Commentary from ...
|September 7, 2000|
Clinton's No- Go Decision On NMD Hailed By Overseas Media As 'Wise Move'
Consistent with the foreign media's resounding opposition to national missile defense (NMD) over the past year, President Clinton's decision not to authorize its deployment but instead leave the final decision to his successor met with predictable and near universal approval. Newspapers from Russia, NATO countries, and East and South Asia greeted it as a "wise" and "welcome" move. Most held that his deferral was cinched by the Pentagon's two failed tests, which, noted Madrid's center-left El Pais, "fortuitously prevented Clinton's legacy from being tarnished by a new and destabilizing arms initiative." Nevertheless, many editorials warned that Clinton's "postponement, not cancellation" grants no more than a "temporary reprieve," and that "the debate in the U.S. is not whether but when and in what form to deploy missile defenses." Despite appearing resigned to the inevitability of a U.S. NMD program, several--noting differences between presidential candidates Gore and Bush over the issue, with "Republicans committed to a much more ambitious program"--speculated that this year's presidential election would be pivotal in determining the future of NMD. In that vein, some analysts in Britain, Germany, Australia and Canada contended that a Gore win would "better serve" global strategic stability, while Mr. Bush, in the words of a conservative Halifax daily, "might embark willy-nilly on a program of selfish unilateralism." More broadly, German and Indian papers looked at the "detrimental effects" of the NMD debate on both the U.S.' diplomatic standing and international disarmament efforts. Regional highlights follow:
RUSSIA: Centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta saw Moscow's firm stance against NMD as "the chief factor" in Clinton's decision and hailed it as a "victory of Russian diplomacy." Nationalist opposition Sovetskaya Rossiya, however, held it was only the test failures and not Moscow's opposition that determined the president's choice. Army daily Krasnaya Zvezda argued that the Clinton move "gives hope for a constructive dialogue with our American partners in the future."
NATO COUNTRIES: Observing that "his hand was forced by technology," London's liberal Guardian spoke for others in France, Germany, Italy and Spain in maintaining that "he did what any lame duck president had to do--kick the dossier into his successor's in-tray." Nevertheless, others in Belgium, Hungary, The Netherlands and Norway agreed with right-of-center Frankfurter Allgemeine's cautionary note that "anyone on this side of the Atlantic who thinks that the missile defense plans have now been shelved is mistaken."
EAST ASIA: China's official media were quick to applaud Mr. Clinton's "sensible move" and credited the pressure exerted by other countries, in part, for the deferral. Said People's Daily, "Whether U.S. leaders eventually abandon the plan still hinges on the convergence of domestic and international opposition." Japanese papers urged Clinton's successors to "take Clinton's decision to heart" and remember that "the U.S. is heavily responsible for world security." Liberal Mainchi opined that the U.S. should now give "top priority" to "confidence-building and dialogue" with its allies, China and Russia before proceeding on any missile defense.
SOUTH ASIA: Indian and Pakistani papers, judging that "it is hard to see any future president vetoing NMD," voiced concern about "China's anticipated reaction to...any NMD shield."
EDITOR: Katherine L. Starr
EDITOR'S NOTE: This survey is based on 42 reports from 23 countries September 2- 7. Editorial excerpts are grouped by region; editorials from each country are listed from the most recent date.
RUSSIA: "What Is Star Wars For?"
Yevgeny Umerenkov opined in reformist, youth-oriented Komsomolskaya Pravda (9/6): "Clinton's statement does not at all mean that the Americans have given up their plans to build a nuclear shield. It is just a matter of time. Gore or Bush...will most likely decide to deploy NMD."
"ABM To Survive A Few Years More"
Dmitry Kosyrev stated on page one of centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (9/5): "That the U.S. president has refused to thwart the 1972 ABM Treaty and deploy NMD solves Russia's main foreign policy, as well as security, problem. While the cause seemed to be a technical issue last Friday, it is clear now that Moscow's stand is the chief factor. Washington has unequivocally, if informally, recognized the victory of Russian diplomacy."
"Hope For Constructive Dialogue"
Centrist army Krasnaya Zvezda (9/5) pointed out editorially: "The U.S. decision to postpone the deployment of an NMD system gives hope for a constructive dialogue with our American partners in the future."
