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June 01, 2005

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With direct confrontation on nuclear matters, comes the opportunity to challenge the Iranian leadership to expand freedom and democracy.

That's playing hardball? Challenge them: handbags at twenty paces, eh?

An allergy to carrots and a bent or broken stick leaves us in a weakened negotiating position. They can wait us out; I see no evidence our position is going to improve.

so has anyone except The Atlantic published the results of wargaming targeted strikes against Iran?

Let's play this out: Bolton plays hardball and brings Iran to the Security Council where soft sanctions are obtained. (The Europeans publicly state that they support the US, but privately say that our evidence sucks and that there is no public support in europe for sterner measures.)

Iran responds by getting OPEC to commit to $50 / barrel oil. Also, info from our satellites suggests that Iran is ramping up its nuclear weapons program, including starting up uranium enrichment.

Israel tells the US it will launch raids by August unless the administration responds. The neo-cons throw public support behind Israel's private threat. Saudi Arabia allows oil prices to rise, threatening a US recession.

In August, B-2 bombers, supported by F-A 18 fighters, hit Iranian facilities. The casus belli is a failure of Iran to respond to Security Council deadlines, but no vote authorizing the use of force was held.

Iran had brought in large numbers of civilians to live around and above its nuclear facilities. Pictures of dead women and children flash around the Arab world. In Iraq, the US opens fire on large mobs threatening to overrun US positions, causing hundreds of casualties.

then what? does the US have the will and the firepower to hold off Iraqi mobs? does Iran have enough anti-ship missiles surviving the first US strike to cause damage to the US sixth (?) fleet? how will the Saudis respond? how will the Pakistanis respond? do the Iranians have surface-to-surface missiles that can strike Israel's nuclear facility?

Punitive strikes against Libya was one thing; strikes against Iran are likely to be very different.

"Reuel" Gerecht, actually. Thanks for the acknowledgement, of course.

I'm going to not discuss Iran at the moment, but North Korea. Charles, you say:

The fundamental issue is getting to an agreement that works and a multi-party conference is the best avenue to achieving it. The "assert diplomacy" needed now is getting Kim to the multi-party table.
And how is that to be done? General consensus seems to hold that only China has the power to compel Kim Jong Il to do this, and that, in fact, China seems to lack any actual interest in doing so, for various reasons, including their lack of desire to see either North Korea collapse and flood them with who knows how many refugees and their lack of desire at a possible resulting unified Korea with U.S. military forces on their borders. So now what? (In regard to Iran, possibly it wasn't wise to essentially drop-kick last month's NPT every-five-years conference, by refusing to uphold any of the assurances made under the previous administration, perhaps? Though what else is new.)

See here for current cheery news on NK, BTW.

"In Iraq, the US opens fire on large mobs threatening to overrun US positions, causing hundreds of casualties."

If you read the Gerecht (I presume it is the oldish article I read some months ago about Khomeini,Sistani,and the theology of Democracy), the relationship between Iraqi Shias and Iranian Shias has its complexities. I could not state for certain what the Iraqi response to an attack on Iran might be. It would be a good guess that SCIRI and Sadr could bring out protest crowds, and unknown if Sistani and the clerics would be willing or able to stand in the way.

In any case, Iraq is 3rd or 4th on the list of risks. Iran is just a little stronger than was Iraq after two wars and ten years of sanctions, and is quite able to do some damage in counterattack. China would not be pleased.

But my sense of Charles's post was that this is all recognized, that military action is off the table, and that negotiations should begin. In my opinion, this is a disaster, Iran will get nukes, and it is largely due to a lack of committment after 9/11. I wish we occupied the place already.

I know of others who believe a nuclear Iran will be a good thing. Yglesias. I can't quite say why he has that opinion.

if targeted strikes and invasion are off the table before negotiations start, how do we play hardball? Unilateral sanctions? i heard that the Cuban govt is ready to collapse any day now. Multilateral sanctions? Best of luck. I guess we're going to find out sooner rather than later whether Bolton is any good at his job.


Hasn't Bolton already proven that he isn't qualified? Wasn't he responsible for the NPT failure?

