Farewell to Arms Control

By Gaffney, Frank J., Jr. | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), October 16, 2001 | Go to article overview

Farewell to Arms Control


Gaffney, Frank J., Jr., The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Byline: Frank J. Gaffney Jr.

In all the millions of words that have been spoken and written in recent days about the threats of bio-terrorism and chemical weapons attacks, two have been curiously absent: Arms control. This is particularly striking since international agreements are in place that purport to ban completely the development, production and stockpiling of all biological and chemical weapons.

The complete - and predicted - failure of the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) and the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) to prevent the frightening threats we now face may have something of a silver lining, however, provided the United States now makes a significant course correction. Specifically, we must promptly bring to an end the era in which inherently unverifiable agreements, forged with countries that systematically fail to honor their commitments, are fatuously made pillars of our national security.

To his credit, George W. Bush had made important strides in this direction even before Sept. 11. Earlier this year, he declined to join a very costly, yet utterly ineffectual, protocol to the Biological Weapons Convention on the grounds that it would not actually make that unworkable accord more verifiable. Although foreign governments, former Clinton administration officials and media elites endlessly cited this decision as evidence of what they consider to be President Bush's deplorable "unilateralism" in foreign policy, he was right to reject the BWC Protocol.

Its proposed on-site inspection regime would have compromised the intellectual property of legitimate and cutting-edge American biotech and pharmaceutical firms - without assuring the ability to prove Russian or Iraqi noncompliance, let alone what Osama bin Laden is doing with biological weapons.

Interestingly, the BWC Verification Protocol was largely modeled after a similar arrangement crafted during the administration of Mr. Bush's father, as part of "41's" idee fixe about "banning chemical weapons from the face of the earth." It is regrettable that none of those who drafted or subsequently championed the Chemical Weapons Convention have had the good grace to acknowledge the validity of its many critics in the U.S. Senate and elsewhere: Any country and/or subnational group that wishes to have chemical weapons can have them without fear of being detected, let alone punished, pursuant to the CWC.

Another fatally flawed arms control agreement will be in the news this week as President Bush meets with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in Shanghai, China. Fortunately, the former has already put the latter on notice: Mr. Bush is determined to use this bilateral meeting to clear the way for the development and prompt deployment of U.S. missile defenses by ending the obstacles imposed to such work by the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty.

President Bush has recently been informed of an immediate example of this problem. The Pentagon has advised him that, due to the constraints of the ABM Treaty, sea-based radars aboard Aegis fleet air defense ships cannot be used to monitor the next test of a ground-based anti-missile system.

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