."

Terse verse: A German church will transmit the world's first mobile-phone religious service via text message this afternoon, according to the Guardian. In order to accommodate strict character limits, the service will be relayed in short, snappy phrases. The Rev. Stefan Heinze told the paper: "We're making it as succinct as possible. The Our Father requires 325 characters, but seeing as a text message can only carry up to 160, we've had to paraphrase it." The Guardian also announced the winners of its first text-message poetry contest Thursday. With 7,500 entries transmitted from 4,700 mobile phones, the Larkin-esque "They phone you up, your mum and dad" didn't even make the short-list.