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September 19, 2005

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But we're winning, right?

I applaud North Korea's decision to (finally) give up its nuclear program. Now, when is the US going to do the same? (Not to mention Britain, France, Pakistan, India, China, Russia, the Ukraine, Israel, and so on)?

Why on earth would we do that, Dianne? Given that the technology exists and continues to exist, and that we can't go backwards in time and erase that knowledge from the human sphere of scientific discovery (yet ;) ), then the better-behaved Western powers maintaining nuclear arsenals as a deterrent, if nothing else, is not only sensible, but imperative. Would you rather a world in which all those countries dumped their nukes, but crazy dictators and other potential troublemakers continue to pursue making new ones or stealing existing ones? I wouldn't.

The "No Nukes" world is a fantasy. That ship sailed half a century ago.

Well, apparently, deal's off for NK.

This is George Washington University's National Security Archive and these two 'electronic briefing books' have lots of interesting declassified documents
from Bush I and Clinton

North Korea and Nuclear Weapons

From the latter, this caught my eye
Other documents shed light on the internal policy deliberations and debates that have marked prior administrations' efforts to address the threat posed by the North Korean nuclear program. An excerpt from an interview with Charles W. Freeman, a long-time State Department China hand who was deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing during the Reagan years, centers on Freeman's recollections about a still-born step toward opening direct talks with North Korea that might have emerged from a surprising Chinese offer during the first Reagan administration to broker such discussions. This initiative was effectively killed, according to Freeman, by the determined opposition of Paul Wolfowitz, who was then Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. Freeman speculates that Wolfowitz's hostility to the initiative was rooted in part in the latter's ideological suspicion of any Chinese initiative and his concerns over adverse reactions from the Republican right-wing to such talks (see pp. 430-431 of the excerpt). Wolfowitz's reputed role as the intellectual driving-force behind the hard-line positions taken by the Defense Department on Iraq, North Korea and other members of the "Axis of Evil" suggests that long-standing debates continue to be waged in the current administration.

To regular readers of ObWi, these two EBB might be of interest
The Interrogation Documents

and
Prisoner Abuse: Patterns from the Past

tons of other stuff

Phil: I'm not really expecting Shrub to give up any missles or reduce the number of weapons he has available, mostly for purely Freudian reasons. Consider it from the point of view of the leader, dictator or otherwise, of a small, poor country, though. The US can dominate you militarily, economically, and socially. It can wipe your country off the face of the earth simply because its leader wants to make a political point. You can not develop nukes and remain vunerable or develop nukes and have a mild deterrent. Which would you do? Now, suppose you decide to develop nukes. The US, a country which maintains over half of the nuclear arms in the world, lectures you on the evils of going nuclear. Might you not feel that the US's position was just slightly hypocritical?

Dianne, I'm not going to speculate about George Bush's penis issues or other Freudian whatevers. If you feel comfortable doing so, knock yourself out. It's an irrelevant distraction.

The point is that even if we got rid of our entire nuclear arsenal tomorrow, those that mean to do us -- or others -- harm will continue to pursue developing or acquiring them. The genie cannot be put back in the bottle. Given that fact, does it make sense to discard our own deterrents? Of course not.

As to hypocrisy, well, no, I don't think it's hypocritical at all to say that stable Western countries, or other democracies, can probably handle their nuclear arsenals responsibly while overambitious dictators or non-state actors cannot. It has nothing to do with "the evils of going nuclear"; it has to do with whether that party can be trusted to handle them. And I doubt that the US is alone in its assessment of whether NK or Iran should have nuclear bombs; in fact, I know it is not alone. None of the other current nuclear powers want them having them either. So this has little to do with Evil US H-Bomb Hegemony or somesuch.

Dianne, the United States maintains well-defined command and control sytems for its nuclear weapons. We have every right to be concerned about nuclear weapons in the hands of nations governed by paranoid dictators or religious fanatics. It may be hypocritical for us to say "nukes for me but not for thee", but welcome to the real world.

LJ, your first link ("deal's off") also goes to the National Security Archive homepage. According to the NYT and CNN, it appears the deal is still on - or at least not dead. Did you have something indicating otherwise?

Oops, Phil already responded. Me shut up now.

Phil: I didn't mean that I thought that NKorea would be as responsible with a nuke as the US (which isn't itself very responsible, given some of the history...but there it is). Bush's psychological issues aside--and I must agree that they are probably secondary, although I think "irrelevant" is a little strong given his actions in Iraq--it is harder for the leader of a democracy to go nuclear one morning because he/she feels like it than it is for a dictator to do the same. So, yeah, nukes in the US are probably marginally safer than nukes in NKorea or even Pakistan or some of the less stable ex-Soviet countries.

Nonetheless, if I were the leader, elected or dictatorial, of a small and relatively powerless country, I'd probably look at what's happening in Iraq and want something to prevent Bush (or Clinton, or Chirac, or whomever) from invading one day at apparent random. And nukes seem to be one of the few effective deterrants to that. And if I were in that situation, having the leader of the only country to ever drop nukes on a city would sound pretty hypocritical to me. After all, if you don't feel comfortable giving up nukes, even living in a very large and powerful country with a large military and many non-nuclear options for deterring attack, how much moreso might someone in a small country with few resources and virtually no way to repel an invasion feel about it?

