Friday, February 18, 2005


News that we just dropped another $85 million on a third failed missile test in a row — this time the rocket just wouldn’t launch — comes as absurdly obvious counterpoint to North Korea’s recent saber-rattling. Especially since that saber-rattling is considered one of the key justifications, or at least one of the key rationalizations (as a correspondent pointed out Feb. 10), for our “missile shield.”

For some reason, though, I’m not seeing North Korea mentioned in the context of preemption. Iraq was the Axis of Evil member we attacked to demonstrate that policy, with White House spokesman Ari Fleischer telling us on Oct. 16, 2002, that:

The risk is how long do you wait for Saddam Hussein to grow stronger, to develop those weapons and acquire nuclear weapons, before it’s too late? Do you only act after he has used them? Or if we had known that 9/11, for example, was coming, would we have acted to stop it? Of course we would have. Now, with Saddam Hussein the president has to ask similar tough questions. Can we know with certainty what Saddam Hussein is going to do? Only Saddam Hussein knows with certainty what he’s going to do with all the weapons that he’s growing and acquiring. And the risk of inaction is it means we have to trust Saddam Hussein to use wise judgment and discretion, something he has never shown an ability to do.

But Hussein never had the weapons. The United Nations inspectors told us so; Iraqi defectors told us so; even envoys of Hussein himself told us so, desperate to avoid a war.

North Korea, though, along with an insane, unpredictable and paranoid leader and a predilection for torturing political dissidents, has nuclear weapons. The North Koreans boast of it, and they sell nuclear knowledge and material to other countries. And we know it.

And our response is to install a missile shield that we can’t make work.

I once asked some friends if Iraq weren’t exactly the wrong way to launch a policy of preemption, since the weakness of our cause there made the next U.S. case at preemption much more difficult to sell. For some reason, the argument didn’t go my way. But the argument also hasn’t gone away.

Perhaps it’s time to try again: If we’re so afraid of North Korea attacking us that we must spend $50 billion over the next five years on missile defense, in addition to the $90 billion we’ve spent on it since 1985 ... why aren’t we attacking North Korea preemptively?

We could eliminate its weapons of mass destruction, punish it for sponsoring terrorism, if not being a terrorist state itself, enact regime change by overthrowing insane despot Kim Jong-il and even give its people democracy.

I suspect we’ll wait for North Korea to attack. And it won’t — as Iraq wouldn’t, although Iraq had additional reasons — and we’ll be relieved, because missile defense doesn’t work.

Relieved and impoverished.


Anonymous said...

Two quick thoughts in the middle of the night:

(I'm tired and A is sick, so I'm pulling the all-nighter.)

1) We're still at war with North Korea...or at least the South Koreans are at war. Geeeze....when you fly into Seoul you just know WWIII is going to break out any minute with the curtains and stuff. And then you can go near the DMZ and it gets even more bizarre.

There is a war going on there that is operating under a treuce; a cease fire.

2) Check the collar of your shirt; betja more times than not it has China, or Hong Kong or Thailand or Korea or Japan, etc.

I'm going to go out on a limb here, what the hell, you asked the question...that part of the world produces stuff that we want and it lasts more than the next trip to the gas station. And Americans are buying that stuff.

Takes some to grow one.


Scape7 said...

I'm not sure what you're trying to say in your second point. Could you clarify?

As to your first point ... are you suggesting that we've been fighting a preemptive war for roughly half a century?

eric said...

Yes...point number one is that's more than 50 years old.

Point number two is how much of our textiles come from there.


Scape7 said...

Okay, so we've been fighting a preemptive war for more than 50 years, resulting in our foe's increasing capacity to rain devastating nuclear fire upon us. Check.

I'm still in the dark as to your point about the clothing we war being made in Asia. Barring the fact that we actually export tons of cotton, meaning that we're talking about Asian manufacture but not necessarily Asian textiles ... so what? Please clarify, rather than rephrase.

Scape7 said...

Oh, sorry. The clothing we "wear," not the clothing we "war." Now, if you'll excuse me, I must get back to watching "The Way We Wore," starring Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford.

Brian Wanamaker said...

As an American expat living in Japan, an allied nation to the USA, it has been a constant source of confusion to me why Bush has been gungh-ho to attack Iraq over all these reasons, which Hussein denied, have turned out to be non-valid, but which North Korea has consistently laid claim and threatened with. ran a good bit with Jong-il asking what it would take to "catch Bush's eye" with all of the posing and shouting and crying and screaming that NK had done -- all of the madness and threats, and still Bush ignores them and goes to Iraq. Hussein was a bad man, to be sure, but his goals were clear and easy to understand. Kim Jong-il is either insane, or intentionally nursing an insane image to keep the entire world in fear of what steps he may next take.

Your point about the pre-emptive "sell" being harder the next time around is a good one, but you appear to be overrating the intelligence of many US citizens who, as you know, still think there is a connection between Iraq and 9/11. Such are the horrors of faith-based history recollection; who needs facts, when they just get in the way?

Scape7 said...

I suspect selling a war against North Korea will founder on fatigue more than intelligence. Letting Iraq collapse to take on another nation is a no-go, so removing large numbers of troops is impossible for the foreseeable future, even if the U.S. Congress and its constituents could be sold on the need, and I don't think they can ... now. We're pretty good at ignoring problems, but faced with a second war, we're going to find out we're not that good.

I think of it as if we're on an endless pub crawl with a charismatic cruise director. Sure, all the spending's going on a credit card and we've got a good buzz on, but deep down we know that evetually we have to pay that bill, and even before that we'll have to go to work in the morning. Fun's fun, but ...

Still, this will not be a problem, because there's no way in hell — short of an actual attack on U.S. soil — we're going to war with North Korea. (Which, obviously, would not be much of a preemptive attack. What it would be is a fascinating opportunity to watch the Bush administration spin the fact that it was right on the policy itself but somehow failed to pursue it — or, again obviously, blew our chance in Iraq.)

Brian Wanamaker said...

Considering how the Bush2 admin has managed to popularize the Iraq war, ignore the fallout in Afghanistan, shift the reasoning for the ENTIRE invasion from self-defense to some sort of freedom franchise, as well as deflect any and all blame for failing to protect from 9/11 while implementing fascistic security measures that would not have prevented it to begin with, I am sadly certain that a North Korean attack of some kind would be a cake-walk for them to excuse. And then further damage our liberties in the name of protection.

Scape7 said...

All right, smart guy! You're so sure, let's bet on it! FIve bucks on whether the Bushies can pull off a preemptive (whatever that means) war on North Korea. And a side bet on the fate of the free world and the future of humankind, just to make it interesting!