Obama’s Obsession with Reduction: A Prescription for a Weaker America

John R. Bolton |  Washington Times

The Obama administration recently has launched campaigns advocating its key arms-control initiatives. These public-relations offensives are to support a key treaty being finalized with Russia, the ratification of previously blocked treaties, and the advancement of more arms-control negotiations. Although hitherto overlooked in the media, President Obama’s arms-control priorities are major components of his upcoming foreign policy agenda.

Arms control’s complexities and dense jargon typically have limited its consideration to a cadre of high priests and priestesses, largely hidden from public view. This obscurity has been most unfortunate because the stakes involved in misguided arms-control policy are extraordinarily high. Precisely because of the stakes, the general public should be as fully informed and involved as in any other national security issue.

Much of arms-control theology rests on mistaken premises whose consequences can be highly detrimental to U.S. national security interests. There is real danger, for example, in negotiating numerical weapons ceilings, such as on numbers of nuclear warheads, unrelated to our real strategic needs. Mere numerical targets typically do not reflect the opposing sides’ differing global interests and obligations, their asymmetrical conventional military and intelligence capabilities or their varying economic strengths.

Undeterred by these caveats, however, Mr. Obama will announce imminently a treaty with Russia limiting strategic nuclear weapons. Administration statements (and press leaks) indicate that the new limits on warheads will be below those in the 2002 Treaty of Moscow. There, Russia and America agreed on ceilings of 1,700 to 2,200 operationally deployed strategic nuclear warheads by 2012, with the clear understanding that U.S. warhead holdings would be near the top of that range. The Obama agreement’s new limits are said to be 1,500 to 1,675 warheads, meaning that we will face significant reductions–and well before 2012. Even if Russia falls to the bottom of the new range, its reductions will be small compared to ours.

But the positions of the United States and Russia are not parallel, and roughly equivalent warhead limits impair Washington far more than Moscow. America has global commitments to many allies, from NATO to the Pacific, protected by our nuclear umbrella. The range of threats and dangerous contingencies we face, such as from terrorists and rogue states like North Korea and Iran, is substantially greater and more challenging than what confronts Russia, which essentially has no allies to protect. Squeezing down U.S. force levels is therefore not only a prescription for making America weaker, but for making its allies less safe and less confident in our ability to protect them.

Moreover, the United States is far ahead of Russia in using advanced delivery systems (ballistic and cruise missiles and heavy bombers) to carry conventional payloads. This is a significant element of America’s capacity to meet its far-flung alliance commitments and other vital interests worldwide. Limiting the available numbers of delivery systems for conventional warheads, as the treaty apparently will do, is a massive retreat to outmoded arms-control “counting rules” that overwhelmingly will benefit Russia at the expense of America and its allies. It is as though President Obama’s advisers do not understand how harmful reducing delivery systems will be to the Pentagon’s strategy of increased reliance on conventional rather than nuclear warheads.

Perhaps even more disturbing are press reports that Moscow is still insisting on constraining U.S. missile-defense capabilities. The Obama administration’s seeming unwillingness to flatly reject such constraints represents a dramatic retreat from President George W. Bush’s unqualified determination to create national missile-defense capabilities. Mr. Bush’s decision to withdraw from the badly conceived, outdated Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty of 1972 was a major step forward for America’s defense capabilities and the security of our civilian population. For Mr. Obama to retreat here, even in minor ways, would be a mistake of extraordinary magnitude. If he ultimately unveils a treaty that limits our missile-defense programs, however minutely, that alone would be more than sufficient reason to defeat it in the Senate, whatever its limits on warheads and delivery systems.

The impending U.S.-Russia treaty is only the start of the arms-control renaissance. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. announced last week, for example, that the administration will push to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which was defeated in the Senate in 1999. It hasn’t gotten better with age. Multilateral negotiations over arms in outer space, fissile material production and conventional arms restrictions (which well could be an international effort to limit or proscribe the civilian ownership of guns) are all in line for presidential attention.

The Senate can and should examine each treaty on its individual merits. But the proper criterion for support must be whether any given agreement enhances America’s national security. This is no place for abstract and naive theories or numbers games at the expense of strategy.

Message to Obama: We Will Not Let You Reduce American Sovereignty

John R. Bolton |  Conservative Political Action Committee

These excerpts are taken from a speech given to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., on February 20, 2010, by AEI senior fellow and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John R. Bolton.

On Jan. 20, 2009, Barack Obama was not qualified to be President of the United States. Today, actually 13 months later, Barack Obama is still not qualified to be President of the United States.

Let’s look at where the President derives his foreign policy. First, he doesn’t care that much about foreign and national security policy. It’s not what energizes him when he gets up in morning. . . . That makes him very different from almost every other American President since Franklin Roosevelt, but it’s a fundamental fact. He’d rather talk about restructuring our healthcare system, restructuring our financial system, restructuring our energy system.

