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October 09, 2006

Comments

It would certainly be nice to have a real superpower available now, rather than the more or less spent force that is the US.

It's certainly big of you to acknowledge that Bush can be included in the blame. After all, it would hardly do for a loyal Republican to admit that in 2003, the Bush administration kicked away their chance of stopping North Korea:

According to most accounts, the North Koreans told Kelly they were willing to end their effort to enrich uranium, abide by existing safeguards on plutonium-based weapons and accept new inspections in return for a US pledge not to launch a pre-emptive attack, sign a peace agreement and normalize relations. Bush refused, saying the North must stop its program first; when that didn't happen, he cut off shipments of fuel oil promised under the 1994 agreement. Within weeks, Kim had restarted Yongbyon and kicked out UN weapons inspectors, who have been monitoring the reactor since 1994. "If the United States legally assures us of security by concluding a nonaggression treaty, the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula will be settled," Pyongyang's ambassador to China reiterated January 3.
Yes, there is plenty of blame to go around. Let's see you put it where it belongs: in 2003, the Bush administration didn't think it needed to bother with "nonaggression treaties", and so in 2006, it's too late for treaties.

The UN will continue its decades-long policy of speaking loudly and throwing away any possible stick.

"The UN"?

You mean "the 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council", of which the US is the loudest and most pushy member.

Your boys have been in the driving seat of the UNSC since 2001. This is not "a failure so large that there is plenty of blame for an entire world of leaders (and yes that includes Bush)", this is a signal failure of the 5 nations that compose the UNSC.

Matter of fact, it's only a failure for those UNSC members that actually give a shit whether NK acquires nuclear weapons or not. From their collective behavior the past 10 years none of the UNSC worthies appear to have lost much sleep over NK's nuclear ambitions, so it would probably be more accurate to say that it's a failure from the perspective of pundits and foreign policy fanboys.

You know, I have a feeling that this is related to the fact that the next Sec Gen of the UN is going to be Ban Ki Moon, the candidate who was pushed by Bolton for the position. In fact, I just pulled up Clemons The Washington Note and he suggests it as well, but doesn't sketch out his reasoning, except to suggest that Ban Ki Moon represents a legitimacy crisis for North Korea, and I'm guessing that the thought is that North Korea, which has held on to the claim that it solely represents Korea, would have the legs knocked out from under it by having a South Korean be recognized as the head of an international body, which seems to underestimate the ability for the North Korean leadership to spin things. I mean, Kim Jong Il did play golf for the first time and got 11 hole in ones. That kind of whopper makes the legitimacy of Moon an aperitif on the mendacity buffet.

My thought (which shouldn't be attributed to Clemons) is that Ban Ki Moon is not only the weakest of possible choices, he is supported by both the Japanese and the Chinese, and as such, the North Koreans need to, like the juvenile delinquent in the class, bring attention back to itself, and so chose this moment to do so, calculating that Moon will be too weak and ineffective to guide the UN into any kind of action and will immediately be on the defensive when he takes office, reassured by the fact that the US can't do squat either. Of course, a UN that is effective enough take a stand about NK is going to be a UN that can express a strong opinion on Iraq, so the option of building up the UN to help deal with the problems means accepting criticism about Iraq, which ain't going to happen.

The question you might ask is why should the US get the blame when Japan and China want the same empty suit in the UN spot? I would think that it is because they both feel constrained by world opinion, Japan (or more precisely, the leaders of the LDP, now led by the lighter and less filling demagogery of Abe) getting ganged up on by the former members of the Greater East Asian Co-prosperity Sphere, and China would definitely not be so happy with the notion that they could get outmanuvered by a bunch of other nations just because of the historical accident that said nations happen to be in the majority. So, in that sense, their objectives line up with the US in making the UN as weak a body as possible. Had the Bush administration shown some real leadership pre-Iraq, we might not be at a point where it is every asian country from themselves, but that is where we are. I don't think that you can blame that on the UN.

Wow! Now that is some serious f*cking entertainment.

I think the Bush administration's approach is to try and take advantage of their edge as the party that Americans look to to take care of them when things are dangerous and scary by making the world as dangerous and scary as possible.

The UN will continue its decades-long policy of speaking loudly and throwing away any possible stick.

If we're talking of entities "speaking loudly and throwing away any possible stick", don't forget the gold-medallist contenders in the Bush Administration. I can't think of anyone who's spoken louder, nor thrown away sticks any harder, than they.

Bush, Bush, Bush… with no mention of the administration that was actually in charge when NK actually developed their nukes and longer range missiles.

As Sebastian said, there is plenty of blame to spread around. This problem has festered through 4 terms and two presidents, as well as 10 years of Kofi Annan.

Regardless, here we are. As to the test itself:

-550 tons and no radiation detected? There is nothing to prove at this point that it wasn’t conventional explosives designed to look like a nuclear test. I don’t believe that is the case, but it remains a possibility. If you have 9-13 bombs, testing even one reduces your arsenal quite a bit.

-If it was a nuke and as reported they were going for a yield of 400kt then this is clearly a fizzle. That would be good news if true.

-Worst case scenario: It was a nuke and 1/2kt was the desired yield. That is a tactical (battlefield) nuke and the level of sophistication required to produce that is exponentially beyond what is required to produce a Hiroshima type bomb.

Now Russia is saying it was in the 5-15kt range. Who knows at this point? It may be a very interesting week.

Let me get dibs on this meme: Rove convinced poofy-hair to do it in order to get Foley off the front page and get the focus back on national security before the election. …genius.