"Domestic Politics, Allies Behind Decision"
Nationalist opposition Sovetskaya Rossiya (9/5) noted in a page-one commentary by Vasily Safronchuk: "It seems that domestic politics and Washington's NATO allies were the decisive factor. Had the early tests of the (NMD) system been successful Clinton would certainly have decided otherwise, no matter what Moscow or his NATO allies thought."
BRITAIN: "Delayed Fuse"
The liberal Guardian editorialized (9/4): "With the announcement that he is not going ahead with NMD, Bill Clinton did two immensely welcome things. He made the world a safer place, at least for the five months until his successor takes over, and possibly longer if his action has strengthened Al Gore. For he has given the electors of the United States further evidence that Bush and Gore do differ. Mr. Gore's response to the president's statement was warm, welcoming the chance to take stock. So a gulf opened between him and his Republican opponent: A vote for George W. Bush in November thus becomes a vote to destabilize international relations, to squander American treasure, and to enhance a sense of magical emancipation from the world's troubles that can only--given the global asymmetry of economic and military might--be dangerous for us all. Mr. Clinton's hand was forced by technology. In the circumstances he did what a lame-duck president had to do: kick the dossier into his successor's in-tray."
The conservative Times had this lead editorial (9/4): "It is easy, in context, to see why Mr. Clinton decided to pass the parcel, but that does not mean he was wise to do so. The reality is that whoever wins the presidential election, NMD in some form is going to be developed; and, with the Republicans committed to a much more ambitious program which would combine space, ground and sea-based missiles, it is not necessarily helpful to the political battle to be won abroad that NMD will now become a partisan issue.... The real question about NMD is not whether but when it will be deployed. The decisive requirements--and they are geopolitical as well as technical--are that Americans must first be convinced that anti-missile defense is at least part of the solution to a fast-changing missile threat."
FRANCE: "Clinton Leaves It Up To His Successor"
Sylvie Kauffmann opined in left-of-center Le Monde (9/4): "President Clinton insisted in particular on the need to 'build a more secure world,' while integrating his plan in a political framework that preserves what has been achieved by the ABM Treaty. European capitals have reacted positively to the decision.... By forcing both candidates to take a position, Clinton's decision pushes national defense and security matters to the forefront of the campaign. The candidates will have to reveal their views on security in a world where the nuclear equation has changed radically."
Left-of-center weekly Die Zeit of Hamburg argued (9/7): "The man who was supposed to give the go-ahead [for the NMD project] had his doubts and was reluctant to give his approval. Friends and allies warned against the implementation of the project, neutral countries were frightened, and enemies and competitors were triumphant over each setback and gloated over every controversy. We would have thought that these were enough plausible reasons for a U.S. president to reject the approval for the national anti-missile defense system. But this decision has now only been delegated to Clinton's successor and thus to his voters. For...Bush, the NMD project offers a chance to distinguish himself, while it turns into a litmus test for...Al Gore. But we can note one detrimental effect already: The reputation of U.S. foreign policy has been severely dented. As a boomerang this project works well."
Uwe Schmitt wrote in right-of-center Die Welt of Hamburg (9/5): "The reaction by the U.S. media to Clinton's decision has been a remarkably indifferent shrugging of shoulders, no comment. It is becoming more and more obvious that the whole thing was a game played for domestic reasons. Global player Clinton used the election year to pitch Reagan's 'Star Wars' dream against the fear of Allies and opponents of a new arms race. In the process, Clinton, who opposed a missile defense as late as 1996, was helped by the two failed NMD trial runs as well as Russia's resistance. Clinton fooled the whole world. One may admire such chutzpah or find it contemptible. The main lesson, however, is the insight that U.S. politicians only play for the home crowd in an election year. But the vision of NMD has not been put to rest. The United States will continue to dream, letting neither friend nor foe interfere."
