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Published by David French -- Harvard Law grad, former lecturer at Cornell Law School, author of books no one reads, master of the three point shot, constant critic of Duke Basketball, Playstation2 addict, owner of a cool new Sony DCRTRV25 MiniDV Digital Handycam, father of two and husband of one extremely hot wife


The Culture Curve
Thursday, October 17, 2002  
SPRING, 1939? The news that North Korea has admitted that it has violated its 1994 agreement not to develop nuclear weapons is truly shattering. My own guess (and it's just a guess) is that North Korea would not admit its breach unless it already possessed some nuclear capability. I think this revelation is deeply disturbing on at least two levels -- one diplomatic and the other military.

First, the diplomatic angle. If you recall the events of 1994 (and I do), the nuclear non-development agreement was seen as a big win not just for President Clinton (and for Jimmy Carter, who helped negotiate the treaty) but also a big win for the Clinton approach to foreign policy -- the use of "engagement" and economic carrots to induce bad regimes to behave. News that North Korea has systematically violated this pact shatters the notion that "engagement" and "carrots" have the same effect on rogue regimes as they do on nations that more or less belong to the civilized world. Countries like North Korea and Iraq develop weapons of mass destruction not as a method of economic development or as a method for joining the "family of nations," but as a power play. These are not adolescents crying out for help and attention; they are malevolent regimes bent on developing the maximum attainable military power. They are also militarily aggressive regimes. They are not at all attracted to "peaceful" nuclear power or to true "economic development." Saddam did not invade Kuwait to make his people rich, and North Korea's Kim is not going to abandon a nuclear weapons program for free electrical power generation. These people are evil -- to the core -- and the sooner we realize this, the more clear our options become.

Militarily, the situation is rapidly becoming terrifying. Iraq represents an ideal candidate for pre-emption. Not so North Korea. Iraq's conventional forces are weak, America essentially controls the skies, and Saddam (currently) has very little ability to inflict significant damage on allied nations. He is racing to obtain nuclear weapons so that he can transform the balance of power at one stroke -- which would allow him to move from a regional headache to a strategic nightmare. Striking him before the balance changes is imperative.

Korea, on the other hand, could not be more different. Its million-man army -- though stocked with out-dated equipment -- is unbloodied and massed on the border of South Korea. North Korea's long-range artillery can reach the suburbs of Seoul, meaning that any military confrontation -- no matter how successful -- would result in horrific allied civilian casualties and massive economic damage to South Korea. Moreover, North Korea has had fifty years to prepare its defenses, and any conventional allied attack would likely result in tens of thousands of American and South Korean casualties. A nuclear-armed North Korea would represent a nearly invulnerable armory for terrorists and other rogue states. North Korea is already a major supplier of arms for Iran and is known to persistently market missiles and other weapons to rogue states around the globe. In fact, arms deals are -- other than the aid given by western governments -- the country's primary method of propping up a tottering economy.

I do not envy Bush. In the aftermath of September 11, we are faced with Al Qaida cells that we know are trying to kill Americans at every opportunity, our nation's capital is held hostage by a sniper (or snipers) who may very well be terrorists, Saddam -- one of the terror world's primary financial and military supporters -- is feverishly working to achieve nuclear capability and now North Korea, the most militarily powerful member of the Axis of Evil, announces that its nuclear program is alive and well.

If I were advising Bush, I would do the following: i) accelerate the timetable for toppling Saddam -- move within weeks, not months; ii) once Saddam is toppled, leave the primary administrative/occupational duties to the British -- thereby freeing American forces for a possible defense of South Korea; iii) during the course of the Iraq conflict -- which would hopefully last only a few weeks -- downplay the Korean problem while working feverishly behind the scenes with South Korea and Japan to consolidate our alliance and upgrade Japanese and Korean military readiness; iv) immediately following the drawdown of American forces in Iraq, announce a total military quarantine of North Korea -- all shipping and flights from the country would be stopped and searched for any military exports. All incoming flights and ships would be searched for military or militarily-significant hardware; v) Stealth bombers and fighters would be moved from American bases to South Korea -- ready for an immediate strike on North Korean nuclear facilities; vi) the Marine division located at Okinawa (and any available Japanese forces) should be moved to South Korea and placed in reserve -- behind current American and South Korean military deployments; vii) all available missile defense units should be moved to South Korea and Japan -- including (if necessary) Arrow missiles purchased from Israel; viii) once missile defense is in place and allied forces are at peak readiness, we should launch a comprehensive stealth bomber strike against North Korean nuclear facilities; ix) notify North Korea that any military response to this airstrike will result not in defensive action but in an invasion of North Korea; and x) also notify the Koreans that -- if they agree to an inspections regime -- the allies will lift their economic quarantine.

When I woke up this morning and read about North Korea's declaration, I felt sick to my stomach. We are literally staring a world war in the face. All of our options look bleak. If we do nothing, the world's most terrifying weapons will rest in the hands of the world's most terrifying rulers -- rulers who ally themselves with terrorists. If we strike, thousands will die, and the aftershocks could plunge America into the most difficult military struggle since the first Korean War. Regardless of our position on the political spectrum -- and regardless of our support for the President -- we must cover him with prayer and wish him every success. The consequences of failure are simply unthinkable.

I wonder -- this feeling in the pit of my stomach -- is this how our grandparents felt in May, 1939?

8:24 AM

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