"So, yeah, nukes in the US are probably marginally safer than nukes in NKorea or even Pakistan or some of the less stable ex-Soviet countries."

Ya think?

"Nonetheless, if I were the leader, elected or dictatorial, of a small and relatively powerless country, I'd probably look at what's happening in Iraq and want something to prevent Bush (or Clinton, or Chirac, or whomever) from invading one day at apparent random."

Surely, and obviously. This doesn't actually suggest that it's either a good thing Kim Il Sung, or one or another Supreme Leaders has the bomb.

I'd be worried as hell if I were a Third World leader, about the bomb. That doesn't mean I'd use it wisely, or that other folks shouldn't worry about my potential use.

"So, yeah, nukes in the US are probably marginally safer than nukes in NKorea or even Pakistan or some of the less stable ex-Soviet countries."

I forgot to mention that there are actual objective differences in safeguards, so far as we know.

This is, like, incredibly important.

So now that I'm home from work I see what liberal japonicus was talking about - North Korea now says that it will not dismantle its nuclear weapons program until after the US supplies light water reactors, which is contrary to the agreement made yesterday. But this may just be continued bargaining rather than an outright rejection.

We can hope, at least.

Oh, I just now saw hilzoy had already put this news in the post. Color me chagrined (it's kind of a pinkish muave, if you must know).

Sorry about the screwed up link, y'all. Get all excited about breaking news and that's what you get. The link I had was the US refusal to the NK demand.

LJ, that link is from a couple of days ago. Last I heard, the US had agreed to "consider" providing a light water reactor after North Korea dropped its program, but now NK is demanding it as a precondition.

Surely, and obviously. This doesn't actually suggest that it's either a good thing Kim Il Sung, or one or another Supreme Leaders has the bomb.

I don't think anyone here is seriously suggesting that it is. Just pointing out that all of this counterproliferation diplomacy essentially boils down to giving another country a better alternative to having nukes--and that alternative needs to be better from their point of view.

We simply have neither the manpower nor the national will to force North Korea or Iran or almost any other country to give up nukes. We just don't--ending nuclear proliferation at the barrel of a gun is a complete non-option. So if that's lurking somewhere in anyone's mind, forget about it, it's not going to happen.

Sanctions? They have proven to be, shall we say, a less than effective solution, at least with North Korea. In fact, we really don't have much in the way of disincentives with which to threaten a would-be nuclear power at all.

What does that leave us with? Aside from impotent tut-tutting and saber-rattling in public, we can attempt to exert our influence with neighboring countries, some of which might find a more receptive ear in our target country. This requires various kinds of soft power, power which is are getting pretty thin these days.

Or, we can offer incentives and positive alternatives. This is frequently derided as "appeasement", or characterized as "nuclear blackmail". Depending on how you want to frame it, either might even be right. But they're considerably more available and effective than our other options.

So when Dianne, or someone else, points out that these countries have very good reasons of their own to want nukes, and that sanctimonious chiding from the US about nuclear proliferation comes off as a double standard, you might want to listen. These are factors we have to overcome if we want to discourage North Korea or anyone else from getting nukes--because when they say that they've got them and implicitly ask what we think we can do about it, the only honest answer is "not much".

Whoops, thanx for that. I'm more mauve than you, now.

It's apparent (at least to me), that we have to 'buy off' NK. This was the underlying realization of the Agreed Framework and it is precisely what this admin has rejected. Mike Chinoy, on CNN, had a special on NK and noted that market 'reforms' had the effect of visibly improving life in the capital, so the notion that by refusing to pay the price, somehow, NK is going to collapse upon itself is extreme folly. Neither China nor the South are going to allow that to happen. In fact, I don't think the South wants any part of the North, not only thinking about the short term chaos, but the long term repercussions, as can be seen by the parallel situation in Germany and the most recent German election. I believe that even if South Korea could wave a magic wand and solve all of the short term problems of reunification, they would not accept the bargain if it meant that they had to look at a situation where the government is totally split. (on a side note of far fetched speculation, I believe that Koizumi's landslide here in Japan is due to Katrina. I think he would have won, but the landslide came when Japanese equated the ramifications of political change with an inability to handle large scale disasters)

Furthermore, the NKoreans can easily present this to their followers as the US trying to create a situation where they can cut off power to the North. One should also note that Japan is also against providing anything for NK not because of the logic of the situation, but to firm up their base, as the kidnapping cases still a consistent source of outrage here.

The key to all this is the Chinese, but they basically benefit when things are unsettled, so they have an incentive to push NK only so far and no more.

How hard would it be for us to give North Korea a light-water nuclear reactor that just happens to destroy itself in an unfortunate mishap shortly after it goes on-line?

Accidents will happen, you know.

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