International Papers

America in the Doghouse

A worldwide chorus of outrage greeted the U.S. Senate’s refusal to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, but the Daily Telegraph of London was a rare dissenter. In a rather limp editorial Friday, it described Sen. Richard Lugar, R- Ind., an opponent of the CTBT, as “a scholarly, moderate, highly respected legislator” whose views should be taken seriously. “The instruments for the control of the evil of nuclear proliferation must be effective,” it said. “It is such questions that the Senate vote has rightly raised.” The Telegraph also ran an article by Richard Perle, a former U.S. assistant secretary of defense, attacking British, French, and German leaders for trying to influence the Senate vote through an article in the New York Times. “Why didn’t the Senate congratulate its friends [Blair, Chirac, and Schröder] on their wise and timely counsel?” he asked. “I suspect that one reason is that the Senators have actually read the treaty and understand how deeply flawed it is, how unlikely it is to stop nuclear proliferation or even nuclear testing, and how it has the potential to leave the United States with an unsafe, unreliable nuclear deterrent. … In domestic affairs, no-one would seriously propose that the police and criminals come together and sign agreements under which they accept the same set of restraints on their freedom of action.”

British papers were otherwise unanimous in their condemnation of the Senate. In the liberal Guardian, foreign affairs columnist Martin Woollacott said Republican senators “sent out a dismal message–of American selfishness, American foolishness, and American readiness to put her own safety first, whatever the consequences for the rest of us.” A Times of London editorial said the vote was “a serious blow to America’s political and moral authority” and that the “Senate Republicans, by exploiting the opportunity to inflict a very public defeat on a lame-duck President, have done their country, and their allies, a grave disservice.”

The Independent ran an article jointly authored by Professor Harald Muller, director of the Peace Research Institute in Frankfurt, Germany, and William Walker, professor of international relations at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, who said the vote was “deplorable” and reflected a situation in which “American policy is increasingly being shaped by people with isolationist, or, even worse, a supremacist agenda. They want to expand military programs, weaken international institutions and run the world by flaunting power.” An op-ed piece in the Financial Times said the vote underlined “the extent to which international considerations have been pushed to the fringes of American politics. The broad consensus about US responsibilities in the world has fractured.”

In Paris, Le Monde’s main front-page headline Friday was “America Reopens the Nuclear Arms Race,” and the paper said in an editorial that “in the essential area of nuclear nonproliferation, the United States has set the worst possible example.” It concluded, “The world’s greatest power will from now on be less credible on the international scene.” Le Figaro, in a signed editorial by Pierre Rousselin, used exactly the same phrase as Le Monde when it called the vote “an unprecedented snub”–”un camouflet sans précédent“–to a president of the United States. Bill Clinton’s credibility is now damaged, perhaps irredeemably, as he embarks on his last year at the White House. “French people will easily remember the United States’ virulent campaign against our nuclear tests in the Pacific,” Rousselin wrote. “At that time, in 1996, Bill Clinton defended the CTBT to get himself re-elected. Today, Washington has no lessons to give anybody.” In a report from Washington, Le Figaro told George W. Bush that he is now the candidate of a “blind, reactionary and inward-looking party.” The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung of Germany said the vote was a rejection of security through international cooperation. “That, after the Senate’s decision, is what the Europeans should be thinking about most.”

The Washington correspondent of La Repubblica of Rome put some of the blame on Clinton for not resigning over the Monica Lewinsky crisis. “This terrible defeat, more so for all of us than for the image of America, was exactly what was feared might happen in those days of 1998 when Clinton was forced to admit in public to his own pathetic errors as a man and to his own unforgivable lies as a president, and therefore had to undergo the indignity of a public trial over the Monica affair. … The price for his survival in office has been paid now and been paid by the rest of the world.”

In one of the two nuclear powers on the subcontinent, the Times of India said in an editorial that it is now “absolutely certain” that neither Russia nor China will ratify the CTBT. It said Clinton’s credibility abroad has suffered a very serious setback, not only because of the Senate decision but also because of “the Pakistani military ignoring US advice on restoring the democratic process in their country.”