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October 08, 2006

What’s North Korea Testing?

North Korea has long been engaged in an important test: does the rest of the world have the will to stop a rogue nation from holding it hostage?  So far, test results indicate NOT.  These results spread as fast as radio waves and the Internet can carry them.  Iran is validating the North Korea results with it own independent testing.

And, if the world won’t act to protect itself against rogue nations with nuclear weapons, why should anyone fear that it will act to protect distant populations from genocide or state-induced famine?  That lesson is studied in Darfur, Somalia, and Zimbabwe.

The UN is largely the vision of my hero Franklin Roosevelt.  That vision has turned into a nightmare.  The forces arrayed against Hitler called themselves the United Nations. Those United Nations fought what was initially a losing battle with a clear goal: the unconditional surrender of their opponents.  It was close but they won.

This United Nations, the one headquartered in the slab in New York with bureaucratic tentacles around the world, specializes in the kind of toothless warning which emboldens aggressors.  But, just to be certain there is no ambiguity about its intent, this UN doesn’t even follow through on its watered-down threats.

For a wannabe nuclear-armed despot or genocidal warlord, having your case referred to the UN is about as scary as being thrown into the briar patch was for Brer Rabbit.

Attempting to get UN action is a Catch-22 for the US.  We are faulted when we act outside the UN (see Iraq).  No effective action results from a referral to the UN (see North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Darfur, Somalia, Zimbabwe etc. etc.).  The UN failed to enforce its own sanctions against Iraq following Gulf War I and actually helped Saddam accumulate money to rebuild his arsenal. The UN also failed to insist that Saddam allow the promised inspections which might have made it clear that he had built palaces with the money instead of buying WMD. These twin failures of the UN were the immediate antecedents to the US led invasion of Iraq even if took 9/11 to create a momentary consensus for that invasion.

Will the next head of the UN be any better than Kofi Annan?  The best that can be said about Annan is that it is vaguely possible that he is just monumentally incompetent. We don’t really have time to wait for the UN to reform itself.

CNN quotes US Assistant Secretary of State Chris Hill as saying North Korea “can have a future, or it can have these weapons. It cannot have both.”  If this threat is empty words, it were better left unspoken. It is almost certain that North Korea will continue to test us aggressively.

The US as reigning superpower cannot afford to flunk the North Korean test.  If there is an action we can take short of regime change to make North Korea regret its test, we should take it. If not, North Korea, not the US, is responsible for its own fate.  But we don’t get a bye just because the UN chooses not to act.

It would be a monumental mistake for the US to agree to bilateral talks under threat of North Korean nuclear testing. The lesson of that would be very clear.

I blogged previously that we should take action BEFORE North Korea tested us by testing a long range rocket.  Each test we fail makes the next one harder and more dangerous – for us and for North Korea and for the rest of the world.

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» Thinking outside of the box from It looks obvious
The common wisdom is that so far the international community failed to prevent North Korea from developing nuclear weapons. Furthermore, the alleged nuclear test is a real exam for the UN and is a test case for further nuclear development by North Kor... [Read More]


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