The President does not really see the rest of the world as dangerous or threatening to America. He made that clear during the campaign. He’s made it clear in any number of his actions since then. . . .

I believe he sees the inevitability of American decline as a kind of natural phenomenon. And this combination of views: He doesn’t care that much about national security to begin with and he doesn’t think the world is a very threatening place ties directly into the next characteristic:  . . . He brings to the presidency a belief in multilateralism unequaled since Woodrow Wilson.

Listen to what the President said in September at the United Nations: “It is my deeply held belief that in the year 2009 more than any point in human history . . . the interests of nations and peoples are shared. In an era where our destiny is shared, power is no longer a zero-sum game. No one nation can or should try to dominate another nation. No world order that elevates one nation or group or people over another will succeed. No balance of power among nations will hold.”

Now listen to Woodrow Wilson. “The interest of all nations are also are own.” He advocated in WWI “peace without victory” Sounding familiar? President Wilson said “there must be not a balance of power but a community of power. Not organized rivalries but an organized common peace founded on the moral force of the public opinion of the world.”

This fits in with the final defining characteristic of President Obama: He is what I have called the first post-American President. Now let’s be clear: Not un-American. Not anti-American. Post-American. Beyond all that patriotism stuff. I think it’s clear because fundamentally the President doesn’t believe in American exceptionalism. But we’ve believed in the exceptionalism of America right from the founding government.

John Winthrop of the Plymouth Bay Colony said, “We must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill.” Ronald Reagan in his amenable way amended that to say the “shining city on a hill.” . . .

American Exceptionalism

The President was asked on his first trip to Europe if he believed in American exceptionalism and he gave a classic answer. He said in the first third of his answer “Yes, I believe in American exceptionalism.” And in the second two-thirds of his answer he contradicted himself by saying, “Just as I believe the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks in Greek exceptionalism.”

Now there are 192 members of the United Nations. He could have gone on, just as the Ecuadorians believe in Ecuadorian exceptionalism. . . . Just as the Papua New Guineans believe in Papua New Guinean exceptionalism. Obviously, the real answer that he gives is that he doesn’t believe in American exceptionalism . . .

Reagan was all about America. Obama is “we are above that now. We’re not just parochial. We’re not just chauvinistic. We’re not just provincial. We stand for something,” says [Newsweek senior editor] Evan Thomas. “In a way, Obama is standing above the country, above the world. He is sort of God. He’s going to bring all the different sides together.”

Now leaving aside the reference to God, which is a little over the top, even for our establishment media, the description of Obama’s view of himself is I think very much on point. . . . His philosophy represents a pretty deep-seated strain inside the left of the Democratic Party. . . .

Let’s look at some of the specific examples of the failure of the Obama Administration today . . . And let’s start with Iran.

We have seen over the past 13 months in many respects a continuation of the failed Bush Administration policy of believing we could negotiate Iran out of its nuclear weapons program. . . . Iran is well on their way to nuclear weapons. They’re not going to be talked out of that program. Sanctions that are being proposed are not going to be adopted by the UN Security Council. Iran will continue to make progress just as it continues to be the world’s largest financier of terrorism.

And yet the President says . . . that the possibility is still open for Iran to come back to negotiations. If you’re the regime in Iran, if you’re Mahmoud Ahmadinejad working your way toward a nuclear capacity to fulfill your dream of wiping Israel off the face of the map, what conclusion do you draw from an American President who keeps saying “I want to negotiate with you”? The conclusion is you’ve got no difficulty at all.

Obama’s Weakness

In the face of this policy, the president of France, Nicholas Sarkozy has been heard to say several times, “Why is Obama so weak?” Now when the president of France criticizes an American President, you know we’re in trouble. Even where the President takes decisions that I think are sensible, as in the case of increasing our troop levels in Afghanistan and as in recognizing that we need more Pakistani involvement in the struggle against the Taliban. . . he couples it with the promise that he’s going to begin withdrawing American forces by the summer of 2011, conveniently right at the beginning of the 2012 election cycle.

This is another signal to al Qaeda, to the Taliban, to terrorists around the world, that if you just wait long enough, this administration will run out of patience and find something else to do . . . We have a similar problem in Iraq where the President seems wedded to a withdrawal timetable rather than to a continuing assessment of U.S. strategic interest in Iraq. And if people think that you’re going to withdraw pursuant to a timetable, they’re going to let you do it and wait till the American forces have withdrawn. . . .

Let me conclude with the Middle East peace process where 13 months of fruitless effort by the administration have actually left the United States in a weaker position in the Middle East and left Israel more in jeopardy than when we first started. When the U.S. expends its political prestige in a negotiating effort and fails, we do not end in the same position that we started. We end up in a worse position because everyone concludes that we’ve made this effort and couldn’t succeed. That’s exactly what the President did. . . . The efforts in the Arab-Israeli circumstance certainly have complicated America’s national security not just in the Middle East but also around the world.

