I’ve been grousing to myself, as I so often do, about yet another Bush appointment: John Bolton as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. This was announced after Rice swept across Europe full of protestations that the U.S. would turn over a new leaf, and work respectfully with others. Well, that didn’t last long. Bolton! Only a punk would nominate Bolton.
Now I read a story that lends substance to my churning and inchoate disgust. This article recounts the sorry history of the biological weapons treaty. Work on an enforcement mechanism for this treaty began in 1995. After initially signalling support, the Bush Administration sabotaged it at the 11th hour, sending Bolton, after six years of work, with the message that the U.S. did not support an enforcement protocol. This was really about the U.S. claiming full freedom to do any and all work on bio weapons which it chose. Academic experts were horrified and predicted a bio weapons arms race. Here is where it gets interesting:
A year later, China discovered SARS and tried to hide it. Three months later, terrified of the possibilities of its spreading throughout China and the world, it notified the World Health Organization, which immediately organized an emergency response on a scale unprecedented for any new illness. The WHO, too, was obviously terrified.
SARS was brought under control, but within the WHO, suppressed by pressure from a certain superpower, was an analysis of the SARS virus showing it to be an artificial creation designed to kill fast and furiously.
The conclusion was that it had somehow escaped from a military lab, which explained why, for three months, the Chinese authorities had hoped to counter the threat, ultimately in vain.
In the end, the Chinese were only too happy to have the analysis suppressed, and the superpower in question averted a major worldwide debate on the need for a bioweapons treaty with an enforcement mechanism.
I wish this were only about Bolton! Clearly he is a substantial contributor to the decline of international cooperation. Unfortunately the real story is the resulting decline in security which effects each one of us.