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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 65, July - August 2002

Albright, Biden Slam Bush Foreign Policy Priorities

In a commencement address at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, on May 19, former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright launched a stinging attack on the current administration's approach to a range of foreign policy issues - an approach she described as plagued by "untreated bipolar disorder" and providing regular, disturbing evidence of a "split personality". Albright argued:

"I am often asked whether I support the foreign policy of the current administration. In most respects, the answer is yes. ... I know they are dealing with some very hard problems. And as reluctant as they may be to admit that Bill Clinton did anything right, there are actually many areas of continuity. At the same time, there are days when I have to ask, 'Exactly which administration are we talking about?' Because on some important issues, the Bush foreign policy team seems to be suffering from untreated bipolar disorder. They talk about the importance of our alliances in Europe and Asia and then fail to employ our alliances on matters of mutual security concern. ... They warn about the dangers posed by ballistic missiles, but needlessly delayed negotiations with North Korea on how to reduce that very threat. They talk about the importance of the rule of law, but seem allergic to treaties designed to strengthen the rule of law in areas such as money laundering, biological weapons, crimes against humanity, and the environment."

On May 21, Joseph Biden, Democratic Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, vented his frustration at one aspect of the Bush administration's contradictory approach to international security: the appointment or nomination of senior arms control officials with a track record in opposing a wide array of arms control agreements. Biden - speaking at a nomination hearing for Stephen Rademacher (proposed as Assistant Secretary for Arms Control), Paul DeSutter (Assistant Secretary for Verification and Compliance) and Michael Guhin (chief negotiator, with rank of Ambassador, on fissile materials) - commented:

"If a person accepts an arms control position, we do not expect that person to be dedicated to doing away with arms control... [This] may sound crazy, but there are some in this city...who think arms control is bad policy. We expect a person in one of these positions we're discussing today to take a broad view of our national security interest and to judge arms control in that context. But we do not expect that person to set out to destroy arms control... We do expect these officials to advance the concerns of arms control, verification and compliance, and a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, both abroad and, equally important, within the administration and the Department of State."

Accustomed to such criticism, administration officials insist they value arms control agreements and initiatives as a potentially valuable ingredient in the mix of non-proliferation strategy. On April 19, for example, Assistant Secretary of State for Non-Proliferation John Wolf insisted:

"A myth has grown up over the last two years that this is a unilateralist administration. The facts belie that. The Non-Proliferation Treaty remains the bedrock of our non-proliferation policy. We want more active enforcement of the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological Weapons Convention. We are working in a whole host of multilateral export control regimes. We seek early signature of an international Code of Conduct against the spread of ballistic missiles. We are working bilaterally with our friends to try to halt the spread of technologies and components that would aid the development of weapons of mass destruction. But let me be clear - we are prepared to act unilaterally to defend our interests when they are directly threatened."

Reports: Text - State dept. official cites US non-proliferation challenges, Washington File, April 19; Commencement speech by Madeleine K. Albright at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, Medford, MA on Sunday, May 19, 2002, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy (http://fletcher.tufts.edu); Albright blasts Bush foreign policy, Associated Press, May 20; Congressional Report, May 21 - Bush arms control nominees advance, Washington File, May 21.

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