Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Stanley Kurtz is calling for war with North Korea, using a neat bit of circular logic:

What are the North Koreans really after? Are they practicing nuclear brinkmanship and blackmail simply as a way of extorting financial aid and security guarantees from the West, or has Kim Jong Il made a fundamental decision that nuclear weapons are essential to the survival of his regime...

...I believe that Kim Jong Il has decided that the survival of his regime depends upon the possession of nuclear weapons. Such a decision by the North Koreans would be entirely rational... He also knows that, post-9/11, the United States is especially interested in putting an end to his regime. Given that, Kim has every reason to conclude that the only certain way to deter the United States and its potential allies is through the possession of nuclear weapons.

It is true, of course, that the very possession of nuclear weapons is what makes the North Korean regime anathema to the United States. So why not disarm and survive?
Well, offhand, I'd say it probably has something to do with the fact that it's not the possession of nuclear weapons that would cause the Americans to invade North Korea, but (as this article aptly demonstrates) the possibility that at one point the North Koreans may have nuclear weapons. I realize that it's easy to forget that the exact moment this whole crisis began was when Bush threw North Korea onto the "Axis of Evil" and prompted them to start madly pushing to get nukes because they knew that Bush was going to take them out, but if you're going to place blame for the failure of negotiations, that's where it should go. The Bush administration has demonstrated that it doesn't matter whether or not the weapons exist or the desire exists to use it, just that it might down the road.

Indeed, look at how he follows up:

And given North Korea’s isolation, possession of a nuclear deterrent may be the only realistic path to regime survival. Put yourself in the place of Kim Jong Il. Would you feel safe knowing you were years away from reconstituting your nuclear weapons program? Would you trust the United States to harmlessly funnel massive economic aid to your now denuclearized state, or would you fear covert or overt American steps to destabilize and destroy your now denuclearized regime before you had a chance to change your mind and rearm?
This is a familiar logic, then; the cop-movie cliche where one person asks a second which person he should kill, and then the second agonizes because he's supposedly "responsible", even though he didn't pull the trigger. Kurtz's logic depends on the United States being seen as a threat by Pyongyang, and the very existence of the piece and the line of argument it generates is the surest proof that such a threat exists! Kurtz acknowledges that what the North Koreans are most concerned about is the possibility of the Americans bringing down their regime anyway; he's damned if they do, damned if they don't, choosing only the excuse given. He's right in one respect- at this point, the surest route to security for any dictator is to get nukes, and I can guarantee that they're all eyeing the Russian arsenal very, very closely as their own day of an American takeover gets closer and closer, unless they're lucky enough to be aligned with the U.S., like Pakistan. This is, of course, the security dilemma (defensive acts by one actor seen as offensive by another), and is exactly the kind of thing that the concept of national sovereignty is supposed to prevent. If sovereignty is assured, then things like nukes aren't needed, because invasion isn't likely unless a country prompts it. With the United States' current belligerence, the only possible way to ensure peace is either an empire, or for the U.S. to make sure that all their non-allies are too weak and isolated to survive, let alone pose a threat. Kurtz' arguments are a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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