Argh! That's not the first time I've misspelled "Reuel", Gary. You ask "so now what?" re: China. If China backs out of 6-way talks, then it's back to square one. But other than to put a thumb in our eye, what's in it for China not to participate? Is it really in their interest to piss us off? Seems like they would prefer a more stable neighbor, but since they hold the cards, perhaps they can be the master and Kim can be the wild pit bull on Hu's leash. If NK doesn't come to the table and refuses talks, then our only real choice is to isolate them further. The other option is pressuring China to step up. Their foot-dragging and hesitance does not help their relationship with us. There really aren't any other palatable choices.

But my sense of Charles's post was that this is all recognized, that military action is off the table, and that negotiations should begin.

WRT to Iran, targeted strikes to vaporize their nuclear facilities are very much on the table. Unless NK fires first or we have exceptional intelligence, I don't see a viable military option for us there.

"If China backs out of 6-way talks, then it's back to square one."

I don't expect them to back out. I expect them to continue to twiddle their thumbs, occasionally saying to NK "hey, you really should participate in the 6-power talks," and occasionally saying to us "hey, we tell the North Koreans they really should participate in the 6-power talks," and nothing will change until something does.

"But other than to put a thumb in our eye, what's in it for China not to participate?"

I suggest reading the article I linked to above at 3:16 p.m.

"If NK doesn't come to the table and refuses talks, then our only real choice is to isolate them further."

Uh, what do you suggest is left that we can do about that? (I'm thinking the giant shield in the sky to cut off the sun that Mr. Burns installed in Springfield one time, assuming that that's an option; failing that....)

I'd hate to think we might lose that great North Korean entertainment we've all grown to love, though.

I'm sorry to hit and run like this, but I do want to note that if

Unless NK fires first or we have exceptional intelligence, I don't see a viable military option for us there.

then the notion that
The problem is that the agreement was a lousy accord with insufficient "trust but verify" provisions.

is flawed. As long as we have been negotiating with NK, they have been able and apparently willing to open up on Seoul. Given that, the carping over the weaknesses of the agreed framework (which, though I am in no way a supporter of Kim Jong Il, NK has reasons that are plausible on their face to have pulled out from, on account of not only the turning up rhetorical heat but withholding fuel oil, which is cited as the primary reason for PRK to pull out from the framework) ignores the actual state of affairs. This pm, I will try and present some links to outline this. Please be aware that living in southern Japan, I have a lot more reasons to dislike and be worried about North Korea than you do.

"The other option is pressuring China to step up."

Incidentally, what do you suggest we do when, in response to sufficient "pressure" from us, the Chinese government decides to dump all the U.S. bonds that Republican deficits put in their hands? Not that that would endanger our national security and economy, or anything. Better living through massive debt and borrowing is a winning Republican idea!

"WRT to Iran, targeted strikes to vaporize their nuclear facilities are very much on the table."

Just so we're clear, are you suggesting nuclear strikes on Iran, or that we have sufficient intelligence so that conventional bombing will be sufficiently damaging to their nuclear program? Assuming the latter, what estimates of "collateral damage" of civilian dead, due to facilities being near civilian clusters, do you deem acceptable? What estimates do you think are realistic? How long would such strikes, in your view, set the Iranian nuclear program back? Lastly, would you say the Iranians would be being unreasonable if they felt that a bombing campaign or strikes was -- the technical term is "an act of war" -- and they responded on that basis in some fashion?

Bird: Seems like they would prefer a more stable neighbor,

If I'm a China that likes the US, SK and Japan nervous, they look pretty stable to me. Then again, if I'm a China that would prefer not to have a militarized Japan offshore, well then, they look a little unstable.

LJ: Please be aware that living in southern Japan, I have a lot more reasons to dislike and be worried about North Korea than you do.

What's your point here LJ?

I'm not sure which is the best thread to post this on -- arguably one of Charles' about Amnesty International, but they're getting a bit down in the queue now, and he appears to be reading this one, so: about that notion that everyone picked up "on the battlefield" in Afghanistan naturally being guilty, I strongly suggest reading this and attached links.

To follow up on Gary's questions, why wouldn't Iran, immediately after US airstrikes, go deep? I bet the NKs would be glad to tell them how to build nuclear facilities deep underground and then five years later New York is glowing.