Well, it’s not as if North Korea’s nuclear test is good news, but their atomic ambitions were never a big secret: I think their actual testing of a nuke is probably less dire news than it might appear. But your snarky jibes at the UN ring a bit hollow, given that it has been more-or-less official policy with the Bush 43 Administration – since it took office – to deal with UN and most other international, multi-national institutions with little better than outright disregard and/or contempt; except only in such cases as they support American (i.e. Bush Administration) policies. Or ignoring policies, as in the Bush gang’s bizarrely myopic disregard for nuclear nonproliferation issues. The UN is scarcely a perfect organization, Sebastian, and, as has been pointed out, other Major Powers have their own agendas, but the American undermining of UN prestige over nearly six years of neocon disdain cannot be a positive factor in determining “what to do” about situations like a “rogue” nuclear state.
No “stick”, Sebastian?
What, then should be done? So far, I see that the US, the UN, and the world in general have only two choices about “what to do” wrt NK:

A. Do nothing
B. Start a Second Korean War.


Alternative suggestions welcomed.

"Alternative suggestions welcomed."

Bomb Iran!

To be fair, Steve, NK's long-range missile program preceded Clinton. We had Taepodong in our design-to threat back in the early 1990s. I know rather less about their nuclear ambitions, but I believe those too preceded Clinton by quite a spell.

There are particulars of the latter topic that are relevant, but I believe that these particulars are already fairly well-known to those posting here.

This problem has festered through 4 terms and two presidents, as well as 10 years of Kofi Annan.

What does Kofi Annan have to do with any of this? The man's the secretary general, with precisely squat authority to launch any military or punitive measures.

This is the Security Council's ballgame and any blame to be spread re the UN is the UNSC and the UNSC's alone. Can't duck responsibility here.

The question you might ask is why should the US get the blame when Japan and China want the same empty suit in the UN spot?

The US gets the blame because it has set itself up als global arbiter of Good and Evil. NK is China, Japan's and South Korea's problem. All three countries are - or should be - rich and powerful enough to handle the problem, and if they can't, well that's too bad for them. Whichever way, they're perfectly capable of f*cking up on their own, without GWB's "help".

How is it that I'm now invited to be just as frightened to death of less than a dozen North Korean nukes and however many nukes Iran doesn't yet have as I was of the tens of thousands of nukes sitting on top of missles in the old Soviet Union (some of them still sit, don't they?) and however many China has? Pakistan? Etc? Is anyone scared of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, or is fright merely another facet of American exceptionalism?

Because the current troublemakers are crazy and evil? I just emerged from under my third-grade school desk because I was hoping those were George Kennan's shoes I recognized.

No such luck. O.K. I'm good and scared. You've got me, kids. Now, as Jay C. has requested, what's a good horror flick without the gory special effects? Someone tell us what should happen. You know, all of those items Clinton and Bush and every other superhuman in the White House apparently hasn't considered. I need estimates of the number of dead North and South Koreans. I require a mental picture of Seoul after bombs drop in North Korea. I need an outline of a Draft and an estimate of dead U.S. servicemembers. I require an idea of how long it will take China to give back whatever North Korean territory they opportunistically acquire along the northern border. I need a similar estimate of opportunistic crapola in the now democratized, stable Middle East, and the flight schedule of the Marines who will be pinned down in Baghdad in the morning and north of the DMV in the afternoon.

Am I permitted, too, to at least speculate (God forbid, on the internets, where certainty lives) on the remarkable coincidence that the domestic U.S. Government on a World War III (or is it IV, I've lost track) footing looks precisely like the wetdreams of the lovers of pre-1932 America looked like.

And poofy-hair and Rove have no connection, except for maybe that the big sigh of relief emanating from that office adjacent to the Oval Office serves as an accidental blow dryer for poofy hair. I would like someone in that office whom at least shares a little bit of my unease at the prospect of the above crap rather than someone who shivers with delight that taxes can be lowered yet again if he wins an election and various Republican contracts on everyone can be renewed. The only difference between Rove's hatred for the IRS and poofy-hair's hatred of the IRS is the means by which they would destroy them. (Hey, I didn't bring it up)

The DJIA is down 28 points. I can't wait until Larry Kudlow tells me what this means.
Is a 29-point loss enough to nuke? Not to worry if the Dow falls only 27 points?

Incidentally, I favor beefing up the UN to include dozens of satellite-mounted laser zappers so they can back up their words. Everyone, including the U.S., gets one week to dispose of their nuclear arsenals or else. We'll see what the nationality of the terrorist is who blows up the UN by Friday.

Well, the week is shot.

Erick at Redstate asks if North Korea just blew up the Democrat's chance of capturing the House.

If an inconsequential punk is getting off on poofy-hair's machinations, I imagine consequential punks in high places are, too.

Nice. Does Diebold manufacture in North Korea?

_____ at Redstate asks if ______ just blew up the Democrat's chance of capturing the House.

it's just Mad Libs, for those guys.

Erick used to be a good blogger. Lately he seems to be competing for the title of biggest hack in the blogosphere.

and the flight schedule of the Marines who will be pinned down in Baghdad in the morning and north of the DMV in the afternoon.

Good God Thullen! No one deserves to be sent to the DMV, it's hell on Earth there waiting for licenses these days.

The UN will continue its decades-long policy of speaking loudly and throwing away any possible stick.

I always enjoy the disappointment on the part of people like Sebastian that the UN has failed to carry out the foreign policy of the US in every detail, rather than simply most details. They have a hard time imagining how every person on earth could *not* have exactly the same priorities as America's right wing.

For instance, the US came close to nuking Vietnam at least twice. And yet the Vietnamese don't seem to understand that the greatest threat to world peace is a possible Iranian nuclear program! Maybe killing two million more of them would help them see the light.

The truth is the UN could play a useful role if the US actually wanted to establish real, universal rules in international relations. For instance, if the US genuinely favored non-proliferation -- rather than non-proliferation-if-we-don't-like-you but if-we-like-you-build-as-many-nukes-as-you-want -- we could get some traction vis-a-vis Iran and North Korea. But we don't genuinely favor non-proliferation, so we can't.

The UN at this point is not going to carry out America's wishes in every last respect, and the only other possibility we'll allow is for it not to do much of anything. I know that makes Sebastian sad, but there it is.

I always enjoy the disappointment on the part of people like Sebastian that the UN has failed to carry out the foreign policy of the US in every detail, rather than simply most details.

