The United States of America has always been a nation that others could look to when a precedent was needed. We have always maintained a high international standing, if not being the World leader. Yet, in recent times, our concerns have begun to shift. Legislation that is needed to ensure that America stays involved in the world happenings has been ignored. One of these major international mishaps came very recently with the defeat of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Although it is true that the Treaty was not properly introduced and may have needed some revision, it was still an important and monumental piece of work, which should have been given greater consideration on the Senate Floor.
As you know, the Treaty called for an international ban on nuclear weapons testing, both above and below ground. We, the United States, have not tested a nuclear weapon in seven years, but many other nations such as North Korea and Iran have just recently become nuclear powers, and are testing their weapons often. If passed, this Treaty would have allowed the U.S. to maintain international leadership, while strengthening the international coalition against further nuclear proliferation.
Many of the Treaty’s basic principles are based on years of legislation. It is not as if the world has suddenly decided that weapons are destructive and should be limited. The first anti-weapons legislation came in the Kennedy administration, and the trend was followed in administrations thereafter. Many Americans fear that by the sudden disregard for past policies and the lack of concern for international politics will create a rift between the United States and some foreign nations. International relations between the U.S. and countries like Russia had just began to make vast improvements, and now the defeat of a favorable Treaty will “destabilize the foundations of international relations” (Johnson).
There are also some other internationally based concerns, ones that focus on the impact on American international standings, and the standing of the Treaty. “The Clinton administration and Senate Democrats, backed by European allies, argue that the pact would not threaten American nuclear might” (Tyson 1). Yet, despite all of the assurances, the predominantly Republican Senate voted against the Treaty. Only a few short hours after the defeat Hillary Clinton stated that “this vote sent a dangerous message to people around the world, to our allies, and to Americans at home” (Nagourney B5). This message that Mrs. Clinton refers to is one that discourages nations to sign the treaty, and as she predicted, an official from Pakistan said “it is virtually certain now that neither Pakistan nor India will sign [the Treaty]” (Johnson). Without signing the Treaty ourselves, we hold no authority on which to persuade other nations to sign (Kimball).
When other nations see the U.S. has not signed the Treaty and they begin to doubt its validity, the Treaty will be left very unstable and practically useless. A major fear that will end up to be the demise of the Treaty is that “every country will use [the defeat] as an excuse not to sign (Johnson). Because of Article 14 in the Treaty, an “Entry into Force” clause, without the signatures of everyone of the 44 international nuclear powers the Treaty cannot go into affect, and the world will remain a nuclear testing ground for those smaller less secure countries (“Hindu”).
Although there was some legitimate arguments that under the Treaty’s present form the U.S. will lose some of its international power, this should not have been enough to invalidate such an important Treaty. Even more so, with such detrimental backlash expected, the Treaty should have been treated with more care. The United States is defensively strong and secure. We can afford to let loose some slack to avoid more damaging aftermath.
If in the event that after we had signed the Treaty we found it to be threatening in any way to our stability as a nation, we had a back-out option. The Treaty allows for withdraw from the contract if a nations “supreme interest” is in anyway seen to be jeopardized (Marquis, Ridder A05). The only requirement of this action is six months notice before withdraw. In other words, no nation could use this clause to instantly refute the Treaty and resume testing when relations got heated, but with advanced notice we could get out of the Treaty if it were our best interests.
At the current time there is no need for powerful nuclear weapons because international relations are positive. The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty would have created a stronger international summit, allowing for the downsizing of weaponry. Even in the event of a need for nuclear weapons our computer monitoring systems will have us up-to-date with testing. Also, on the future U.S. agenda for defense systems is the National Missile Defense system, which attempts to develop anti-missile missiles (“Consensus”). This system will be constructed despite the regulations in the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty specifically to ensure that Americans are safe without the actual testing of nuclear weapons.
Even though we are taking all of these safety precautions so that we feel secure, “the Government employs a $4.5 billion annual program of computer models and non-nuclear explosive tests,” and with this technology available we have not had to test a weapon since 1992 (Schmitt A1, Tyson 1). In fact, the number of international nuclear tests has drastically decreased from 178 in 1963, to only 57 in the 1990’s combined (“Dangers”). If we haven’t tested a nuclear bomb in 7 years without added protections, why should we even need a security blanket? Nuclear weapons are not as readily tested and therefore the loss of underground testing would be no great impairment. There is an annual inspection each year of a prototype of each bomb to ensure that decay has not begun. This test is very thorough; it includes both electronics and nuclear components to make sure that our bombs will not backfire on us.
