22 January, 2007

Preemptive Democracy, Perhaps?

With each passing day, it seems that the U.S. faces more and more trouble with the international community. The most recent event of note in our ongoing struggles is the Chinese testing a missile capable of destroying low-orbit satellites. This story broke late last week and few new details have surfaced in the few days since then. The Chinese government is remaining uncomfortably quiet about the situation for some reason. Some assume that the success of the test came as a surprise to certain sectors of the government and the proper authorities to address the situation have not prepared themselves to issue a statement. The initial thought was that this was a test done by China to flex their military muscle, perhaps in an attempt to get the U.S. and Russia to the bargaining table to sign a treaty banning such weapons.

Such a treaty is not a novel concept and has been discussed for at least 15 years now. The U.S. has shown little interest in drawing up a treaty because it did not believe other nations possessed this technology and more specifically, the Bush administration vowed not to sign such a treaty because they did not want the U.S. to be limited in any way in their space activities. Most likely, a treaty won't be signed on this issue because Bush is still in office and prefers to "stay the course" on most issues. Additionally, it's unlike the U.S. in this day and age to receive a perceived threat like this and then act diplomatically on it. If the U.S. were to jump on and sign a treaty banning these weapons now, it will be like China is saying "told ya' so" in our faces, which is not a position the U.S. would like to see itself in.

If this is in fact the scenario we face, why didn't we just try to work out a treaty in years past to avoid ever getting to this point? The Bush doctrine holds preemptive war as one of its key points, but why not preemptive democracy? Why shouldn't the U.S. consider potential threats and act diplomatically in addressing them before they become fully realized? This most incompetent administration now has a new diplomatic problem to deal with on top of all they already have to deal with. Had they acted on the intelligence they clearly had that China wanted to sign a treaty banning these weapons and could eventually possess the technology, why not sign a treaty before Chinese possession of these weapons become a reality?

At one point, early in the presidencies of both George W. Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao, many believed (or naively hoped) that these two men would be able to work together and bring down tensions between the United States and the People's Republic of China. The events of the last couple of years have done much more to increase tensions than most people probably could have anticipated way back when this hope was expressed. The United States stands at a historic crossroad right now to either enter a new era of widespread East vs. West tensions, reminiscent of the Cold War, or to quell these burgeoning tensions before they become too hot to handle.

I'm going to put my faith into my elected officials, both the newly elected ones in the Democratically-controlled Congress looking to make good on the promises they've made and the mandate for change they've been given and those in the White House, hopefully willing to strike a middle ground on top priority issues to make progress and to improve a legacy that currently stands about one rung above Richard Nixon's before it's too late. Anyone familiar with Phil Ochs' classic protest song "Here's to the State of Mississippi" or the reworked "Here's to the State of Richard Nixon" will enjoy this Pearl Jam reworking of the song into "Here's to the State of George W."