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October 09, 2006

Comments

Not that there hasn't been malice aplenty, and conspiracies here and there. Just that a lot of the conspiracies are obvious.

Ok, expanding upon my brief response to Bob (as per Gary's request - perhaps we began by talking past here, since, judging by your query re: 'regional competitor/tactical advantage', you seemed to interpret my statement within an economic context, whereas I was talkin' straight geostrategy [or at least attempting to do so:P].)

What (I believe) China is likely most upset about is the potential loss of stability in the region posed by nuclear proliferation. As previously noted, a nuclear armed NK could provoke SK and Japan to also seek nuclear arms. Relations between China and (an increasingly militant) Japan aren't exactly copacetic (although there seem to have been some recent olive branch extensions.) I seriously doubt Beijing is comforted by the the idea of a nationalistic, nuclear Japan (backed by a passive-aggressive US) in the neighbourhood.

The deterrance value of nuclear weapons also falls into play WRT conventional warfare, as nations with a non-conventional arsenal are far less likely to face the threat of military engagement (hence why some speculate that Saddam Hussein wished to let the world believe Iraq had - or endeavoured to develop - an extensive non-conventional arsenal [see Cobra II]). Just because China isn't likely to plan a conventional (or non) attack upon Japan, NK, SK, etc any time in the near future doesn't mean having that option at its disposal (if necessary) is of no little concern.

The loss of sole nuclear power status will force China, by whatever degree, to reevaluate a number of its (potential) military options, as well as its diplomatic interaction with other regional actors - thus its long held 'tactical [military] advantage' may have been lost.

(Of course, if this test does turn out to be a dud, I won't be surprised to hear the hawks in Washington angling for regime change sooner rather than later, before NK has the chance to actually arm itself with non-conventional weapons. Again, the threat of regional destablization looms.)

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".

Not to get into a sideline here, but if someone says "The Detroit Tigers dominate the AL Central this season, " it does not mean the Tigers can literally control who wins and who loses. This is the usage I imagine Gary was after, and it's so common as to be unremarkable. Your confidence is . . . misplaced. Yes, that's the charitable word.

those who believe in the independent effectiveness of international diplomacy

There are such people?

"I seriously doubt Beijing is comforted by the the idea of a nationalistic, nuclear Japan (backed by a passive-aggressive US) in the neighbourhood."

Placenote: I have a post I've been meaning to make about this for a while, and presumably I'll finally get to it Real Soon Now.

I remain very much convinced that the Japanese ultra-nationalists are only a dormant, and greatly overlooked and underestimated, threat. I don't take Abe's ascension with equanimity in this regard.

But if you define "dominate" as "definitely not controlling" I guess I can't argue with you.
No, I was using it in the sense of "have more power and influence than anyone else" or "have more control than anyone else."

I didn't say, after all, "totally dominate," or "totally control."

If it will help, I'll agree that I could have been clearer.

I think we dominate the Security Council more than anyone else; I don't think we control it; I think we have more power and influence over it than any other country. Yes? No?

those who believe in the independent effectiveness of international diplomacy

There are such people?

Sure. I have this whole straw village over here....

"Not to get into a sideline here, but if someone says "The Detroit Tigers dominate the AL Central this season, " it does not mean the Tigers can literally control who wins and who loses. This is the usage I imagine Gary was after, and it's so common as to be unremarkable."

As you use it, "dominate" is a verb with the direct object of "the AL Central". The phrase means that in the context of "the AL Central" the Tigers beat their opposition. Do you assert that in the context of the UN Security Council the US beats its opposition? Gary's parenthetical remarks suggest he doesn't believe that is true.

As the resident baseballer, I should note that to say 'the Detroit Tigers dominate the AL Central this season' would be inaccurate, as the Minnesota Twins won the AL Central this year.

"I think we dominate the Security Council more than anyone else; I don't think we control it; I think we have more power and influence over it than any other country. Yes? No?"

Marginally more? Slightly more? Significantly more? So long as the context is "the Security Council" I don't think you have an argument for anything more than "slightly more". I think "dominate" suggests "significantly more" which I would say is wrong.

In the course of my professional career, I've had the opportunity to negotiate with political agencies that have appeared, from the point of view of my clients, utterly irrational. (the US Fish and Wildlife Service is a prime example.)

now, generally there's two possible approaches: the whole ball of wax, and incrementalism.

WBoW solutions are preferable, but sometimes unobtainable.

When faced with an agency that flatly refuses a WBoW solution, clients generally have two choices: incrementalism or walk away.

Some walk away, either dumping the project on the next aspiring developer or putting the project in deep freeze. (note: even after complete Republican dominance in DC, staff level regulators aren't exactly rolling over for developers.)

Some, however, choose incrementalism. They get some of what they want, but they know that the project still is subject to significant risk. They proceed for two reasons: (a) to make any progress at all, and (b) to create confidence-building measures that allow for next phase negotiations.

As we have seen in US-North Korea relations, the worst of all possible worlds is to have a management change from incrementalist to WBoWs just as first phase negotiations are completed. WBoWs, who reject the very idea of incrementalism, can not only torpedo second phase negotiations but cause such anger and frustration that matters end up worse than status quo ante.

As best I can tell, US foreign policy from 1945 to 2000 was bi-partisan support for incrementalism. But when you insist on having all or nothing, when you say you're with us or against us, a bunch of people who were kinda adverse but kinda neutral are going to jump straight into adverse.

As the drafters of the Constitution discovered, ambiguity has its benefits. yes, it took a civil war to work out some of the worst ambiguities, but we would have never formed as a nation if we hadn't had a bunch of committed incrementalists among the Founding Fathers.