Incidentally, what do you suggest we do when, in response to sufficient "pressure" from us, the Chinese government decides to dump all the U.S. bonds that Republican deficits put in their hands?

It's China's funeral. They'll take a much bigger hit than us from them. They won't do it because they're not that stupid.

Just so we're clear, are you suggesting nuclear strikes on Iran, or that we have sufficient intelligence so that conventional bombing will be sufficiently damaging to their nuclear program?

Targeted strikes with conventional weapons. Bunker busting nukes would do us more harm than good, politically. If Iran locates its military facilities too close to civilian populations, that's their problem. Also their problem if they consider our response to their belligerence an act of war.

"If Iran locates its military facilities too close to civilian populations, that's their problem."

Nuclear fuel enrichment facilities, which are legally their right under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, being "military facilities," of course, although there would seem to be no legal justification for this -- unless you have one in mind I'm not thinking of? (Mind, I'm all in favor of revising the NPT to, among other changes, tighten controls over enrichment -- but our every-five-year chance for that seems to have expired last week.)

"Also their problem if they consider our response to their belligerence an act of war."

Y'know, I find the idea of Iran having nuclear arms, and their present government, quite alarming. But I find it difficult to reasonably describe their proceeding with perfectly legal nuclear energy development as "belligerence" per se. How does that work? And are you seriously claiming that our launching our (hypothetical) bombing strikes on Iran would not be an act of war? You seem to be, but other than in an Alice-In-Wonderland Red Queen "words mean what I want them to mean" just because you want them to mean that, way, this seems... difficult to explain. Presumably if Iran bombed some of our nuclear facilities (say, the Indian Point plants just outside NYC), we'd be being "belligerent" if we thought that was, well, kinda an act of war. Our wacky interpretation, their problem.

I mean, Charles, are there in fact objective rules as to what constitutes an act of war or not? Or do you just get to make them up out of whole cloth? Really, this is a quite interesting chain of thought.

It's China's funeral. They'll take a much bigger hit than us from them.

I'm not entirely sure what you're trying to say here, nor am I sure why you're saying it. Would you mind expanding?

Also their problem if they consider our response to their belligerence an act of war.

Gary's already taken issue with this, but it's so extraordinary that I have to jump in too: in what sense is Iran's legal pursuit of nuclear energy "belligerence" towards the United States? Even assuming that Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons -- which seems a perfectly reasonable assumption to me, though I don't think it's yet been proven -- in what sense is that "belligerence" towards the United States? And in what possible way is bombing their nuclear facilities not an act of war?

" what constitutes an act of war or not? "

Gary, as in the blockade of Cuba, or Israel's attack on the Iraqi nuclear facility, you can have acts of war that are not declarations of war, or signals that further aggression would be forthcoming.

It is an imaginable scenario that after such an attack Iran would humbly come to the negotiating table. There are other imaginable scenarios for the consquences of such an attack. :)

"the Chinese government decides to dump all the U.S. bonds that Republican deficits put in their hands?"

With the bearish Euro, this has become more difficult and less likely than before. It is currently hard to see exactly what they would trade those dollars for. This is, IMO, unfortunate, but it appears we will be able to pile up the debt for a long while to come.

"...in what sense is that "belligerence" towards the United States?"

Stocking up on shields and chainmail can be as threatening as buying swords. If a rival acts as if they believe they will be attacked, perhaps they believe their opponent has, or will have just cause.

The missles in Cuba were probably intended as a defense and a deterrent, but combined with Castro's subversion in the hemisphere, and support for rebels, we viewed the defensive measures as unacceptable. I consider Iran a very comparable situation. They are known supporters or terrorists, with a history of covert support for our enemies.

After all the lies this administration has told (i.e., we're turning the corner, the insurgency is on the run, the war is about WMD, no, it's about democracy, etc) and the way the right wing fundamentalists have lapped up these lies, I am willing to bet that if this adminstration chose to use nuclear bombs on Iran without any justfication, except for the War on Terror, these right-wing fundamentalists would still support this adminstration and say that they were right to behave in such a manner.

And, call anyone who was aghast at such blatant evil actions, traitors.