"Clinton Buys Time"
Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger judged in a front-page editorial in right-of-center Frankfurter Allgemeine (9/4): "Clinton's decision gives the U.S. government time to create the technical base needed to build a missile defense system, and perhaps study other options. It also gives it time to woo its allies, and to reach political consensus with Russia and tacitly with China on arms control. Since the countries considered likely to attack are most unlikely to have effective, long-distance systems before the end of this decade...postponing the decision is not a dangerous gamble with the security of the United States and its allies, but a move that makes sense. But anyone on this side of the Atlantic who thinks that the missile defense plans have now been shelved is mistaken. Europeans need to realize one thing. No matter what they think of a missile defense that is aimed at warding off attacks by specific states of concern, which may be or may not be justified; or of the Americans' blind faith in the technical ability to perfect such a system: Critics of a missile defense system are clearly a minority in the United States."
"A Contentious Campaign Issue"
Right-of-center Rheinische Post of Duesseldorf (9/3) contended: "Now NMD has a good chance of becoming another contentious campaign issue.... U.S. voters have a real choice with regard to foreign policy: Either an expensive missile defense system without consideration for Allied interests or a policy aimed at preventing any destabilization of the strategic balance."
ITALY: "Better To Assess Capabilities, Intentions Of Potential Enemies First"
Prominent defense analyst Stefano Silvestri commented in leading, business Il Sole-24 Ore (9/2): "The experimental phase will continue, but a final decision will be made by the next U.S. president.... These are the facts. On the political level, however, Clinton went beyond that. First of all, he affirmed that, at the present time, there is no threat that would justify the shield.... Future threats...will become concrete only in five or ten years time. This is an important point...which also...gives new strength to those who want to give priority to political initiatives on disarmament and arms control.... Second, Clinton reiterated that NMD technology is important not only for the defense of the United States, but for all the nations that are 'respectful of the law.' This may give rise to new prospects both for the European allies, assuming that they are interested, and for Russia, by reopening...new, major negotiations. It remains to be seen what the next president will do."
"Decision Turns Shield Into Campaign Issue"
Leading, rightist opposition Il Giornale filed from Washington (9/2): "Clinton's decision, immediately endorsed by Gore, turns the space shield into an issue in the U.S. presidential campaign. George Bush Jr., in fact, had previously criticized Clinton, and, therefore, his rival Gore, for the 'modesty' of the space shield project, proposing a more powerful and costly version."
BELGIUM: "A Little Bit Of Peace"
Military affairs writer Jorn De Cock commented in independent, Catholic De Standaard (9/4): "Clinton has bought time and left the decision to his successor. He didn't stop the NMD research program. The fear of the so-called states of concern...is apparently deeply rooted in the United States.... Clinton's decision not to decide does not end the American dream of invulnerability.... The American nightmares of intruding North Korean Taepo Dongs or Iranian Shahab missiles are likely to spark a lot of diplomatic saber-rattling in the coming years."
BULGARIA: "Why Did They Put Off Star Wars?"
Opposition Socialist Party Duma held (9/4): "Clinton's decision...is a result of both technological and political considerations.... However, the political reasons were dominant. He could not ignore the pressure exerted by the European allies, France and Germany in particular, who do not share America's enthusiasm for the new technologies to be used for breaking the strategically established balance. Some observers believe that Clinton's decision has been made as a result of some deal with Russian President Putin related to nuclear arms reduction. On the other hand, Clinton certainly is taking into consideration the feelings of the American voters, who are not indifferent to how much the United States will pay in order to be the world's only leader."
HUNGARY: "The Courage Of No Decision"
Washington correspondent Gabor Miklos opined in leading Nepszabadsag (9/4): "Bill Clinton has opted for postponement.... It was a brave decision.... Probably the Russian objection counted.... But simply putting it off does not necessarily mean that the NMD is off the agenda.... It could become a major topic of dispute in the coming some months. If the Republicans manage to convince the voters that Clinton and Gore do not want to protect them from the missile threats of the 'bandits' and, instead, cave in under Chinese and Russian pressure, then [Republicans] can even win more votes."
