TCS Daily


ABM: RIP

By Nick Schulz - December 13, 2001 12:00 AM

The United States has announced its withdrawal from the ABM Treaty. Its about time.

The treaty had been, for several years now, a serious impediment to American national security. It is a clich to call it a relic of the Cold War, but that is indeed what it was. The treaty assumed a global geopolitical situation in which two countries, the United States and the Soviet Union, stood athwart one another as rivals and competitors, locked in an implacably hostile relationship, as the White House put it Thursday. That world no longer exists.

Moreover, the understanding of the treaty had become so garbled by arms control lawyers after decades of interpretation and reinterpretation that no one could truly claim to understand fully what the treaty allowed and what it prohibited. These lawyerly interpretations were designed to assume under the treatys purview every technological development and advance over three decades. This had a stultifying effect on the development of technologies designed to defend America and American allies and interests. Even this year the Pentagon had to suspend missile defense tests because it wasnt certain that the tests it had designed would be in violation of the treaty.

Interestingly, the White House specifically mentioned China by name in its statement announcing the withdrawal. This is important for two reasons.

First, it sends a signal to the Chinese that the United States action should in no way be construed as blithely ignoring the concerns of a Chinese government that has expressed reservations about the U.S. opting out of the treaty. The White House went so far as to address this issue directly by saying We stand ready to continue our active dialogue with allies, China, and other interested states on all issues associated with strategic stability and how we can best cooperate to meet the threats of the 21st century. In other words, it would be a mistake to interpret a U.S. withdrawal as a withdrawal from being actively involved on the world stage.

That said, China has also been put on notice. The relationship between the United States and China is continuing to evolve. It should no longer be construed as the chummy and warm strategic partnership that it was under the previous administration.

Communist China remains a brutal and oppressive regime, one that is the rising power in the Far East. It has made it clear that its interest is in supplanting the United States as the dominant power in the western Pacific. While that may be in Chinas interest, it is not in the interest of the United States or U.S. allies such as Taiwan. Nor is it in the interest of regional stability. The fact that concerns over Chinas reaction to a U.S. withdrawal did not prevent President Bush from acting offers proof positive that business with China is not business as usual.
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