Defense First: The National-Security Team Is Devoted to Dismantling the Failed Defense Policies That Came Back to Haunt America on Sept. 11. (Cover Story)

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President George W. Bush is on the brink of a stunning new accomplishment in defense of the nation. Bit by bit, senior administration figures tell INSIGHT, he is dismantling what they say he regards as a failed and discredited system of treaties, arms-control processes and official cover, ups that have hog-tied the United States for decades while allowing adversaries and rogue regimes to develop, proliferate and deploy weapons of mass destruction. Presidential insiders say Bush believes a decade of morally corrupt winks and nods at proliferators and state sponsors of terrorism helped make possible the carnage of Sept. 11.

Never again, Bush says. No more slaps on the wrist. No more looking the other way. No more haggling over endless negotiations or cramming for artificial deadlines, knowing all the while that the bad guys will lie and cheat and that the State Department will help conceal their embarrassment.

Even before Sept. 11, members of Bush's national-security team blamed the antique arms-control process for preventing the United States from defending itself against emerging missile threats, while rewarding Russia and China as they sold biological-, chemical -- and nuclear-weapons technology -- and the missiles to deliver them -- to terrorist regimes.

Incredibly, Bush's lieutenants are finding what one source calls "rank insubordination" within the State Department and elsewhere. INSIGHT has learned that some U.S. officials opposed to the new policy have collaborated with foreign governments to embarrass, discredit and undermine the president's own representatives and thereby prevent his policies from being implemented, even after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

In a meeting with two American Christian missionaries freed from Taliban imprisonment in Afghanistan, Bush equated terrorists and proliferators: "If anybody harbors a terrorist, they're a terrorist. If they fund a terrorist, they're a terrorist. If they house terrorists, they're terrorists. I mean, I can't make it any more clear to other nations around the world. If they develop weapons of mass destruction that will be used to terrorize nations, they will be held accountable."

The president was echoing the words of his senior adviser for arms control and nonproliferation, Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton. In a Nov. 19 speech to an international Biological Weapons Convention meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, Bolton said the United States is "concerned about the potential use of biological weapons by terrorist groups and states that support them." He told amazed delegates, "I plan to name names. Prior to Sept. 11, some would have avoided this approach. The world has changed, however, and so must our business-as-usual approach."

Bolton rattled off the list: Iraq, North Korea, Iran, Libya, Syria and the Sudan. "There are other states I could have named which the United States will be contacting privately concerning our belief that they are pursuing an offensive BW [biological-weapons] program," he said in a frank pronouncement. Administration sources tell INSIGHT that those countries include Russia and China, which are a "central element" to the supply of rogue and terrorist regimes. Because of the complex and far-reaching relationships the United States has with Moscow and Beijing, officials say, the administration is not ready to single them out. At least, not yet.

That was too much for some of the assembled international diplomats and for U.S. government officials. INSIGHT has learned that a fourth-echelon arms-control doyenne has leaked internal policy material to foreign governments in the hope that they would protest and thus force Secretary of State Colin Powell pre-emptively to kill the president's new, assertive policies. That is how easily Clinton holdovers and other arms-control apostles feel Powell can be manipulated.

Bush now has assembled a national-security team devoted to overturning the establishment idea that the nation's safety is best ensured by pieces of paper, endless diplomatic talks, artificial deadlines and multilateral handholding. …