"Targeted strikes with conventional weapons. Bunker busting nukes would do us more harm than good, politically. If Iran locates its military facilities too close to civilian populations, that's their problem. Also their problem if they consider our response to their belligerence an act of war."

Posted by: Charles Bird

Why does anybody here take Charles seriously? Just because he helped to found Obsidian Wings?

I'm not sure what left-right dialog is supposed to be happening here. IMHO (of course) 'dialog' requires that there be some common ground between participants. Charles has clearly indicated that he's not mentally in the same world as the rest of us.

"Gary, as in the blockade of Cuba, or Israel's attack on the Iraqi nuclear facility, you can have acts of war that are not declarations of war, or signals that further aggression would be forthcoming."

True, Bob, but as I understand both old-fashioned traditional laws of war, and the UN Charter -- though IANAL! -- aggressive acts of, dare I say, belligerence, are nonetheless legally regardable as acts of war, even if the attacker intends no further aggression, or the attackee chooses not to respond as if they were acts of war.

The other thing is that I think you may be forgetting that Iraq and Israel have been technically in a state of war since 1949 (as remains Syria); unlike Eqypt and Jordan, there are no treaties and no armistice, so no further acts of violence between them can put them into a state they already exist in.

As a less important point, JFK and co. were entirely aware that a "blockade" was an act of war, which is why they carefully never used that word, and instead announced a "quarantine" of Cuba and a "quarantine zone." To be sure, insofar as legality was relevant, Cuba, and their ally the Soviet Union, could certainly have argued that this was mere word play and that it was still a blockade and an act of war. They still would have been correct, although that was ultimately irrelevant because Krushchev chose not to go further down that road (thank goodness!). But they still would have been correct.

"Why does anybody here take Charles seriously? Just because he helped to found Obsidian Wings?"

He did? I must have amnesia. (It's been known to happen.)

"this adminstration chose to use nuclear bombs on Iran without any justfication"

It would be a frightening and radical act, and as Charles says, I believe ineffective. I see the ultimate nature of this war, or its future shape, to be nations with strong deterrents or otherwise impervious to attack using this invulnerability and financing terrorists and other assymetrical warfare. Read Saudi Arabi. Maybe Pakistan. Surely Iran.

I do not believe even a nuclear strike on Iran would adequately deter the Saudis. We cannot attack, or even threaten Saudi Arabia, partly because of oil, partly because of their economic power, but mostly because of the holy sites and billion and a half muslims worldwide. They could nuke us, and we could not return fire.

Whatever:

If Bush attacks Iran, I believe he will lose that war. And the entire WoT or WoE. It is too late, and too many mistakes have been made. I believe he lost the war in 2002, by not adequately preparing the American people for the scale of the mission, by not starting a military buildup, by not preparing the economic resources. We will now reduce the mission to uselessness, withdraw and some other administration will have to return after an even greater catastrophe, under much worse strategic conditions.

May Bush rot in hell forever.

Best as I recall, the founders were Moe, Edward, Von, and Katherine. Perhaps my memory fails.

"The missles in Cuba were probably intended as a defense and a deterrent, but combined with Castro's subversion in the hemisphere, and support for rebels, we viewed the defensive measures as unacceptable."

Just because I'm a history buff, I wish to say that while this is true, it is incomplete. If Kennedy hadn't made firm public statements warning the USSR not to place "offensive weapons" (meaning "nuclear") in Cuba prior to our detection of the missiles, it's conceivable he might have backed down under the fait accompli; what put the decision to not back down over the top was the opinion that if the U.S. were seen to publically back down on such a warning, the Russians would see us as equally unwilling to act militarily to defend Berlin, and they'd take it, and that was what was truly unacceptable to JFK and advisors. Cuba was small potatos in the geopolitical stakes compared to Western Europe and West Germany, despite the more direct military threat to CONUS from nuclear IRBMs in Cuba.

If Bush attacks Iran, I believe he will lose that war

Just to clarify, Bob, I'm talking strikes, not invasion. Also, several things need to happen if or ever that situation comes to a head.

Right, Moe, Katherine, and Von. Edward came later. Then Sebastian, then hilzoy, then Charles, only a few months ago, relatively speaking, as I recall.