Now the President has three years left. . . . As difficult as this first year has been, I think there’s worse ahead.

No 1: The President will announce, any day now, a new arms control agreement with Russia that will substantially reduce both our operationally deployed strategic nuclear capabilities and our delivery systems. I think that this is something that will reduce the American deterrent around the world. It will trouble our allies—Japan, Europe, and others who depend on the American nuclear umbrella. I think it’s consistent with the President’s unbelievably naive idea that if we could just get to a world without nuclear weapons, if the U.S. could somehow dispose of its nuclear weapons, Iran and North Korea would give up their nuclear weapons and peace would break out all over.

This treaty that he is negotiating is something that we need to draw a line in the sand over in the Senate when he sends it up and defeat it if we have the chance. Even worse, there are reports that the President in this treaty will agree to limitations on our ability to construct national missile defenses. . . .

But the President isn’t going to stop there. Vice President Biden announced that the administration will resubmit the comprehensive test ban treaty which would prevent us from testing the safety and reliability of our existing nuclear weapons, prevent us from testing to develop new nuclear weapons. This treaty was defeated in the Senate during the Clinton Administration, the first major treaty defeated since Versailles. . . . When that treaty comes to the Senate, it should be defeated again.

Arms-Control Theology

This is an administration that believes in arms control as if it were an element of theology. We’re going to see a fusion material cutoff treaty, a treaty on the prevention of the arms race in outer space, efforts to strengthen . . . the non-proliferation treaty. . . . America’s national security rests on a strong nuclear umbrella, it rests on defenses. We cannot give in on any of these points.

Second major thing coming from the Obama Administration is the continued pursuit of what today is euphemistically called global governance. . . Many of these proposals will result in palpable reductions in American sovereignty and need to be resisted. . . .

We’re going to see more efforts on climate change. The collapse in Copenhagen has not discouraged the advocates. . . The people who support the sort of state controlled, state regulation, and international taxation that were being talked about in Copenhagen would advocate those same policies whether the problem was global warming, global cooling, or the Earth’s temperature wasn’t changing at all. This is a statist agenda that we have to reject.

The threats to American sovereignty are going to come in a variety of other areas. I foresee at some point that the President will find in some way to once again sign the treaty creating the International Criminal Court. . . Again, in the Bush Administration, we took the U.S. signature off that treaty, which was a direct threat to American sovereignty… We obviously can’t stop the President if he resigns the treaty. But if he submits it to the Senate, this is another die-in-the-ditch issue for conservatives. That treaty needs to be defeated by the biggest majority we can make.

The President has made it clear he wants to see a lot more of American foreign policy run through the United Nations system. And he also wants to see the U.S. perceived as more engaged internationally. So there are a lot of treaties out there that have withered for a long time. I think at the appropriate moment, the administration will make another effort to get them ratified by the Senate. . . As Americans, we are capable of passing our own laws on these subjects. . .

International Taxes

One that I know is important is the threat of international taxes. The UN and other international bureaucracies despise the American system where Congress has to appropriate money to pay our assessments and pay expenses to these organizations because Congress is so uncooperative. So they have looked for years to find ways to fund international organizations without having democratically elected representatives make decisions.

Prime Minister Brown of the United Kingdom is proposing an international bank tax. The French are proposing taxes on international airline tickets. The whole point is, banks and airlines don’t pay taxes, you pay taxes and you would on bank transactions and the purchase of these tickets.

It’s a way to get a way of funding whether it’s the climate-change organizations, the International Monetary Fund, the UN itself. These various taxes come in complex guises. They’re often hidden. Whenever anybody identifies, it doesn’t matter what the purpose is, it doesn’t matter how grave the situation . . . once the American people lose the ability to determine where they will be taxed, we have lost the revolution my friends. . . .

What we need to do is keep up the debate for the next three years, not be distracted by other issues. We need a sustained, unremitted effort until 2012 when we can evaluate our presidential candidates based on their ability to defend our national security and our message to President Obama in the meantime should be this: We will not let you reduce American sovereignty. We will not let you make America vulnerable. . .

The American

John R. Bolton |  Conservative Political Action Conference

The United Nations spends far too much of too few countries’ contributions, and it needs to be reformed.

Well, it is a great honor to be here again at CPAC. And I want to thank Dave and Wayne and Michael and everybody up here and everybody who has put this together. The first thing I want to do, though, is thank everybody in this room and the people you represent back in your home states and in your various organizations and, perhaps, many of the people watching tonight. I want to thank you for all of the work that I know so many of you did to try and get me confirmed to be Ambassador to the UN.It was a really–it was a great honor to be nominated by President Bush. But I have to say it was an equal or perhaps even a greater honor to see the kind of support that so many people who had never met me, did not know anything about me but who spent enormous effort with their senators, their congressional delegations, in the mail, in newspaper articles, on the blogs in a whole range of activity to try and help out, and I’m really deeply grateful for that. I’m sorry it did not work out for a lot of reasons. I’m sorry. Your effort was in vain, but I’m very grateful. I just wanted to say thank you as strongly as I can for that.

