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February 20, 2007

Comments

Cattle mutiliations are up.

The comments are even better. Someone points out that the North Koreans only have 1950's technology. Bet you didn't know that South Koreans in Seoul are resistant to 1950's technology like artillery and sarin nerve gas. Another commentor blows off the war games because Sadaam collapsed without a fight, so it stands to reason that the North Koreans will. Fun stuff.

so how about all those big money GOP donors who turn out to be TerrSymps ? conincidence, or a clear sign of the true nature of the party ?

is it irresponsible to speculate ? it's irresponsible not to!

;)

Hilzoy: I have to disagree with you on the NK issue.

It’s a stretch to say that North Korea acquired the weapons under Bush. Or even that the bulk of their research occurred under Bush. There is just no way that they cobbled their weapons program together from Jan. 2001 to Oct. 2002 (when we first informed them that we knew about their uranium enrichment program) and had functional weapons in Apr. 2003 (when they admitted they had them).

Bush was managing a baseball team when NK extracted enough plutonium for 3 to 6 weapons. Bush was running for Governor of Texas when the initial Agreed Framework was negotiated.

Bush was Governor of Texas when the US officially announced that NK had enough plutonium for at least one bomb, the Supply Agreement was negotiated, and ground was broken for two LWRs.

Bush had been President less than 21 months when NK acknowledged the existence of their clandestine program to enrich uranium. Not the start of a program – an existing secret program.

You can fairly blame him for what happened on his watch – but, “The weapons he didn't have before George W. Bush came to power, but now has” is too much IMO.

OCSteve, I actually tend to agree with you on this one. (Yesterday CB today OCSteve, this is too much).

Anyway, I would nitpick and say Bush never managed a baseball team, just owned one, and didn't do all that well with that.

Back to the point. I disagree with much of Bush's policy on NK, but I think he is given too much blame for circumstances that either took place before he came into office or that were totally beyond his control.

After all, there is more than enough to legitimately criticize him for, we don't need to exagerate claims. That is for Republicans to do. :)

OCSteve,

NoKo certainly had a nuclear program before Bush came to power, which seems to be most of what your comment addresses. But I don't think hilzoy is saying otherwise.

Further, the plutonium program was more or less frozen by the Agreed Framework, though NoKo did have a clandestine uranium program. But building a bomb using the uranium track is considerably more time intensive and difficult in terms of technology involved. The weapons NoKo has now are plutonium based, not uranium.

Further, it is not believed by most counterproliferation experts that I have read - nor does the link you provide support the contention that - North Korea had a nuclear weapon prior to the Bush presidency.

Sadly, No! takes us on a stroll down Boer War Lane. it's remarkable how the scenery there resembles the scenery on Iraq War Boulevard - except for the bombed-out cars; those are new.

Hmm...I tend to think of the GWB/Cheney administration as The Mule from Asimov's Foundation series. That is, they are only ruling over the most powerful country in the world due to an historical accident that came about through a series of highly improbable events - and as a consequence are upsetting the normal course of history.

Eh, maybe I should compare them to an episode of GI Joe.

While NK had maybe 8-10 pounds of plutonium before 1999, but as Sid Hecker observes, the form that plutonium is in makes all the difference in the world (and he would know, he's actually held NK's plutonium in his hands) and it was only when Bush cast aside the Agreed Framework as a basis for negotiation that NK ramped up production. The linked pdf is also interesting because it is laying out precisely what was done this year, in 2005. Contra john, that seems very blameworthy to me.

On the North Korea nukes issue: This is the fruit of the 'Bush doctrine' of preventive war. The doctrine sends the clearest possible signal to countries that the actual possession of nuclear weapons is the surest way to avoid military attack by the U.S.

That's on top of having put North Korea on the target list in the most public way possible. Could this administration have given NK any more of a push to develop nuclear weapons?

cleek - but Trevino didn't mean it, really, it was all just a thought experiment, honest.

And the DC Circuit court of appeals shames us all.

"Hmm...I tend to think of the GWB/Cheney administration as The Mule from Asimov's Foundation series."

Where's the Second Foundation hiding?

Warning to those who accept the later, non-trilogy books: view your Roombas with more suspicion.

Where's the Second Foundation hiding?

Hopefully inside the mind of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

SCOTUSBlog has a link to the opinion here.

And the DC Circuit court of appeals shames us all.

Washington would be proud!

Further, it is not believed by most counterproliferation experts that I have read - nor does the link you provide support the contention that - North Korea had a nuclear weapon prior to the Bush presidency.

