It appears increasingly likely that the most important and enduring legacy of the Bush-Cheney administrations will be the destruction of the international nuclear-weapons proliferation-prevention regime as it existed at the end of the second Clinton-Gore administration.
Which is ironic, since President Clinton had hoped to make his legacy the elimination of nuclear-weapons altogether, getting every nation including India, Pakistan and Israel to become a signatory to (a) the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and (b) the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
You see, it was a Clinton-Gore article of faith that the 21st Century would see the end of the nation-state. Believing that, Clinton-Gore proceeded to hand over to the United Nations the presumptive world government for the 21st Century every semi-international problem that arose, including gun control and women’s reproductive rights.
The NPT was viewed then and now by other signatories as having three “pillars”
- a promise by the NPT nuke-states to eventually dispose of nukes
- an affirmation of the inalienable right of all other NPT states to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy “without discrimination”
- a mechanism for verifying that nuclear energy was not being diverted from peaceful to military purposes
The NPT required those signatories not yet having nukes to negotiate a Safeguards Agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency an existing United Nations agency already charged with facilitating the widest possible international transfer of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes for the “exclusive purpose” of “verifying” that certain proscribed materials were not “diverted” to a military purpose.
Understand that [a] arms-control, [b] non-proliferation and [c] disarmament are three very different animals. Especially when it comes to nukes.
Most of those treaties you heard about during the Cold War SALT, START, ABM, whatever were arms-control agreements, which placed limitations on the numbers of certain kinds of arms each side could have.
However, there is this Article VI of the NPT that says something about the "declared" nuke states agreeing to someday seriously consider getting rid of all our nukes, too.
So, soon after taking office, President Clinton began to pledge at UN Conference after UN Conference that he would comply with Article VI, then, rather than someday.
Now, before he became president, North Korea had threatened to withdraw from the NPT.
So, the Clinton-negotiated Agreed Framework of 1994, under which North Korea agreed to not only remain a NPT-signatory, but to “freeze” its plutonium-producing reactors and related facilities and to “eventually dismantle these reactors and related facilities,” all subject to IAEA oversight, of course.
In September 1993, Clinton called for a multilateral convention banning the production of fissile materials for use in nuclear weapons, and in March 1995 the Conference on Disarmament established a committee to begin drafting such a treaty.
Next, at the 1995 NPT Review Conference Clinton got all signatories to agree to its indefinite extension.
At the 40th General Conference of the IAEA in 1997, Director General Hans Blix announced the U.S.-IAEA-Russia Trilateral Agreement, hyped as an important step towards the U.S. and Russia meeting NPT nuke “disarmament obligations.” Each side would dispose of under the watchful eyes of IAEA inspectors 34 tons of weapons-grade plutonium, recovered from thousands of dismantled U.S. and Soviet nukes.
Clinton hoped to get every nation-state on earth to sign the CTBT, the enforcement of which would be entrusted to the UN.
The basic idea (since full-scale tests of new nuke designs were generally considered absolutely necessary) was that without testing, nation-states such as Pakistan which had not then tested its nuke designs could never develop nuke stockpiles. Neither could nation-states such as India which had tested some of its nuke designs upgrade their designs or test actual nukes.
Although President Clinton told Congress that our weapons labs could maintain the integrity of our stockpile without testing, the rest of the world was led to believe that without full-scale testing the reliability of existing nuke stock-piles would soon be so suspect, that all nuke nation-states would soon be effectively disarmed.
(Perhaps that was the reason India tested a few of its nuke designs in 1998 and Pakistan did the same a few weeks later.)
Then, Clinton approved the "action agenda" of the 2000 NPT Review Conference calling for "systematic and progressive efforts" to implement the NPT disarmament requirement.
Of course, Bill Clinton was not adverse to killing tens of thousands of women and children from 20,000 feet just so long as few, if any, Americans were put at risk to effect regime change in accordance with the expressed desires of various groups of his supporters, including Likudniks, eco-wackos, and religious-human-animal rights activists.
However, Bush-Cheney entered office realizing that the only rationale most Americans would accept for forcibly effecting regime change in Iraq, Iran, Syria and North Korea which might put at risk more than a few of our servicemen would be for those regimes actually having nukes and a willingness to supply them to terrorists.
Then came the second attempt by the Islamic jihadists this time armed with box-cutters to bring down the World Trade Center Twin Towers.
What to do? Make it a federal crime to buy, sell or have possession of a box-cutter?
No; the obvious thing for Bush-Cheney to do was deliberately set out to discredit even destroy the NPT-associated nuke proliferation-prevention regime with which Iraq, Iran, Syria and North Korea were in total compliance.
In fact, Bush-Cheney came in with an "ABC" agenda; anything but Clinton. Above all they repudiated the Clinton-Gore "globalist" end-of-the-nationstate philosophy, vowing, instead, to establish an American Hegemony.
As a result, who, today, is the most ardent foe of the "inalienable" right of all NPT-signatories to the use of atomic energy without discrimination for peaceful purposes?
And who, today, is the most ardent advocate of those rights?
So, will Obama-Biden pursue a "globalist" end of the nation-state agenda or continue the pursuit of an American Hegemony? And, either way, what justification will be used either from 20,000 feet or on the ground for regime change, here and abroad?