We are at a difficult time in an administration–the seventh year; the President cannot succeed himself. Sadly, Vice President Cheney has said he is not running for the Republican nomination. The administration’s popularity has been besieged because of the war in Iraq and a variety of different other reasons. And what is happening is an effort by the Liberals in this country, by people on Capitol Hill, the media to try to dispirit us; to try to say that things are so bad in this administration that there is no hope that a Conservative is going to win in 2008, and not only from the electoral point of view but from the policy point of view. They are trying to discredit the policies that we have stood for. They are trying to say that even the Bush administration is giving up on its policies. It is forgotten why he was elected in 2000 and 2004 and that pragmatism is taking over and that all of those things that we believe in and the reason we supported the administration are being overtaken by events. And by the way, that is probably due to the fact they are going to lose the election in 2008, and this horrible interregnum of Conservative rule is going to disappear.

I think it is the responsibility of everybody here, as Vice President Cheney said in his closing remarks, to put the lie to those kinds of comments, to stop this kind of spin and to recognize that the Liberal media is not going to tell us what we think. It is not going to tell us what is respectable to believe. We will tell them, thank you very much. I think it is important for the administration to know that, too, that the people in this room represent the base of support. When the President, as the latest polls says his approval rating is 26 percent, he and the administration, I hope, will remember the people who brought them to this place and to realize that the reporters and editorial writers of papers like The New York Times are not going to improve that 26 percent rating. If anybody is going to do it, it is going to be the people right here tonight.

But I think over the longer term, as well, we are involved in politics not because we seek government jobs, not because we are there for political patronage, not for any of the reasons, the traditional reasons that so many Democrats are involved in politics. We are involved in politics for philosophy and policy. And this is where, I think, the current attack is at its most insidious because the implication of much of the debate we hear in Congress today, and much of the commentary in the media is to try and discredit our ideas and lower our morale, perhaps, even lower than it is now. We need to resist that. We need to turn that around, and we need to remember some of the lessons that we have learned over these particularly difficult past six years, not related to individuals, not related to particular candidates; related to our philosophy.

And in the field of foreign affairs, I think there are several important lessons. The first is that what President Bush did in overthrowing Saddam Hussein was to defend the critical national security interest of the United States. He did this because the regime itself represented a threat to peace and international security. You can argue about what the intelligence showed before the war. You can argue about what level of weapons of mass destruction Saddam actually possessed. You can argue about what happened to him. But the quantity of weapons of mass destruction he possessed before the war was never the real issue. The real issue was that the threat was Saddam Hussein himself and that the decision to eliminate that threat to our security and the peace and security of our friends and allies was the right decision.

Now, there is a lot of debate about what happened after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and historians will pick over it for years, I’m sure, and there is not really even time to get into it tonight. But let us just be clear what the issue is for us right now. The issue for the United States continues to be what is in our national interest. And what is in our national interest in Iraq is that whatever shape the country takes in the future, whether it is one centralized government, a federal system or even three Iraqs, the real issue for the United States and why our troops are there is to prevent any part of that country from becoming a base for terrorists who can later attack the United States or our friends or allies. That is the strategic interest we need to keep in mind. And if there are other countries around the world that do not understand that, I acknowledge we have a burden to try and persuade them. But if we fail to persuade them and they still do not like it, that is just too damn bad.

And that brings me to my next two subjects, the remaining two-thirds of the axis of evil, Iran and North Korea. In many respects, although our headlines and our minds are filled with the struggle in Iraq and Afghanistan, over the long term the success or failure of the United States in preventing Iran and North Korea from acquiring or keeping their nuclear weapons program will be the real determinant whether we have succeeded in securing America into the future. The threat of the proliferation of all weapons of mass destruction, chemical, biological, or nuclear, is real and it is growing. And particularly, the nuclear threats posed by the North Korean and Iranian programs are serious.

Now, we have seen efforts by the Liberals in the media and on the Hill, and, yes, in the permanent bureaucracy of our own federal government to overturn the administration’s policies; to say that North Korea, Kim Jong Il, can be talked out of his nuclear weapons: “Certainly, he is a reasonable person. We will just bargain with Kim Jong Il, and he will voluntarily give his weapons up.” Do we not all believe that? There are people who would believe that.

My judgment is that nuclear weapons for Kim Jong Il are integral to regime survival, and he is not going to give them up voluntarily. What we have to do is apply pressure, apply sanctions as we have been doing, isolate North Korea further and, finally, to achieve the real solution to the North Korean nuclear weapons problem, eliminate the regime in North Korea and reunite the Korean peninsula.