Could the test yesterday been avoided? We'll never know. But if the goal of the last few years was to avoid the test, then we failed. Note: K.Drum has a post suggesting that some hardliners have wanted this test to occur, on the grounds that it provides the opportunity to resolve the NoKo situation "once and for all". (A truly frightening turn of phrase -- have our relations with anyone, even our EU allies, been resolved once and for all?)

See for example the Sudan. None of the veto powers has a huge interest one way or the other. (China and Russia have a mild interest at best). The US doesn't seem interested in military action, but was interested in sanctions over the genocide (and if d-squared is lurking, yes I'm using the word "genocide"). A power which could dominate the Security Council would get its way when other powers have marginal interest. In reality the US position was thwarted first by France, then by Russia, then by China, then by Russia and then by China.

Hilzoy:

I am glad you dug up and posted the clarification about what the assessment was at various times regarding the NK nuclear capability. Sebastian's cite is highly misleading without the context.

The relevant point to note here is that in the 90s, the CIA and other agencies did NOT assess that NK had developed nuclear weapons, whereas under the Bush administration, this assessment was retroactively changed. Given the love of cooking the books on intel by the Bush administration, this is pretty clearly just that. It was also timed for the time period when the Bush administration was trying to defend its unsuceesful get tough strategy with NK. A big part of the defense was that NK going nuclear had allegedly already happened, and would not be a result of flawed Bush administration strategy.

Its also important to note that in the 90s, NK submitted to inspections and other in-country monitoring. Not really consistent with also building bombs. It is undisputed that NK had been processing plutonium in the 90s and earlier which would give it the capability to make a nuclear bomb, and agreed to quit as part of the deal in the 90s.

You can criticize that 90s deal (though the Bushies have clearly underperformed those earlier efforts), but please do not make up facts that the bombs were already built in the 90s.

As you use it, "dominate" is a verb with the direct object of "the AL Central".
I have no idea about sports teams. Possibly, given that I explained what I meant, Sebastian, you could respond to that, rather than engage in usage flame/quibble?

"Marginally more? Slightly more? Significantly more?"

More. Whatever. This is uninteresting.

Later.

Andrew:

As the resident baseballer, I should note that to say 'the Detroit Tigers dominate the AL Central this season' would be inaccurate, as the Minnesota Twins won the AL Central this year.

As the resident Tigers fan, I should note that the (AL Central champion) Twins were swept by the A's, while the (wildcard) Tigers sent the Yankees back home early to the Bronx, with great weeping and gnashing of teeth throughout Gotham. A-Rod resembles a very expensive sacrificial lamb atm.

:-P (Go Tigers!)

"Possibly, given that I explained what I meant, Sebastian, you could respond to that, rather than engage in usage flame/quibble?"

This from you Gary? :)

Sure. In the context of the Security Council the US is more powerful than China, France, the UK or Russia. Economic and military power don't translate into power on the Security Council (see France).

Bob,
The small size of the explosion may indicate a fizzle, that is the attempted a nuclear explosion which achieved critical mass but had inadequite containment. The fissile material was blown apart before the reaction came anywhere close to the designed degree of completion. We know that at least one of India's early tests was a fizzle. That is much better than the alternative. It's much harder to design a small nuke than a large one. If it really was a successful detonation with a yield in the 500 ton range it would mean the North Korea is a lot closer to having a weapon they can actually mount on their launchers that anyone thought.

NK test as a "dud"

It does appear that the blast was very low for a plutonium A-bomb -- under 1 kiloton according to the seismic experts. It is unlikely that the low yield was intentional -- its actually trickier to design a bomb with a deliberately low yield. Calling it a "dud," though, is probably not accurate. More likely its just an inadequate design causing a very poor yield (i.e., sloppy implosion which results in only partial fission before the bomb blast destroys the reaction). The design is a tricky problem, from all accounts. The whole point of tests is to refine the design. Tests by NK scientists on the bomb blast debris enables them to calculate the efficiency of the blast, and act accordingly.

I'll resist Sebastian's temptation to turn this into a baseball thread, unless by baseball, he means sex.

I will note that John Lennon dominated the Beatles early on but Paul was the force to be reckoned with later, beginning with Sgt. Pepper.

O.K. Back to nuclear annihilation and the Blue Meanies.

mb
What (I believe) China is likely most upset about is the potential loss of stability in the region posed by nuclear proliferation.

This is a really important point and serves to underline the validity of SK's sunshine approach. A lot of effort has gone into trashing it by the Bush admin, from the moment W stepped into office

The Clinton team briefed Powell for two hours on the status of the North Korean talks. Halfway into the briefing, Condoleezza Rice, the new national security adviser, who had just flown in from meeting with Bush in Texas, showed up. One participant remembers Powell listening to the briefing with enthusiasm. Rice, however, was clearly skeptical. "The body language was striking," he says. "Powell was leaning forward. Rice was very much leaning backward. Powell thought that what we had been doing formed an interesting basis for progress. He was disabused very quickly."

In early March, barely a month into Bush's term, Kim Dae Jung, South Korea's president, made a state visit to Washington. On the eve of the visit, Powell told reporters that, on Korean policy, Bush would pick up where Clinton had left off. The White House instantly rebuked him; Bush made it clear he would do no such thing. Powell had to eat his words, publicly admitting that he had leaned "too forward in my skis." It was the first of many instances when Powell would find himself out of step with the rest of the Bush team--the lone diplomat in a sea of hardliners.

If Powell was embarrassed by Bush's stance, Kim Dae Jung was humiliated. KDJ, as some Korea-watchers called him, was a new kind of South Korean leader, a democratic activist who had spent years in prison for his political beliefs and had run for president promising a "sunshine policy" of opening up relations with the North. During the Clinton years, South Korea's ruling party had been implacably hostile to North Korea. Efforts to hold serious disarmament talks were obstructed at least as much by Seoul's sabotage as by Pyongyang's maneuverings. Now South Korea had a leader who could be a partner in negotiating strategy--but the United States had a leader who was uninterested in negotiations.

