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Chickenhawks? Or Just Chickens?
October 23, 2002

After last week's troubling announcement about North Korea's nuclear weapons program, I tried to understand the Bush Administration's reaction, which seems more grounded in diplomacy and carries no threat of force.

Why seek a diplomatic solution? Isn't North Korea, like Iraq, a member of the "Axis of Evil"? If Iraq and North Korea are both seeking to develop weapons of mass destruction in violation of agreements their governments signed, why doesn't Bush suggest military action against North Korea? What's good for the goose is also good for the gander, right?

The motives are obvious to anybody familiar with the Bush Administration's policies and/or George W. Bush's past. The White House is probably advocating war on Iraq for reasons related to oil and to petty vengeance (finish what Daddy started). These conditions don't exist on the Korean peninsula. There may be one more significant reason for avoiding military confrontation with North Korea, one that has no doubt escaped the attention of most members of the US media.

I submit that a majority of the Bush Administration is comprised of yellow-bellied chickens.

After looking at the obvious purposes for attacking Iraq, I tried to consider war itself. The White House must know that fighting Iraq would be easier than fighting North Korea because the latter has a greater ability to defend itself.

The White House looks at Iraq as an easy target. Iraq is weaker than it was in 1991 during the Gulf War. A decade of sanctions and airstrikes have taken their toll on Iraq's military, not to mention its supplies of food, medicine and other necessities for fighting a war. Though many countries oppose the use of US force in Iraq, Saddam Hussein doesn't have any allies who could come to his aid in the event of an attack.

North Korea, on the other hand, is much farther along in its nuclear weapons program than Iraq. The US would no doubt base a military operation against North Korea in South Korea, and the North already has troops along its border with the South. Though US troops are already stationed in South Korea, they are certainly not enough to mount a determined offensive in the North.

To make the issue more complicated, North Korea has an ally: China. The Bush Administration's handling of the 2001 spy plane incident is clear evidence that it wants to avoid confrontation with China as well.

Realizing that Iraq is an easier target than North Korea, I concluded that easy victory is the biggest political windfall the White House seeks by going to war. Military action in Iraq means the US public will forget the poor economy, the steady erosion of our civil liberties under Attorney General John Ashcroft, and the administration's failure to capture Osama bin Laden. A war with North Korea, on the other hand, would probably mean heavy US casualties; a long, difficult conflict leading to public backlash; and maybe even a disastrous war with China.

I believe this country should only go to war when it is necessary and moral. It's probably safe to say such concepts rarely make it past the door of the Oval Office right now. The Bush Administration wants a fight because it's easy. This demonstrates the worst kind of cowardice. Under George W. Bush, the United States is simply a bully, picking on the weakest kids on the playground. Notice, however, that bully stays away from any kid who might throw a punch in defense - even if that punch is not enough to defeat the bully.

Critics of the White House stance on Iraq use the word "chickenhawk" to describe the administration's leaders. Men who avoided military service in the 1960s now want others to lay down their young lives. Given that George W. Bush will only fight when he's assured of winning, I think we should drop the word "hawk" from that label.

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