Similarly, when we look to Iran, we have a regime of fanatic mullahs that have been pursuing nuclear weapons for nearly 20 years. The Europeans, to show that they are not like those unilateralist American cowboys, have been trying to negotiate with the Iranians, have been trying to say to them, “You can have a different relationship with us and, potentially, with the United States if you just suspend your uranium enrichment activities and give up the pursuit of nuclear weapons.” With one small exception for nearly four years, the Iranians have been thumbing their noses at the Europeans. And as time has gone by, the Iranians have come closer and closer to a completely indigenous control over the entire nuclear fuel cycle. And when they achieve that, the only limit on when they weaponize their nuclear capacity depends on how much money that they put into it. It is extremely important that President Bush follow through on what he has said, which is that it is unacceptable for Iran to have nuclear weapons.

Now, I do take President Bush to be a man of his word. And I think when he says, “It is unacceptable for Iran to have nuclear weapons,” what he means is, it is unacceptable. And therefore, although we do not look for additional military encounters, it is critical, particularly, that the Iranian government understand that when the president says he never takes the military option off the table, that he is deadly serious because, ultimately, Iran is watching North Korea; North Korea is watching Iran. And a lot of other states that would like to acquire nuclear weapons are watching both of them. And they are particularly watching the United States.

Let’s face it. While we should work with allies and friends like Japan in the case of North Korea and, hopefully, our European allies, particularly, Israel in dealing with Iran, the only country in the world–the only country in the world–that has the capability of stopping Iran and North Korea from getting nuclear weapons is the United States. And let us not have any illusions about it: That is not unilateralism. That is leadership.

And there is another front that I want to close on here that I spent a lot of time on in the last 16 months, and that is the United Nations and what to do about that. You know, this does not look like a United Nations audience, I can tell. We spent a lot of time, and it was a personal priority for President Bush to try and reform the United Nations, to try and repair the damage that the Oil For Food scandal had done, to try and overcome the problems of leadership, or rather, the lack of leadership demonstrated by the then-Secretary General Kofi Annan, who should have been fired for incompetence long ago.

I’m sorry we were not able to reach that decision. But we spent a lot of time and a lot of effort. The President personally spent a lot of time and effort; Secretary Rice was very devoted to the reform effort. We worked on it very hard. We formed coalitions in New York. We lobbied in capitals around the world. And I want to tell you: After all of that effort for reform, we achieved very little. We achieved very little. And I think it is important to be honest about it. I could get up here and tell you what a wonderful job we did. The fact is we achieved very little.

And that brings me to the one thing on the UN that I want to say tonight, the one reform that is critical, the one reform that could drive everything else, the one point it is extremely important to get through to all of our members of Congress and all of our groups that care about UN issues. Those groups are much broader than simply people who are interested in foreign policy. The UN member-states, the secretariats have a yen to get into every issue they can. What you think is domestic policy for the UN bureaucrats and many member-governments is just more room to play; whether it is Second Amendment issues, gun control, abortion rights, the death penalty, global warming, domestic economic policy, international taxation, these are just subjects they love to debate in New York. So everybody, every group represented in this room, even if your main focus is not foreign policy, you have an interest in what happens in the UN system.

This is the central change in the UN that we need. We need to move away from the current system of financing, which, by and large in most UN agencies, is funded through what are called “assessed contributions”; meaning, effectively, “mandatory contributions”. In most UN agencies, the US pays 22 percent of the budget, 27 percent in the case of peace-keeping. It is no surprise when you look at the contributions of other member governments that they have a sense of entitlement that 22 percent American share will always be there.

I will just give you one statistic to show what it is like to deal with this question. There are 192 members of the United Nations; 97 constitute a majority. If you take the 97 members with the lowest assessment and add them all together, the lowest 97 contributing countries contribute less than three-tenths of one percent of the total UN budget; less than three-tenths of one percent. Meaning, the United States contributes approximately 70 times what a majority of UN members contribute. So, is it any wonder? It is fun to spend other people’s money, and it is especially fun to spend our money.

So here is the one-key change, is that we move from a system of assessed contributions to a system of voluntary contributions. We will decide how much money we pay the UN, not them. We will decide how much money. How about that? This is a system that will allow us to pay for what we want and demand that we get what we paid for. How is that for a revolutionary principle? Now, this is going to be an enormous struggle, particularly with the Liberals in this country, but it is a struggle that can drive all of the other reforms before.

And just remember that if somebody says to you, “But the UN system would not work without assessed contributions. Purely voluntary contributions would not give the system enough money,” ask them if they consider assessed contributions a kind of tax. Is that what they mean? Because many of them will simply answer, “Yes,” and that tells you exactly where they stand on the agenda.

So, this is an increase in the freedom quotient. Let’s ask for voluntary contributions to the United Nations. Let’s get tough with the proliferators of weapons of mass destruction. And let’s make sure this room dominates the agenda in 2008.