THE NETHERLANDS: "Defense Shield"
Influential, liberal De Volkskrant held in its editorial (9/4): "Clinton justified his decision with the argument that there is still doubt about the technical feasibility of such a shield.... This is a reliable justification. It would have been silly to start a very expensive project before it was certain that it was realistic.... Both Russia and China strongly oppose the NMD initiative and the European allies, too, are not too happy with it.... Clinton emphasized that no one has the right to veto the American right to look after its own defense. That sounds reasonable but the United States should not forget that by signing the ABM Treaty it accepted the principle that nuclear balance is a sensitive issue calling for caution with regard to destabilizing unilateral steps. The Europeans could remind their partner of this but should place the discussion within the comprehensive framework of American-European relations. For, the United States can do without the Europeans but the Europeans cannot do without the United States. It would not be in the European interest to side with the Russians and Chinese in this matter."
"Postponement, Not Cancellation"
Influential, independent NRC Handelsblad asserted (9/4): "America's missile defense is meant against countries that threaten the United States with weapons of mass destruction. But the plan for an NMD shield was also meant as a defense for presidential candidate Al Gore against Republican candidate Bush. The latter wants an extensive missile defense even if this would turn [global] strategic relations upside down. The Clinton and Gore strategists therefore thought it was necessary to take a modest step in this direction. For they don't want to be accused of selling out the safety of the American people.... However, postponement does not mean cancellation. The risks against which NMD was intended still exist. Particularly Iraq will keep the debate...going."
NORWAY: "Clinton Postpones"
Newspaper-of-record Aftenposten argued (9/4): "There are so many difficult unsolved technical problems with the so-called missile defense shield, that the president did the only right thing Friday: He postponed his decision.... In reality this means that he leaves the decision to his successor."
POLAND: "It Is Not Time For The Shield"
Pawel Wronski opined in liberal Gazeta Wyborcza (9/2): "Clinton faced a temptation: By pursuing the missile defense system...he could become a president who would ensure U.S. security for several decades. In the face of enormous technical difficulties, however, there appeared a threat that the program would turn into a spectacular way of throwing U.S. taxpayers' money away into space. Clinton ultimately decided that it's best not to do anything. His successor will gain fame if the program becomes successful or he will leave in disgrace if the strategic defense program proves a military fairy tale."
SPAIN: "Shield Postponed"
Center-left El Pais wrote (9/5): "This is prudent and sensible.... It would not be appropriate for an outgoing president, two months from the elections, to take such an important decision. The decision will pass to Gore or Bush.... The technological failure has arrived and fortuitously prevented Clinton's legacy from being tarnished by a new and destabilizing arms initiative. Hopefully his successor will finish burying the project."
AUSTRALIA: "A Gore Win Would Make Our Region Safer"
An op-ed in the national Australian by political commentator Malcolm McGregor read (9/7): "It does matter who wins this election. The next president may need to deal with a Wall Street crash, a nuclear conflict between India and Pakistan and escalating tensions with China.... Each of these eventualities is perilous from an Australian perspective, as is the likelihood that a Bush administration will exert considerable pressure on Australia to participate in its [NMD] program. Our broad strategic interests would be better served by the election of Gore."
CHINA: "Clinton Gets Rid Of 'Hot Potato'"
Gu Fan and Wang Yu wrote in official Beijing Youth Daily (Beijing Qingnianbao, 9/7): "Apart from technical defects, international opposition and bipartisan struggles are also factors leading to President Clinton's decision to delay deploying NMD. More and more countries have come to realize that the NMD system will definitely break the international strategic balance and trigger new arms races.... However, according to the legislation passed by the Senate, once the technical conditions are ripe, the NMD system must be deployed. Therefore, it is predictable that the hot potato will be heated up again soon."
"NMD Delay Welcomed"
The official China Daily (9/6) quoted official Communist Party People's Daily (Renmin Ribao): "The decision...to delay deployment of the controversial NMD system is a sensible move. It was the great difficulties involved in deploying the NMD that led Clinton to announce that he would leave the issue to his successor.... It is widely believed that deployment of the NMD system could spark large-scale arms races or even nuclear proliferation and create a new threat to stability and security on the Eurasian continent."
