Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Fallout: Reaction to North Korea's nuclear test (II)

By Michael J.W. Stickings

(Part I is here.)

According to an analysis in The Washington Post, "North Korea's apparent nuclear test last night may well be regarded as a failure of the Bush administration's nuclear nonproliferation policy". North Korea is now much more of nuclear threat then it was when Bush took office in 2001.

Needless to say, however, this is not how the threat will be spun by Bush and his defenders. Conservatives never liked the so-called "Agreed Framework" that froze North Korea's nuclear program, and, regardless of Bush's failures, this latest and intense escalation will allow them to pursue "a confrontational approach". The Clinton approach, once supported by Colin Powell, may have worked. Now we may never know. "Now U.S. officials will push for tough sanctions at the U.N. Security Council, and are considering a raft of largely unilateral measures, including stopping and inspecting every ship that goes in and out of North Korea."

The anti-diplomacy rhetoric is already being ratcheted up in the blogosphere. Just look at the title of one of Michelle Malkin's posts on the test: "We are in range;another test coming?" She might as well pull a Rice and stoke public fears with those two dreaded words: mushroom cloud. Others contributing to the usual culture of fear are Wizbang, which cites a FOX source (and how credible is that?) with regard to a possible second test and which cites a Russian course (also via FOX) to the effect that the device tested was much stronger than other sources have suggested. For this second point, see my previous post on the test, where I referred to credible sources that have suggested that it was either a small bomb or a dud.

I should note, however, that sensible conservatives like Outside the Beltway's James Joyner, Captain's Quarters' Ed Morrissey, and PoliBlog's Steven Taylor are not pushing for war, although obviously they aren't holding Bush in any way responsible. However, some conservatives, like Roger Simon, are emphasizing the story in order to change the subject from Foley and the Republicans' other problems. Better to scare the hell out of people, terrorizing them to vote Republican, than to deal with the cover-up of Foley's sexual predation and other issues like, oh, I don't know, Iraq.

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The Carpetbagger Report provides "a copy of the official Democratic talking points" on Bush and North Korea. Key point: "President Bush’s North Korean policy is one of failure. Over the past six years, Kim Jong Il has withdrawn from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, increased his plutonium stockpiles and continued testing missiles that he exports to the Middle East and Africa. And now, it seems, North Korea has tested its first nuclear weapon. The Bush Administration’s policy towards Pyongyang has made America less safe. It’s time for a new direction."

Yes. In terms of U.S. politics, the North Korean nuclear test shows just why new leadership is needed in Washington. Bush has gotten it all wrong, and the world today is a much more dangerous place than it was when he took office precisely because of his disastrous policies. It isn't just jihadist terrorism, after all. The threats to U.S. national security are truly global and multi-faceted. They were never to be found in Iraq. They were to be found, and are still to be found, in the activities of both jihadist terrorists and rogue states like Iran and North Korea. Bush, it seems to me, has never understood those threats. Even jihadist terrorism, given the stupidity of his misadventure in Iraq and the increase in the terrorist threat that that has caused. And now a dangerous state has conducted a nuclear test. Even if it was small, even if it was a dud, the test highlights the overall failure of the Bush Administration and its Republican allies to guide America through these turbulent times. The damage has been done, but it is not too late for change.

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Around the blogosphere:

The Belgravia Dispatch (h/t: Balloon Juice): "One thing is for sure: a destabilized nuclear North Korea is even worse than a relatively stable nuclear North Korea -- so let's make sure Cheney doesn't get all creative destructionist on us. Our North Korea policy has proved a woeful failure (not just during Bush 43, but also through Bush 41 and Clinton too...), let's not make it even worse by over-reacting..."

Unclaimed Territory, where Glenn Greenwald provides some of the best criticism of Bush I've seen: "It is impossible to contest the fact that the administration has done nothing to improve the situation. Quite the contrary. Negotiations with North Korea have regressed, not progressed. In response to our empty and hollowed belligerence, the North Koreans have become more belligerent, not more cooperative. They have acquired greater weapons capability right in front of our faces. And now they have tested a nuclear weapon." A must-read post.

Political Animal: "Let's recap: The Bush/Cheney administration took a bad situation with Iraq and made it even worse. They've taken a bad situation with Iran and made it even worse... They've taken a bad situation with North Korea and made it even worse... At every step along the way, they've deliberately taken actions that cut off any possibility of solving our geopolitical problems with anything other than military force." Exactly.

AMERICAblog, where "AJ," a former DOD intelligence officer, writes this: "Let’s call North Korea what it is: a part of President Bush's Axis of Failure. Since he bizarrely linked North Korea, Iran, and Iraq nearly a half-decade ago, North Korea has acquired nuclear capabilities, Iran has become more militant and more powerful, and we've turned Iraq into a terrorist-producing failed state. Axis of Failure." Also a must-read post.

Liberal Oasis looks at Bush's "hard-line" strategy: "[T]he Bush Administration never was interested in a negotiated deal to prevent North Korea from getting nukes. The neocons want regime change in North Korea, in an attempt to constrict the rise of China. And they see any deal as helping the North Korea dictator remain in power."

Mahablog repeats once again that this isn't Clinton's fault.

Taylor Marsh comments on "China's collapse of influence".

Matthew Yglesias asks a key question: "[W]ould we actually want to see North Korea collapse, or would that make the nuclear situation even worse since, presumably, we don't want to see those weapons and material floating around?"

The Democratic Daily has John Kerry's response.

The Moderate Voice has a round-up and provides a bunch of useful links.

See also Bradford Plumer, Ezra Klein, The Washington Note, and NewsHog.

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