International Regulation of Tobacco Is Hotly Debated

John R. Bolton |  Earth Times

When American public opinion as a whole becomes aware of the broader implications of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control approach to international regulation, opposition will expand quickly, whatever the results of the November election.

Members of the World Health Organization (WHO) have begun negotiations on a treaty that evokes memories of the 1970s’ New International Economic Order. The proposed “Framework Convention on Tobacco Control” (FCTC), if ever adopted widely, represents a resurgence of the regulatory impulse that almost sent the WHO onto the rocks two decades ago, when Nordic enthusiasts and their Third World supporters proposed international regulation of the pharmaceutical industry.

The contemporary assault on tobacco does not rest so much on the redistributive theories of those earlier efforts as it does on contentions about the adverse effects of tobacco use by humans. Granting the health arguments, however, should not obscure the plain reality that the FCTC is simply the sharp edge of the stick of a broader regulatory impulse that will not even slow down, let alone stop, if the FCTC is adopted.

The real issue here is not tobacco in its many forms, even taking as a given that the proponents’ health concerns are legitimate. The real issue is the legitimacy and appropriateness of attempting to mandate economic and social policy at the international level when there is absolutely no legitimate basis to do so. FCTC proponents say that tobacco is a health problem like the infectious disease threats WHO has faced previously, from polio to AIDS. Since the problem crosses national boundaries, they argue, only a global solution is appropriate.

This is manifestly incorrect. Tobacco use is not infectious in the same way as real diseases or other epidemiological threats. It does not cross national boundaries in flowing streams of water or in the recirculated air of airplanes, and it is not transmitted through intimate or even casual human contact. Decisions to use tobacco, as to engage in almost al economic transactions, however ill-advised, are entirely individual.

Accordingly, the regulation of tobacco–at least in societies with representative governments–is appropriate by popularly elected institutions at the national level, or below that in states with federal systems. Virtually all of the specific measures now under discussion in Geneva can, if citizens and governments so desire, be adopted without any international actions at all.

Restricting tobacco advertising, banning cigarette vending machines, discouraging adolescent smoking, increasing tobacco taxes and all of the other important provisions of the proposed FCTC are eminently suitable to national legislation. The only arguably international issue–preventing cigarette smuggling–is in fact simply a mundane customs issue, which can be easily handled in regular, longstanding customs and diplomatic channels.

Some countries, notably the United States, have a higher respect than others for free speech (even commercial speech), making uniform global regulation impossible in any event. Moreover, the idea currently popular in Geneva that the worldwide harmonization of tobacco taxes is the best way to solve the international smuggling issue can only be explained by a desire to manipulate tax policy, not health policy. But FCTC proponents will hear nothing about variations among countries, or their preferred policies. Indeed, in their most extreme manifestation, some are even proposing that tobacco companies be made liable through international trials for “crimes against humanity.”

In fact, there simply is no warrant for international regulation, other than as an integral part of the larger supranational agenda advocated by many proponents. Almost certainly one part of this larger agenda is the Cromwellian regulatory desire, slumbering but obviously not dead in international organizations. Whether motivated by misguided economic theories or a moralistic desire to “improve” the lives of others, the statist temptation has been rising rapidly to levels above the nation state, especially among members of the European Union.

This flood tide is visible in the increasing number of “competencies” being transferred from the national capitals of European Union members to Brussels, and most visible recently in European Monetary Union. But the European impulse need not infect the rest of the world. If EU members want to regulate tobacco above the national level, contrary to their own professions of fidelity to the principle of subsidiarity, let them do so in Brussels, not Geneva.

Why tobacco, and why now? Not only is the tobacco business perceived as undesirable, but more importantly it is perceived as weak and vulnerable. Tactically, the would-be international regulators have made a brilliant choice by advocating the FCTC, since few analysts outside of the tobacco companies will try to argue substantively against its provisions. If tobacco can be humbled in the WHO, it is a short and easily predictable step back to the heady days of the New International Economic Order, with vast regulatory vistas open once again.

At the WHO, pursuit of the pharmaceutical industry, despite two decades of somnambulance, will commence immediately after tobacco surrenders, and other UN specialized agencies will not be far behind in their respective areas of interest.

The Clinton Administration, in its waning days, has taken a soft and accommodating position on the draft FCTC, thus encouraging those who long to confer governmental power and authority on the WHO and other UN bodies. They should be aware, however, that just as the Carter Administration’s flaccid attitudes in the late 1970s would never have survived intense scrutiny in Congress, so too is the Clinton attitude not universally shared in the US. When American public opinion as a whole becomes aware of the broader implications of the FCTC approach to international regulation, opposition will expand quickly, whatever the results of the November election.

Beijing’s WTO Double-Cross

By John R. Bolton |  The Weekly Standard

The World Trade Organization, inaugurated in 1995, has had a much rockier beginning than anything experienced by its less-structured predecessor, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. A bitter early leadership struggle between developed-country and less-developed-country members of the WTO resulted in an uneasy compromise that satisfied neither side. Then, in Seattle last year, protectionists, environmentalists, and left-wing crazies turned a WTO ministerial meeting into a circus reminiscent of the 1960s.

