- The Washington Times - Monday, July 30, 2001

In another example of engaged global leadership, the Bush administration has wisely rejected the draft of an agreement purportedly designed to enforce a treaty on biological arms control.
The treaty prohibits the production, possession, or even development of agents of biological warfare, but given the nature of such weapons, there is simply no good way to enforce the ban. In the first place, listing and testing for no agents does little good, since unlike chemical weapons with a large, but at least somewhat limited number of known precursors, biological weapons can be constructed from an almost infinite variety of agents, most of which occur naturally.
Moreover, offensive weapons and their defensive counters are often assembled the same way. Many vaccines are actually made out of potentially lethal agents that have been "deactivated," in one fashion or another. Given the limited amount of equipment that the treaty allows them to carry, potential inspectors have virtually no way to distinguish between the two. Treaty violators stand little chance of being caught, even while gaining the right to inspect the facilities of their strategic and industrial competitors.
Pharmaceutical companies spend incredible amounts of effort to bring new products to the market, and they ought to have the right to protect their trade secrets. Yet under the biological weapons protocol, their labs would be thrown open to the world. Moreover, under the protocol, potential adversaries could quite possibly uncover existing U.S. vaccines and then build biological weapons against them.
The treaty builds nothing more than a paper wall of security. Violators that are able to whitewash treaty inspectors may be more than tempted to attack their rivals who are following the protocol in good faith.
Yet treaties are supposed to give security, not a false sense of it. While proponents of the treaty complain that the U.S. failed to offer a good alternative, the simple fact is that there are no good alternatives: As Frank Gaffney, president of the Center for Security Policy said, "The genie is already out of the bottle."
Deciding against bad treaties is not an indication of isolationism, but rather engagement and leadership. Mr. Bush's decision, regardless its unpopularity among blinded ideologues, shows that the administration is approaching foreign policy with its eyes open to potential adversaries, rather than with a blind reliance on paper innoculations.



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