Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Not so fast, Jimmy

James Robbins writes about the North Korean issue in National Review (link via TPM Cafe, via Atrios). At first, it seems that he pretty much agrees with me that Bush's approach has done nothing but bring us back full-circle to the original Agreed Framework. Then, sadly, he gets off track.
President Bush had it right in his 2003 State of the Union address when he said, "Throughout the 1990s, the United States relied on a negotiated framework to keep North Korea from gaining nuclear weapons. We now know that that regime was deceiving the world, and developing those weapons all along. And today the North Korean regime is using its nuclear program to incite fear and seek concessions. America and the world will not be blackmailed." But we can still make another foolish bargain like the one we made in 1994. And when this one collapses the cleanup might be a bit messier.

The only certain solution to the WMD question on the Korean peninsula is regime change.
No no no no no.

First, let me speak directly to you, James, and ask what army is going to be able to force regime change? We are stretched thin, brother, and, in a couple of years when the IRR time is up on a lot of soldiers' contracts, it's going to be even worse.

You see, when your side talks about how good the retention level is, you forget that soldiers signing up for an intitial two-year hitch are actually promising eight, with six years inactive. (You could understand this better, of course, by signing up but that's neither here nor there.) In talking to soldiers who re-enlisted in Afghanistan, a lot of guys told me that they knew they were going to get called up anyway because they still had four years, so why not re-enlist for a bonus? So, with recruiting numbers slowing, I think you'll see a bunch of second-term soldiers fall away in the next few years.

Second, Bush has been right about nothing. According to the CIA report of 2002, there was no evidence that North Korea actually started building weapons-making plants until 2001. They hadn't been "developing those weapons all along." Yes, the CIA was "suspicious that North Korea has been working on uranium enrichment for several years," but, if that was the case, then why the hell did Bush hand them $94M and let them off the hook for inspections?

The sad truth is that the neocon pre-emptive strike/regime change strategy won't work against North Korea any better than it has in Iraq. Yes, Saddam's gone, but we're not safer (says the CIA and an United Nations expert panel). Further, Korea actually is scary and should have been dealt with sooner, but it was just too tough a test-case for your strategies, which proved to be flawed from the get-go.

The Bush Administration was put on notice about North Korea even before it received the C.I.A. report. In January of last year, John Bolton, the Under-Secretary of State for Arms Control, declared that North Korea had a covert nuclear-weapons program and was in violation of the nonproliferation treaty. In February, the President was urged by three members of Congress to withhold support for the two reactors promised to North Korea, on the ground that the Pyongyang government was said to be operating a secret processing site "for the enrichment of uranium." In May, Bolton again accused North Korea of failing to coöperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the group responsible for monitoring treaty compliance. Nevertheless, on July 5th the President's national-security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, who presumably had received the C.I.A. report weeks earlier, made it clear in a letter to the congressmen that the Bush Administration would continue providing North Korea with shipments of heavy fuel oil and nuclear technology for the two promised energy-generating reactors.

The Administration's fitful North Korea policy, with its mixture of anger and seeming complacency, is in many ways a consequence of its unrelenting focus on Iraq. Late last year, the White House released a national-security-strategy paper authorizing the military "to detect and destroy an adversary's WMD assets"—weapons of mass destruction—"before these weapons are used." The document argued that the armed forces "must have the capability to defend against WMD-armed adversaries . . . because deterrence may not succeed." Logically, the new strategy should have applied first to North Korea, whose nuclear-weapons program remains far more advanced than Iraq's. The Administration's goal, however, was to mobilize public opinion for an invasion of Iraq. One American intelligence official told me, "The Bush doctrine says MAD"—mutual assured destruction—"will not work for these rogue nations, and therefore we have to preëmpt if negotiations don't work. And the Bush people knew that the North Koreans had already reinvigorated their programs and were more dangerous than Iraq. But they didn't tell anyone. They have bankrupted their own policy—thus far—by not doing what their doctrine calls for."

Iraq's military capacity has been vitiated by its defeat in the Gulf War and years of inspections, but North Korea is one of the most militarized nations in the world, with more than forty per cent of its population under arms. Its artillery is especially fearsome: more than ten thousand guns, along with twenty-five hundred rocket launchers capable of launching five hundred thousand shells an hour, are positioned within range of Seoul, the capital of South Korea. The Pentagon has estimated that all-out war would result in more than a million military and civilian casualties, including as many as a hundred thousand Americans killed.
But Iraq was no "cakewalk" either and we're paying for it.

The fact that you can still use words like "regime change" and act like America can bring such a thing about just goes to show that neocons like you cannot be taught.


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