"A Wise Move Of Shrinking Back From Difficulties'"
Ren Yujun wrote in official Communist Party People's Daily (Renmin Ribao, 9/5): "President Clinton's decision to delay deploying the NMD system is considered a wise move both for the U.S. government and for himself. It is believed that this decision can be attributed to one word: 'difficulties' which includes technical problems, domestic opposition and international pressure. Rather than an end, however, this decision merely marks a pause for the NMD plan. It seems that whether U.S. leaders eventually abandon the plan still hinges on the convergence of domestic and international opposition."
"NMD And U.S. Presidential Elections"
Xue Fukang judged in intellectually-oriented Guangming Daily (Guangming Ribao, 9/4): "President Clinton's wise decision to delay deploying the NMD system will not only prevent fierce international attacks against the United States at the Millennium Summit, but will also increase domestic support for the president. As a participant in the decision-making, Al Gore will undoubtedly share in the profits. Therefore, this decision has, to some extent, won Al Gore the upper hand on this question in the upcoming presidential elections."
"Clinton Leaves 'Hot Potato' To His Successor"
Liu Jiang commented in official municipal Beijing Daily (Beijing Ribao, 9/3): "By postponing deployment of the NMD system, President Clinton now can leave the 'hot potato' to his successor and smoothly round out his presidency.... It is predicted that since the United States is unlikely to abandon the plan, the debate over the question will continue and even become increasingly fierce and dramatic."
HONG KONG: "Timely Delay"
The independent South China Morning Post commented in its editorial (9/3): "By delaying deployment of America's planned missile defense system, President Clinton has done the correct if unsurprising thing. His decision to pass the buck to the next president...for the most part removes the subject from the U.S. election campaign and recognizes that many basic scientific problems remain unsolved.... Add in the technical difficulties, and the decision seems even more sensible.... So far there have been no successful test intercepts, while some essential rocket engines remain undeveloped. Mr. Gore praised the Clinton decision, as expected. Mr. Bush reaffirmed his support for the shield, and criticized the delay. But he won't gain many votes by advocating construction of a dodgy defense system few people understand, so the issue won't have much election impact."
MACAU: "Temporary Reprieve"
The Pro-PRC Macau Daily News remarked in its editorial (9/4): "Clinton has shifted his position from trying to persuade the EU to accept America's NMD to delaying the deployment of the system. This temporarily removes the danger of a large-scale arms race, which was on the verge of breaking out, and is conducive to world peace and stability.... However, one must note that Clinton is not calling off the overall NMD plan. He is only letting the next president make the final decision.... Now the ball has been kicked to...Al Gore and George W. Bush. Al Gore supports Clinton's decision.... However, Bush criticized Clinton's decision. He promised that he would quicken the deployment of the NMD if elected.... Al Gore's election will be more conducive to resolving the danger from NMD and bringing about world peace and stability than Bush's election."
JAPAN: "Clinton's Postponement Of NMD Deployment Hailed"
Moderate Tokyo Shimbun observed (9/5): "President Clinton's plan to leave the task of deciding whether to deploy a NMD system to his successor should be hailed as a wise move to 'cool down' heated domestic and international rhetoric on the pros and cons of the system..... It is certain that the issue will be taken up as a major diplomatic and national security issue in the final stage of the U.S. presidential election campaign. The global community hopes that presidential candidates, Gore and Bush, will thoroughly discuss the NMD issue, while keeping in mind that the United States is heavily responsible for world security."
"Top Priority Must Be Given To Confidence-Building And Dialogue"
Liberal Mainichi editorialized (9/4): "President Clinton announced that the U.S. would postpone NMD deployment for technological and diplomatic reasons. We welcome his statement that the United States has yet to discuss fully the proposed anti-missile defense system with Russia and China or get full support from its allies for the system. We hope the next U.S. administration will adopt a wise policy of freezing NMD deployment. Should [it] go ahead with NMD deployment without dialogue and further confidence-building with China and Russia, China would start building up nuclear missiles, most probably prompting India and Pakistan to follow suit.... Gore and Bush have expressed support for promoting NMD deployment. Both candidates should take President Clinton's decision to heart and demonstrate to the world that the United States is responsible for the security of the world."
