Wednesday, January 01, 2003

Well, it's 2003, and here's the stupidest thing I've read all year:

Answering questions on his way into the only coffee shop in this one-stoplight town near his ranch, Mr. Bush issued no demands that North Korea halt the nuclear programs it has threatened to restart, and he did not mentioned the ouster today of the international inspectors who have monitored activity at the country's primary nuclear site.

"I believe this is not a military showdown, this is a diplomatic showdown," the president said, on his way to get a cheeseburger and to chat with his neighbors here.

But the president's tone and his warnings changed noticeably when he turned to Iraq. He cited Mr. Hussein's effort to build a nuclear weapon in the early 1990's and said that as of now "we don't know whether or not he has a nuclear weapon."

To summarize:

  • Iraq: Tried to build a nuclear bomb in 1990. Cooperating with an inspection regime now, and has no current access to fissile material in any event. A case for immediate military action.

  • North Korea: Trying to build a nuclear bomb now. Has kicked out inspectors, activated a reactor waste reprocessing plant which will give them material for six bombs in as many months, and threatened withdrawal from the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, which, in effect, acknowledges they're building a bomb and double-dog-dares us to do anything about it. Oh, by the way, they have better missile delivery systems for the Iraqis (and, in fact, traded that technology to our ally in Pakistan in return for better bomb designs).

    Clearly, there's no case here for military action or threats; this is a case where nice, reasonable people can resolve things by diplomacy (with, perhaps, a few economic incentives thrown in --- think how glad Kim Jong-Il will be that he can get so many more votes by doubling his peoples' allowance of tree bark!)

I expect defenders of administration policy to cite this as further evidence that Dubya is pursuing the "madman strategy" which many of them cite with approval. I don't know if Saddam Hussein thinks he's nuts yet, but if he doesn't, it's not for lack of effort from Dubya...


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