If it takes a year, certainly circumstances could be different, and I can't predict well. Tho I don't really see trends that give me confidence.

One consequence, there are others:

As of right now, an attack on Iran would not cause anything like a nationwide insurrection in Iraq. But there would be some reversal. And if only 5% of the Shia became insurgents, I suspect we would see a doubling of casualties and a doubling of expenses...and our presence would not be sustainable.

Part of the cause of the withdrawal would be a lack of material and resource preparation. It is hard not to blame Bush/Rumsfeld, since I haven'y noticed them even asking for much. Part would be the lack of American will for an expanded war. I certainly blame Democrats for their pacifist tendencies, but with just a little compromise and conciliation Bush could have had 10-20% of that party giving him support. And I honestly wonder if Bush has prepared his own party for a draft and a couple hundred billion more a year in war costs.

Libya was a toothless pariah when Reagan ordered strikes. It's likely that the Arab world was cheering (behind closed doors) when Israel struck at Osirak.

do the neo-cons honestly believe that the repercussions of a strike on Iran will be as minimal?

Put yourself in the mullahs' slippers for a second. The US hits a set of dual purpose (nuclear energy and weapons) facilities hard. You (a) whimper or (b) dig out Ayatollah Khomeni's speeches about the Great Satan, whip up the population, start building new facilities deep underground, and buy designs for carrier-sized ship-killer missiles.

I bet they'll choose option (b); anyone have any evidence that i'm wrong?

As of right now, an attack on Iran would not cause anything like a nationwide insurrection in Iraq. But there would be some reversal. And if only 5% of the Shia became insurgents, I suspect we would see a doubling of casualties and a doubling of expenses...and our presence would not be sustainable.

It's already not sustainable, unless you are willing to start up the draft right now! We have only lost 86 Coalition soldiers this month and had aproximatly 300 Soldiers taken of the battlefield due to wounds.

"But they still would have been correct."

Actually, thinking a bit more, I'm less sure of that; an actual blockade might be turning away all or most ships and goods, whereas what the U.S. did in its "quarantine" was demand the right to search ships, and turn them back if they had "contraband," i.e., missile/warhead parts. I'm not sure how clearcut or not that is or is not a "blockade" in legal terms. It's not like traditional blockades such as those of the Napoleonic Wars through WWII, though, which simply sunk or took as prizes any ships deemed unfriendly and in the area.

"...and buy designs for carrier-sized ship-killer missiles."

Last I looked, they've had Chinese-designed Silkworm anti-ship missiles for many years, although they'd have to launch large numbers at once to stand a good chance of getting through a carrier anti-missile shield.

I know of others who believe a nuclear Iran will be a good thing.

I don't know about a good thing, but it is certainly a justifiable thing - they need them as a deterrant against the US.

Besides, there's two points which play well in the Muslim world but which the US seems to ignore:

(a) Israel has nukes.
(b) Why should the NPT be binding on small non nuclear countries when the US ignores its own obligations (i.e. Article VI)?

As best I can tell, 'act of war' is not precisely defined now; the best definition seems to be 'the threat or use of force'. We can debate whether or not the Cuban missile crisis met this standard, but I cannot imagine how Iran's enriching uranium does. And I say this as someone who is very, very concerned about it.

LJ: Please be aware that living in southern Japan, I have a lot more reasons to dislike and be worried about North Korea than you do.

What's your point here LJ?

Hey cri,
consider it sort of a rhetorical 'pre-emptive' strike, to use Bushco jargon. I live a block away from an active self-defense (Japanese army) force base whose primary mission is to deal with the possibility of invsion. . The times I have flown to Korea have shown me that the flight is ballistic. Thus, I would really prefer that no one suggest that I am somehow supporting the Dear Leader. Consider it a button that people shouldn't even think about pressing.

"If Iran locates its military facilities too close to civilian populations, that's their problem."

Jeez Charles, such callousness, WTH? Now, I'm pretty sure that you are not really that callous towards the actual people, but believe that the Iranian government is even more callous in that they use their civilian population to "protect" these sites. If so, I'd agree. But, jeez, c'mon.

I'm not sure what left-right dialog is supposed to be happening here. IMHO (of course) 'dialog' requires that there be some common ground between participants. Charles has clearly indicated that he's not mentally in the same world as the rest of us.