SINGAPORE: "Missile Dream Won't Go Away"
The pro-government Business Times' editorial said (9/6): "Clinton's decision not to press ahead immediately with the controversial [NMD] proposal seems to have been based on both a realistic look at the technology on offer as well as the strategic ramifications of starting another arms race. But what all this means is that the issue has been postponed. Quite simply, the dream of raising an impenetrable shield over the United States is not going to go away any time soon.... Although U.S. diplomats are quick to deny it, U.S. politicians have no qualms about naming China as the real target of their plans.... To his credit, Mr. Clinton understood the ramifications of going down that path; Beijing could emulate Russia's 6,000 or so missiles and aircraft--enough to overwhelm any U.S. missile defense on offer. If China were to do that, he said, it could raise tensions in East Asia, including Japan and Taiwan, and could provoke India...into building additional nuclear weapons. That, in turn, could prompt...Pakistan, to expand its nuclear arsenal, raising the nuclear stakes across the already volatile Indian subcontinent. One can only hope that the next U.S. president will have the same clarity of vision."
SOUTH KOREA: "NMD Deployment Held Back"
Kim Sung-yong wrote in conservative Chosun Ilbo (9/2): "President Clinton has announced he is leaving the decision on the future of U.S. missile defense shield to the next administration.... Clinton's announcement, however, does not mean that the issue...is entirely gone. As long as such 'states of concern' as North Korea continue to pose a missile threat, America's Star War plan will not die."
BANGLADESH: "Clinton's Wise Decision"
Pro-government, Bangla-language Sangbad asserted (9/5): "President Clinton has demonstrated his prudence in his decision to leave the missile shield program for his successor to resolve. Those who advocate this system, might have forgotten that the era of Cold War is over. The present day world is unipolar. The nations that have been highlighted as threats, no longer have sharp teeth and nails as they had in the past. North Korea is now talking peace with South Korea and has made progress. UN economic sanctions have made Iraq toothless. In fact, those threats are nothing but excuses. The hawks in the U.S. administration want to continue the project. There is no need for it and it cannot be supported. There is no benefit other than wasting billions of dollars."
INDIA: "Four Wasted Years"
The nationalist Hindustan Times had this analysis by security analyst Brahma Chellaney (9/7): "Clinton's weekend announcement to delay a decision on [NMD] deployment will do little to end the gridlock at...the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva.... China almost single-handedly has held up the CD's functioning, using U.S. development of missile defense as justification. This has meant no negotiations on the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT).... Looking ahead, it seems likely that the CD will remain hostage to the ongoing controversy over weaponization of outer space.... It is ironic that the nation roguishly exporting ballistic missiles and related technology should tell others not to set up even [TMD] to meet some of the very threats caused by its proliferation of missiles.... The debate in the United States is not whether but when and in what form to deploy missile defenses. Clinton's decision merely kicks the NMD deployment decision into the next administration without affecting ongoing R&D."
An editorial in the centrist Times of India read (9/5): "President Clinton's decision to defer [NMD] deployment has been received with relief all over the world.... Clinton has not made his decision in response to the strong international sentiment against NMD or because of the risk of its deployment unleashing a new arms race and destroying the existing arms control structure. Indeed, he has reiterated that the threat from new missile and nuclear powers is real. In other words, in the U.S. view the [NPT] and [CTBT] are not likely to stop new proliferation. So long as Washington pursues missile interception technology, thereby casting doubts on the stability of the present nuclear deterrent order, the credibility of the NPT and CTBT will progressively erode."
"Mr. Clinton's Strategic Pause"
The centrist Hindu argued (9/5): "Closely related to Washington's diplomatic compulsion to keep Russia in good humor...is the need to avoid rumblings among America's Western friends.... Clinton...wants to avoid 'stimulating' a nuclear arms race in South Asia as the direct sequel to China's anticipated reaction to the unfolding of any NMD shield."
"Star Wars Intermission"
The centrist Indian Express held (9/4): "It not often an American decision meets with as much approval abroad as Bill Clinton's announcement of a pause in the development of [NMD].... Unless the international community and domestic opinion can prevail upon the next U.S. president to give up this dangerous course, a final decision is liable to be driven...by the available know-how.... It is hard to see any future U.S. president vetoing NMD.... China will be driven to build a larger nuclear and missile arsenal and that in turn is bound to affect India's calculations. An arms race can be prevented if America can be persuaded to look for political rather than military solutions to the problem of the so-called rogue states."
