Rogue Nations and WMD: Hiroshima and Nagasaki Remembered

The Bush administration has finally laid out a formal strategy document on combating weapons of mass destruction. It has recently issued a reminder of its policy that warns any nation using weapons of mass destruction against the United States or its allies that it will face massive retaliation, perhaps with nuclear weapons. An official says the policy statement is part of President Bush’s effort to deal with threats from “rogue nations” and terrorists alike. By rehabilitating the term rogue to describe states Washington considers beyond the pale of the “civilized” political community, President Bush has brought the “Rogue Nations” phrase back into global fashion.

In March this year the British Defense Secretary had also declared in a similar fashion that Britain was ready to use nuclear weapons against any “rogue nation” that attacked Britain or its troops with weapons of mass destruction. The defense secretary’s comments as part of the committee’s inquiry into U.S. plans to build a defense system against a ballistic missile attack came as Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government prepared to face Parliament’s first emergency debate in nine years, to defend its decision to send troops to fight in Afghanistan.

The “National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction,” a six-page document released by the White House in December, is a joint report from National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge. The strategy is comprised of three “pillars:” 1) counter proliferation, which includes deterrence with the threat of nuclear weapons; 2) nonproliferation, which encourages arms control and reduction; 3) and consequence management, which seeks to prepare the United States in the event of an attack using weapons of mass destruction. The Bush administration has decided that, to properly defend the nation against attacks by rogue nations, it was vital that the U.S. withdrew from a number of international agreements limiting its capacity to create and trade in armaments. Among these were:

  • U.S.-Russia Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty: Bans national missile defense systems and restrains most systems for weaponizing space.
  • START: Russian and American nuclear weapons. Mr. Bush has indicated he favors reduction in nuclear warheads, but shows a preference for voluntary unilateral rather than legally binding agreed cuts.
  • Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty: Bans all types of nuclear explosions in any environment. It needs the ratification of the U.S. and 43 other named states. So far, 161 states have signed it, including the U.S., and 79 signatory have ratified it. Of the named states necessary for the treaty to come into force, 31 have ratified, but not the United States.
  • Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention: Bans development, production, stockpiling, acquisition, transfer, or retention of all biological weapons and mandates their destruction. The U.S. has announced it is not prepared to continue negotiations to create a compliance and inspection regime.
  • Small Arms Program of Action is not a treaty but a statement of principles and an action plan for almost 200 nations. The U.S. position is highly conservative on areas such as domestic civilian possession of small arms and criteria for exports that might limit national security initiatives–areas where action was supported by a strong majority of other delegations. The U.S. did agree in the end, but only after it got its way on these and other issues, thus rendering the program, again, fairly toothless
  • Ottawa Landmines Convention: Bans production and transfer of anti-personnel mines and mandates destruction of existing stocks. At present, it has 133 signatories, of which 118 have ratified the treaty. The U.S. has neither signed nor ratified.

For years now, there has been a lot of talk in the media, especially in the United States, about “rogue nations” or “rogue states.” In his 2002 State of the Union Address, President George W. Bush referred to an “axis of evil” that consists of Iran, Iraq, and North Korea. Previously, and until the dissolution of the USSR, President Reagan’s administration coined the term “Evil Empire” to refer to the Soviet Union. In fact, the concept of Rogue States has become a geopolitical and psychological substitute for the Soviet Union. With all this noise about bad countries, there is a persistent reference to America as the “greatest” and the “best” country.

But, what, exactly, is a rogue nation? The Merriam-Webster American Collegiate dictionary defines rogue as: “vicious and destructive; isolated and dangerous or uncontrollable.” The United States is arguing that it has the right, whatever the rest of us might agree, to possess the power to force less-well-armed countries to do its bidding with the mere threat of biological or nuclear weapons, to own and trade in the means of destruction of populations on a scale never before seen on earth.

Is it likely that 6 billion people are wrong and the Americans are right? With such an attitude, it will not be of any surprise that Americans are the targets of terrorists. America needs to do a lot of homework. The single most important part of that homework is to listen to its own people at home, thousands of whom are attending rallies to protest the culture of war and culture of gun. The second most important part would be to listen to the intellectual voices in American society who are echoing the fault lines in the American political, military, and international policies. If America wants rest of the world to go with her, the American administration will have to stop considering itself the ultimate arbiter of good and evil. The U.S. has triumphed over the philosophy of Communism; it will surely win its global war against terrorism but it will be difficult to combat the increasing anti-Americanism the world over if the U.S. continues to have the attitude of an all-powerful, isolated Superpower ready to strike and destroy as it did in Nagasaki and Hiroshima.