Wednesday, May 27, 2009

North Korea's Nuclear Test

Any group or nation with sufficient funds to build the industrial capacity to create the necessary materials can build a nuclear weapon. The possession of such weapons isn't a guarantee of security, but it certainly makes invasion and occupation by a foreign power less likely. While America and its allies bicker about whether or not deterrence works, North Korea ably demonstrates that it most certainly does.
When George W. Bush made his famous Axis of Evil speech in the wake of 9/11, he singled out three nations, none of whom really had anything to do with one another, as the exemplars of America's enemies abroad. It was strange, even at the time, since neither Iraq, Iran, nor North Korea had had anything to do with the plot to hijack commercial aircraft and crash them into a couple symbolic and a couple strategic targets within the continental United States. That the plan for the attacks had originated in Afghanistan, among mujahideen that we'd been arming and funding for most of the Eighties and Nineties as a way of fighting a proxy war with our old sparring partner the Soviet Union, and had been planned and carried out mostly citizens of Saudi Arabia, our petroleum-spewing BFFs over there in the Muslim Holy Land, was seen as, frankly, a distraction from the real business at hand, whatever that was.

One suspects it had something to do with cheap oil, and securing ready supplies of same, but that is a matter for another time and another blog post. I mean, sure, we went to war in Afghanistan and all, but you could tell our hearts weren't really in it. Rumsfeld and Bush ran the Afghan conflict like Bill Clinton (or some other equally namby-pamby bleeding heart) would have, waging war through proxy forces and showing no stomach for American casualties, as evidenced by our still-unbelievable failure to capture or kill Osama bin Laden and the remains of the Afghan Taliban at Tora Bora.

No, we already knew who we wanted to go after. The list was already in place. And despite all claims to the contrary, we went after Iraq first because we thought it would be the easy one.

(It would have been, too, if only we hadn't so horribly bungled the aftermath of our wildly successful invasion. If we hadn't disbanded the Iraqi Army and basically told the Baathists that the game was over, things in Iraq would have gone much more smoothly. But again I digress).

People think Saddam Hussein was insane not to allow the inspectors in to confirm that he did not, in fact, harbor weapons of mass destruction, but what those people don't understand is that the perception that he might was the only real card he had to play. It's also evidence that the WMD argument for going to war was always a canard. If we'd thought Iraq really did have weapons of mass destruction, by which I specifically mean nuclear weapons, we'd never have invaded in the first place, because of the possibility that they'd have been deployed against us, to catastrophic effect. Imagine, if you will, the effect on the American electorate's stomach for war if Saddam Hussein had dropped a nuclear bomb on the Kuwaiti border where our much-vaunted and indeed impressive military machine was massing forces for the invasion. Sure, we'd have nuked his ass back to the Stone Age, but the damage to our national pride and our belief in our military invincibility would have been game-changing. If we'd thought for a minute he had the bomb, we'd never have given him the chance to use it. There was just way too much to lose.

The lesson has not been lost on the Iranians, or the North Koreans. Which is why they're both trying so hard to develop at least the capability of producing nuclear weapons. It's the only demonstrable way to guarantee your national sovereignty against the predations of the American military. After all, we seem to have at least one war for every Presidential Administration, because our national culture demands that every President must carry out at least one military operation, if for no other reason than to prove he's willing to make the decision to do so.

And let's not forget that we did actually invade North Korea, and that the war there hasn't technically ended. We still have tens of thousands of troops stationed in the DMZ between North and South Korea. In fact, you could say that the sole basis for the North Korean state in its present form is in reaction to American aggression. If we weren't there, looming over the horizon like we are, do you really think a joker like Kim Jong Il could maintain a dictatorship in which a million people are sometimes allowed to starve in a given year? Even the Chinese and the Russians do business with us now, and have largely given over the whole Communism thing.

No, the reason North Korea has developed nuclear weapons is because it's the only sure hedge against an American invasion. Yes, there are other considerations. It can be used as leverage in negotiating trade agreements, and also demands that attention be paid to what would otherwise be an almost laughable tinpot dictatorship. After all, the North Koreans were at least willing to talk with us, back at the turn of the century, before we got all distracted and George W. and crew totally dropped the ball. And now we're in a much worse bargaining position than we were before. But at the end of the day, the reason North Korea (and Iran, for that matter) want to develop nuclear weapons is not for the waging of aggressive warfare, or to sell them to terrorists who would like to smuggle them into the United States and set them off, but because they know that the only sure guarantee against American adventurism is to join the nuclear club.

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