PAKISTAN: "China's NMD Concerns"
The centrist, national News said in its editorial (9/4): "[NMD] has driven a deep wedge into the delicately poised ties between China and the United States.... [The Chinese] understand perfectly well that while commerce and economics may be shaping the new world order, power--nuclear power more than any other form--is central to exerting influence in international politics. They are bound to come up with a befitting response to the NMD whenever Washington's defense establishment pursues it in all earnest."
CANADA: "Gore's Past Misreadings A Concern"
Bogdan Kipling wrote in the conservative Halifax Herald (9/6): "If he is elected president, Mr. Gore will have to decide the future of national missile defense. Mr. Clinton left this decision to his successor. Mr. Bush, the Republican, says he will build and deploy anti-missile missiles. Mr. Gore has said he would do so only with Russia's blessing...as called for in the [ABM Treaty]. Mr. Gore's past misreadings of Russia are cause for concern."
The conservative Halifax Herald observed (9/6): "In an election year when American patriotism is more testosterone-laden than ever and posturing often takes the place of mature reflection, we must give Bill Clinton credit for not being completely blinded by the rockets' red glare.... The president's main reason for his [NMD] decision is that the technology doesn't work--yet.... Mr. Clinton has not abandoned the project completely, telling the Pentagon to continue 'robust research' to see if this turkey can ever fly. Thus he erected a different kind of missile shield to protect himself and his dauphin, Al Gore, from the slings and arrows of Republicans who accuse them of being weak on defense.... One gets the sense, however, that if Mr. Clinton were free of such political constraints, he would nix the project outright--not just because the technology isn't up to the task, but also because of a whole range of other concerns.... Mr. Bush has pledged to rush to implement the NMD.... While this may sound good if you are a voter in the American heartland, it is stomach-churning rhetoric for just about everyone else. Mr. Bush's tone is cavalier, his attitude brash and the insensitivity with which he dismisses the arms control framework on which both allies and foes have relied for decades is alarming. By contrast, Mr. Clinton's speech at Georgetown University struck a much more reasoned chord with the international community, earning praise from Russia and China as well as NATO allies who have serious reservations about the project. Canada declared that it is 'gratified' the White House has listened to its strategic partners. Mr. Bush, on the other hand, has left the impression that the United States might embark willy-nilly on a program of selfish unilateralism on nuclear issues. Either he is a stalking horse for the greedy American military-industrial complex or he is as misguided as the anti-ballistic missiles the Pentagon can't seem to shoot straight."
"A Poor Excuse For A Shield"
Under the sub-heading, "President Clinton won't go ahead with the defense system. If only his successor could be counted on to do likewise, the leading Globe and Mail observed (9/2): "For a while it seemed the idea of a [NMD] system was so appealing to American leaders, Democrats as well as Republicans, that it might shoot forward regardless of its several flaws. Yesterday, showing a measure of sanity we hope his successor will inherit, Clinton eased off the accelerator.... Here's hoping the new president substitutes sense for macho posturing, and realizes that Mr. Clinton's decision indicated more than just a reluctance to commit his country to such a major step so near the end of his final term. Put simply, the [NMD] system is a dumb idea. How dumb? For a start, the system hasn't worked.... Even assuming such a system stood a half-decent chance of striking down most arriving missiles, it would provide no more than a false sense of security. Who's to say a terrorist, or agent of a rogue state, wouldn't carry a nuclear device ashore or fire a cruise missile from a ship off the U.S. coast and thereby evade the defense system's radar? So: It costs a lot, it hasn't worked, it would upset allies, it would alarm two major nuclear powers and it wouldn't protect the United States against nuclear threats at least as likely as distant ballistic aggression from North Korea or Iran. This is not a system the United States should pursue, and Mr. Bush's keen anticipation of being able to give it the go-ahead is a worrying feature of his candidacy. Mr. Clinton has at least lowered the temperature a bit, by refusing to authorize the Pentagon to award contracts for a powerful radar installation in the Aleutian Islands. The next president should call the whole thing off."