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July 05, 2006

North Korea on the Fifth of July

The United States should NOT push for sanctions against the already-hungry people of North Korea; we SHOULD destroy the site from which North Korea tested its missiles.  Destroying the launch site will both be more effective and more humane than adding to the suffering of the North Koreans.

The people of North Korea don’t need nuclear weapons or missiles; they do need food and medicine, even prior to any sanctions.  Dictator Kim Jong Il will have plenty of food and medicine whether or not there are sanctions; what he thinks he needs are nuclear weapons and a way to deliver them.  We are threatened by the weapons; we are not threatened by people eating.  It makes sense to attack the launch site, not the North Korean economy.

The US may have surprising support from world opinion if it takes action.  Below is the result of a poll on the CNN International website.  These polls have typically been strongly against action in Iraq, for example.

Created: Tuesday, July 04, 2006, at 23:59:48 EDT

What's the best way to handle the crisis caused by North Korea's missile test?

Ignore Pyongyang


2456 votes

Give North aid/money


699 votes



3833 votes

Military action


7122 votes

Total: 14110 votes

This QuickVote is not scientific and reflects the opinions of only those Internet users who have chosen to participate. The results cannot be assumed to represent the opinions of Internet users in general, nor the public as a whole. The QuickVote sponsor is not responsible for content, functionality or the opinions expressed therein.

When North Korea first threatened this test, former Defense Secretary William Cohen and former CIA director James Woolsey (both held their posts in the Clinton administration) recommended that we preemptively destroy the launch site (as did I). Cohen is a liberal Republican and Woolsey a Henry Jackson Democrat so their positions certainly don’t guarantee bipartisanship on this issue.  The poll above is not running on CNN’s US site; but, I believe most Americans (and those who live by US poll numbers) would support an air strike.

Perhaps an Administration buffeted by its reliance on prior faulty intelligence had to be extra cautious even in the face of North Korean threats of not only a launch but also nuclear war if the US interfered.  We waited; they launched; time to act.  A real tragedy of the Iraqi war – like the Viet Nam war – would be an extended period when the US is a helpless giant in a dangerous world.

We know from our experience with Iraq that sanctions don’t work.  They hurt the Iraqi people but not Saddam Hussein. When we tried to modify the sanctions to spare the people (the UN administered Food for Peace Program), we had instead massive corruption on a worldwide basis and extra opportunities for Hussein to skim even though he apparently built more palaces and less weapons than we had thought.

In this case sanctions against North Korea put its northern neighbor China with a long shared border firmly in the driver’s seat.  No one but China controls what crosses that border; no one but China will police that border.  We have no good reason to want to give China effective control of North Korea (which it may already have).

Speaking of China, they are quoted in The New York Times today as saying that all sides should “maintain calm and constraint” and avoid moves which would “add to tensions and further complicate the situations.”  This is diplo-speak for let’s accept the new status quo.

We should incapacitate both missile launch sites, forcibly retrieve all missiles which fell in international waters for our own study, and create an even newer status quo.  It’s from that point that all sides can avoid causing further tension.

Interestingly, North Korea has created a window of opportunity with the failed launch. Kim’s intention is clear.  So is his lack of CURRENT capability to carry them out or retaliate. We cannot let ourselves be hog-tied in UN debate over toothless resolutions while this window closes.

Talking heads have been saying that Kim did this to get attention back because the world has been so focused on Iran.  Don’t know about that but I am confident that forceful and effective action, hopefully with some international support but alone if need be, will be noticed in Iran.

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North Korea test fired six missiles one of which was a long range missile. The long range missile failed and crashed into the sea. [Read More]


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