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A running commentary on actions of the George W. Bush administration, with emphasis on the environment and on national security

Current Commentary

October 16,2006

North Korea has The Bomb. Iran next?

So, do you feel safer yet? North Korea's got The Bomb, and Bush's minions are still busy confiscating toothpaste at airports.

Now we see where six years of saber rattling, talk of evil empires, radical stripping of American civil liberties, and open advocacy of torture has gotten us. In one of the most terrifying developments on the world stage, North Korea has tested a nuclear weapon. And what have they to fear from us? Our costly adventure that has bogged us down in Iraq has shown we can't even handle that, let alone military action in North Korea. The NeoCon infatuation with phantom WMD in Iraq left our military and budget bogged down and unable to deal with real WMD in North Korea. And, of course, all those threats certainly helped to convince North Korea that the only way to stave off capricous American military action (we're good at bombing, not so good at cleaning up the mess) was to have a nuclear deterrent. Can I say with any confidence that a Democratic administration would have been able to stop a North Korean bomb? No, of course not -- perhaps this development was inevitable. However every year of delay bought precious time to work on further initiatives and allow for political change. This is what happened with the Libya nuclear program, as well as the less well known South African one. Thus, even a partly successful program would have been a good thing. What we can say for certain about the Bush administration is that, if all the rollback of civil liberties, the expensive military adventurism (expensive in political capital, in money, and in lives),the disdain for international treaties, the tough talk was supposed to buy us a safer world, it sure hasn't worked. We've expended all that, and in exchange we've gotten a far more dangerous world, and far sooner than one might have feared.

Let me emphasize at once that this is not at heart a matter of Republicans vs Democrats. It's a matter of the Neo-Con Artists who run the Bush administration vs. those who have some respect for truth and competence. Democratic liberals have some baggage of their own which can prevent them being effective, and in some spheres there is a lot to be said for the policies of Moderate Republicans (and no, McCain is not a Moderate Republican, except in the important area of global warming). But where are the Moderate Republicans? The party has been systemicatically cleansed of them, and the few left are denied voice and power.

The broader policies of the present administration provide much of the setting for the present morass. Have we kicked the deficit spending habit? No -- tax cuts for the already wealthy were considered far too important. As a result, we need to tread very carefully with China, potentially our most important ally in reigning in North Korea, because China is financing our current spending spree. Have we cut back our gluttonous demand for oil? No, because the sacred right to burn hydrocarbons is one of the few immutable principles of the present Administration. As a result, Iran can be assured of a steady stream of income to finance its own nuclear ambitions. Moreover, by moving aggressively on development of a new generation of destabilizing nuclear weapons -- mini-nukes (your taxpayer dollars at work developing terrorist nuclear weapons technology for those who can't afford it on their own!) and bunker-busting nukes (lowering the threshold for first-use), then dumping the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban treaty, the US has hardly set a good example for those trying to make the case that nuclear weapons are a military liability. And how about the genius diplomacy of Bush recess-appointee, UN Ambassador John Bolton, who, at a moment when the US needs Russian cooperation most, chose to deeply offend the Russians by offering the deep insight of comparing the North Korean representative to Nikita Kruschev, stirring up old sores from a difficult time in US-Russian relations.

The sad and terrifying tale of North Korea is one of diplomatic incompetence start to finish. Republicans blocked full implementation of Clinton's diplomatic deals, which had successfully delayed North Korea's nuclear program. When Bush diplomats decided to confront North Korea with evidence of cheating on the enriched Uranium program, it's clear they had no game plan for what to do next -- they probably expected North Korea to quake in its boots, roll over and play dead. Fat chance. Pakistan gets the bomb and becomes a major ally -- we just don't care, it seems. India gets the bomb and Bush wants to throw out the Nuclear Nonproliferation treaty so we can sell them uranium and nuclear technology. The writing on the wall is clear for would-be nuclear powers. Get The Bomb first, and just wait a few years; the world will be eating out of your hand. And anyway, the NeoCons who run Bush's operation probably think that North Korea having the bomb might be a good way to sell the rest of the world on the unworkable Star Wars missile defense system.

Can you say "Fata Morgana?"