IMHO (of course) the common ground here is a concern that a government hostile to the US, our ally Israel and indeed its own people is striving to gain nuclear capabilities. I've said before that I can certainly understand why they would do so. The differences appear to be in what to do about it. What should be done Barry?

mostly because of the holy sites and billion and a half muslims worldwide. They could nuke us, and we could not return fire.

I disagree Bob. I hope that the Saudis as a governmental entity would understand that we (I, at least) think of every single spot in the US is "holy" and that their attack on any spot is tantamount to our attacking Mecca. I think we would respond in kind.

consider it sort of a rhetorical 'pre-emptive' strike

Hmmm, ok then.

... but other than in an Alice-In-Wonderland Red Queen "words mean what I want them to mean" just because you want them to mean that, way, this seems... difficult to explain.

Wrong book, wrong character:

`When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean--neither more nor less.' (from Through the Looking Glass.)

Evening all,
As I mentioned earlier, I think Chas take on the Agreed Framework is pretty uninformed. One excellent and entertaining source is in a Robert Galluci lecture MIT Opencourse lecture (who Chas probably dismisses because he is a "Clintonite"). There was also a frontline special

The key points are, if the Agreed Framework was 'a lousy accord', what was the alternative? Chas has admitted that the military option is not really an option, so we are left with an poor agreement or no agreement at all. In fact, the only logical notion is to place the military option on the table, which is what McCain did

Just after the just after the signing in Geneva of the Agreed Framework, the power balance changes in Washington, and you start to hear a lot of accusations from Capitol Hill. What happened?

The Republicans won the congressional elections, and committees' chairmanships obviously changed.

---snip---

What did you hear?

The criticisms were of the following kinds: First, that we had we had submitted to blackmail. The North Koreans were threatening us with a nuclear program, and we gave in and gave them good things; that we were appeasers; that this was a "rogue" regime. This is a classic example: Had we learned nothing about the failures of appeasement to deal with regimes such as this? We also heard that the North Koreans wouldn't stick with the deal, that they'd cheat. and didn't we know that they were the kind of folks who would cheat?

At some point, Senator McCain accused you of being a traitor.

I had some exchanges with Senator McCain on this. Senator McCain was unhappy with the deal. He thought it was indeed a sellout, and that it was a bad idea, bad for the country. I believe he still thinks that deeply. The difference between Senator McCain and others is that, when I would ask other senators what they would [have done], they really didn't have a good answer. They generally wished that we didn't have to give so much and that we'd gotten more. Every negotiator would like [to get] more and give less. But I never got a clear answer on what they would do to stop the program if negotiations failed.

Senator McCain said, if necessary, he would favor the use of force over the kind of deal that I had struck.

Unfortunately, Chas finds himself with the group of senators who don't really have a good answer. But if you want to pick mup McCain's banner, remember that given the presence of the Sunshine policy, increased trade with China, and the presence of Japan with all the ambivalent baggage there, it is difficult to imagine any set of possibilities where the military option actually exists. Here is a clear-headed article discussing the possible options.

Galluci notes:

We have to face a fact about lessons here. We did a deal with North Korea called the Agreed Framework, and it stopped the plutonium program. If we hadn't done the deal, North Korea would have, without question, more than 100 nuclear weapons, and more than 100 is a soft number. It might be much more than 100 nuclear weapons. So that deal was worth making, in terms of our security, and our allies' security

But what about 'trust but verify'? Galluci has your trust but verify right here:

I think you have to assume that they're committed to nuclear weapons, and you have to do deals that make sense, even if that's true. There's no trust here. It's not just a line, "Trust, but verify." It's "No, you don't trust and you get as much verification [as possible]."

Those who criticize the deal because they cheated on it, I think, are not understanding the nature of international politics. We have done deals with people who we expected might well cheat. Indeed, the Soviet Union cheated on all kinds of deals -- massively, in the biological weapons convention. That's probably the most famous. So, you look at the deal and say, "OK. What can you monitor? What can you watch? What can you verify? If they cheat, will you catch them? And if you don't catch them, are you still better off with the deal than without it?"

