Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Serious Stuff

Well I have got to give the President a little credit with his “axis of evil” bit. I remember first hearing that phrase, used to describe Iran, Iraq and North Korea, in an address to the nation immediately following the attacks of September 11. To the Presidents credit, he appears to have gotten two out of three correct, even though in Iraq we appear to have gone to war with the least threatening of the three. As most of us now know, the war in Iraq has seriously damaged our nation’s credibility and our prestige around the globe. Our unilateral involvement places serious strains on our military, limiting our ability to project military power to other areas of the globe. Take Iran and North Korea as cases in point. Both countries are hostile to the United States and its allies, both countries are developing nuclear weapons programs and the systems to deliver them and both countries continue to snub their nose at the United States because they realize that we are limited in our ability to respond to their emerging threat. Not only do the regimes in North Korea and Iran realize that we currently lack sufficient military strength to threaten them directly, but that we are also hamstrung politically as domestic support for continued military conflicts dwindle and as Russia and China openly counter our efforts in both situations.

North Korea is the latest to challenge the regional status quo, with its well publicized missile launches last week. The North Korean missiles proved to be duds as they fell harmlessly into the Sea of Japan soon after launch and the situation was downplayed by many of the network talking heads and by even the President himself. However, don’t let the jokes on Leno fool you, this is serious. Japan, a country constitutionally prohibited from using war as a tool to settle international disputes, is publicly debating whether it should destroy any new North Korean missiles being readied for launch. The Japanese government was shaken by the North Korean missile launches and is hardening its stance heading into the U.N. Security Councils vote on tough sanctions proposed last week. Although the United States, Great Brittan and France (yes France) support the Japanese initiative, the odds on the resolution passing seem slim. Many feel that though Russia is likely to abstain from voting on the resolution, China will use its veto to keep the resolution from being adopted. To their credit, the Japanese government has taken an uncompromising stand against the North Korean action, refusing to change the resolutions wording despite the growing prospect of a Chinese veto. The Japanese government will not yield on its desire to see strict sanctions placed on Pyongyang. Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso stated on Sunday that “to compromise (our position) because one country (China) has veto power, even though most other countries support us, would send the wrong message.” Absolutely!!! Let China veto the resolution. Maybe then the rest of the world will see China for what it really is and recognize it for the threat to world peace it has become.

The Bush Administration has repeatedly tried to downplay the North Korean threat as it continues to be distracted by the un-winnable war in Iraq. In fact, our own prestige has been so badly damaged world wide, that countries such as North Korea and Iran have now chosen to ignore any saber rattling coming out of Washington because they simply do not fear U.S. reprisal. Sadly they are right. How are we able to conduct a preemptive strike against Iraq, a country found to have no weapons of mass destruction and that posed no threat to this country, while allowing North Korea, a country known to possess nuclear weapons, to launch test missiles aimed at Alaska? We need to demonstrate a similar resolve to that of our friends in Tokyo. Yet the Bush administration feels that a hands off approach to North Korea will force Pyongyang back to the table and that a preemptive strike is too risky and thus not an option. It is my opinion that the risk of inaction will prove to be far greater. The North Korean government will continue to be emboldened by our lack of commitment and resolve to defend a line in the sand we ourselves drew. They will continue to stockpile missiles and nuclear materials, tipping the regional balance of power and pursuing its own interests with impunity. Even worse, North Korea has a long history of selling weapons systems to countries in the Middle East and may even sell them to terrorist groups. All the while Iran watches with interest as the drama unfolds, realizing that if the U.S. will not respond to North Korea, who just launched test missiles at Seattle, it will do little to effect their insatiable desire to develop nuclear weapons and modernize its military.

The Bush Administration seems paralyzed by internal divisions on how to best deal with North Korea and Iran and as a result we have chosen to outsource these issues to other Western countries and regional players. The truth is that North Korea will only modify its behavior when it recognizes that it is in immediate danger. That is why we should position ourselves to eliminate any North Korean missiles readied for launch and destroy the country’s weapons research and development facilities. We should follow up with surgical air strikes on any North Korean infrastructure that would support and enable goods to be transported into the country from China and place a naval blockade on the country further isolating Pyongyang from the rest of the world. We need to demonstrate to the North Koreans just how seriously we take their threats and call their bluff. Folks, I hate to tell you, appeasement never works. It did not work with Hitler and it will not work with the North Koreans or the Iranians. Diplomacy should always be the preferred method for settling international disputes. However, when diplomacy fails to produce the desired result, we must be prepared to use any and all options available to us. You can not offer carrots without the implied threat of the stick. When you offer only carrots, you only offer appeasement and enticements to go further. The truth is if you take care of North Korea you will take care of Iran. You will also send a strong message to Beijing and Moscow that they will no longer influence this country’s foreign policy in Asia or the Middle East. However, if we continue to ignore the issue, we will soon find ourselves with two very real and very serious threats…the type of threats we only imagined we had in Iraq. WMD in the hands of rogue regimes, hostile to the US and its allies, ready and willing to export their technology and ideology to developing countries across the globe.

Serious stuff…think about it.

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