Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
January 10, 2003
WAR: VDH on NK
I'd explain why North Korea is different from Iraq, but I can't possibly hope to do better than this pure, undiluted stream of common sense from Victor Davis Hanson. Better yet, John Derbyshire reports that "I am very reliably informed (judging from the sender's e-mail address) that someone in the Administration does indeed read" Hanson's columns.
Our North Korea policy, or lack thereof, deserves re-examination; I get the sense that the Bush Administration is mostly stalling while trying to decide what to do next. I nonetheless agree wholeheartedly with Hanson's overarching theme, in support of the Administration's current approach, that it makes sense to be done with Iraq first before we devote our full attentions to the North Koreans. I just hope that, in explaining the difference between the two, the Administration doesn't unduly downplay our willingness to take a very hard line with Pyongyang, thus painting us into a rhetorical corner if we later need to marshall public and international support for such an initiative.
The paradox: at the end of the day, the North Koreans are only a threat to their neighbors if we confront them and they do something crazy, which is very possible. But if we do nothing, they are a huge threat to us. Why? North Korea has shown little appetite, unlike Saddam, for regional wars and territorial expansion; the regime seems content to asphixyate the people already subject to its stark tyranny. So nukes in their hands are not so dangerous, for now. The bigger threat is nukes passing from their hands into the hands of terrorists who are even harder to deter and who are explicitly aggressive and suicidal in their intentions. And under present circumstances, it seems impossible to prevent the latter as long as the regime (1) retains its present character and (2) shares a long border with China over which we have no control and a seacoast that we have not blockaded.