The lesson is we stopped the plutonium program, and we had to watch for the enrichment program. You couldn't expect to have high confidence the North Koreans wouldn't cheat, based upon their past experience, and based upon how easy it is to have a secret centrifuge program. You had to understand that might happen, and still regard the deal as a good deal, in our interest, because over time, we'd be better off with the deal than without it. It wasn't perfect. It didn't provide for absolute transparency in North Korea.

The hope, the expectation was, over time, relationships would improve. Tensions would reduce. We could get more access. And indeed, in the meantime, we stopped the plutonium program.

Now, it is important to note that the shift in policy occurred before 9/11. Kim Dae Jung came to Washington in March of 2001 to get the blessing of the president and was told privately that the previous policy of engagement was being set aside. Remember that before this, South and North Koreans participated together at the Summer Olympics, that Jo Myong Rok came to the US and invited Clinton to visit, Albright went to Pyongyang. Also remember that the South, having seen what happened to West Germany in trying to deal with reunification and realizing that North Korea would be even more of a basket case, wanted a slow, steady change that was managable, you might realize that it wasn't that the Agreed Framework was a lousy framework, but it couldn't be accepted because it was not the Bush admin's framework. One should also reflect on how Libya bought its return to the good graces of the US after 9/11, having most probably been responsible for the largest terrorist act against the US up till that time (in the form of the Lockerbie bombing) and wonder why it would have been so bad to have continued on the path that was being laid out.

Also, for the historically minded, construction of three reactors and the chemical separation and reprocessing plant occurred during the Reagan and Bush administrations, and might have continued on through the Clinton admin if the North Koreans had not refused to be inspected by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Of course, everything changed after 9/11. Now, given that there is no link between Kim Jong Il and Al Queda, it seems rather bizarre to me to pick a fight, yet the inclusion of DPRK in the axis of evil (which, incidentally, was taken by the DPRK as a violation of the Agreed Framework, where the US was required to make 'formal assurances not to threaten the DPRK) seems to have been just that.

It is also important to note that this issue was one that Kerry brought up in his campaign, and the Bush admin dealt with in the following was

Pres Bush reportedly authorizes American negotiators at multilateral talks in Beijing to offer North Korea new but highly conditional set of incentives to give up nuclear weapons program; aid would begin when Kim Jong Il commits to dismantling plutonium and uranium weapons programs; China, Russia, Japan and South Korea would send tens of thousands of tons of heavy fuel oil every months, while US would offer 'provisional' guarantee not to invade or try to topple Kim's government; Kim would get only three months for preparatory period to seal nuclear sites; Bush has been criticized by those countries and by Democratic rival John Kerry for not making serious offer to North Koreans; new plan retreats on key point, with Bush now agreeing to allow resumption of oil shipments, though not American oil, before North Korea actually dismantles anything
link

While I am sure that you are unwavering in your stance, it appears that the Bush admin is willing to make up an offer when it helps undercut an opponent, but is unwilling to actually follow through on any of this.

Of course, the fruits of this are things like the ASEAN 10+3 meetings, which are beomcing more and more organized and are intentionally leaving the US out, a December 2002, not only has 36% of South Koreans viewed the US unfavorably, only 13% favorably, and 50% were neutral but only among the over 50 age group expressed a favorable opinion of the US, and even the EU is working with korea, and coupled with the loss of moral high ground in Iraq, makes it even more impossible for any substantive steps in easing tensions here.

Excellent post there, LJ. Ta.

"I think we would respond in kind.[to a SA nuke]"

I couldn't say for sure. And of course the Saudis would be attracted to an assymetrical warfare with cutouts and deniability.

The "rising of the Arab street" was a joke when we attacked Iran. What I would worry about with SA is that on the day we made even threatening gestures toward the peninsula, small arms fire would erupt in every major city in the US. Riots in Indonesia and Paris. Perhaps I am mistaken, but I do think there would be sympathetic violence from the worldwide Islamic community. Nothing more than a tiny minority, but when you are talking about a 5th of the worldwide population, very widely distributed, it wouldn't take much.

I can think of nothing comparable in any other religion to the commanded hajj. The specific place must be available, and any threat to the possibility of hajj would be an attack on all Islam.

meant Iraq, not Iran

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