And the peculiar animus against Kofi Annan. I just don't get it. Why? The man's just the secretary general. A bureaucrat. A civil servant with no formal powers to do anything important. That's not an accident, that's part of his damn *job description*. And yet there's a substantial chunk of the loonier US commentariat that sees him as a proxy for the UN. The same loons who see the US as an entity external to the UN, an entity with no connection whatsoever to the Security Council. It's almost as if the US didn't have a permanent seat on the UNSC, listening to them.

Erick at Redstate asks if North Korea just blew up the Democrat's chance of capturing the House.

You beat me too it, but I thought this comment from Planet Up is Down was particularily insightful.

this comment from Planet Up is Down was particularily insightful.

whew. USURPER!!

And the peculiar animus against Kofi Annan. I just don't get it. Why?

Because Kofi had the privilege and the pleasure of being Sec-Gen during the reign of the Boy King. If Gandhi or Mother Teresa had been Sec-Gen they would have received the same treatment.

The UN is an credible impediment to US unilateralism, and to those that think the latter is the panacea to the world's problems, the UN is something to be destroyed.

"Mother Teresa had been Sec-Gen"

Last I heard she was actually evil.


My first reaction on hearing the news was "Kim Jong-il must want the Republicans to maintain control of congress". Can't be good to have the electorate feared up.

More meaningless ranting about the UN instead of the source of troubles here.

The UN is a body that acts on consensus and requires leadership from its primary leaders to establish such a consensus. It is a forum for diplomatic strategy. Bush policy toward the UN (and diplomacy in general) has been to treat it like garbage, and therefore, surprise!, its ineffective. Maybe that's intended by the Bushies, Sebastian?

The UN still may not result in satisfactory action, but the point is to utilize diplomacy in the first instance to address problems. The UN is not independently the mechanism for solving problems -- it is one of the diplomatic tools for trying to solve problems jointly with our friends and allies. It cannot work if the US has no intention of engaging in meaningful diplomacy in the first instance.

Bush's policy toward NK policy has been to bully and threaten with no intention to act on those threats once the bluff has been called. The current situation is entirely the result of horrible policies over the last six years. And guess what? None of our allies are on board with that program, and therefore there is no possibility of achieving a consensus in the UN for US policies. Is that proof of the UN or Bush's ineptitude?

As for OCSteve and revisionist history, the facts are that NK had suspended its nuclear program and submitted to monitoring during the Clinton years. It restarted it and kicked out the inspectors once Bush kicked over the table and relied solely on a policy of empty threats. Bush's response to having his bluff called? -- fold his hand and walk away, while promoting the OCSteve type spin that its all Clinton's fault in order to avoid responsibliity for Bush's failure.

Funny how our current Iraq policy looks exactly like Bush's failed NK policy, which I assume is also all Clinton's fault.

Ugh, see, this is exactly what I'm talking about.

;)

If North Korea nuked the DMV, Karl Rove would consider it another victory over government bureaucracy. Cutting the state budget for the DMV to cause long lines, thus proving to the electorate that government doesn't work, hasn't been completely succcessful in getting rid of the DMV. You might ask what the Marines are doing north of the DMV. Why not south, or east? Or way east in Baghdad, where a few years ago women could at least stand in line at the DMV without losing a limb or two? I can't speak for the women seeking help at the Ministry of Torture, but then efficiency there was pretty good. No long lines.

All good questions.

I was wondering which wag would catch that mistake. Sebastian and OCSteve are too nice to point it out. Ugh, who might be me, knows I could handle it. Hey, what's a rant without a malapropism or two?

Incidentally, I nominate OCSteve as a new conservative front-page poster. I think he likes us and can handle it, too.

The Dow is up a few points. Is this is a sign that North Korea doesn't have enough nukes? Only Kudlow knows.

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates of the blast don't seem big enough to me.

Defund it or privatize the USGS and transfer the money to the Department of Defense. There's gotta be an upside to this.

I want the tax cuts made permanent. Then Iran and Korea will believe we're Nixon bat-sh#t crazy and won't mess with us.

I jest. But I bet I'm more scared of North Korea then Karl Rove at the moment.

"...then Karl Rove IS at the moment."

But both wordings would be true.

Especially if "than" was the wording.

And speaking of Korea and the UN... the new UN leader is... Ban Ki-moon, of South Korea. i suppose this means the wingnutosphere will treat us to ten solid years of "moonbat" puns.

OCSteve, any chance you might respond to the numerous queries put to you in the "suggestion box" thread? Inquiring minds.

Incidentally, I tried e-mailing you, since your e-mail address looked real, but AOL rejected it; if you're spoofing, you might try making it more obvious that that is the case, so as to avoid leading some of us on, you tempter.

"Bush, Bush, Bush… with no mention of the administration that was actually in charge when NK actually developed their nukes and longer range missiles."

Wait, you're charging that North Korea actually reached the point of achieving ("actually developed") nuclear weapons during Bill Clinton's term?

I'd like an actual cite on that, please. Or a correction. Thanks.

Really the only important question about the NPT in the past eight years was whether or not Iran or North Korea would be the country to finally prove its obsolescence.

This seems a very narrow, American viewpoint, as one is led to understand that to many signatories it's the five NWS in general, and the US in particular, that have proved its obsolescence by their pointed refusal to abide by Article VI, and to a lesser degree, articles III and V.

Based on the data available at this time, Dr Jeffrey Lewis of ArmsControlWonk also thinks the test was a dud.

Of course, the down side to that is that a dud nuke still can cause more damage than any sane person would like to endure.

"My first reaction on hearing the news was 'Kim Jong-il must want the Republicans to maintain control of congress.'"

That was my initial reaction, too, until I thought it over a bit more and wondered how in the universe NK testing an atomic weapon 6 years into a Bush Admin and 4 years into single-Party government could be considered a vindication of either one's foreign policies, non-proliferation policies, and rhetoric regarding either one.

And, oddly enough, I couldn't think of a damned thing.

