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From Bad to Unimaginable
January 10, 2003
By Mike Shannon

It is with no small degree of trepidation that one attempts to apply logic to the workings of politics. The invariable and thoroughly unpredictable twists and turns of political machinations being what they are routinely defy any and all attempt to predict what will happen next; particularly in a geopolitical environment that is as fluid as the one we find ourselves in at the moment.

Still, if you expect both friend and adversary alike to have a working understanding of your direction and aims there must be some sense of conformity to established norms and procedures. Or at least you would think so. However, it is becoming increasingly self evident that the words and actions of the Bush Administration are often very much at odds. You could say that what we have here is a failure to reconcile.

Since That Day President Bush has been praised ad nauseam for throwing down a well defined and apparently inalterable gauntlet. His declaration of a clear delineation between who the good guys are and who are the bad quickly became his rhetorical weapon of choice. And as a rhetorical tool used to express the outrage of a grievously wronged people it was extremely effective. As an articulation of United States policy it has been remarkably ineffective.

Nowhere is the breakdown between what has been spoken and what has been done been more glaringly revealed to be at loggerheads than with the rapidly deteriorating - or is it escalating? - situation between the US and North Korea.

Even allowing that the conundrum the Washington finds itself it at the moment is entirely self induced, it is only fair that policy makers be permitted the latitude to address different scenarios on the basis of their individual characteristics and relative merit. So, if North Korea was a problem that had been off the radar screen only to suddenly appear due to an unimagined series of circumstances that would be one thing. But as we all know that is absolutely not the case.

North Korea has been a charter member of the axis of evil since Mr Bush first uttered the words in early 2002. While their designation as such came as a surprise to many, upon closer examination the regime of Kim Jong Il has proven itself to fit the bill of what the President defined as states hostile to the security and best interests of the United States to a T. As a matter of fact; North Korea can well lay claim to being the most potentially dangerous of the lot.

If you were to list the criteria for inclusion in the triad of evil; wanton disregard for the basic human rights of its own people, despotic rule, proven inclination to the projection of hostile force against neighboring nations, and most importantly, the production of vast stores of weapons of mass destruction, North Korea is guilty as charged.

Not only are the North Koreans producing WMD they rely on the sale and exportation of such devices as a major source of state revenue. The Times of London writes in their online edition of December 30, 2002, " North Korea raised $560 million dollars from weapon sales in 2001 alone." Included in that total are the sales of missiles and missile technology; as was so undisputably proven by the recent seizure, and subsequent release, of a ship load of scud missiles on their way to Yemen. And whereas Yemen is considered an ally in our war against terrorism, North Korea's other clients - again quoting the Times, "North Korea's customers are believed to include Iran, Lybia and Syria" - are most assuredly not.

As dangerous and destabilizing as these sales may be they are unfortunately only the tip of the iceberg. By the admission of the intelligence services of the United States, North Korea has most likely already produced one or two nuclear warheads. With the expulsion of UN nuclear inspectors and the restarting of their nuclear plant, this number may double or triple in the very near future.

This potentially catastrophic development is precisely what Mr Bush was referring to when he declared that the United States retains the right to take preemptive action against any nation - particularly the Evil Three - that attempts to acquire a nuclear capability. It is also what the President meant when he said, "to wait is to run the risk of waiting too long".

So has the United States turned its gun sights away from Iraq and towards this much more formidable and dangerous foe? Hardly. As these words are being written it seems as though, however begrudgingly, the Bush administration has decided that this challenge does not have a military solution. While this decision may seem to be in direct contradiction to the oft stated policies referred to above it is the right one.

The thought that comments along the lines of these are tantamount to wanting the US to engage North Korea militarily are ridiculous. On the contrary; choosing to negotiate is the only rational way to deal with such a threat. Unless, of course, one adheres to the abhorrent philosophy that there is such a thing as a winnable nuclear war.

The problem here transcends North Korea or any other single nation. For far too long the world community has deluded itself into thinking the nuclear genie could be kept in the bottle. The only surprise that we are now seeing a renewed round of nuclear proliferation is that it has taken this long to happen. Now that it has it will only serve to spur other nations into repeating the same unforgivable sin.

This is no longer an issue between the United States and its enemies. Nuclear weapons are a real and present danger to human civilization itself. There is no sand deep enough to bury our heads in to escape that reality. For the sake of all who inhabit this planet we must put aside political considerations and deal with this problem on an international basis. Permitting ourselves to allow our words to lead us into actions of incalculable horror are simply not an option.

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