Monday, October 09, 2006

"So do I get a jacket?"

I could not help but think of that 1986 classic The Manhattan Project when I read a headline stating that “North Korea Joins the Nuclear Club” or some thing along those lines. And here I was all set to drop some funny on you guys to start the week and then everyone’s favorite funnyman Kim Jong Il, aka the Dear Reader, decided to clear up his soju induced hangover by blowing up vast quantities of dirt.* I have struggled over what to write about the developing situation on the Korean peninsula but, to be completely honest, I am just tapped out about it. My brother and I have been talking about it since the DPRK announced their plans to perform a test detonation on the 3rd and we expected a test to come in a few months, if at all. I have struggled to write something, either a post here or a comment on Barry Eisler’s superlative blog The Heart of the Matter, and I just can’t find anything inside me except a deep sadness and worry for my friends, family, and acquaintances in Korea. Then I stumbled across this on the CNN website and decided that the best way to get back in a good mood about this whole thing is to viciously mock idiots who feel the need to express themselves on the Internet.

First up we have David Justin Lynch from Palm Springs, California opining that:
The entire international community should impose economic sanctions. No food, no medicine, no fuel, nada. Yes, refugees will stream across the border into China. The international community can then mount a foreign aid effort. Then the regime will collapse. The United Nations then moves in and installs a caretaker government, followed by free elections to install a democracy.
Yes David, this is exactly what should happen except that we have seen that the international community does not have the stomach to punish a civilian population for the misdeeds of their leaders (please see any number of articles on the effectiveness of sanctions against Iraq after the first Gulf War.) Should we go far enough to concede that the fall of Kim Jong Il’s regime can be brought about by sanctions then we have the UNs enviable record of nation-building to deal with. The best option at that point would be to allow the Korean people to vote on a reunification referendum which I think would pass with an amazing majority. The trick at that point would be to convince China that they want to allow a U.S. client state on their border which, when combining South Korea’s business sector and North Korea’s under-utilized markets and natural resources, would become an economic powerhouse within a decade. Somehow I think China might not like this therefore we would have to settle for a North Korea which is a Chinese marionette; not too different from the situation we have today.

Then we have Judith Shade from Hilton Head Island, South Carolina:
This will probably get me on an even higher “watch list” but, after being a very successful parent, I know that one must back up one’s threats with action. These two-bit dictators have been taunting us and we’ve done nothing – worse than sending a kid into ‘timeout.’ We need to do the equivalent of spanking their little behinds…drop a well placed low level nuke real close to two palaces – one for the fruitcake in Iran and the other for the cross dresser in North Korea!
I think I could whip a little pop-psychology on Ms. Shade and spend a couple of hours tearing this one apart. First off do we really trust her that she is a, “very successful” parent? What are the criteria for that? Not raising a mass-murderer could certainly be one of the criteria but then that often takes some time to tell. Any of her kids want to let us in on how successful a parent she might be? Also what frackin’ watch list does she think this jackass opinion of hers will land her on? Hell, she’s advocating what G-Dub really wants to do here, however he is actually held back by the reality that if we dropped a nuclear weapon on Pyongyang the approximately 23 million civilians in the Seoul metropolitan area would be in immediate danger. The minute we start throwing nukes around is the minute that Kim Jong Il and his boys realize they have nothing else to loose and they would begin their assault across the DMZ. Of course they would be reticent to use nuclear weapons on Seoul and Inchon as the Han river valley is some of the best farming land in Korea, which is something on the order of 80% mountain so you don’t have a lot of arable land to waste. This does not exclude conventional attacks on just under half of the civilian population of South Korea, all within easy reach of the SCUD-C and Nodong missiles currently in North Korea’s arsenal. On top of that we would then be engaged in a war which we almost lost the first time around when we were not engaged in major combat operations anywhere else in the world. Finally we have to worry about what China might think about us tossing nukes in their back yard. Yes, clearly the “Nuke ‘em till they glow” approach is going to work well here. Oh yeah, and one more thing, the “fruitcake in Iran” is, much like Hitler and Bush, a democratically elected leader.