The spin will be that it is obvious that the Sunshine policy didn't work, and had Bush been supported from the get-go, we wouldn't be in this position. My feeling is that the Sunshine policy now provides South Korea with huge amount of moral clarity can now lobby for greater control by China. This will have the unfortunate side effect of isolating the US from Northeast Asia and encourage the development of a regional bloc that is going to be opposed to US interests. Given that any number of neocons feel like China is opponent of the 21st century (right after this little mess in the mideast gets cleared up), it is going to be interesting when they realize that to get to China, they are going to have to go thru Japan and South Korea. The fact is that they would have had to do that anyway, but the neocon grasp of geostrategy has never been too firm.

btw, mahablog has assembled its series on North Korean nukes and it has a lot of info in it for the interested and this page has a good listing of events.

Nell: not through incompetence, but by design.

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

I believe what I read, especially when it fits with an established pattern of behavior. Do you think that Post reporter Glenn Kessler made up what he said in the excerpt I quoted?

a number of senior U.S. officials have said privately that they would welcome a North Korean test, regarding it as a clarifying event

This is entirely plausible, so much so that the burden of proof should be on those who want to pin the administration's behavior towards NK entirely on incompetence.

Bush cut Colin Powell and the president of South Korea off at the knees during the president's visit here early on, then went on to label North Korea part of an 'axis of evil'.

At no point has this administration shown any serious interest in negotiation, and they've done just about everything possible to indicate their scorn for the UN, international organizations and international law, and diplomacy.

There are people in the administration -- Cheney, Rumsfeld, and their acolytes (Bolton, Addington, Joseph, Edelman, Fleitz, among others) who believe that regime change is the solution to hostile governments, period, and that diplomacy is a waste of time.

This is an explicit policy, articulated in the September 2002 National Security Strategy and reaffirmed in the most recent version. Why should I believe it's just bumbling, rather than purposeful?

matt,

And I'm very happy for those Tigers, as my teams are the Red Sox and whoever's playing the Yankees. Saturday was a good day.

Nell,

I'm not arguing either way. I was just asking a question. I do that sometimes.

"that is the attempted a nuclear explosion which achieved critical mass but had inadequite containment"

Thank you. That is a significantly different event than a "dud". I wasn't sure that what you describe was possible. Now I know.

Thanks to dmbeaster too. I hadn't scrolled that far.

that is the attempted a nuclear explosion which achieved critical mass but had inadequite containment

This is not conducive to my entertainment, please desist and restore tapes of nuclear weapons' tests, stuff exploding, and Brangelina.

Thank you.

American Voters.

Various:

The Korea Times speculates that NK may be using the test to pressure the US for bilateral negotiations:

``The nuclear test was conducted in the run-up to off-year elections in the United States,'' Professor Koh Yu-hwan of Dongguk University said. ``By pressuring the United States, Pyongyang wants to negotiate its future with Washington after being recognized as a nuclear power.''

North Korea has long tried to engage the United States in bilateral talks in the belief that such meetings would improve its international status and help it obtain bigger concessions.

[...]

Koh said the North might have decided to hold the nuclear test as the United States did not seriously react to its declaration in February 2005 that it is a nuclear power.

``Washington chose not to respond seriously,'' he said. ``Instead, Washington has kept intensifying pressure on the North through various means, including financial sanctions and U.N. restrictions. Under these circumstances, the North conducted the nuclear test.''

He described the test as the ``final card'' the North can play, following its test-firing of missiles in July.

``I also think the test led the decade-old nuclear crisis to a terminal phase,'' Koh said. ``It looks like the North is now waiting to see what kind of action the United States will take.''

Steve Clemons suspects Ban Ki Moon may have been one of the contributing factors in Pyongyang's timing:

Ban's biggest problem will be Kim Jong Il's jealousy that someone south of the DMZ is now helping to run the world. This fact can't be hidden from North Korea's beleaguered citizens -- who will see in Ban Ki Moon hope for their own situation and pride that "a Korean" is the world's most important civil servant.

The vote in the UN Security Council -- planned for today -- on Ban Ki Moon's ascension to Kofi Annan's job may indeed have been one of the more important drivers of North Korea's decision to test a nuclear weapon today.

The NY Times on how NK 'brazen' defiance has left China in a precarious diplomatic and geostrategic footing:

"China is disappointed and angry and will be willing to support stronger sanctions," said Jin Canrong, a foreign policy expert at People's University in Beijing. "But I think that is different from saying there will be a drastic change. It is still a question of the right balance." The reason, Jin and other experts here said, is that North Korea's test has sharply escalated tensions without fundamentally changing China's calculation of its national interests. Beijing would like to achieve a denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, but has shown few signs of accepting war or regime change as an acceptable way to achieve that goal.

"The core of the issue is not nuclear weapons," said Shen Dingli, a leading security expert at Fudan University in Shanghai. "The core of the issue is peace and stability. That is still strongly in China's interest." Beijing's priorities remain, first and foremost, promoting internal economic development, the key to longevity for the ruling Communist Party.

China's cautious authoritarian leaders concluded long ago that generating economic growth requires a benign relationship with the world's major powers, secure borders, and open markets - in a word, stability.

While China has begun to think like a big power in some respects, its foremost strategic priority has been reclaiming Taiwan, or at least preventing the island from becoming formally independent of mainland China.

Conflict in North Korea or a toppling of Kim Jong Il's regime could upset both of those goals, Chinese analysts say. A war is viewed as the worst outcome, potentially creating a massive wave of refugees into China and even risking a broader engagement that could threaten what has been an extended period of harmony in Northeast Asia.

