Monday, May 05, 2003

So, let me get this straight. To eliminate the mere threat that Saddam might, at some future point, sell weapons of mass destruction to people we don't like, we needed a preemptive war now.

But, now that North Korea, which has pretty much demonstrated a will to sell anything it has to anyone who will pay, has pretty clearly fired up the weapons-grade plutonium production line, Dubya's answer is to try to restrict their trade. Or at least their trade in plutonium:

"The president said that the central worry is not what they've got, but where it goes," said an official familiar with the talks between Mr. Bush and [Australian PM] Mr. Howard. "He's very pragmatic about it, and the reality is that we probably won't know the extent of what they are producing. So the whole focus is to keep the plutonium from going further."

His policy depends, in other words, on being able to keep a sovereign government from smuggling suitcase-sized containers of fissile material across its own borders. Lotsa luck. He does know they have submarines, right?

(To recap, obtaining fissile material is the hard part of making a nuclear bomb -- the physics needed to figure out the rest may have been state of the art sixty years ago, but even in the 1970s, it was in undergraduate textbooks. The other details are tricky, particularly for plutonium bombs, but anyone with the resources to get fissile fuel in the first place, can almost certainly manage the rest).

By the way, remember how Dubya's crowd was complaining that Clinton's wimpy negotiations had led us to our present sad condition? Well,

... in recent interviews, several American officials have said that it was becoming clear that the policy that Mr. Clinton described in 1994 -- when he warned that producing plutonium could result in an American attack to destroy the nuclear facilities at Yongbyon -- was probably not sustainable anymore.

Wimpy Clinton threatened an attack if they fired up the plutonium production line -- and Dubya's "muscular" crew will just let 'em churn it out.

The WMD case for invading Iraq looks thinner by the day. Those of us who argued all along that the real WMD problem was elsewhere are very, very sorry to have been right.

(If you can't get enough commentary on this article, Matthew Yglesias finds a lot more nonsense in it).


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