More seriously, environmental and labor groups are attempting to hijack the free trade mission of the WTO and turn it into another all-purpose international regulatory body, imposing rules and standards on member governments. Not only has this threat not receded, it is on the verge of becoming orthodoxy within the Democratic party, as part of the price Vice President Al Gore may have to pay to consolidate his political base in the fall presidential campaign.

As if all of this weren’t bad enough for free trade generally and the WTO in particular, Beijing has turned the question of Taiwan’s admission into an explosive political issue. Both China and Taiwan have applied for membership in the trade body. Beijing, though it has not directly challenged Taiwan’s entry, is attempting to condition it on Taiwan’s accepting what has long been the position of the People’s Republic of China: that Taiwan is part of “China.” Were Beijing to prevail, it could claim a significant victory in its campaign to assert sovereignty over Taiwan, and would gravely damage the already shaky WTO.

As a trade organization, the WTO is intended to be divorced from political questions. Thus, neither the WTO nor before it GATT required its members to be “states,” but only “customs territories.” Hong Kong, for example, is a WTO member, even though it is indisputably part of the People’s Republic of China. Similarly, Taiwan is on track for admission as a “customs territory,” avoiding the flammable issue of its international political status. This was agreed when the accession process for Taiwan and the People’s Republic began in late 1992. Under that arrangement, the People’s Republic of China was to enter the WTO slightly ahead of Taiwan, which would become a member under the name Chinese Taipei — a full member alongside the PRC and Hong Kong, all of them “customs territories,” with the political issues to be fought out in other arenas.

Officials of the Clinton administration (which opposes Beijing’s ploy out of concern for the Senate vote coming up in September on permanent normal trade relations status for China) profess to believe that “China is going to live up to its commitments” under the 1992 arrangement. Ominously, however, when deputy U.S. trade representative Rita Hayes made this assertion, China’s vice minister of foreign trade, Long Yongtu, responded: “The one China policy is a matter of principle for us.”

In fact, Beijing is trying to advance its overtly political agenda in a nonpolitical forum. This is a familiar tactic in multilateral organizations. The Palestine Liberation Organization has for years attempted to enhance its international status by campaigning for membership in such bodies as the World Health Organization, whose members must be “states.” By so doing, the PLO has hoped to create “facts on the ground” in its negotiations with Israel, and so enhance its bargaining position. Although the PLO has not succeeded (so far), its efforts have disrupted the U.N. system, from whose members the PLO extracted political or other concessions.

Just as there is nothing so unedifying as the sight of health ministers attempting to resolve international political questions, the notion of trade officials negotiating the status of Taiwan is thoroughly unappetizing. Yet it’s easy to see how it can happen. Questions of “nameplates” seem insignificant to trade negotiators, compared with serious matters like agricultural export subsidies (on which, unsurprisingly, the PRC is also now backsliding). Beijing will doubtless offer to “compromise” from its initial political demand, then insist that Taiwan’s unwillingness to give way is the real source of the “problem.” Trade officials will hail the PRC’s “concession” and pressure Taiwan to accept what would otherwise be flatly unacceptable. This is Beijing’s real strategy, and Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Hayes’s enthusiastic embrace of the Chinese view shows that Beijing has carefully measured its marks in the Clinton administration.

But the fundamental point is that it is the PRC’s approach that is illegitimate, not Taiwan’s. It is China that is breaching the non-political nature of the World Trade Organization by inserting this entirely political question, and Taiwan that is defending the WTO’s integrity by resisting. The people being intransigent and uncooperative here are from Beijing, not Taipei. If the United States and others succumb to the PRC’s ploy, not only will Beijing likely succeed against Taipei, but it will also severely damage the WTO’s ability to insulate itself from other extraneous, non-trade issues.

Defending the integrity of the WTO against Beijing’s efforts to politicize it reflects a deep commitment both to the principle of free trade and to the long-term viability of the WTO as an institution. These are legitimate trade issues, on which both proponents and opponents of permanent normal trade relations status for China should be able to agree. When it reconvenes in September, Congress should make it unmistakably clear that China’s efforts to score points off Taiwan are flatly unacceptable. Before voting on China’s trade status, the Senate leadership should have President Clinton obtain from Beijing public, unequivocal statements that it endorses Taiwan’s WTO membership, accepts the 1992 agreement on the accession process, and will abjure any effort whatever to impose political conditions. There should be no compromise on this point.

China Trying to Politicize the WTO

By John R. Bolton |  Tapei Times

The People’s Republic of Chinaistrying to condition Taiwan’s World Trade Organizationentry on accepting the long-standing PRC position that Taiwan is part of “China.”