Tom Cox from the Great White North (that’s Canada) says:
Do unto others before they can do unto you. Do you really think during World War II that the Japanese would have hesitated to use a nuclear weapon on the U.S.A. if they had it in their arsenal?
First off I would like to say that this was much more aggressive than I was expecting from our first Canucklehead. Secondly I have to wonder whether Tom really thinks the current situation in North Korea and the situation the Japanese were in during WWII are comparable? We won’t even get in to a discussion of the differences in culture and so on that make the comparison a bit suspect, and probably irritating to my friends of Korean descent, and focus on the geopolitical realities of today and yesterday. Japan’s casus belli in opening a campaign against the United States was that we were putting the squeeze on them economically, particularly on the fuel front. Does this sound familiar to anyone else? Can we all say the word ‘sanctions’? I thought we could. To answer Tom’s question, of course the Japanese would have used a nuclear weapon on the U.S. Hell, they would probably have used a nuclear weapon on their own soil to prevent a U.S. invasion, but you know what? At the end of the day the Koreans, even the ones from the north, are not the Japanese and despite some common factors the world in 2006 is a bit different from the world in 1941. Besides, I do not see how the United States can justify another preemptive war when we have not managed to handle the one we started, and won according to some, in Iraq.

Hashim Muk restores my faith in the predictability of Canadian public opinion with:
If the U.S. can have 5,000 plus nuclear weapons, then everyone should have a right to develop nuclear arms to protect itself from U.S. and its allies.
Ah yes, my peace loving friend, the “well everyone else is doing it so we should be able to, too” argument; an oldie but goodie and one I do not wholly disagree with. Except when it comes to nuclear weapons. To date all of the nuclear arsenals in the world have been used exactly twice. Once in Hiroshima and once in Nagasaki. Since then the world has been to terrified of what the end result of nuclear arms are to actually use them again. If this was not the case why did the U.S. not make extensive use of tactical nukes during the Korean War? That certainly would have put the Chinese in their place and the Chinese bomb was still about a decade away. Even the closest we have come to war, the Cuban Missile Crisis, was averted at the last moment by men who were so terrified of the eventual result of their brinkmanship that they worked a last minute deal, even against the advice that many of their advisors were giving. Personally I believe the United States should give the same assurance to the rest of the world that China did in their statement of April 5, 1995, which reads, in part:
China undertakes not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon States or nuclear-weapon-free zones at any time or under any circumstances. This commitment naturally applies to non-nuclear-weapon States parties to the Treaty or the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons or non-nuclear-weapon States that have entered into any comparable internationally binding commitments not to manufacture or acquire nuclear explosive devices.
We have the bomb and, quite frankly, we have no need to use the bomb. Ignoring the incredible destruction we can whip out with conventional weapons with out the environmental issues from going nuclear on someone’s ass, world opinion would not stand for it. I realize this may seem like a weak argument with this crowd in office, however it still stands. There are limits to what these people are willing to do to piss off the rest of the world and dropping nukes on people is somewhere, perhaps barely, over that line.

Barb Homoki from Union City in Michigan adds:
Use diplomacy only. We’re already spread too thin with military in Iraq, in lives lost, injury to both sides and the outrageous cost. We need to call our military back to this country and stop being the planet’s enforcer/bully. Did someone “win” the last Korean War?
I agree with Barb on most of her points, although she sounds a little too isolationist and “we’re taking our toys and going home” for my taste however I thought it important to answer her question. Yes, someone did win the Korean War and it was China. Despite the fact that their involvement very well may have quashed Chairman Mao’s plans to invade Taiwan, the end of the Korean War provided them with a client state which is a buffer zone between the West. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, North Korea has come to play an even more important role in the Chinese approach to international diplomacy as it gives them a boogey-man they can use to scare other regional powers as well as tying down a substantial contingent of the U.S. military which could otherwise be used to defend Taiwan in case of an eventual attack there.

Michael Lunn of California has one of the more sensible posts when he says:
Well you don’t threaten a madman with military action. Because he’s just liable to blow up South Korea or Chinese soil. And the Chinese aren’t going to look too kindly at our “shoot him up” president causing a nuclear war. He wants one-on-one talks with the U.S. Give it to him. He’s a desperate man, and we have sanctioned his country to death. Diplomacy is the only way to deal with a madman. Threats and sanctions have not worked.
If Kim Jong Il is a madman, and while he is not completely sane I doubt he is barking at the moon insane, then why will negotiating with him work any better than threatening him? If he is insane then why should we trust what he says at the negotiating table as he might wake up the next morning and be off his meds, as we like to say. Of course the crux of the problem is that we can not give him what he wants, which is one-on-one talks with the United States. Then we are basically telling Iran that they need to build a nuke before we will listen to them. While there were steps we could have, and should have, taken years ago to avoid this mess, that is all water under the bridge now. We cannot give in to what Kim Jong Il so desperately wants and we cannot afford for a war to break out on the Korean peninsula. Where does that leave us?