And, oddly enough, I couldn't think of a damned thing.

Don't underestimate the average American voter.

"And, oddly enough, I couldn't think of a damned thing."

Because Bush will defend us, because he's strong on national defense, and the Democrats are weak.

If enough people believe the dog is still hunting, it's still hunting. It's "values," not facts.

Jon, "I always enjoy the disappointment on the part of people like Sebastian that the UN has failed to carry out the foreign policy of the US in every detail, rather than simply most details."

Are you suggesting that the UN has been strongly working to stop the North Korean nuclear program? That would be an astonishing belief to have. Are you suggesting that it would have if the US had gotten out of the way? That would also be astonishing considering that the only reason the UN has paid as much attention to North Korea as it has is because of US pressure over the last 20 years.


Gary: "Wait, you're charging that North Korea actually reached the point of achieving ("actually developed") nuclear weapons during Bill Clinton's term?"

Yes. According to Robert Walpole (National Intelligence Officer for Strategic and Nuclear Programs under Clinton and Bush) in his March 11, 2002 briefing to Congress: "The Intelligence Community judged in the mid-1990s that North Korea had produced one, possibly two, nuclear weapons."

Because Bush will defend us, because he's strong on national defense, and the Democrats are weak.

I was going to add to my 2:44, "Bush will jus nuke the sunza b!tches."

"The Intelligence Community judged in the mid-1990s that North Korea had produced one, possibly two, nuclear weapons."

so... if that's true. what's the BFD now?

Are you suggesting that the UN has been strongly working to stop the North Korean nuclear program?

Why should "the UN" give two hoots about the North Korean nuclear problem? "The UN", after all, doesn't care very much about the American nuclear problem, or the Russian nuclear problem, or the Chinese nuclear problem, or ...

That would also be astonishing considering that the only reason the UN has paid as much attention to North Korea as it has is because of US pressure over the last 20 years.

Damn straight. As I said, face it, few countries are inclined to care much about what North Korea does, and are certainly not going to do anything about North Korean nukes if the US, China, Japan and South Korea can't even be bothered to get their shit together.

Sebastian,

Do you dispute this passage?

Independent of how well or poorly the Clinton administration dealt with North Korea -- and there is room for reasonable debate on that question -- there is no getting around several facts: (a) the North Korean threat has grown substantially during the Bush presidency; (b) the course we have followed for managing that threat has failed on every level; and (c) our ability to credibly threaten any military confrontation is virtually nonexistent.

Who/waht is poofy-hair?

sorry what

Andrew: Yes, I don't want to imply that I agree with any (premature) conclusions at this time, only to show that (at least one of the) experts have expressed initial skepticism.

Regardless, China is none too pleased, as its status as sole nuclear power in the region is now in jeopardy. But, as Rupert Wingfield-Hayes of BBC News points out, a nuclear NK is still preferable to the flood of refugees that would likely be the result of 'regime change'.

There is also the likelihood of a successful test provoking an arms race in the region. BBC quotes Daniel Pinkston of the Center for Non-proliferation Studies:

"I don't think we'll see an immediate domino effect with Japan and South Korea seeking to acquire nuclear weapons, but this certainly complicates the situation...The situation is very serious and it does have the potential. There would be a number of tit-for-tat steps. And each step of the way the choices that are made determine where we end up."

More on Japan from BBC:

Tokyo has been steadily strengthening its strategic alliance with Washington, under whose protective military umbrella it shelters, since Pyongyang flew a missile over northern Japan in 1998.

It has signed up to the US missile defence system and upped its own defences against a North Korean missile threat, while relying on US-led diplomacy to contain North Korea.

But with the US occupied in the Middle East, and with no sign of concessions from Pyongyang, Japanese concern could grow.

"If we see North Korea with demonstrable nuclear weapon capability and [they] turn it into something that could go on a missile, and if the US stance towards the North is perceived as weak, then the Japanese would get very nervous," says Dr Chris Hughes of the University of Warwick in Britain.

Nonetheless, says Dr Hughes, Japan's most likely move would be further sanctions, both via the UN and its own unilateral measures, aimed at forcing North Korea to return to dialogue.

In parallel, Japan could also look at acquiring its own defence capability - such as Tomahawk missiles - that could target North Korea's missile bases.

[...]

But even then, a move to nuclear weapons would be something else entirely.

The nuclear topic has been sacrosanct in Japan for decades and the Japanese public remains vehemently opposed to becoming a nuclear power.

While Japan's hawkish new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has won popularity with his tough stance towards Pyongyang and calls for a more assertive foreign policy, persuading Japanese people that they need nuclear weapons would be a tough task.

Equally, Mr Abe will be aware of legal constraints - such as the NPT - that prevent Japan having nuclear weapons, and also of the considerable international opposition, not least from main ally the US, to such a move.

"Abe will be tempted for domestic reasons and national security reasons to jump up and down," says Dr Hughes. "But he knows he has to tread a fine line."

Any move by Japan would have a knock-on effect on the region.

"There is no way that a South Korean leader could sit by idly while Japan [is being] nuclearised," says Dr Pinkston.

(For more on Japan's recent 'assertiveness', see The Second Coming of Japanese Nationalism, The Rise of Japan's Thought Police and Japan's Lurch to the Right. I'm sure LJ has other more local sources to supplement.)

John: I think the problem is that there is no good reason to believe that North Korea is deterrable --- either because (a) their administration isn't susceptible to deterrence or (b) China's potential reaction to a nuclear attack on NK makes deterrance threats not credible.

That's an entirely different kind of frightening than the cold war.

Who/waht is poofy-hair?

Disparaging term for Kim Jong-il, I believe.

Terrorists want to blow us up so we have to vote for Republicans!

But wait a GOP Congressman was sending dirty IMs to teenagers, so we have to vote for the Democrats!

But North Korea blew up a bomb, so wait now we have to vote for Republicans again!

Are Americans really this stupid?

Thanks

"China is none too pleased, as its status as sole nuclear power in the region is now in jeopardy."

