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David Miller Online: Go Forth America!

As soon as George W. Bush entered the White House twelve months ago, he declared that the United States would go ahead with plans to build the controversial Theatre Missile Defence System. Even then there was concern that this would mean that the United States would abandon the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty that it signed with the Soviet Union. The fear now is that this will spark a new arms race based on 21st Century technology. Whether the world likes it or not, the United States is determined to follow this course and the events on September 11 have given impetus for this change in policy. Whether the world likes it or not, the United States finally is flexing its muscles.

In announcing its withdrawal from the treaty, the Bush Administration adopted a predictable line. As expected the rhetoric was based on the notion that the Soviet Union was no longer in existence and Russia no longer posed a threat. President Bush claimed, “the 1972 ABM treaty was signed by the United States and the Soviet Union at a much different time, in a vastly different world. One of the signatories, the Soviet Union, no longer exists. And neither does the hostility that once led both our countries to keep thousands of nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert, pointed at each other. The grim theory was that neither side would launch a nuclear attack because it knew the other would respond, thereby destroying both”.

It is not surprising that September 11 featured prominently in the President’s speech. Mr Bush argued that, “today, as the events of September the 11th made all too clear, the greatest threats to both our countries come not from each other, or other big powers in the world, but from terrorists who strike without warning, or rogue states who seek weapons of mass destruction. We know that the terrorists, and some of those who support them, seek the ability to deliver death and destruction to our doorstep via missile. And we must have the freedom and the flexibility to develop effective defences against those attacks. Defending the American people is my highest priority as Commander in Chief, and I cannot and will not allow the United States to remain in a treaty that prevents us from developing effective defences”.

The United States government has come under severe criticism for its withdrawal from the treaty. Russia, China, members of the European Union have all spoken out against the move and people in this country have spoken out claiming that the United States is moving towards a position of global military dominance and a position where it can retaliate against any state it feels threatens its security or harbours international terrorists. The belief is that this move by Washington could push other states, such as China, into developing bigger arsenals and this could be more dangerous than the Cold War of the last century.

Whether we like or not, this is what is happening. States such as China, India and Japan are developing their armed forces and have been doing so for the past two decades. Already the “nuclear club” has grown from its original five members and there is now the scenario that terrorist movements such as al-Qaeda will develop them as well. Given that this low level threat exists and on an ever-growing scale, the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Treaty starts to look like a relic of the Cold War with little relevance in the 21st Century.

It is for this reason why I am prepared to argue in favour of the United States adopting a uni-lateral approach to its own security and finally having the courage to use its military and technological superiority to its own advantage. The world today is a far more dangerous and unstable place than it was 15 or 20 years ago and the number of threats it poses has multiplied dramatically. The international system is no longer one based on the rivalry of two powers and the ever present threat of inter state warfare, but one where there are many actors, some non-state and where even the smallest of groups, the most geographically isolated of countries has the potential to inflict massive damage and loss of life. The threat that the US and the West faces is one from states, such as those in South Asia and the Middle East developing nuclear weapons and the threat is from these countries and not Russia.

Those who rally against the move and against the US actively countering those who seek to confront would do well to develop an understanding of the international political and security system in the new millennium. “Fluidity’, “Insecurity” and “Proliferation” are words that have become increasingly common within International Relations and with good reason. It is not the biggest state on earth that is your biggest concern, it is the smallest group with the fanaticism and the will to inflict massive casualties upon you and if necessary die in the process. It is this enemy that caused September 11 and it this enemy that will be the threat of the 21st Century. So Go Forth America.

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