But peaceful change in North Korea could conceivably bring a new pro- American government to China's northeastern border, even as Beijing faces continuing uncertainty over how to handle the pro-American government in Taiwan, off its southeastern coast.

"China must continue to look at North Korea through the prism of Taiwan," Shen said. "You cannot expect China to completely abandon its ally while America continues to back Taiwan and allow the independence movement to thrive there." Equally, however, China cannot afford to alienate the United States, analysts say. It has also recently taken steps to repair its frayed relationship with Japan. Those ties may well depend on moving to punish North Korea for the nuclear test and at least experimenting to see if firm pressure on Pyongyang brings it back to the bargaining table.

And I'm very happy for those Tigers, as my teams are the Red Sox and whoever's playing the Yankees. Saturday was a good day.

Indeed it was. Nice to know I wasn't the only one here who did a spiteful happy-dance at the expense of the poor, pathetic Bombers (who says there's no crying in baseball?)

:-P

Andrew: I was just asking a question.

Yes. It was this: Do you know this, or do you just feel strongly about it?

If the tone of my response to your comment sounded aggreived, it's mostly due to the way this question is posed, which seems to have a rather large excluded middle.

That is, it seems to overlook the possibility that I might draw reasonable conclusions from patterns of behavior and the evidence available to me, rather than developing an emotional attachment to a position.

That doesn't mean I don't have strong feelings about what I and many others conclude wrt this administration.

@mattbastard: Go Tigers!! We saw three now-trademark comeback games this summer during the family reunion and a wedding. It was touching to see the dazzled happiness of the relatives, after all these abysmal years.

Kenny Rogers really got to the minds of that high-priced lineup. Extreme speed changing is a lot of fun to watch. It reminded me of McGregor with the 78-83 Orioles, when he was on.

Nell,

I'm a lazy man, what can I say. When I said 'feel strongly about it' I meant simply that you have strong reasons to believe that is the case, but no smoking gun. Sorry.

This is a really important point and serves to underline the validity of SK's sunshine approach...

The spin will be that it is obvious that the Sunshine policy didn't work, and had Bush been supported from the get-go, we wouldn't be in this position. My feeling is that the Sunshine policy now provides South Korea with huge amount of moral clarity can now lobby for greater control by China. This will have the unfortunate side effect of isolating the US from Northeast Asia and encourage the development of a regional bloc that is going to be opposed to US interests.

This sounds like an example of a "the actions of the terrorists prove the validity of my policy" fallacy. The "Sunshine Policy" of engagement by paying off North Korea's army has continued unabated for years. Its generosity has never been repaid and the nuclear test is at a very minimum a slap in the face for the policy. Whatever the nuclear test did it certainly doesn't provide anything positive for the policy.

Its generosity has never been repaid

what do you call the presence of IAEA seals and the lack of weapons testing during the Clinton administration? sounds to me like the quo for our quid.

(also, the term "generosity" implies that we weren't expecting anything in return. an odd word choice from you.)

(which reminds me of an old joke about why no one ever goes drinking with libertarians. you see, 2 aussies and a libertarian go drinking. 1st aussie buys first round; second aussie buys second round. When the third round is served, the libertarian starts a rant about the oppression and unfairness of implied social contracts.)

Well, perhaps 'prove' is too strong, but given the following old news item from 2002

The US Government has announced that it will release $95m to North Korea as part of an agreement to replace the Stalinist country's own nuclear programme, which the US suspected was being misused.
Under the 1994 Agreed Framework an international consortium is building two proliferation-proof nuclear reactors and providing fuel oil for North Korea while the reactors are being built.

In releasing the funding, President George W Bush waived the Framework's requirement that North Korea allow inspectors to ensure it has not hidden away any weapons-grade plutonium from the original reactors.

President Bush argued that the decision was "vital to the national security interests of the United States".
via nitpicker blog

one wonders. Now, that's just a small news item from back in the day, but it seems like there are three propositions

1)The sunshine policy encouraged NK to run a nuclear test
2)The sunshine policy could have been carried out without the support of the US
3)The sunshine policy didn't represent the will of the South Korean electorate
and unless you want to answer yes to all of them, you have to genuinely consider the possibility that the Sunshine policy was the correct path. However, if you answer no to any of them, you will have to look in askance at attempts to blame this on the sunshine policy, though I will predict that such accusations will get a lot of play in the coming weeks, especially by people with little knowledge of the long term history of DPRK-US problems.

Also, I'd argue that the Sunshine policy didn't 'pay off' the North Korean army and the 'unabated for years' suggests a longer span than the 8 years it has been in place. It may have 'paid off' the North Koreans, as a suggested goal of the policy was to prevent reunification and the potential drag on the economy. Of course, you worrying about the generosity of SK not being repaid is interesting, especially since I believe you have argued that the US should withdraw its troops from South Korea because of the 'ingratitude' of the South Koreans. I would also note that there is the possibility for South Koreans to regard the nuclear test as a slap in the face to Bush and his refusal to participate in bilateral talks. We will be able to judge that when we see what Ban does in taking office as he has said that one of the first things he will do in office is to travel to North Korea.

But regardless of whether you think the sunshine policy is responsible or not, do you disagree with the suggestion that what has happened will make Northeast Asia much less amenable to US appeals and such? This unfortunately takes us away from blaming the UN, which may distress you, but since we agree that the UN has been neutered in this (though we are probably of different opinions as to why that is) it might be more interesting to talk about the shape of things to come.

It should also make one more cautious, rather than less, that there was apparently zero intelligence that indicated a test was imminent. Losing the ability to predict what is going to happen goes to the heart of what this admin has done.