Leaving aside for a moment whether or not NK is a rational actor, I need to understand what China substantially gained by being the sole nukular power. Were Japan and Taiwan bending knee for thirty years? Giving an extra ten per cent on trade deals? I have never seen much concrete gain from nuclearization, except being safe from external aggression.

Now on NK being a rational actor. They will of course defend themselves and try to survive. There are real loonies out there with a history of unprovoked aggression who have openly threatened them. But I have seen little evidence Kim wants Seoul. He wants the rest of the world to feed him and provide Rambo movies. We can afford that.

Let's unconditionally surrender.

Who do I feel is more a threat to peace and human life and freedom, Bush or Kim? This question is a joke, right?

"Damn straight. As I said, face it, few countries are inclined to care much about what North Korea does, and are certainly not going to do anything about North Korean nukes if the US, China, Japan and South Korea can't even be bothered to get their shit together."

Yes, thank you for accurately identifying the utility of international law on the subject.

"Yes. According to Robert Walpole...."

Thanks.

"Are you suggesting that the UN has been strongly working to stop the North Korean nuclear program? That would be an astonishing belief to have. Are you suggesting that it would have if the US had gotten out of the way?"

Are you suggesting that the US under George W. Bush has been strongly working to stop the North Korean nuclear program?

What do you suggest that the UN should have been doing that it has not, and has the U.S. made such requests/demands and been turned down?

When you say "the UN," Sebastian, who precisely are you blaming? The SecGen, as noted, has next to no powers, which is why all the rightwing ranting about Kofi Annan is perpetually mystifying. The General Assembly also has few-to-no powers, beyond rhetoric.

The Security Council is where 98% of the UN's powers lie, and where we have a veto, and dominate the Council (though also, of course, subject to the other 4 vetos, and obtaining a majority vote).

So when you blame the UN for anything, the primary blame goes back to... the U.S. government.

"Who/waht is poofy-hair?"

I'm assuming he meant Kim Jong Il.

Placing OCSteve's source on NK nuclear weapons in context, here's Jonathan Pollack, writing in the Naval War College Review:

"As North Korea's nuclear activities increased during the late 1980s and early 1990s, the U.S. intelligence community devoted growing attention to Pyongyang's nuclear weapons potential. The reporting on the North's nuclear weapons program varied little during the 1990s, but estimates released since 2001 have been highly inconsistent. In 1993, the Central Intelligence Agency first concluded that in the late 1980s "North Korea . . . ha[d] produced enough plutonium for at least one, and possibly two, nuclear weapons." This judgment was reaffirmed in all unclassified intelligence assessments throughout the latter half of the 1990s, up to intelligence reporting in mid-2001.1 Though the CIA assessment was widely interpreted as evidence that North Korea had one or two nuclear weapons in its possession, neither the intelligence community nor any senior U.S. official offered a definitive statement to this effect during the remainder of the 1990s. However, the intelligence community assessment shifted noticeably in December 2001, when an unclassified version of a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) asserted that "[t]he Intelligence Community judged in the mid-1990s that North Korea had produced one, possibly two, nuclear weapons."2 Subsequent intelligence reporting further altered earlier estimates. In an unclassified assessment provided to the Congress on 19 November 2002, the CIA stated: "The U.S. . . . has assessed since the early 1990s that the North has one or possibly two [nuclear] weapons using plutonium it produced prior to 1992."3

The initial Bush administration intelligence estimates thus offered more definitive claims about North Korean nuclear capabilities. They also moved back the date that intelligence analysts believed North Korea had fabricated one or two weapons, or the supposed date when the CIA made this determination. However, a CIA estimate provided to the Congress in January 2003 reverted to the more equivocal language of the 1990s, asserting that "North Korea probably has produced enough plutonium for at least one, and possibly two, nuclear weapons."4 The January 2003 document did not reiterate the assertions of late 2001 and late 2002 that Pyongyang already possessed one or two weapons, let alone claim that the intelligence community arrived at this judgment at a much earlier date. Intelligence inconsistencies and uncertainties concerning the North's nuclear program were not surprising. However, decade-old estimates were now being sharply recast, with direct implications for future U.S. policy toward Pyongyang."

Note that the plutonium was supposed to have been produced in the late 80s. The Agreed Framework shut plutonium production down.

"Yes, thank you for accurately identifying the utility of international law on the subject."

Tell you what, Seb, give the UN the authority to enforce Int'l law, and the power (arms) to do so, and independence from the major powers and adequate power over them, and the law will be tested.

"On the subject..." The WTO seems to work a little better, because enforcement and fairness is respected. Note:a little better.

Hilzoy: "Placing OCSteve's source on NK nuclear weapons in context...."

I think you mean Sebastian, but thanks; I meant to write that I might come back to this point, since that's what I recalled, but I'm in a bit of a hurry at the moment.

Gary, "The Security Council is where 98% of the UN's powers lie, and where we have a veto, and dominate the Council (though also, of course, subject to the other 4 vetos, and obtaining a majority vote)."

Even without considering the rather strong parenthetical which follows, what makes you believe the bolded section?

Hilzoy, I'm not sure what context you are trying to provide. Given "Though the CIA assessment was widely interpreted as evidence that North Korea had one or two nuclear weapons in its possession, neither the intelligence community nor any senior U.S. official offered a definitive statement to this effect during the remainder of the 1990s." (which you provide) it sounds to me like the CIA went from believing that NK had nukes but not admitting it publically (late 1990s through 2002) to publically admitting what they believed (2002) including Walpole's (who worked under Clinton)
statement, to believing it but not wording it as strongly (2003-Yesterday).

However, the US getting its sh*t together is the responsibility of this administration. Which it has failed to do, not through incompetence, but by design.

When the U.S. government sits on its thumbs and trash talks, it's pretty damned hard for any kind of real diplomatic effort to get traction. And this nuke test is more of the Cheney administration's desired "clarifying" violence:

Yet a number of senior U.S. officials have said privately that they would welcome a North Korean test, regarding it as a clarifying event that would forever end the debate within the Bush administration about whether to solve the problem through diplomacy or through tough actions designed to destabilize North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's grip on power.

