EARLIER THIS WEEK we linked to John Bolton’s prescient article in the Wall Street Journal about the then-impending North Korean nuclear test. Mr. Bolton is a magnet for intense criticism of the type that erupts when clearly stated, straightforward views threaten to expose wishful thinking for what it is.
He appeared on the Hugh Hewitt radio program for a half hour on Wednesday to discuss the situation in Northeast Asia in more detail. Mr. Hewitt is a law professor (Constitutional law), website editor, and columnist in addition to hosting his own radio show.
Among the points Mr. Bolton made:
“…the administration is saying that they want, and Secretary Clinton said it again today, they want North Korea back at the six party talks. Now these talks have been underway for six years. They have utterly failed to restrain North Korea. And if you’re sitting in Pyongyang and hearing the administration both before the nuclear test and after the nuclear test say that that’s what they want the next step to be, the only conclusion you can draw on North Korea is that you’re getting a free pass on this test, and on subsequent tests down the road. The six party talks have failed. We need to get over that. Unfortunately, there’s no sign the administration understands it.
In the earlier post, frequent commenter Bender wondered what exactly could be done with North Korea short of a military attack. Mr. Bolton must have been reading the comment section.
I personally think we’d need to stay away from the military option. I think that it’s risky no matter what the level of casualties.
…we need to take much stronger action against North Korea. I’d put them back on the list of state sponsors of terrorism. The Bush administration never should have taken them off that list. I would once again cut off their access to international financial markets. Here again, the Bush administration had them over a barrel with the Banco Delta Asia matter and let them escape. We need to put those constraints back in. We’ve had a big boost just in the past 24 hours from the government of South Korea announcing it was going to join…the U.S.-led proliferation security initiative, which is a major effort to stop international trafficking in weapons of mass destruction. And we need to put more pressure on China to use its leverage on North Korea either to get rid of Kim Jung Il or at a minimum, to constrain their ability to deal on these nuclear weapons internationally.
More specifically about the Chinese, he said:
The Chinese are concerned that if they put too much pressure on Kim Jung Il, the regime will collapse, and Korea will reunify. Well, here’s the news. Korea will reunify one day just like Germany did. This division of the peninsula is unnatural, and China can either be on the right side of history, or they can continue resisting it. We need to have stronger, more effective advocacy with China to get them to recognize the inevitable, and help us with Kim Jung Il.
But he is not sanguine about the latter:
I think that’s unlikely in this administration. Their priority seems to be climate change negotiations with China. My own view is that nuclear weapons in the hands of a regime like Kim Jung Il are a lot more serious threat to the U.S. and everybody else in the world today than climate change. But if you’re not willing to elevate North Korea’s nuclear program on the list with China, not much is going to happen.
He also discusses the Japanese potential for a nuclear weapons capability:
Many people think (it would take) only a matter of months. They have a very advanced civil nuclear program. They have substantial amounts of spent fuel with plutonium in the spent fuel that could be reprocessed. They have a very sophisticated scientific community. They have advanced missile capabilities now. They can launch their own satellites. So it wouldn’t take Japan long.
At this point, it’s worth taking another look at this report by the Congressional Research Service examining the possibility that the Japanese will acquire nuclear weapons. Here’s some of the advice the American Congress is receiving:
If Japan withdrew from the NPT, it would likely be subject to UN Security Council-imposed sanctions and economic and diplomatic isolation.
Reading this, one wonders how some people manage to stay employed.
The entire transcript of the Bolton interview is here.
Mr. Hewitt, by the way, is very much a fan of the Internet’s non-traditional role in the dissemination of the news. Here’s how he ended an article on the Columbia School of Journalism:
There is too much expertise, all of it almost instantly available now, for the traditional idea of journalism to last much longer. In the past, almost every bit of information was difficult and expensive to acquire and was therefore mediated by journalists whom readers and viewers were usually in no position to second-guess. Authority has drained from journalism for a reason. Too many of its practitioners have been easily exposed as poseurs.