Finally, a personal note, when Iraq started to unravel a couple of years ago, I often honestly wondered if I was taking secret glee in having been proved correct. While I don't think I was (or am), I can't deny that there is a 'I told you so' voice in the back of my head. I would suggest that your trumpeting of this as the fault of the UN, with the blame incidentally sloshing a bit onto Bush may also be examined with that in mind.

Here is my question about the UN and North Korea -- what do you expect the UN to do?

As far as I can tell, the UN can't do anything that it's member states don't want to do. In particular, what the UNSEC wants to do.

It's a forum for nations to resolve their issues through diplomatic means, rather than through war. The levers it can bring to bear are, more or less, predicated on good faith and a willingness to abide by the rules. It can bless sanctions and, in extraordinary cases, military action, but it can't undertake those in and of itself.

What do you expect the UN to do in this case?

Regarding Bush, it's my understanding that N Korea put an offer on the table of shutting down it's nuclear weapons program and submitting to inspections in return for a non-aggression agreement. That seems like a pretty damned good deal. It's also my understanding that Bush walked away from that. So, as far as I can make out, he screwed up.

And, yes, my assumption is that it falls more heavily on the US to make these things happen. That is because we can.

Other minor comments.

"poofy-hair" is a metonymic reference to Kim Jong Il.

"(at least compared to incompetent hegemons...Sparta, not Athens)"

The thing is, Sparta won.

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.

Already asked and answered, but: only a couple of pounds of high explosive are needed for an implosion bomb.

Now, if they've gotten hold of the design for the Bullpup warhead, the size and yield are about right for a non-fizzle. Still, having the design isn't quite enough; there must be understanding of how the design work. If I were NK and I had a decent design to get a high-order nuclear explosion from the minimum amount of fissionables possible, that's what I'd test.

And yes, comments regarding trickiness of making nuclear weapons small are on target. Why assume their scientists are incapable?

I don't have any reason for thinking they could do it, but I don't see any reason for assuming they can't.

Teach me to comment before looking about to see what others have said.

"Finally, a personal note, when Iraq started to unravel a couple of years ago, I often honestly wondered if I was taking secret glee in having been proved correct. While I don't think I was (or am), I can't deny that there is a 'I told you so' voice in the back of my head."

I take this as a given in almost any political argument. Or maybe I'm just projecting my own schizoid tendencies on everyone else.

One more thing: I'm not sure you'd get the proper effect from a fizzle. I've never built, designed or even developed much more than a passing understanding of nuclear weapons, but I rather doubt that a fizzle would have the same...brissance as a high-order explosion.

Excellent point, Donald.

Why assume their scientists are incapable?

The same reason we must assume that KJI must be an absolute lunatic with no rationality. In fact, I tend to view the Clemons argument that KJI can't stand the fact that Moon is going to head the UN, so they do the nuclear test, as falling to the KJI is mad, I tell you, mad! line. To me, it is the current constellation of political actors and positions that permitted the hard liners to do this and it seems like, given the absence of intelligence, that it must have been set up earlier or at least planned. The lag time from announcement to test was 1 week, though how successful it was is a very good question, and the absence of confirmation (Starr on CNN was saying that they had to figure out what kind of rock was underneath the detonation site before they could give the magnitude. Well, yeah, but if they are only getting around to doing that now, what does that say?) points more to a resurgence of hard-liners in NK.

The Belmont club post is (surprisingly) balanced about the possibilities of a suitcase nuke, but it is very clear that it is only the possession of plutonium (about 25 pounds of the stuff) that makes the suitcase nuke a possibility. This is why the Clinton admin was so anxious to negotiate and why Bush's choice was the wrong one to make.

Oh, and I just wanted to note that the invocations of 'poofy hair', while good for a chuckle, tend to focus on the character (and choice of hair stylists) for KJI and get us away from viewing this as an outgrowth of political stresses and strains within North Korea, stresses and strains that I think have to be taken advantage of if we want a solution that doesn't involve a second Korean war.

Francis, "(also, the term "generosity" implies that we weren't expecting anything in return. an odd word choice from you.)"

The Sunshine Policy was a South Korean policy.

L_J:

[you posit that I believe or otherwise implied]
1)The sunshine policy encouraged NK to run a nuclear test
2)The sunshine policy could have been carried out without the support of the US
3)The sunshine policy didn't represent the will of the South Korean electorate.

I don't believe #1 at all. I believe that the sunshine policy--which had as its major aims the prevention of reunification if caused by the collapse of the NK government (i.e propping up the regime) and the descalation of the hostile environment between SK and NK (interestingly enough by propping up the NK regime). The sunshine policy was often linked with the Agreed Framework. A nuclear test absolutely makes the Sunshine Policy look bad from the point of view of the second aim.

Did it encourage NK to run the test? I doubt it. But since the policy was intended to discourage such things, it certainly failed in that sense.

As to #2, the Sunshine policy was in fact carried out without the United States. I'm not sure I understand what you are trying to say.

As for #3, what is your point? It was a South Korean initiative. I don't believe in the infallibility of the US electorate, and I certainly don't believe in the infallibility of the South Korean electorate.

However, if you answer no to any of them, you will have to look in askance at attempts to blame this on the sunshine policy, though I will predict that such accusations will get a lot of play in the coming weeks, especially by people with little knowledge of the long term history of DPRK-US problems.

What is this "blame" on the Sunshine Policy? You seem to be transforming "didn't succeed" in discouraging really aggressive moves like nuclear tests into "caused" nuclear tests. Who is arguing that? I'm certainly not. The only sense that you could blame the Sunshine Policy is that it propped up a super-nasty regime long enough for it to get nukes. I suspect the regime would have survived without the Sunshine Policy so I don't buy that argument. But if you believe that the regime would have toppled without the Sunshine Policy, I suppose you could "blame" the policy.