Sebastian's post is not the pure GOP-ism in which every problem is someone else's responsibility, but it's close enough to turn my stomach.

bob:

I need to understand what China substantially gained by being the sole nukular power...I have never seen much concrete gain from nuclearization, except being safe from external aggression.

Being an external aggressor? Having a tactical advantage over regional competators (ie, Japan, SK)?

not through incompetence, but by design.

Do you know this, or do you just feel strongly about it?

Are Americans really this stupid?

YES.

Might I suggest that broad generalizations about people, however emotionally satisfying they may be, are neither accurate nor helpful?

Do you know this, or do you just feel strongly about it?

It comes under the rubric of: any sufficiently advanced form of incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.

Ugh is really Arthur Clarke?

"or do you just feel strongly about it?"

Andrew, I feel strongly about it. This administration started with its eyes on China. It is still talking about a fairly ridiculous naval committment solely for the defense of Taiwan and shipping lanes, considering the imaginable competition.

A scarey NK will motivate Japan and others in the area to build up their militaries, which could be useful with, umm, different targets.

In general, I think the Bush administration is deliberately trying to put the world into a new cold war condition, with new threats and military competition for its own sake, and for the sake of domestic politics.

Not necessarily hot wars, but fifty years of cold war, where could have been peace. Peace was too close for comfort for the hawks. They hate it. No profit in peace.

Thank you, bob.

I'll note I don't know one way or the other, but I think incompentence plays a much greater role in this administration than malice simply because I find it difficult to believe, given their clear lack of competence in so many areas, they somehow are markedly compentent in others.

"When the U.S. government sits on its thumbs and trash talks, it's pretty damned hard for any kind of real diplomatic effort to get traction."

Really? I am sure the rest of the world would appreciate knowing that without the U.S. they can't accomplish anything on their own initiative.

"Sebastian's post is not the pure GOP-ism in which every problem is someone else's responsibility, but it's close enough to turn my stomach."


I see how easily you can reach that conclusion... all you have to do is completely and totally disregard Sebastian's comment:

"This is a failure so large that there is plenty of blame for an entire world of leaders (and yes that includes Bush)."

And pretend that all the world's problems started in 2000.

Evidence:the various nuclear disarmament talks with Putin early in the 1st Bush term. Putin wanted a far deeper drawdown than Bush would consider. And now we are starting a new buildup, both with SDI, limited nukes, etc.

Why? Why thousands of warheads? They like war.

"When the U.S. government sits on its thumbs and trash talks, it's pretty damned hard for any kind of real diplomatic effort to get traction."

What real diplomatic effort? The UN insistence on bilateral US-NK talks? I'm ok with blaming the whole mess on the US--but things follow logically from that. If you (contrary to the evidence in my mind) assume that the international community was seriously trying to employ diplomatic capital to cease nuclear proliferation in North Korea, that assumption should lead you to one of a number of disturbing conclusions:

This could not have been solved by diplomacy. Or;

International diplomacy is largely ineffective without significant help from the US. Or;

The premise that the international community was trying to stop nuclear proliferation is false.

I actually believe that all three are true, but at least one of them has to be true or you can't both get to where we are and believe that significant blame accrues to the US.

Seb: the context was supposed to be: they started out saying that NK had enough plutonium for a couple of bombs, then moved to: they have a couple of bombs; then moved back again. One can interpret this as: they have thought NK had nuclear weapons all along, but only admitted as much for a short period a few years ago, or as: they really only know that NK has the plutonium, but briefly dallied with the conclusion that it had turned them into weapons, but then walked back from it.

In either case, I think, the knowledge that the CIA was saying something different both before and after the cite you (not OCSteve, sorry) posted is, I think, useful context.

Seb: I'm not sure I see what's so disturbing about your second possibility ("International diplomacy is largely ineffective without significant help from the US."), at least if it's restricted to "on NK and issues like it (since of course two parties to a war in some distant place might well make peace without our help, etc.) I think that with this restriction, and perhaps also changing "largely ineffective" to "a lot less likely to succeed", I think it's plainly true.

Ugh is really Arthur Clarke?

You got me!

"They like war" ...Bob

"incompetence...much greater role in this administration than malice " ...Andew

Look, coldbloodedly, I see it as neither incompetence or malice. I think I have said it before, What is America's comparative advantage over our competitors, like China, Russia, or Europe? Are we smarter?

Rising population and assimilation of immigrants. An incredible willingness of the people to devote our resources to military spending, but an aversion to actual bloodshed (at least compared to incompetent hegemons...Sparta, not Athens). Just enough nationalism, just enough cosmopolitanism. Not too much of either.

We are an Empire. We are very good at it.

Might I suggest that broad generalizations about people, however emotionally satisfying they may be, are neither accurate nor helpful?

The "NK bomb knocks Foley off front page/helps GOP election prospects" scenario seems to be taken at least somewhat seriously in some quarters, who therefore see at least some degree of accuracy and helpfulness in it. I would love for them to be wrong, not just because I want to see the GOP suffer losses in the upcoming election, but because I would like to believe that people (some/all/quantify to taste) are not, in fact, this stupid.

Hilzoy, the thing that confuses me is that according to your source, the general intelligence understanding pre-2002 was that the publically disclosed information should be interpreted as showing that NK had nuclear weapons.

At the very least, there was a 2006 period (two, three, four and an unknown number of days before that) where the CIA was failing to publically say that NK had a nuclear bomb when NK did in fact have a nuclear bomb. The CIA was either gravely mistaken (which should instruct us about its reliability in ascertaining such information) or not publically sharing the information.

Regarding the plutonium issue: doesn't the 5-15 kiloton range suggest something more along the lines of "Little Boy" (a uranium bomb) than "Fat Man" (the plutonium bomb).