Critics, and even some proponents of the Treaty have trouble deciphering where it allows for monitoring and regulation of testing. It is true that in every document I have seen concerning the Treaty there has not been much mentioned of consequences for violators, yet there has always been a great deal of provisions for global nuclear monitoring. The treaty establishes an International Monitoring System called the Stockpile Stewardship Program, and an International Data Center with 337 worldwide facilities (Snowe G4). Many Republicans doubt that the U.S. Intelligence is powerful enough to detect all explosions, yet the United States uses many different devices to detect explosions. The most successful of our monitoring systems involve radionuclides, hydroacoustics, seismology or infrared (Marquis, Ridder A05).
If in the monitoring system an explosion is detected that violates the Treaty there is a process by which the explosion will be verified. This process involves an inspection of the premises on which the explosion took place after 29 of the 51 nuclear capable countries in the world have approved the inspection (Boschwitz 19A). If or when a country is found to have broken the Treaty’s guidelines, it will be in the hands of the United Nations to exercise its authority and to give a just repercussion.
Even with all of the precautions that are built into the Treaty, the Senate still elected to defeat the Treaty. When lines are drawn evenly between the two parties there is reason to believe that other motives were behind the defeat. You are aware that a 2/3rd majority is needed to ratify treaties in the Senate, and this Treaty was defeated by a vote of 51 to 48, not even close to the lines of ratification.
Most of the Treaty’s opponents in the Senate were Republican. Not straying far from previous votes, the parties were strictly separated, only 4 Republicans crossing over to vote with the Democrats to ratify the Treaty (Schmitt). This Treaty was, however, more important than a simple veto on a proposed budget, and it should have been treated so. It was the first treaty that held international importance since 1920 and the Treaty of Versailles, to not be ratified by the U.S. Senate (Schmitt). With this being said, consider the devastating aftermath of that decision by our Senate. World War II started shortly after the United States made the decision that consequentially turned its back on the international community. Our country is important to the success of international relations. To turn back to the same isolationist values that were implemented in 1920 will almost certainly cause problems in the future.
“The world will not be a safer place because the Republicans in the Senate voted against the Treaty” (Nagourney B5). Instead of working together with the Democrats to resolve their conflicts within the Treaty, it seemed as if they worked harder within their unit to defeat it. The Republicans could not put aside their differences with President Clinton that arose from recent turmoil, so “the Test-Ban Treaty was, in effect, a stand-in victim of impeachment” (Garthoff M2). Hillary Clinton has a strong feeling that the Republicans “played partisan politics at the expense of our national security” by defeating a treaty in order to maintain favorable party status (Nagourney). It is tragic that our Senate cannot pull together when things need to get done.
The politics that were involved in the defeat of this Treaty were “the worst kind of partisan politics…because it was so blatant, and because of the risks it poses to the safety of the American people and the world” (Macintyre). When eighty percent of the American public agrees that we should ratify the Treaty, it is evident that the Senators that were against this were not justly representing their public (Snowe G4). The twenty percent of our country that opposed this Treaty could not have been enough to defeat it, consider the mathematics. There are one hundred Senators, so in the way that the Treaty was defeated, fifty-one percent of the country should have been against it, that is if we are being accurately represented.
The U.S. Senate decided to use their power to crush the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty against President Clinton to strike at him in the only way they could. We, the American public were also cheated out of justice. The Republicans were just “determined to deny Mr. Clinton a victory in the final chapter of his presidency” (Macintyre). I will admit that our president has not made the smartest choices while in office, but these choices were for his personal life. The Senate’s Republicans took it upon themselves to make it a national ordeal. Even after President Clinton was found innocent of any political wrong, they felt it was their duty to make him feel guilty and to punish him the only way they could. This Treaty is not a game; fair and rational politics were put aside when the Senate voted against it.
The Senate may also have felt that they were not given the right amount of say in things. President Clinton signed the treaty in 1996, without first going to the Senate and introducing the Treaty to test if it would be ratified when the time came. The president does not have to consult with the Senate before signing treaties but in most cases it is safer to test out the reaction before it comes down to a deadline. As a direct result of a lack of communication, the Senate refused to postpone the Treaty or to give it its needed time on the floor. This postponement was feverishly asked of the Senate not only by the president, but also by Tony Blair of Great Britain, who actually sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott contesting the speedy action (Pine A1). Lott and the Minority Leader Tom Daschle worked towards and finally came to a compromise, but when handed to the rest of the Senate a small group of Republicans refused to compromise (Pine).