"Of course, you worrying about the generosity of SK not being repaid is interesting, especially since I believe you have argued that the US should withdraw its troops from South Korea because of the 'ingratitude' of the South Koreans."

While this is sort of close to something I have said--I believe that we should withdraw ground troops from SK because we have no strategic reason whatsoever for their presence and because their presence seems to drum up resentment--I don't see how it fits into your argument at all. Are you suggesting that if North Koreans are ungrateful to South Koreans, it is impossible for South Koreans to be ungrateful to the US? I didn't make that argument at all, and don't see the contradiction even if I had.

"I would also note that there is the possibility for South Koreans to regard the nuclear test as a slap in the face to Bush and his refusal to participate in bilateral talks."

Ah, so propping up the dictator with the Sunshine Policy cannot be seen as "causing" the test, but refusing to engage in unilateral talks with the dictator can? That seems odd. Perhaps the dictator himself is more of a cause than either?

"But regardless of whether you think the sunshine policy is responsible or not, do you disagree with the suggestion that what has happened will make Northeast Asia much less amenable to US appeals and such?"

This is far too general for me to agree or disagree with. But the idea that the North Korean bomb will push Japan into the arms of China (as your 7:14 post seems to suggest) is rather unorthodox thinking.

While reading this post, I thought I might check up on the status of the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator. I came across a March, 2005 Center for National Policy Event Report, “Engaging North Korea: Congress Plays a Role,” that might be of interest to all, especially Rep. Curt Weldon’s (R-PA) comments on page 10.

(Sorry for the long link, but the PDF file wouldn’t come up – found by Googlin’ “nuclear deep earth penetrator.”)

http://72.14.203.104/search?q=cache:JumF5VMgwfsJ:www.cnponline.org/Press%2520Releases/Transcripts/NK%2520Transcript%2520MS%2520edits.pdf+%22nuclear+deep+earth+penetrator%22&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=4


Thanks for the topic, SH.

In re Nell (4:07, 7:35*), bob mcmanus, LJ, Anarch’s 5:23 link to the Kevin Drum piece (and comments), and others via a series of haikus:

Justification
of GWoT/Cold War policies
leads to this event.

If this is the goal,
why bring up incompetence?
If not, then why war?

Over and over,
self-fulfilling prophecies.
The admin’s MO.

Yet many of us
still take them at their stated
a priori cause.

Too simple a test?:
Do Kim’s nukes best serve the goals
Of the neocons?

Moral clarity:
The only thing understood
is force. Convenient.

A win-win gambit:
US either destroys you
or you duel with guns.

The US’ weapons
are the best tool in the box.
Let’s try to use them.

In re Bob’s thesis:
It is in their interests
to avoid much peace.

It is disheartening to think that those who represent us are engaged in actions that offend our values. But instead of trying to fit the evidence into wished for goals or the end state proffered by the administration, why not follow the evidence and try to base conclusions on that trajectory? I hear a lot of talk about peace being the goal, but so far the preponderance of evidence suggests continued war (from all three admins since the fall of the USSR – US actions in re Israel’s attacks on Gaza and Lebanon being a recent example) unless we accept the very unrealistic outcome of peace being achieved through the eradication of all who oppose the US (see 6:49 – thanks, Francis). To the victors go the spoils...

*Re the September 2002 National Security Strategy: Compare its language and goals to PNAC’s 2000 “Rebuilding America’s Defenses” and other papers in the preceding few years.

Sebastian,
before I address any point you make, why is it L_J? Does the underscore represent some internet convention that I am unaware of?

As far as 'positing' that you believe or imply the three statements, I did nothing of the sort. The structure is precisely the same as your 4:29. I can understand that you don't like being put in the same position, but it is the exactly same thing, so why the outrage?

I find a large part of your comment filled out with the sort of straw that Charley pointed out here and if you actually want discussion about North Korea rather than the perfidy of the UN, you might think about racheting it back a bit. Please also note that my comment was made not in response to anything that you said, but to mattbastard's comment, so please don't accuse me of picking this fight.

I would just note 3 points about the content of your post. The first is that the Sunshine policy _was_ supported by the Clinton administration (see the quote of Powell given above) and it was the undercutting of that by Bush, followed by putting NK on the Axis of Evil (with no proof of links to Iraq or Iran) that made the Sunshine policy unworkable.

The second is that calls for pulling out American forces from SK because of their ingratitude seems to underlie your approach to almost all US foreign policy (it certainly seems to underlie your feelings about the UN) and is something that I cannot understand at all. I don't believe gratitude should be a component for consideration in US foreign policy, and moreover, the idea that the US can withdraw from SK and somehow the regional balance would result in something that the US would be happy with is bizarre (something which this post seems to acknowledge, unless you think that we wouldn't have had this problem had we just gotten the hell out of there when Bush took office). Though I would point out that your notion of pulling out of SK mirrors the advice that Saudi Prince Bandar apparently gave Bush (according to Woodward):

George W. pulled Bandar aside.
"Bandar, I guess you're the best asshole who knows about the world. Explain to me one thing."
"Governor, what is it?"
"Why should I care about North Korea?"
Bandar said he didn't really know. It was one of the few countries that he did not work on for King Fahd.
"I get these briefings on all parts of the world," Bush said, "and everybody is talking to me about North Korea."
"I'll tell you what, Governor," Bandar said. "One reason should make you care about North Korea."
"All right, smart alek," Bush said, "tell me."
"The 38,000 American troops right on the border." ..."If nothing else counts, this counts. One shot across the border and you lose half these people immediately. You lose 15,000 Americans in a chemical or biological or even regular attack. The United State of America is at war instantly."
"Hmmm," Bush said. "I wish those assholes would put things just point-blank to me. I get half a book telling me about the history of North Korea."
"Now I tell you another answer to that. You don't want to care about North Korea anymore?" Bandar asked. The Saudis wanted America to focus on the Middle East and not get drawn into a conflict in East Asia.
"I didn't say that," Bush replied.
"But if you don't, you withdrawl those troops back. Then it becomes a local conflict. Then you have the whole time to decide, 'Should I get involved? Not involved?' Etc."
At that moment, Colin Powell approached.
"Colin," Bush said, "come here. Bandar and I were shooting the bull, just two fighter pilots shooting the bull." He didn't mention the topic.
"Mr. Governor," Bandar said, "General Powell is almost a fighter pilot. He can shoot the bull almost as good as us."

