Bush’s futile North Korean embargo
By Carl Senna, 2006, all rights reserved
Whatever we may feel about North Korea’s defiant nuclear weapons test, given the state of war that has existed between the United States and the Hermit Kingdom, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, [North Korea’s official name] and its leader Kim Jong il clearly have long felt threatened by Bush administration hawks. And the threat of a Bush administration military attack seems to have been purposely maintained to keep the North Koreans off balance, a form of intimidation to discourage them from developing nuclear weapons. Now we know that the threat has backfired—-as a number of White House critics predicted it would. For the North Korean nuclear arsenal was only common sense on their part.
In the aftermath, it’s all well and good for Japan and South Korea, following Bush cues, to denounce the DPRK for the test, but their denunciations ring hollow, so much pounding the table and shallow anger, when the two DPRK neighbors have permitted for almost a half-century US military bases and nuclear sub refueling privileges threatening the DPRK. The world must accept that the DPRK now has a nuclear shield to defend itself from the Bush administration’s superpower strategic military, nuclear, and high tech swords. Violence is no longer a tactical or strategic option in the Korean peninsula. President Bush should study the teachings of Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr., two men whose wisdom on nonviolence has only invited cynical sneers from the White House except in the President and Vice President’s political speeches to black Americans and Third World leaders.
North Korea, like Iran, has pursued nuclear weapons for the same defensive reasons that the present declared nuclear powers (and Israel) have maintained them. And it seems highly unlikely that the DPRK nukes will have any tactical military use for aggression against South Korea or Japan. Bush knows, as many observers have noted, where to find Kim Jong il for retaliation, unlike the elusive non-state leader Osama bin Laden, should a nuclear conflict erupt on the Korean peninsula. But it is also unlikely that the DPRK will share their nuclear weapons technology with terrorist groups unless the Bush administration acts on its military threats against the communist regime. For one thing, the technology to make nuclear weapons is no longer a big secret, and terrorists, for starters, can easily find that information (as well as technicians to teach the terrorists how to easily manufacture them, and find,too, the materials to make a bomb). Getting the weapons would be easier for terrorists outside of the DPRK, and likely sources would be the former Soviet Union (and, yes, Israel, South Africa, Brazil or Argentina), the weapons black markets of the Sub-Continent, the Balkans, and the South China Seas.
The reason for hope that nuclear weapons will not be deployed on a future battlefield anytime soon is that they have no battlefield military use unless the bombed side is unable to retaliate in kind. That was the case when the United States dropped atomic bombs on Japan to end WW II. Had Japan the ability to retaliate, the US would not have attacked Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Post-World War II proliferation of nuclear weapons has been motivated by the desire for military deterrence against a preemptive nuclear strike. North Korea seems motivated by the same concern as Britain, the USSR, China, and France, right after World War II in acquiring a nuclear arsenal.
(See The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers by Paul Kennedy, Random House, p 370 and Controlling the Bomb: Nuclear Proliferation in the 1980s by Lewis A Dunn, Twentieth Century Fund, 1982, p 153) Just this October 8, in a speech at Edinburgh’s Queen’s Hall, Tony Blair’s presumed successor, Chancellor Gordon Brown, told his audience on Britain’s nuclear arsenal: “I don’t think at this point it makes sense for us to unilaterally throw away our weapons. What I think makes sense for us to do is to use our weapons to negotiate downwards the amount of weapons that exist in the world”. (“Brown Heckled on Nuclear Weapons,” Press Association, The Guardian Online, Sunday, October 8, 2006 10:18 PM)
The reason that many US Generals have called for abandoning nuclear weapons in the US arsenal is that they risk retaliation; and atomic weapons destroy what they would defend or gain for the users. The way to keep the weapons out of use by terrorists is to bring all nuclear and potential nuclear powers into a new International security agreement that can enforce a ban on the trade of such weapons to terrorists. Economic embargoes, sanctions, and threats against nuclear or would-be nuclear powers only encourages them to trade in the very nuclear technology proliferation that we want to restrict. Pakistan’s A.Q. Khan’s nuclear weapons consulting business ought to have taught us that lesson. Bush rather frustratingly seeks to impose trade restrictions on North Korea, or squeeze the DPRK, while expecting it not to trade in the one thing that is immune to embargoes: the trade in knowledge and ideas.
A terrorist living amongst us who knows how to construct a nuclear bomb, or any other weapon of mass destruction, is a security nightmare, and he or she is much more dangerous than one who has the bomb.(And nukes are only one kind of mass killer, albeit still the most difficult to create.)
Since the North Korean nuclear bomb test, we need to engage the DPRK more than ever, because they are also not immune to random acts of nuclear terror from extremist, domestic opponents of Kim Jong il. The DPRK has just as vital a stake in international security as the rest of the world. Engaging the North Koreans in dialogue with the USA could enlighten them in the common interest both countries share in protection from rogue, non-state violence. But confrontation and intimidation will be as counterproductive as they were in past US sanctions to forestall the North Koreans from a nuclear detonation.
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washingtonpost postglobal Oct 10, 2006