NK reserves currently in IraqWell, Green Boy chided me the other day for not keeping up with developments in North Korea, so I got brave enough to look at what’s been going on. Just as feared, the answer is nothing . . . although that could change significantly for the worse very soon.
In a sense, there’s really no difference at all between the news reports of the past week, with North Korea making threatening claims about its nuclear intentions and the U.S government trying to look as unconcerned as possible, and the situation I described nearly seven months ago.
Except that, as I noted in February and March, this do-nothing “strategy” more or less begs North Korea to call our bluff by actually developing nuclear weapons, or at least the plutonium to make them — and by all indications, they’re now several months further down that road.
This situation has now officially scared the bejeezus out of longtime experts like former Defense Secretary William Perry:
“I think we are losing control” of the situation, said Perry, who believes North Korea soon will have enough nuclear warheads to begin exploding them in tests and exporting them to terrorists and other U.S. adversaries. “The nuclear program now underway in North Korea poses an imminent danger of nuclear weapons being detonated in American cities,” he said in an interview.
Perry added that he reached his conclusions after extensive conversations with senior Bush administration officials, South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun and senior officials in China.
. . . As President Bill Clinton’s defense secretary, he oversaw preparation for airstrikes on North Korean nuclear facilities in 1994, an attack that was never carried out. He has remained deeply involved in Korean policy issues and is widely respected in national security circles, especially among senior military officers.
. . . Only last winter Perry publicly argued that the North Korea problem was controllable. Now, he said, he has grown to doubt that. “It was manageable six months ago if we did the right things,” he said. “But we haven’t done the right things.”
He added: “I have held off public criticism to this point because I had hoped that the administration was going to act on this problem, and that public criticism might be counterproductive. But time is running out, and each month the problem gets more dangerous.”
The reasons for this inaction? They’re no surprise to those of us who have written about our president’s tendency to base war-and-peace decisions on his personal neuroses and insecurity
because he’s intellectually overwhelmed by the complexities of policymaking, and the out-of-control battles between subordinates
The administration policy toward North Korea, however, has been characterized by fierce disputes among senior policymakers, which officials privately acknowledge have hampered the administration’s response. “There is an ongoing search for consensus within the administration itself,” said Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute. “The lack of a consensus to a significant extent has prevented U.S. policy from unfolding.”
In a two-hour interview in his office at Stanford University, Perry said that after conversations with several senior administration officials from different areas of the government, he is persuaded that the Korea policy is in disarray. Showing some emotion, the usually reserved Perry said at one point, “I’m damned if I can figure out what the policy is.”
. . . From his discussions, Perry has concluded the president simply won’t enter into genuine talks with Pyongyang’s Stalinist government. “My theory is the reason we don’t have a policy on this, and we aren’t negotiating, is the president himself,” Perry said. “I think he has come to the conclusion that Kim Jong Il is evil and loathsome and it is immoral to negotiate with him.”
So that’s the long and short of it, I guess. Dubya thinks the North Korean dictator is icky, so he’d rather risk New York City or Washington, D.C., going up in a mushroom cloud than be seen as compromising with him.
The mental bankruptcy of this approach will become obvious if and when North Korea tests an actual nuclear weapon — which could happen by September 9, according to their latest threat/possible bluff. If it’s not a bluff, brace yourselves, because then we could have a real nightmare on our hands.