Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Note to President Bush: They Only Threaten their own People

Remember when the Clinton White House gave in to blackmail and made an agreement with North Korea, instead of calling Kim Jong Il the Axis of Evil-ite he really is? Pres. Bush was bold enough and principled enough to do this, but he has not gone far enough: we should just call KJI, "Dr. Evil." In any case, Bush was not so foolish as to actually do anything about North Korean nukes, because first we needed to make sure that Iraq couldn't use the WMDs they had stockpiled. But it turns out there were no stockpiles in Iraq. So this time, Bush having learned from his mistakes, the White House will first make certain that Iran and North Korea actually have nukes before a US invasion.

And that policy sure seems to be working. There's one possible glitch, though: they'll have to deal with the fact that NK's nukes look about as dangerous as Iraq's nuclear arsenal at the time of the Second Gulf War.
The Economist helpfully points this out, even while failing to appreciate the subtle underlying genius of the Bush strategy.

"Meanwhile, the administration of President George Bush, though occasionally sounding tough, allowed the six-party talks to drift, its mind on challenges elsewhere, notably Iraq."

Nunh-uh. The Economist did not just say that. Iraq a distraction? See? They clearly don't get it. But in spite of this lapse on the part of the editors, they do spot a real potential obstacle to the Bush plan.

In the near term, North Korea's nuclear capabilities are more likely to pose a greater risk to North Koreans than to the neighbours. [ . . . ] The bombs, however, are fairly crude—in the underground test, the nuclear reaction was probably triggered by a large conventional charge. [ . . . ] So the immediate threats from North Korea's new capability come from radioactive leaks into the atmosphere and North Korea's groundwater. [ . . . ]

The action will now move to the UN Security Council. Australia has already said it will advocate tougher UN sanctions against North Korea, blocking North Korean funds and limiting the ability of North Koreans to travel.

For now, it looks like the immediate threats from NK's nuclear capabilities are only to NK civilians: radioactive leaks and UN sanctions, which are also sure to hurt NK civilians more than KJI. We learned that from Iraq, too (remember the children Madeleine Albright said it was worth killing?). Surely, this will also be the case in Iran, except that Iran's technology is probably better than NK's.

If we're going to get the war(s) going, it needs to be clear that their nuclear efforts threaten us. We've got Iran tied to terrorism, so we can say that they may arm terrorists to attack the US. OK, Iran: check.

North Korea, however . . . what are they going to do? Bomb the ROK into the stone age one hundred times instead of ten? Their pathetic missile tests and 1kiloton nuke test don't even rate, yet. The Bush White House should heed the wisdom of The Economist: KJI needs some technology transfer if he's going to become dangerous enough to rate an invasion. He also needs hooked up with some quality terrorist organizations.

There's time, though. We don't want to invade NK and Iran at the same time, not because Our Mighty Military couldn't handle it, of course, but because the political benefits of wars need to be stretched out over time. Why get one war bump for two wars when you can get one war bump for each if you time it right?

But they need to get on the stick in case something goes wrong with Iran. Always good to have a Plan B.

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