North Korea not pre-eminent threat

    Since it has been made public that North Korea is well on its way to getting — or may already have — nuclear capabilities, the situation with the east-Asian nation is becoming more precarious with each passing day; an official North Korean state paper even went so far as to promise to turn America into a “”sea of fire”” if we were to challenge the regime in its supposed “”national security”” efforts. With increasing defiance directed toward the United States, North Korea is wrapped up in its efforts to oppose international order and is tossing out agreements made during previous U.S. administrations that limited its exploration of nuclear weapons capabilities. With almost prophetic ingenuity, President George W. Bush correctly labeled North Korea after 9/11 as part of an “”axis of evil,”” along with one other nation that we are currently in tension with: Iraq.

    A former Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Lee Hamilton, sums up that side of the argument nicely: “”[Bush’s ‘axis of evil’ speech] has made diplomacy more difficult in the months since [9/11] and probably exacerbated the dangers that [Bush] was seeking to contain.””

    For Hamilton and those who agree with him, Bush’s “”axis of evil”” speech is provoking the North Koreans to challenge Bush in a battle of pomposity — two peacocks strutting their stuff before an international arena. Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh further elaborated on Hamilton’s point when he said that Bush has been using “”bellicose language [toward North Korea], not thinking what the consequences of that might be,” clearly insinuating that we all know where we can point the blaming finger.

    Oh, but how easily they forget the actions of a Democrat, former President William Jefferson Clinton, and how his by-the-book appeasement of the North Korean regime led directly to the current potential conflict.

    What the Clinton administration did back in 1994 was sign a no-nukes-for-cash agreement that stipulated that, provided that Pyongyang promises not to use aid we were henceforth sending its way for nuclear purposes, we would take Korea at its word. But we all know what happened: the North Koreans did no such thing, and without Uncle Sam checking up on them, we shouldn’t have been that shocked when recently they unveiled nuclear capabilities and commenced their ritualistic thumbing of their noses at the United States.

    The Bush administration is rightly pointing the finger at Clintonites and their naivete in foreign affairs, which has left the problem of North Korea for the Bush camp to fix. Speaking directly to the former administration, Bush said in last Tuesday’s State of the Union, “”We will not deny; we will not ignore; we will not pass along our problems to other Congresses to other presidents and other generations.””

    A spokesman for the Bush administration said Clinton’s deal with the North Koreans “”frontloaded all the benefits and left the difficult things to the end,”” passing the buck to Bush in 2002-03. Clinton and his team of foreign affairs appeasers happily gave away benefits of the deal — money, through which North Korea used to bolster its nuclear research facilities — without checking if the other end of the bargain had been met. The agreement stipulated that if the regime attempted to fulfill its nuclear ambitions, we would not meet our side of the bargain (i.e., sending cash). But even those in the intelligence community had no idea, since the money never stopped flowing.

    But while the North Korean situation is becoming more and more tenuous, many have pointed out the seemingly glaring contradiction in the Bush administration’s preference to focus on Iraq instead of North Korea. Indeed, an article in the Sept. 30, 2002 issue of USA Today read, “”Bush is struggling to explain why the administration is planning for war against one member of the axis [of evil], Iraq, on the grounds that it is developing weapons of mass destruction while urging negotiations through the United Nations with North Korea, which already has them.” However, there is as strong a case as any to be made as to why this administration should take it one step at a time, focusing on Iraq first.

    Members of Congress in the early ’90s who wished for and succeeded in cutting the defense and intelligence budgets thought it was unnecessary to spend billions of dollars on a military that had just exited the Cold War as the world’s only superpower. Therefore, they reasoned, cuts would be beneficial, since the revenue saved could be spent on other things like social programs. But what they forgot, and continue to forget to this day, is that peace never lasts for long. Throughout history, peace has been the exception, not the norm. In a short time we would find ourselves again fighting for world safety.

    The time is now. Two nations are challenging the safety of the international order. And just like former oppressive regimes that were thrown into the trash can of history, the United States is weighing the possibilities of fighting for a safer world without sadistic dictators. But this time, we are not privileged to have the strong military and we need to do that which needs to be done: deal comprehensively with Iraq and North Korea without tip-toeing around one of them.

    We need a new policy. And the right decision is to confront Iraq first, then North Korea. While North Korea is technically the bigger threat, since it has nuclear capabilities and can easily use them to threaten our friends nearby (South Korea), or even ourselves, dealing directly with a nuclear nation is a much grander task than with the non-nuclear. Remember the Cold War? There was a reason they called it Mutually Assured Destruction: it would be M.A.D. to wage war.

    What makes Iraq the premiere focus of American foreign policy is its attempt to go nuclear. We know well enough of Saddam Hussein’s intentions of destruction, to one day take over the Middle East, to intimidate other nations, and also to one day be able to call a nuclear bomb his own. He was too close for comfort in getting the bomb when we interfered last time — the London International Institute for Strategic Studies has reported that complete designs and productive capabilities for nuclear weapons were found by U.N. inspectors the first time around. And if we don’t do it again, and do it right, we will have two nuclear nations wishing our death. If we thought Iraq was bad enough now, how would we feel once we have to stare down the dual-barrels of a nuclear-tipped shotgun known as Iraq and North Korea?

    The North Korean situation as it stands now is the very product of the appeasement that some wish to bestow on Saddam and his regime. It is precisely because we are troubled over the current situation in Pyongyang that we need to stop Saddam before he acquires weapons that will make him impossible to deal with. First Iraq, then North Korea, and we’ll all be safer. In Bush’s own words: “”Our nation and the world must learn the lessons of the Korean Peninsula and not allow an even greater threat to rise up in Iraq.”” Bravo.

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