No matter how the Treaty was defeated, it was still defeated and things to occur now that will ensure that America is serious about nuclear disarmament. Now that the vote is over, Americans need to be concerned about what this will do to our country. We can examine the treaty, decide where it went wrong and try to amend it, or we could start over.
First, to make a better treaty, one has to decide how effective global limits can be made to nuclear weapons, being that those in the Treaty were rejected. This is already being formulated, although many politicians in favor of the Test Ban Treaty believe that because this Treaty was rejected by the United States the smaller countries of the world will not feel comfortable signing the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which will be reviewed next year (Pine). Although this treaty is a separate entity of the Test Ban Treaty, it is proposed along the same lines.
Another way to possibly pass this treaty through the Senate is for President Clinton to re-submit it after amendments are made (Associated Press). At least two Republican Senators, Jon Kyl and James Inhofe, have already counted this solution out of the possibilities, saying, “it will not come up again, because the United States cannot unilaterally amend the treaty” (Associated Press). However, it is possible that with time the Treaty will become trustworthy after it has been in affect in other countries. When these countries are able to adequately protect their citizens with a non-nuclear Treaty in affect, hopefully America’s doubtful will reconsider. President Clinton will not be in office long enough to re-submit the Treaty, but the next president would be able to, without doubting our technology nor our security, return the Treaty to the Senate for another vote.
Knowing the poor relationship that President Clinton had with the Senate, one can only hope that in the future this will not occur once again. Presidents of the past, such as George Bush who was able to pass many successful weapons treaties in his presidency, have all worked with the Senate to come to an agreement that pleased both parties. If you look back to the terms of Reagan and Bush, you can see that Republicans do not hold anything against nuclear testing. During the twelve years that these men were in office treaties such as START II (which limited our nuclear weapons to only 3,500), and the Chemical Weapons Convention (which outlawed poisonous gases) were passed (Boschwitz 19A). These treaties are just as binding as the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty would have been; yet they were passed.
Your Senator and presidential candidate George Bush stated, “It depends on whether or not the next President can earn the trust of the Congress. It’s just a matter of relationships that need to be strong” (Berke and Seelye). On these lines the Senate seems to be very optimistic, in that two Senators, Republican Chuck Hagel and Democrat Joseph Lieberman, came together in a bipartisan effort in order to make it possible for a test ban treaty to eventually be passed through the Senate (Raum). Liebermann commented on their almost heroic effort saying, “We believe it is important to leave the door open to return a treaty to the Senate that can be passed” (Raum).
In response to the many consequences for the defeat of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the United States must work through their oppositions to compose a viable ban on nuclear weapons. “It is a sad and dangerous matter when U.S. security interests and a constructive role in the world become a political football” (Garthoff M2). It is important to national security, global security, and international relationships that The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty be ratified in the United States as well as across the globe. Americans, although maybe not directly affected by nuclear testing, are certainly indirectly affected by nuclear testing radiation, and the global processes that have begun to speed up as a consequence of increased radiation in the atmosphere. It is our duty to protect not only our country, but also the world in which it lies. America cannot exist without healthy international surroundings, and we certainly cannot exist if the world as a whole is overly contaminated by nuclear radiation.
The Associated Press (1999, October 18). Albright: US Will Honor Nuke Treaty. Associated Press U.S. News 18 Oct. 1999. 19 Oct. 1999. .
The Associated Press (1999, October 14). Where Candidates Stand on Treaty. Associate Press U.S. News 14 Oct. 1999. 17 Oct. 1999.
Berke, Richard L. and Katherine Q. Seelye. “DEFEAT OF A TREATY: THE HOPEFULS; Treaty Ricochets Into Presidential Fray.” The New York Times 14 Oct. 1999, late ed., sec. A: 13+.
Boschwitz, Rudy. “CTBT Provisions Were Reasons Enough to Vote No.” Star Tribune 20 Oct. 1999, metro ed., sec. A: 19+.
Burt, Richard. “Fumble on the Test Ban Treaty.” The Washington Post 18 Oct. 1999, final ed., sec. A: 19+.
Garthoff, Raymond. “The World; Diplomacy; A Loss For the U.S. in World.” Los Angeles Times 31 Oct. 1999, home ed., sec. M: 2+.
“Is the CTBT Finished?” Editorial. The Hindu 13 Oct. 1999.
Johnson, Maureen (1999, October 15). Nations Upset by U.S. Treaty Vote. Associated Press U.S. News 15 Oct. 1999. 19 Oct. 1999.