(via Rox Populi)

The third is that I think you are far too sanguine about the prospect of a nuclear Japan. Japan has always been a 'paranuclear' power, and the possession of 40-50 tons of plutonium as well as the refusal to reconsider the Rokkasho reprocessing plant suggests, as Gavan McCormack points out, that Japanese defense policy rests on a longing for nuclear arms. Furthermore, North Korea does not view Japan as a non-combatant in the Korean war, given that Japan based US assets were a major factor in the war. While the Japanese population doesn't note this, you can be sure that the Japanese military understands this. This Wash Quarterly article can give some dimensions to the conflict which discusses the reasons why Japan would not go nuclear. However, that article presumes 'favorable circumstances' would prevent Japan from going nuclear, and I believe that the circumstances have changed enough that I find it quite possible that despite public revulsion with the notion of going nuclear, Japan would. Of course, if 3-5 years from now, Japan announces 'defensive nuclear capabilities' (which have already been discussed and are presumed to be constitutional), I'm sure that I will be told that it wasn't the fault of the US, but the decision of the Japanese themselves, so in order to avoid that, I'll agree. But this administration, with its inability to understand that one doesn't just negotiate with friends but also with enemies, will have set up the conditions to make it happen.

"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?"

In order: yes, and no. You can and should test your implosion shell, lots of times, before the first nuclear test, because implosion is rather difficult to get right.

But for a non-nuclear test to yield a 500t explosion, it would obviously have to involve 500t of explosive, which is far, far more than any implosion shell. Fat Man, all up, weighed less than 5 tonnes.

it would obviously have to involve 500t of explosive

where "explosive" = TNT. i assume there are more powerful conventional explosives - though probably not orders of magnitude more powerful. right?

Right.

There's more powerful stuff than TNT, but the number of different gauges of explosive power are so varied that there's no consistent comparison. Octol is generally regarded as more powerful than TNT, but some gauges (blast pressure, for instance) give it less of an advantage. I think ANFO scores fairly low, but certainly one could make a rather large amount of ANFO on the cheap, and fake a small-scale underground test explosion that way.

I'm not aware of anything that gives you an advantage of much over 1.3 over TNT, though, so I doubt there'll be some miracle explosive that will yield 500t with only 20kg or so of explosive.

it is very clear that it is only the possession of plutonium (about 25 pounds of the stuff) that makes the suitcase nuke a possibility

Less, actually. Fat Man used about 6kg of plutonium and was fairly inefficient by modern standards. From what I've readm modern fission weapons have about double the efficiency and can be initiated with smaller masses of fissile material, because they achieve higher compression of the pit and hence can achieve criticality with a lower mass of just a few kg. Although with reactor-grade Pu you can't do quite as much with so little.

Oh, and there is no "suitcase nuke".

"As far as 'positing' that you believe or imply the three statements, I did nothing of the sort. The structure is precisely the same as your 4:29. I can understand that you don't like being put in the same position, but it is the exactly same thing, so why the outrage?"

Having three points doesn't make a similar structure. Well, except in terms of counting.

You suggested that people are blaming the Sunshine Policy for causing the nuclear test. They aren't blaming it for causing the test, they are saying that it failed in its aim to prevent and minimize provocations like the nuclear test.

The second is that calls for pulling out American forces from SK because of their ingratitude seems to underlie your approach to almost all US foreign policy (it certainly seems to underlie your feelings about the UN) and is something that I cannot understand at all.

I honestly wonder sometimes if you bother reading my comments before you respond. I have already responded to this. When you said the same thing only a few posts ago I wrote:

I believe that we should withdraw ground troops from SK because we have no strategic reason whatsoever for their presence and because their presence seems to drum up resentment

So you misunderstanding about my position on US ground troops in South Korea appears to have blossomed into an incorrect characterization of my whole foreign policy understanding. This is especially annoying when the expanded characterization takes place after I have bothered to respond to you by correcting your earlier mischaracterization of my position.

Whatever Sebastian, my original observation was this

The spin will be that it is obvious that the Sunshine policy didn't work, and had Bush been supported from the get-go, we wouldn't be in this position. My feeling is that the Sunshine policy now provides South Korea with huge amount of moral clarity can now lobby for greater control by China.

'will be' along with my opinion that the Sunshine policy gives SK a lot more leverage with China than Japan, which is trying to force China to sign on to a host of stronger measures. You pick at that and turn it into

You suggested that people are blaming the Sunshine Policy for causing the nuclear test.

"Will be" does not equal "are" so please stop the whining about mischaracterization. You don't have to agree with what I say, but twisting it so you can claim that it is wrong is pretty pathetic.

Comity, folks.

"Will be" does not equal "are" so please stop the whining about mischaracterization. You don't have to agree with what I say, but twisting it so you can claim that it is wrong is pretty pathetic.

Can someone please explain to me what this means? I don't understand it.

I think it means he doesn't like the corn bread, either.

