Nuclear North Korea

11Oct06

I remember back in the debates between Bush and Kerry when Kerry was first asked what was the “the single most serious threat to the national security to the United States”. He replied:

Nuclear proliferation. Nuclear proliferation. There’s some 600-plus tons of unsecured material still in the former Soviet Union and Russia. At the rate that the president is currently securing it, it’ll take 13 years to get it.

I did a lot of work on this. I wrote a book about it several years ago — six, seven years ago — called “The New War,” which saw the difficulties of this international criminal network. And back then, we intercepted a suitcase in a Middle Eastern country with nuclear materials in it. And the black market sale price was about $250 million.

Now, there are terrorists trying to get their hands on that stuff today.

And this president, I regret to say, has secured less nuclear material in the last two years since 9/11 than we did in the two years preceding 9/11.

We have to do this job. And to do the job, you can’t cut the money for it. The president actually cut the money for it. You have to put the money into it and the funding and the leadership.
And part of that leadership is sending the right message to places like North Korea.

Bush’s reply was a big “ditto”:

well, first of all, I agree with my opponent that the biggest threat facing this country is weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a terrorist network. And that’s why proliferation is one of the centerpieces of a multi-prong strategy to make the country safer.

But, then Bush disputed Kerry’s claim that they had been unsuccessful in putting an handle on proliferation. The proof of the error of Bush’s ways, once again, is glaringly obvious with news of nuclear testing in North Korea. Their test may have gone wrong, but they still performed a test with nuclear materials. Kim Jong Il appears to be goading the world into a war. He’s daring people to respond to their actions, and the world is being extremely cautious because North Korea appears to have the very weapons of mass destruction that never showed up in Iraq. North Korea may not have had access to these materials had the Bush Administration stuck to the Clinton Administration’s plans for preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons in addition to bilateral talks with the reclusive Communist nation.

As the UN Security Council weighs sanctions. The Bush Administration is refusing to talk to North Korea. North Korea won’t talk to the 6-party groups unless the US speaks with them one-on-one. Snow and other spokespersons for the Administration are saying that the previous bilateral talks failed so badly that they won’t talk to them. Their logic seems flawed. Why not talk to them anyway? Why delay diplomatic progress when things are this tense? Politcal leaders from all sides of the spectrum are urging the Bush Administration to change their policy. Former Secretary of State James Baker said the following:

“I believe in talking to your enemies,” he said in an interview on the ABC News program “This Week,” noting that he made 15 trips to Damascus, the Syrian capital, while serving Mr. Bush’s father as secretary of state.

“It’s got to be hard-nosed, it’s got to be determined,” Mr. Baker said. “You don’t give away anything, but in my view, it’s not appeasement to talk to your enemies.”

Donald Gregg, George H.W. Bush’s National Security Advisor also spoke out on the issue:

Why won’t the Bush administration talk bilaterally and substantively with NK, as the Brits (and eventually the US) did with Libya? Because the Bush administration sees diplomacy as something to be engaged in with another country as a reward for that country’s good behavior. They seem not to see diplomacy as a tool to be used with antagonistic countries or parties, that might bring about an improvement in the behaviour of such entities, and a resolution to the issues that trouble us. Thus we do not talk to Iran, Syria, Hizballah or North Korea. We only talk to our friends — a huge mistake.

Eric Alterman wrote a nice explanation of how hard it has been to deal with North Korea since the Truman Administration, but how policy decisions by George W. Bush have lead to the crisis we are in now. The Center for American Progress also provides a well documented history and explanation in today’s progress report.

This could be a close call – the Cuban Missle Crisis of our time – or it could be a bluff by North Korea. It’s hard to tell. We’d feel a lot safer with someone else at the helm of our national security right now. After all, if this does escalate to a war, is the United States able to respond? We’re already running two failed, never-ending wars. Our resources are thinly stretched and our debts soaring. A diplomatic solution appears to be the only answer for the world right now, but George W. Bush and Kim Jong Il stand at the center of the worlds stage with their arms crossed and their backs to each other.

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