"I actually believe that all three are true" ...Seb


Probably right. Diplomacy might have worked, but NK are bad guys, a poor country without scruples as to how they behave. Counterfeiting.

A possible answer might have been just to give Kim whatever he wanted, to flood the place with dollars. Kim, given a choice between a billion dollars cash and selling a nuke to Iran and getting sanctions, might have taken the cash.

That's a cost calculation, and a political calculation.

"...intelligence understanding pre-2002 was that the publically disclosed information should be interpreted as showing that NK had nuclear weapons."

I wish this stuff could be assigned probablities. And then heavily discounted for political considerations.

I think Clinton both overestimated Iraq's WMD capabilities in the second term, and possibly hyped the NK threat. If NK had not had a couple nukes, the pressure on Clinton for military action would have been much higher. Clinton had reason to fudge.

Hilzoy, I should have said "disturbing to your premise". (Which to be clear isn't "Hilzoy's" premise).

I fully believe that in a very broad range of international issues--especially having to do with nuclear proliferation, international diplomacy is almost entirely useless without the active involvement and leadership of the US. Therefore, plenty of blame ought to accrue to Bush and Clinton.

I think the lack of movement by the international community in the face of the genocide in the Sudan is largely explained by the truth of that statement coupled with the disinterest of the US.

My confusion is with those who believe in the independent effectiveness of international diplomacy and who also insist on blaming the US for failure.

I believe that the effectiveness of international community diplomacy on such issues is very near zero. Coming from that angle, I am fine with blaming the US. But you don't get to simultaneously blame the US for failure and suggest that the diplomacy of the international community is a particularly useful tool in such extreme cases.

Regarding the plutonium issue: doesn't the 5-15 kiloton range suggest something more along the lines of "Little Boy" (a uranium bomb) than "Fat Man" (the plutonium bomb).

No. You can do the same thing to achieve criticality with a subcritical mass of uranium as you can with plutonium.

Sebastian:

Are you suggesting that the UN has been strongly working to stop the North Korean nuclear program? That would be an astonishing belief to have. Are you suggesting that it would have if the US had gotten out of the way? That would also be astonishing considering that the only reason the UN has paid as much attention to North Korea as it has is because of US pressure over the last 20 years.

What I'm suggesting is exactly what I said:

The truth is the UN could play a useful role if the US actually wanted to establish real, universal rules in international relations. For instance, if the US genuinely favored non-proliferation -- rather than non-proliferation-if-we-don't-like-you but if-we-like-you-build-as-many-nukes-as-you-want -- we could get some traction vis-a-vis Iran and North Korea. But we don't genuinely favor non-proliferation, so we can't.

Is that not clear? In the case of Iran, we will never get the rest of the world to support a policy of "Iran can't have nukes or even nuclear energy even though it's within their NPT rights while we will never fulfill our NPT obligations and also Israel gets to have all the nukes it wants. India too! Oh, and we won't rule out an unprovoked nuclear attack on Iran." You think that's a reasonable policy, but very little of the rest of the world does. For instance, as I mentioned, Vietnam. Sadly enough, they aren't convinced that a country that's never threatened them is a bigger threat than one that killed two million of them and almost nuked them twice.

BUT -- thanks to our power, we might be able to get most everyone behind making the Middle East a WMD-free zone. Even the most cynical world leaders understand the value of non-radioactive oil. In fact, we now know Saddam repeatedly told subordinates that Iraq would give up all WMD ambitions if the UN followed through on its commitment to create such a zone. (That was all along supposed to follow on Iraq's disarmament.)

Of course, we and Israel have zero interest in this. Thus, there may be no way to stop Iran from getting nukes.

North Korea is a more difficult case. It probably would have been possible to stop things if we'd had a consistent non-proliferation policy twenty years ago; that's how powerful the U.S. is. But by now it's probably impossible.

Anyway, we can have a less-tense, less-militarized world in which we are less relatively powerful. Or we can have a more-tense, more-militarized world in which we are less relatively powerful. What we CAN'T have is a less-tense, less-militarized world in which we are as or more relatively powerful than today.

Again, I realize this makes many people in America angry and sad. Such is life. One of the challenges of human existence is coming to terms with not getting exactly what you want all the time.

Gary, "The Security Council is where 98% of the UN's powers lie, and where we have a veto, and dominate the Council (though also, of course, subject to the other 4 vetos, and obtaining a majority vote)."

Even without considering the rather strong parenthetical which follows, what makes you believe the bolded section?

Which country are you nominating as having more influence than the U.S.?

Note: I didn't say the U.S. controlled the Council; I say that it has more influence than any other country, for the obvious reasons of the U.S. being wealthiest, contributing the most, being militarily strongest, historically invented the UN, and so on and so forth, including all the ways the U.S. is acknowledged to be the world's superpower. Perhaps you misunderstood me.

Regarding the plutonium issue: doesn't the 5-15 kiloton range suggest something more along the lines of "Little Boy" (a uranium bomb) than "Fat Man" (the plutonium bomb).

Agh. "Little Boy" was a gun-type bomb; what I was saying upthread is that you can use uranium in a "Fat Man"-type design, as well. "Little Boy" was horribly inefficient; it used nearly a man-weight of uranium to get a smaller yield than Fat Man did with six or so kilos of Pu.

I'd guess that NK has more modern designs to work to; they'd practically have to, given the lack of materials.

Support for Bob's thesis here.

Note: I didn't say the U.S. controlled the Council; I say that it has more influence than any other country, for the obvious reasons of the U.S. being wealthiest, contributing the most, being militarily strongest, historically invented the UN, and so on and so forth, including all the ways the U.S. is acknowledged to be the world's superpower. Perhaps you misunderstood me.