How much distinction should be placed on acknowledging that a country has enough weapons grade plutonium for a weapon and a functioning weapon in this case? In terms of proliferation at least, I think that the distinction gets smaller, and NK has always been primarily about proliferation.

In any case, their program goes back to 1965 at least. Laying the entire thing at the feet of Bush is a stretch IMO.


LJ: From your link:

But my assessment is the following: given all of the other capabilities that I saw, we have to assume the North Koreans can and have made at least a few simple nuclear devices.

That was Jan. 2004. They withdrew from the Non-Proliferation Treaty in January of 2003. I don’t believe they built a weapon in a year. I don’t believe that they accomplished that from a cold start after the October 2002 breakdown. Do you believe they accomplished that in 15 months? If we can agree on that then don't we have to agree that they were violating the agreement before 2002?

I think that Bush is responsible for what happened starting in Oct. 2002. But I don’t believe that is the main window where a weapon was developed.

Michael Abramowitz reports:

Mistrustful of North Korea and its willingness to keep promises, Vice President Cheney worked hard in President Bush's first term to prevent talks aimed at halting that country's push to develop a nuclear bomb. At one point three years ago, he even bypassed the State Department to intervene in delicate negotiations over Pyongyang's nuclear activities.

But this month Cheney stayed out of the way as a top State Department negotiator wrapped up a nuclear agreement with North Korea -- a deal that many of the vice president's conservative allies consider foolhardy and that some of his own staff are said to find hard to swallow.

Liberal foolishness! The true story is how much better a deal this one is than any available in 2001, or than the Agreed Framework, thanks to our hawk-eyed and courageous Vice-President, the most patriotic person in our government of all! (Though Vice-President Oliver North might have been almost as excellent in the job!)

Why, that's an easy enough case to defend.

Isn't it?

"How much distinction should be placed on acknowledging that a country has enough weapons grade plutonium for a weapon and a functioning weapon in this case?"

The difference between throwing a bunch of plutonium at someone -- or making a mere dirty bomb -- and being able to trigger a fission bomb, pretty clearly.

Personally, I'd stay that standing ten miles away from the detonation of one, versus the other, the distinction will seem very very very clear.

Put another way: the basic notion of how to build a fision bomb, once you have the critical mass, is relatively simple; the actual engineering and details are pretty complicated, and take a while, from scratch. Even the North Korean explosion was a comparative fizzle. So I'd say that the distinction is also one of between months and several years, depending on where one is starting from.

"I don’t believe they built a weapon in a year. I don’t believe that they accomplished that from a cold start after the October 2002 breakdown. Do you believe they accomplished that in 15 months?"

I should have been clearer about this: this is a factual question, answerable with more intelligence, and unanswerable without it.

But you don't put it in the most useful way: they didn't start from scratch, with no knowledge, in January of 2003; asking a question as if they did isn't a relevant question. The question is: how advanced were they in making a bomb by January of 2003, when the withdrew from the NPT?

I surely don't know the answer, and I'm a bit doubtful you do, so unless you have more specific information to offer, we're left with speculation. Or, at least, making tentative judgments and guesses based on the most informed speculation possible.

In which case further argument is probably best supported by pointing to such, and discussing it.

From the link
And what was frozen at the time was the operation of their key reactor, which is a 5-megawatt electric graphite-moderated reactor. That's an indigenous reactor that the North Koreans built. And also what was frozen was the fact that the fuel rods, which had been in the reactor for a number of years,contained plutonium, were then put in a spent fuel pool for safe-keeping and cooling both thermally and radioactively. So they were kept in the pool, and no processing, reprocessing occurred. And the IAEA inspectors were there to monitor that.

That lasted until the third crisis began, which was with the confrontation between the U.S. and Japan with regards to whether or not they had a uranium enrichment program that the U.S. claimed that they covertly began. And this confrontation occurred in October of 2002.

The 'a-ha' moment of the NK having nuclear weapons is not the issue and claiming that they were there when Bush was passing on Sammy Sosa does not absolve Bush from responsibility. Furthermore, Hecker says

How much plutonium also matters. If it's less than 10 kilograms, the chances of them selling any of it are pretty slim. If it's 50 kilograms, I worry about that a lot more. If you think about trying to develop the capability instead of a crude nuclear device to one you could put on a missile, there issues such as testing become very important. Again, you don't test, you know, a nuclear device or two if you only have 10 (kilograms) or 15 kilograms because you destroy it in the process. If you have 50 (kilograms), it's a different story. So as we do our risk calculus, we have to keep in mind, what's the form of the plutonium? How much plutonium do they have? How much more can they make? And I show you in the chart as to how much more they could possibly make.