It means that you are accusing LJ of saying something he didn't say. Which you are.

Nice Aliens ref, Andrew.

Ok, and so he is ridiculously hurt by transforming his (probably wrong) prediction "will say" into "are" but he is ok with transforming

"I believe that we should withdraw ground troops from SK because we have no strategic reason whatsoever for their presence and because their presence seems to drum up resentment"

into "that calls for pulling out American forces from SK because of their ingratitude..." and furthering even that into "...their ingratitude seems to underlie your approach to almost all US foreign policy...".

Someone so hypersensitive about the former might want to not repeatedly engage in the latter.

If you transform my argument from "are" back to "will say" you lose absolutely nothing in the argument. It remains true that it would be exceedingly stupid to say (at some point in the future) that the Sunshine Agreement "caused" the test, but it would be normal and logically correct to say (at some point in the future) that the Sunshine Policy failed to stop the nuclear test.

If you transform liberal_japonicus' distortion back to my actual words, you are left with absolutely no coherent argument whatsoever. It would be: "calls for pulling out American forces based on a lack of strategic reason for their presence seems to underlie your approach to almost all US foreign policy (it certainly seems to underlie your feelings about the UN) and is something that I cannot understand at all."

To vigorously complain about the former while engaging in the latter is ridiculous.

Sebastian, if you believe that there is "no strategic reason whatsoever" for the US troops to be in South Korea, I'm not really sure if I can make you understand (just as I can't make you understand the difference between future and present tense).

I simply took this (the "no strategic reasons") to be your typical rhetorical hyperbole. Would you like to make the case that there is absolutely no strategic purpose to the US presence in South Korea, go ahead, explain why US military policy since Eisenhower has been totally misguided. After all, you are in every other current thread on this, wondering why we didn't just give North Korea diplomatic recognition in the 60's (before we actually recognized the PRC)

Just in case you would like to reference what you previously said, the basis for my comment about your position on South Korea was the following

That is fine. But that still doesn't explain why we have to actually be involved in holding up one of the most evil regimes in the world. If they are going to get nuclear weapons anyway, and if China and North Korea won't let them collapse, why are we involved at all? Withdraw the troops from South Korea and let them sort it out. South Korea makes huge public shows of not wanting us anyway. Withdraw to Japan and let South Korea and China deal with it. What are we gaining by being involved? It made sense when the Cold War was on. But if no-one wants to take the NPT seriously enough to stop North Korea from getting nukes, and if it is as inevitable as people above claim, why not just withdraw? What is the advantage we gain? We can't blockade the ships which will trade the nukes anyway without starting the war we cannot start.link

"South Korea makes huge public shows of not wanting us anyway."

I'm not sure how to take that, except that perceived gratitude does factor into your view of how foreign policy should be run and it seems to influence your view of global strategy.

As far as the other stuff, I'm not hurt by it, I just think it makes you look unserious and underlines your ability to read quickly and merrily skip over things that you might agree with (or even simply disagree with in order to develop the discussion) in order to score points against someone you perceive to be on the 'other side'. (your 'probably wrong' annotation of my prediction is a classic, I might add). Tribalism epitomized, one might say. But just because one [redacted] acts like a tribal idiot, it doesn't mean that the other side is being tribal when he complains about it.

"Would you like to make the case that there is absolutely no strategic purpose to the US presence in South Korea, go ahead, explain why US military policy since Eisenhower has been totally misguided."

I didn't say that at no point in the history of the world did the United States have a strategic interest in having troops in South Korea. I said that it does not (in the present) have a strategic interest. There is no tripwire needed in the Cold War because the Cold War is over. North Korea isn't a beach-head for the domino theory. It is a cranky state that if it invaded South Korea would be defeated by South Korea. The strategic reason for being there has passed--almost 15 years ago.

Thank you for dredging up exactly what I said before. I think I made the case just as well in my old statement. I outlined the strategic lack of necessity. What you claim as the "gratitude" component is very small--certainly not worthy of you transforming into the entirety of my foreign policy theory.

In short, you have again drastically distorted the core of my position while whining about completely non-critical 'distortions' on my part. You are right that one of us isn't being serious, but like your interpretation of Slarti's jokes you are wrong about which one of us it is. I'll also note that again in that case you got incredibly huffy, made insulting projections about my inability to understand simple jokes, and simultaneously biffed the simple understanding.

Face it Sebastian, you misread what I wrote and are now trying to dredge up some parsing where it can be said that I misread what you wrote so you can claim we are even and can avoid responsibility. In a completely separate thread on a different blog, even. Brazen, even for you.

I've been more than willing to apologize when I misread something, but in the case that you bring up, I should apologize to Slarti for misreading him, not to you for being a complete and total [redacted]. You are from the party of personal responsibility, own up. Or not, you have the last word, which you can make as Foleyesque as you like.

Cute baby pictures! Well, pictures of a cute baby.

I'm a Yankees fan - what's your excuse for being cranky?

Umm, no. You misrepresented what I wrote three times in this thread. The first time might have been a misunderstanding.

The second and third are something else entirely.

How about them Knicks?

Hey, and if I wrote something, somewhere that I intended as a joke and someone actually recognized that I intended it as a joke, we should have it bronzed.

Getting the joke calls for pewter, at least, and being amused by it...I dare not hope.

Hey, more pewter! Maybe derived from spelter, aka zinc, not an ingredient of pewter.

A funny video!

"Umm, no. You misrepresented what I wrote three times in this thread. The first time might have been a misunderstanding."

Sebastian, you might want to quote what you're responding to.

"You" might not be so mysterious that way, although it's certainly polite of you to attack some nameless person.

Darn those mysterious "you" people!

"I've been more than willing to apologize when I misread something"

Maybe not actually so much.

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