Beijing has introduced an explosive political issue into the WTO’s consideration of the pending membership applications for China and Taiwan. Although not directly challenging Taiwan’s application, the PRC is now attempting to condition Taiwan’s WTO entry on accepting the long-standing PRC position that Taiwan is part of “China.” If the PRC’s insistence on this seemingly innocuous bit of nomenclature were to prevail, it would mark a significant victory in its campaign to assert sovereignty over Taiwan. Moreover, such a politicization of the WTO could gravely damage this already-shaky new organization.

The WTO is intended to be purely a trade organization, divorced from political questions that should be handled bilaterally or in other international organizations. Trade issues themselves are often intractable, and introducing political or other non-trade issues might bring the entire WTO process to a halt. Thus, neither the WTO nor its predecessor (the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs, GATT) require members to be “states” in international terms, but only “customs territories.” Under this approach, Hong Kong, for example, is a WTO member, even though it is indisputably part of the PRC.

Taiwan is also on track for admissions as a “customs territory,” thus avoiding, for WTO purposes, the flammable issue of Taiwan’s international political status. When the accession process for Taiwan and the PRC was launched in late 1992, all agreed that the underlying political disputes would be put aside, consistent with GATT’s limited focus on trade. Under that arrangement, the PRC was to enter WTO slightly ahead of Taiwan, which would become a member under the name “Chinese Taipei.” At that point, the PRC, Hong Kong and Taiwan would all be full members as “customs territories,” with the still-unresolved political issues to be fought out elsewhere.

The PRC’s interjection of the disruptive political status issue into the WTO admissions process now was obviously carefully calculated in Beijing.

Washington’s first reaction was that the PRC might have endangered it’s quest for Permanent Normal Trade Relations with the US, which is still pending before Congress , awaiting a Senate vote in September, and the Clinton Administration, to avoid unrest in Congress, stated that it opposed the PRC effort. Significantly, however, Deputy US Trade Representative Rita Hayes also said publicly that the 1992 arrangement was still in place, and that “China is going to live up to its commitments,” something that the PRC itself has not yet acknowledged. To the contrary, China’s Deputy Trade Minister, Long Yongtu, responded ominously: “the `one China’ policy is a matter of principle for us.”

In fact, the PRC is trying to advance its political agenda in a non-political forum, rather than directly trying to keep Taiwan out of the WTO (although that might well be the practical consequence). Because the trade negotiators, business interests and lawyers who inhabit the WTO world are relatively isolated from the larger political issues, the stakes will not appear to them as high as they really are. Mere questions of “nameplates” seem insignificant compared to “important” questions like PRC agricultural export subsidies (on which, not coincidentally, the PRC is also now backtracking).

This is a familiar tactic in international organizations. The undisputed master is the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which for years attempted to enhance its international status by campaigning for membership in such bodies as the World Health Organization (WHO), which requires that members must be “states” in international parlance. By so doing, the PLO hoped to create “facts on the ground” in its negotiations with Israel, and enhance its bargaining position. Although the PLO was blocked in its campaign to join the WHO in 1989, for example, its efforts at least briefly created chaos within the UN system, from whose members the PLO hoped to extract political or other concessions, even if it did not achieve the ultimate objective of full membership.

Just as there is nothing so unedifying as the sight of Health Ministers attempting to resolve international political questions, also unappetizing is the notion of trade officials negotiating the status of Taiwan. The PRC will doubtless offer “compromises” on its initial demand and insist that Taiwan’s subsequent unwillingness to give way is the real source of the “problem.” Trade officials, like their health ministry counterparts faced with PLO intransigence, will predictably hail the PRC “concession,” and pressure Taiwan to accept what would otherwise be flatly unacceptable. This is the PRC’s real strategy, and Hayes’ enthusiastic embrace of the Chinese view shows that Beijing has carefully measured its marks in the Clinton Administration.

But the fundamental point is that, as with the PLO, it is the PRC’s approach that is illegitimate, not Taiwan’s. It is China that is breaching the non-political nature of the WTO by inserting this entirely political question, and Taiwan that is defending the WTO’s integrity by resisting. The people being intransigent and uncooperative here are from Beijing, not Taipei. If the US and others succumb to the PRC’s ploy, not only will Beijing likely succeed against Taipei, but it will also have severely damaged the WTO’s ability to withstand pressures to consider other extraneous, non-trade issues, such as labor standards and the environment, to name just two.

Here is where the US Congress must declare unequivocally that the PRC’s maneuver is unacceptable, and that there is no possible compromise on this point. This is a real trade issue, not one of human rights or weapons proliferation, and one that therefore is directly related to PNTR status. Congress should insist, before granting PNTR, that the PRC drop all political objectives in the WTO. It should also insist, in the Clinton Administration’s waning days, that the President himself ensure that US diplomats are not seduced by Chinese “reasonableness,” and not allow the 1992 accession agreement to be subverted.