As all of us here know, some of the most easily exposed and fraudulent of the trad journalism poseurs are writing about Japan.
But there are blogs, and then there are the blogs written by the poseurs themselves.
Before this post was scheduled to run, I ran across this blog post by Stephen Stromberg in the Washington Post. I’ve read it at least a half-dozen times, and I still can’t tell for sure if he’s serious.
He suggests that Kim Jong-il made a mistake by conducting the test on the American Memorial Day holiday. Once upon a time, Americans would have realized the implicit danger to its credibility–and therefore its safety–by ignoring the obvious symbolism. Not any more.
Mr. Stromberg seems to think it’s a joke. (Please try to convince me otherwise.) He says that Kim’s test didn’t receive so much attention in the U.S. because it was a three-day holiday weekend, and the American media is more concerned with a Supreme Court justice nominee and the California court’s ruling on gay marriage. Now read this:
This isn’t a frivolous observation. Nuclear weapons are near useless if your adversaries don’t know about and actively fear the ones you’ve got.
Really? The people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki neither knew about nor actively feared the very useful bombs that fell on them.
What was that Hugh Hewitt said about poseurs again?
Mr. Stromberg and the Washington Post think the Obama administration shouldn’t treat this as a crisis. By that, they mean it shouldn’t hasten to offer the Kim Family Regime concessions, as the U.S. has done too often in the past. While the Post’s editorials call for some of the same measures Mr. Bolton did, they also think the nonexistent six-party talks are worthwhile, despite having been an utter waste of time.
I don’t think we have to worry about the too naturally cool Mr. Obama getting too excited. Copping a move from a rap star by pretending to dust off his shoulders, or scratching his nose with his middle finger is more his style. Hey, it worked with Hillary and The Washington Post, didn’t it?
But the poseurs (all of them) miss the point. For some reason, the WaPo seems to think that getting excited = giving North Korea more concessions. The proven equation doesn’t seem to have occurred to them; namely, getting excited = realizing the gravity of the threat and taking immediate steps to eliminate it.
As Mark Steyn points out:
The rest of the world doesn’t observe Memorial Day. But it understands the crude symbolism of a rogue nuclear test staged on the day to honor American war dead and greeted with only half-hearted pro forma diplomatese from Washington.
Still don’t get it?
Out there in the chancelleries and presidential palaces, they’re beginning to get the message. The regime in Pyongyang is not merely trying to “provoke” America but is demonstrating to potential clients that you can do so with impunity. A black-market economy reliant on exports of heroin, sex slaves and knock-off Viagra is attempting to supersize its business model and turn itself into a nuclear Wal-Mart. Among the distinguished guests present for North Korea’s October 2006 test were representatives of the Iranian government. President George W. Bush was much mocked for yoking the two nations together in his now all but forgotten “axis of evil” speech, but the Swiss newspaper Neue Zuercher Zeitung reported a few weeks ago that the North Korean-built (and Israeli-bombed) plutonium production facility in Syria was paid for by Tehran. How many other Iranian clients are getting nuclear subsidies?
So where’s all this leading?
While America laughed at North Korea, Iran used it as a stalking horse, a useful guide as to the parameters of belligerence and quiescence a nuclearizing rogue state could operate within. In…”the post-American world,” other nations will follow that model. We are building a world in which the wealthiest nations on the planet…are all but defenseless, while bankrupt dysfunctional squats go nuclear. Even with inevitable and generous submissions to nuclear blackmail, how long do you think that arrangement will last?
And how long do you think it will be before Japan wises up and gets serious about nuclear weapons now that we know the poseurs in Washington would rather lick their fingers at a backyard barbecue than pay serious attention to some blackhearted men in–yes–an axis of evil preparing to fire up a barbecue of their own.
Kim Jong-il picked a bad news cycle? Poseur doesn’t describe it.