I was so proud of staying away from politics, and I'll try to de-politicize this as much as possible. But I just got through talking with a lefty friend (who should start checking the blogs rather than trying to work things out in isolation ;) ) who's all a-twitter because he's under various misimpressions about Korea. Specifically, he's afraid that: I. "The Bush administration didn't see this* coming!," and II. "We're about to go to war there!"
He's certainly wrong on the first count, and almost certainly wrong on the second.
I. The Bush administration not only saw this coming, it's their desired outcome.
It was always tough to try to prevent the North Koreans from getting nukes, for all sorts of reasons. There's no guarantee whatsoever that the Clinton administration's negotiation efforts would have paid off; as many observers expected, the North Koreans were developing nuke technology at the same time as they negotiated.
Whether such efforts would have ultimately helped or no became irrelevant when the Bush administration took office. Immediately they ended direct negotiations, insulted the North Korean negotiators, insulted their dictator, Kim Jong-Il, personally, and in short order declared them part of an "Axis of Evil." Such behavior literally can't be an accident. It was clearly intentional.**
Simply put. the administration WANTED North Korea to go nuclear -- for a number of reasons, and two in particular: (a) To remind non-Chinese Asia (read: Japan) why maybe they do, too, want U.S. bases there, but mostly (b) To justify the militarization of space ("Star Wars," "missile defense"). True, "missile defense" as such has produced pretty unpersuasive results so far...but once North Korea has nukes, you think the U.S. population won't want to take a chance on it anyway?
This move was not only anticipated, it was guaranteed. It is an extremely high-risk strategy, like most of this administration's strategies, but it wasn't a surprise to them.***
II. Calm Down. We have almost ZERO military options, so we're almost certainly not stupid enough to try one.
This is what made me post -- much as I love him, my lefty friend, like so many Americans, hasn't a frickin CLUE what goes into military conflict. But even as I type this, I realize that's not quite fair; he knows more than most, including the fact that our Army is melodramatically overstretched. Still, he reasons, we have naval and air assets just worlds better than anything the North Koreans have.
He is, of course, exactly right. And if it weren't for the MILLION MEN the North Koreans have massed along their border -- right across the DMZ from our 37-40,000 guys, and the otherwise underdefended South Koreans -- I'd be a lot more impressed by our fancy tech.
But wait, there's more! True, if we took significant aerial moves against the North Koreans, their obvious move is to roll their MILLION HUNGRY GUYS down into the South to get, you know, booty and grub and stuff, over our waiting men -- because folks, a MILLION GUYS in DOG CARTS, in a war of national survival, can do pretty damned well against what ground assets we and the South Koreans have at present, even under bombardment...particularly since the moment they roll into the South, our bombardment options are limited (unless we want to help them destroy South Korea, too).
And if we magically HAD sizeable ground forces of our own to respond with? (as we did in the Korean War fifty years ago), and a surefire way to get them there in, say, days, instead of the months it would actually take? -- DOES ANYONE BELIEVE THAT THE RUSSIANS AND CHINESE WOULD LET US OCCUPY NORTH KOREA, even if we somehow could? -- remembering, btw, how well that worked out last time, when the Chinese intervened and drove us back?
But what (my poor friend asked) about a naval blockade, to starve 'em out even worse than they're starved already?
Forget that this scenario, too, compels them to invade the South. More to the point, IN WHOSE FEVER DREAM ARE THE RUSSIANS AND CHINESE GONNA ALLOW US TO PARK U.S. NAVAL ASSETS IN THE WATERS OFF THE KOREAN PENINSULA?****
So, to review:
1. The administration wanted Kim Jong-Il to have nukes. It worked.
2. Our military options being stuck between slim and none, I don't think we have to worry much about the U.S. getting into a war with North Korea. [EDIT for clarity, on later reread: by "getting into" I meant "deliberately starting" -- NOT "ending up in," for which keep reading.]
South Korea -- and our brave guys serving there -- have to worry A LOT about an(other) invasion from the North; Japan has to worry about those nukes; the U.S. has to worry that it is making its chief rival, China, increasingly powerful; all of Asia has to worry about a brand-new nuclear arms race, and in short, the world just got one hell of a lot more dangerous.
But let's worry about the real stuff, not the unreal stuff, is all.
93 93/93 -- AJ
* I.e., North Korea, a significant threat to U.S. interests (and South Korean, and for that matter Japanese, survival) successfully testing a nuclear weapon, thereby joining the "nuclear club." But you knew that, didn't you?
** To argue that the administration was sincere in its desire for the "six-party talks" to "succeed," one would have to believe that the administration honestly thought the Chinese would pursue U.S. interests, instead of their own. Even this administration can't be that stupid. You can't be that stupid and get your lungs to operate.
*** I don't know what to make of the current "Was it really a nuke test?" stuff, btw. They said they were gonna, gave 20 minutes' warning to the Chinese, and twenty minutes later something underground caused a 4.2 earthquake. I haven't looked into it yet, but given everyone's expectation for several years now, I'd strongly assume it was a nuke (though I'd love to be wrong about this, natch). Anyway, either (a) there's some way of faking such a test that I don't know about yet (and some point in doing so), or (b) I assume someone wants you to settle down and stop worrying about "competence issues" before the upcoming elections. ;)
**** Though unlikely, I would not absolutely rule out, btw, the Russians and Chinese cutting a deal with the administration to let us float a token naval force in that direction for the next few weeks -- i.e., prior to the election -- particularly since some Republicans would dearly love to do so to "remind the voters why they need the GOP." I have insurmountable difficulties believing that the same two countries would let us move significant naval assets into place there. Caveat: If I'm wrong about this, we're in real trouble: IMO, it would mean that they want the North to invade the South, and nobody knows how that would turn out. I'd normally put money on China intervening and working toward a "reunified" Korea. In any event, Holy crap. :/