Thoughts on a Nuclear North Korea

A few hours after President Obama finished his Memorial Day round of golf with former Kerry “body man” Marvin Nicholson, North Korea officially entered the nuclear club.

We’ve all known this was going to happen for a lot of reasons. To a certain extent we’re lucky it has taken them this long to produce a nuke. They had a false start back in 2006 and perhaps an industrial accident in 2004, but there was never any doubt that eventually this day would come.

So what will the Administration do now?

Based on what we saw pre-invasion of Iraq we can predict with a fair amount of certainty that the White House will be test driving certain themes over the next days or weeks.

Containment/Mutually Assured Destruction

Back in the days before John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt decided to diversify their intellectual portfolio to include Jew baiting, they were apologists for Saddam’s quest to obtain nuclear weapons.

But what about the Iraqi regime’s weapons of mass destruction? Those who reject containment point to Iraq’s past use of chemical weapons against the Kurds and Iran. They also warn that he will eventually get nuclear weapons. According to President Bush, a nuclear arsenal would enable Mr. Hussein to ”blackmail the world.” And the real nightmare is that he will give chemical, biological or nuclear weapons to Al Qaeda.

These possibilities sound alarming, but the dangers they pose do not justify war.

Mr. Hussein’s use of poison gas was despicable, but it tells us nothing about what he might do against the United States or its allies. He could use chemical weapons against the Kurds and Iranians because they could not retaliate in kind. The United States, by contrast, can retaliate with overwhelming force, including weapons of mass destruction. This is why Mr. Hussein did not use chemical or biological weapons against American forces or Israel during the 1991 Persian Gulf war. Nor has he used such weapons since, even though the United States has bombed Iraq repeatedly over the past decade.

The same logic explains why Mr. Hussein cannot blackmail us. Nuclear blackmail works only if the blackmailer’s threat might actually be carried out. But if the intended target can retaliate in kind, carrying out the threat causes the blackmailer’s own destruction. This is why the Soviet Union, which was far stronger than Iraq and led by men of equal ruthlessness, never tried blackmailing the United States.

In fact, a stronger case can be made for the relative stability of North Korea than could ever have been made for Iraq. I mean, North Korea may have attempted to assassinate a Korean president, killed a First Lady, blown up the South Korean cabinet, hacked two US officers to death with axes, pirated a US navy vessel, repeatedly violated South Korea’s border, and kidnapped numerous Japanese citizens but they haven’t invaded anyone.

If one follows this line of reasoning to its logical conclusion the United States could stamp out nuclear proliferation and war by simply arming all comers with nukes. Then they’d have no reason to pursue nuclear weapons and would have no reason to use them because all of their enemies would also be nuclear powers.

Don’t worry, be happy.

Fine. North Korea has nukes. How does that change your life? Most of us would immediately recall all the fear mongering from the 1980s when the SANE/Freeze nincompoops produced prime time made for television movies and CBS news did stories about kids so scared of nuclear war that they couldn’t sleep. Those days have changed. Back then it was the evil United States against the Worker’s Paradise. And since the Soviet Union never used nukes to defend itself from our aggression, neither will North Korea.

Sad to say, the preeminent voice in this field is a guy who is right on a lot of things. Check his blog for this week to find his take on this event. No, his blog hasn’t been hacked and that story erased. While he found time to cover the increasing supply of commercial real estate nothing covers North Korea becoming a nuclear power other than a bit of blather about a succession crisis in Pyongyang.

He is nothing if not consistent. Back in 2006 he touted a nuclear Iran as being the best hope for peace in the Middle East.

Barnett says that Iran’s possession of nuclear weapons would level the “playing field” by “finally allowing the Muslim Middle East to sit one player at the negotiating table as Israel’s nuclear equal.” He predicts, “Iran will get the bomb, no matter how the United States or its allies seek to prevent that outcome.”

He urges a “grand bargain with Iran” in which “Iran gets the bomb, diplomatic recognition, the lifting of sanctions and the opening of trade, and its removal from the axis of evil.” In return, Iran is supposed to stop supporting terrorism and will recognize Israel.

He amplified these comments on his blog:

Where is the history of states acquiring the bomb and then using it irrationally? History has consistently proven just the opposite, even with Islamist regimes like Pakistan and quasi-theocracies like Israel. This is just another example of the sad American tendency to demonize all potential foes as irrational. You take down a country on either side of Iran and they reach for the bomb: who’s being irrational or naive on that one?

To those of us who are not members of Mensa there seem to be a slew of logical fallacies in this argument, but this guy has a really big brain and has minions to write about him on his own blog so we’ll just have to defer to his natural superiority of intellect.

Peace in our time.

From the Washington Post

In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke Tuesday to her Russian counterpart as part of an effort to seek a united response with “consequences” for North Korea. But U.S. officials also stressed that they are still eager for North Korea to return to multilateral disarmament talks and are not ready to declare the multi-year effort to end North Korea’s nuclear program a failure.
“We feel the door does still remain open, that we’re ready to engage,” said State Department spokesman Ian Kelly. He described the Obama administration’s effort now as trying to “bring international pressure to bear to get them to reverse their course.”

Of course this statement calls into question exactly what would North Korea have to do before the State Department declared its efforts to keep North Korea from getting a nuke a failure. Probably something unfortunate happening to Honolulu.

Under this theory, fifty years of negotiations with North Korea have given us peace and a nuclear armed North Korea. Continued negotiations will give us at least half as much.

The question for the Obama Administration is , “what now?” My guess is “nothing”. They are secretly glad that the North Koreans detonated a nuke so they no longer have to worry about being criticized for not preventing it (this was obviously Bush’s fault, right) and it fits into their basic hate-America worldview. Really, the North Koreans wouldn’t want a nuke if we didn’t have them and threaten people who didn’t (did I mention this was all Bush’s fault). If nothing else this will provide an interesting test bed for how liberals deal with deranged, nuclear power so they can have their act polished by the time Iran becomes nuclear.

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