Jeremy Norton from Rockmart, Georgia seems to know:
The world has no right to involve itself in this matter. Only powers such as South Korea, Japan, and China should worry themselves over this issue. Did the nuclear tests of India and Pakistan lead to the White House calling them a provocative action, no. The president should take no action on this matter, and deal with the messes he has already gotten us into. Not jump on to another one.
You’re right Jeremy. Nuclear proliferation is not a global issue and North Korea really just wants to be left alone to play with its toys which is why Pyongyang keeps demanding to have one-on-one talks with the U.S. And the nuclear tests by India and Pakistan did call down some condemnation, though not as much since this was actually the second round of tests India had engaged in, their first being in 1974. To be honest I have advocated a program of studied disinterest where the regional powers, including Russia and the U.S., feign complete and total disinterest in ANYTHING Pyongyang has to say that does not involve returning to the table for the six-party talks. “We’re going to test our nuclear weapon?” “Oh? Really? Let us know how that works out for you.” “We tested our nuclear weapon and it worked!” “That’s very nice for you.” And so on and so on. Ultimately North Korea’s misbehaviors are an attempt to get the attention of the world and say that they still matter so any attention we give them is a reward.

On the other hand Anthony Borelli from Land O’ Lakes (Isn’t that a kind of butter?) Florida thinks:
We should destroy their nuclear facilities by whatever means necessary. If we wait until they can put one of these weapons on a missile, they will blackmail is and the world over and over again until we are forced to fight…and risk absorbing a nuclear missile attack. We must strike now when they cannot strike back at the U.S. directly.
Oh shut the hell up. While North Korea has a missile program, as their test in July demonstrated they have some work to do before they can threaten us but ultimately that does not matter. What matters is that should we strike at his nuclear facilities we are, as I stated earlier, inviting the North Koreans to rain death and destruction down on the roughly 50% of the South Korean population that lives in the Seoul metro area. That’s about 23 million people. This doesn’t take into account what they might be able to do to Japan, where Kim Jong Il might be more willing o use nuclear weapons since he would not be destroying land he could conceivably control. The time for limited strikes is over. It is an all or nothing game now as far as military options go and I am betting on nothing.

Trevor Talbert from Garland, Texas has an interesting thought:
North Korea needs to be heavily sanctioned, and then open its borders to U.N. inspection, not only for nuclear arms, but for all banned weaponry. Hopefully, China will drop them as an ally, and they will be forced to comply or starve. North Koreans deserve a leader with their best intentions in mind, not one that simply beats his chest waving his manhood around. His power is fear, and fear is no way to govern a nation.
Very good Mr. Talbert. This is exactly the way this needs to play out, although I think we will be looking at sanctions so severe that the Kim regime will fall rather than buckle. I guess it is a manhood thing. However your final sentence sounds like something that our own nation is just now waking up to with the upcoming elections. Since 9-11 we have allowed an atmosphere of fear to drive our voting and public policy.

I tire of mocking people on the internet so I will leave you with this final thought from Chris Giarratano from NYC:
Each country should disarm their nuclear weapons.
Amen Chris, amen.

Oh yeah, and I would like to take a moment to open up the Opiate of the Masses first official pool. The question is:
How long until the Republican noise machine attempts to blame the Democrats for the timing of North Korea’s test?
Also if they attempt this tactic, which I am sure will come from Robert Novak, does this mean that they are admitting that under the Bush presidency they have lost control of the proliferation issue? If this is the case, and appears it is, the Democrats should run with it as a counter to the “Republicans make you safe” mantra which has been Karl Rove’s weapon of choice over the past six years.

* I so want to make a joke about Kim Jong Il’s love of the cinema and a desire to reenact some of the lamer parts of the lamentable Vertical Limit in which someone blows up some snow (and by snow I mean frozen water not cocaine) however I am not feeling up to the challenge.

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