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Nuke-ing Non-proliferation Hopes
by J. F. Kelly, Jr. [writer] 10/20/06

While the American media and political classes indulged themselves in frenzied concentration on the Foley scandal, events of actual world-wide significance were taking place. In North Korea, that most isolated and unpredictable member of the axis of evil, Kim Jong Il told the world to go to hell again. He did what he said he was going to do in spite of rare, nearly unanimous international condemnation and conducted a nuclear test explosion.

J.F. Kelly, Jr.

J.F. Kelly, Jr. is a retired Navy Captain and bank executive who writes on current events and military subjects. He is a resident of Coronado, California. [go to Kelly index]

The test may or may not have been entirely successful but the degree of success matters little. What matters is that the combined diplomacy, warnings and threats of the world’s most powerful nations failed utterly to prevent a pathetic, starving, outcast nation ruled by an egotistical, unstable clown from joining the no-longer-so-exclusive nuclear club. This failure moved the world closer to potential disaster by accelerating nuclear proliferation. So much, then, for patient diplomacy and threats of sanctions. They don’t work well in places like North Korea or with ruthless dictators like Kim. North Korea’s deprived citizens have little left to lose and Kim’s only concern is in retaining power and gaining international attention. Defying the world and joining the nuclear club assures him of both.

The implications of this event are enormous and they are very ominous. Deliverable nuclear weapons are now or will soon be in the hands of another unstable, hostile state whose leader has made repeated threats against us and others who dare to threaten sanctions or economic reprisals. Will South Korea, whose failed “Sunshine” policy of appeasement and accommodation contributed to this crisis, now seek to develop a nuclear arsenal of its own? Will Japan find it in its interest to amend its constitution and assume a more prominent military role in the region, perhaps with nuclear weapons? And since diplomacy, pressure and threats of sanctions didn’t work with North Korea, how can they possibly be expected to work with Iran’s mullahs to keep that nation from becoming the next member of the expanding nuclear club?

Perhaps the greatest threat to world peace is Kim’s willingness to sell weapons technology to other nations including Muslim states hostile to the West. We say that we cannot permit this to happen but we also said that about North Korea’s acquisition of a nuclear capability in the first place. Exactly what, beyond frantic appeals to China to reign in its belligerent ally, are we prepared to do about it? Expectations that China and Russia will support sanctions stringent enough to topple Kim Jong Il are naïve. These Security Council members will inevitably act in their own best interests which is why the United Nations is generally ineffective in resolving anything of importance since these interests almost never entirely coincide with ours. China has no desire to see a flood of starving, desperate refugees streaming across a lengthy shared border, fleeing a chaotic, broken country. Neither, for that matter, does South Korea. China has already announced it will not stop and search any vessels involved in North Korean maritime trade to determine if they are carrying forbidden cargo. Again, so much for UN sanctions.

What to do now? Presidents of both political parties have tried diplomacy and joint persuasive efforts involving regional neighbors. Washington has consistently made it clear that we would seek diplomatic, not military, solutions. We had little reason to expect that such limited efforts would work and they didn’t. Kim Jong Il, on the other hand, had ample reason to remain confident that, with our military forces fully committed to an unpopular war in Iraq, he had little reason to fear preemptive military action on our part. He was right.

Critics of the administration were quick to weigh in but, as usual, the criticism was heavy on blame but light on solutions. It is ironic indeed that some of the same voices that heretofore urged multilateral diplomacy, acting only in concert with our allies or the UN, were now denouncing the president for nor engaging in bilateral talks with North Korea as demanded by Kim. But that would only have demonstrated that Kim can get what he wants by threats and belligerent behavior. It has worked for him in the past in extracting concessions from Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush. They have only emboldened him and enhanced his hero status among his subjects.

This defeat for U.S. foreign policy illustrates again the failure of appeasement and the limitations of diplomacy unless accompanied by a firm resolve to institute military action, if they fail to dissuade, such as a naval blockade or quarantine. Unless we are prepared to follow up our demands that Iran cease its nuclear weapons program with the promise of certain military consequences, we might as well save our breath. Threats of sanctions do not work with religious fanatics any more than they work with crackpot dictators like Kim Jong Il. The other lesson, obviously, is that we need to accelerate progress on our missile defense system as a matter of some urgency. CRO

copyright 2006 J. F. Kelly, Jr.



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