I must have. I would have sworn you used the word "dominate". I'm loathe to get into a usage flame with you, but I'm confident that the number of times where the word "dominate" means less than "control" is far fewer than where it is a synonym of or intensifier for "control". But if you define "dominate" as "definitely not controlling" I guess I can't argue with you.

bob:
I need to understand what China substantially gained by being the sole nukular power...I have never seen much concrete gain from nuclearization, except being safe from external aggression.
Being an external aggressor? Having a tactical advantage over regional competators (ie, Japan, SK)?
Bob makes an excellent point, which many have made before him. Although China could use nukes to be an external aggressor, it has not (I wouldn't count the Vietnamese tussle of the late Seventies, as the nukes weren't relevant, and besides they got their nose bloodied).

Beyond that, nukes are useless in trade, and I don't understand the meaning of "tactical advantage over regional competators" in this context, though perhaps I would if Mattbastard expanded.

Nukes are, indeed, of limited usefulness, beyond deterrent, whether in defensive or offensive situations. This has been recognized for decades. (Which is not to say that they are undervalued as deterrents, since they are not.)

"Beyond that, nukes are useless in trade,"

I should clarify that I meant "as leverage in trade negotiations"; not that one couldn't trade nuclear weapons themselves for considerable cash.

Ugh is really Arthur Clarke?

You got me!

You seem very spry. But I bet you can't remember when we met. (I doubt the real Clarke could, either; it was a chat of about 5 minutes, 33 years ago.)

"I'll note I don't know one way or the other, but I think incompentence plays a much greater role in this administration than malice simply because I find it difficult to believe, given their clear lack of competence in so many areas, they somehow are markedly compentent in others."

This is a point I feel conspiracy theorists, by nature, consistently ignore.

And I pretty well can't over-state it.

Of course, it can all be explained by noting that very single example of incompetence is proof of the conspiracy.

People are unendingly prone to Huge Simple Explanations. The universe doesn't really tend to work that way.

A possible answer might have been just to give Kim whatever he wanted, to flood the place with dollars. Kim, given a choice between a billion dollars cash and selling a nuke to Iran and getting sanctions, might have taken the cash.

That's a cost calculation, and a political calculation.

I agree with you entirely that that (or an equivalent) was a perfectly available choice, but I suggest that ideology, on the part of the Bush people, is a sufficiently valid explanation of their rejection of it. (Not negotiating with/"appeasing" "evil.")

"A possible answer might have been just to give Kim whatever he wanted, to flood the place with dollars. Kim, given a choice between a billion dollars cash and selling a nuke to Iran and getting sanctions, might have taken the cash.
That's a cost calculation, and a political calculation."

The problem, as we learned to varying degrees from the Agreed Framework, would be flooding the place with billions in cash, being unable to verify what Kim was doing, and him selling the nuke anyway.

"...and him selling the nuke anyway."

Well, yeah, but I don't like our other options.

Trying to think of times when heavy sanctions = internal military overthrow has worked well. Trying to think of times when forcing a country to total desparation has worked badly, i.e., lashing out.

Not really comin up with much. Cuba policy hasn't really been productive. Iran not responding well.

Of course, it can all be explained by noting that very single example of incompetence is proof of the conspiracy.
As I understand Bob, his claim is that every single example of supposed incompetence is actually an example of something that turned out the way the administration wanted it to, or at the very least an example of a situation where the administration didn't care about the outcome one way or another.

"...it used nearly a man-weight of uranium to get a smaller yield than Fat Man did with six or so kilos of Pu."

Kinda of a technical question based on the possible "dud" and low yield reports. We are talking implosion devices here, right? Is there any purpose in testing the implosion shell without the fissle core, and would that produce a big enough explosion to match the seismic reports?

I shouldn't think so, but thought I would ask. 500 tons seems way big for even a dud, if the shell went off without generating fission.

"As I understand Bob, his claim is that every single example"

I claim neither perfect conspiracies or perfect competence. I do think you need to posit some really massive levels of incompetence to explain the last few years.
A level of incompetence that is less believable to me than accepting a greater level of intent.

"Bush and crew still believe there are enough troops to accomplish the mission in Iraq, as he has publicly defined it?"

Excuse me, I just want to examine other possibilities.

A bit of a meandering thread, what with invocations of Clinton, poofy-hair, UN politics and such, so just a few links to the potpourri.

An interesting view on NK's actions. not sure I agree with it.

And pretend that all the world's problems started in 2000.

Actually, to understand this situation, one has to go back to the post WWII situation. Cumings is often reviled as left wing, but I think he's a pretty solid historian. If viewed as an explanation rather than a justification, it seems to be an important part of the puzzle.

As for Japan's rightward lurch (thanks for the shoutout, MB), I think it is important to realize that Shinzo Abe is a virtually unknown quantity, in that a recent poll said that only 11% knew the content of his campaign pledges. His cabinet is packed with rightwing idealogues, and he's from the pro-USA wing of the LDP. It is not clear to me that the electorate matches this, though the people I hang out with may not be representative. But Koizumi and the LDP are committed to a surface policy of arguing for a more nationalist Japan that is independent, but pursuing an underlying policy of maintaining dependence on the US. How long this balancing act can continue is a question. This is probably at the root for the support for Moon, because a weak UN will not put Japan in the position of having to choose.

Finally, I have to admit, I find it depressing that Sebastian's title mirrors Tony Snow's description of Foley's emails. Perhaps it is just errant word choice, but it leaves the impression that all of this is a game to assign blame.

"People are unendingly prone to Huge Simple Explanations." ...GF

And saying, for instance, that the real mission in Iraq is not 100% as publicly defined does not make me a crazy conspiracy theorist. Nor is it a Huge Simple Explanation. In fact, it is much more complex than saying our leaders are simply idiots.

"And saying, for instance, that the real mission in Iraq is not 100% as publicly defined does not make me a crazy conspiracy theorist. Nor is it a Huge Simple Explanation."

I agree, Bob.

I wasn't trying to make a Huge Simple Explanation, either of Iraq, or you.

:-)

"Of course, it can all be explained by noting that very single example of incompetence is proof of the conspiracy."

Sigh; this should have been "every single example."

"I do think you need to posit some really massive levels of incompetence to explain the last few years."

Bingo.

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