- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 24, 2001

George W. put the spike to a cherished stereotype in Genoa.

He arrived at the G-8 summit as the Texas bumpkin who wouldn't know a foreign affair from a Friday-night flirtation in the back row at the last picture show.

When everybody packed up and moved on to Rome the stereotype was in tatters. So was the out-of-date ABM Treaty — the Bible, the Talmud, the Koran of the arms-control lobby.

George W. did it by hanging tough, by insisting that he would build the missile shield to protect America whether the Europeans, who have never been able to manage their own affairs, like it or not. The breakthrough was dramatic, and on America's terms.

This is the toughness, the perseverance, the determination that persuaded Vladimir Putin, the only European whose opinion actually matters since he has 6,000 missiles and the other guys, the Germans and the French who have caused the rest of the world so much grief over the past century, don't.

But not just the Germans and the French. There's a frightened industry right here at home, the arms-control experts whose futures are tied to keeping the world locked in mutual terror. This is the protection racket Al Capone used to intimidate Chicago 75 years ago. If George W.'s missile shield does what it promises to do there won't be any missiles left to control. Everything the clutch of arms-control experts in Washington knows will have been repealed. No more highly paid consultancies, no more seminars at luxury resorts (mostly at taxpayer expense), no more learned gasbaggery for the op-ed pages of the New York Times and The Washington Post. Strobe Talbott, get a job.

It wasn't supposed to happen this way. George W. was just a Texas cowboy, the callow eldest son who was out of his depth in the world at large. He wasn't smart enough to know that when a president goes overseas he's supposed to sit through interminable meetings, saying the obvious things the experts have prepared for him, doing nothing to upset the established and sterile way of doing things.

The Bush triumph was so unexpected that nobody quite knew what to make of it. The media elites retreated into familiar cliches. The Washington Post and the New York Times could hardly bring themselves to state the obvious, that the ABM Treaty was left mortally wounded, and already beginning to give off a distinct aroma.

Because he didn't know any better, George W. approached the Russians as he might have approached another owner looking for a trade: "You want our Hall of Fame third baseman who may be the next Brooks Robinson, it'll cost you. We want two first-string pitchers, a utility infielder and two minor-leaguers to be named later. Take it or leave it. You've got my telephone number."

His performance at Genoa ought to be a lesson for himself as well, teaching him that staking out strong positions and sticking to them may be a very un-Republican way of doing things but it invariably pays off. The Europeans, figuring a treaty that would hobble American industry could teach their upstart cousins a thing or two, are trying to shame us (Bonn's trying to shame anyone for anything for a thousand years offers a new definition of chutzpah) into accepting the Kyoto treaty once rejected by 95 United States senators, including nearly all the Democrats. Hanging tough forced the Europeans into a corner, where they could only make a show of saying they'll abide by Kyoto even if the United States won't. (If they really mean it, we won't have to.)

But it was the missile shield, Ronald Reagan's much-derided "star wars" that critics are scrambling to find credible arguments against in the wake of the latest test results, that is the triumph of Genoa. Some of the president's critics so far can manage only a splutter. "This can give Bush great political cover and minimize criticism from at home and abroad — if it's serious," said one of them, who consoled himself with an odd "but": George W. has now abandoned his earlier position that Moscow's views were irrelevant.

Well, yes. After your adversary comes around to your point of view, there's no point in pursuing his abandoned argument.

Vladimir Putin understands this, and further recognizes what some of Mr. Bush's critics in the West insist they do not, that the world has changed and so has the way the world's leaders must deal with the changed reality. And so, too, the rest of the world's assessment of the vision thing of the new president of the United States.

"It seemed to me," the Russian leader said, "that his mental reasoning is very deep, very profound. Both of us are aiming at partnership."

Not a bad day's work in any language.

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