The north Koreans do not have the capability to strike the US, what is of concern is that plutonium being sold to others. Hecker goes on

I think it's very important to prioritize the risk that we face from a North Korean nuclear weapons program in order to come up with some sort of a calculus for what you negotiate. If the number one risk is that, as Professor Perry pointed out last night, their plutonium getting into somebody else's hands ­ in other words, that they would outsource the job so to speak by having the plutonium get in the hands of the terrorists ­ then to me, the first and most important risk reduction action to take is get the plutonium out or get it immobilized somehow and monitored. That by far is the most important step. If the risk is that we're worried about them attacking either the U.S. or our assets with a missile, then one has to look at the development of the next stages of their capabilities. That's very different than worrying about the plutonium.

Believe it or not, we are actually safer if we knew that the NKs held all of the plutonium in weapons than if we didn't know what they had done with it. And holding it in weapons would be safer not only from the fact that it couldn't be easily sold, but from the fact that it would degrade as a metal much more quickly. So my point is that the point of the North Koreans having or not having a nuclear device or three is not as important as the ability to make plutonium.

"The north Koreans do not have the capability to strike the US, what is of concern is that plutonium being sold to others."

Their capability to hit South Korea, or Japan, is of some concern, as well.

The north Koreans do not have the capability to strike the US, what is of concern is that plutonium being sold to others.

You’ll have to argue with Gary on that point. I already tried it :)

So my point is that the point of the North Koreans having or not having a nuclear device or three is not as important as the ability to make plutonium.

Which they had when Bush owned (not managed) a baseball team. Understanding the ability was frozen until they withdrew, but they did not develop the ability under Bush.

"But you don't put it in the most useful way: they didn't start from scratch, with no knowledge, in January of 2003; asking a question as if they did isn't a relevant question. The question is: how advanced were they in making a bomb by January of 2003, when the withdrew from the NPT?"

The CIA reported to Congress that NK had at least a nuke or two in the late 1990s. I should just have a link in my favorites, this comes up every 6 months. I'll find it again later today.

In any case, this agreement is different from the Agreed Framework in one very important respect (at least insofar as it is worth more than the paper it is written on). China is a party to this agreement. As China is almost the only country with any leverage whatsoever regarding North Korea, that is an improvement.

But you don't put it in the most useful way: they didn't start from scratch, with no knowledge, in January of 2003; asking a question as if they did isn't a relevant question. The question is: how advanced were they in making a bomb by January of 2003, when the withdrew from the NPT?

To which I would respond, had they been adhering to the agreement all along, absolutely no more advanced than when they signed it on October 21, 1994. To believe that the program was frozen and they behaved themselves until Jan 2003, then picked up where they left off and had a working weapon in a year is a stretch too far for me.

Put another way: the basic notion of how to build a fision bomb, once you have the critical mass, is relatively simple;

Yup. I’m wondering what my Internet searches this morning on plutonium, uranium, “nuclear weapon design”, etc. will lead to. I think I need to put on fresh coffee for the DHS guys…

Sadly, No! takes us on a stroll down Boer War Lane.

Wow are the comments there between Trevino and Mencken quite the site to see.

And the repeated attempts to out Mencken are all class. I seem to recall Tac tried to do that a while ago with someone else. Billmon, perhaps?

The old line about him being every other inch a gentleman seems to apply to Tac.

In any case, their program goes back to 1965 at least. Laying the entire thing at the feet of Bush is a stretch IMO.

Definitely a stretch. Beyond a stretch actually. But, er, who was doing this?

To believe that the program was frozen and they behaved themselves until Jan 2003, then picked up where they left off and had a working weapon in a year is a stretch too far for me.

I don't agree with this timeline. It was pretty clear in 2001 that the Bush administration was not going to live up to its end of the Agreed Framework bargain, so the deal was a dead letter much earlier than 2003 - when it was formalized.

OCSteve: when George Bush was owning a team, what happened was this:

"North Korea shut down its 5-MW(e) reactor for between 70 to 100 days in 1989. Some sources believe that North Korea removed and later reprocessed the fuel, separating up to 13 kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium usable for producing nuclear bombs. The suspected diversion was, among other things, inferred from a subsequent laboratory analysis of materials collected during IAEA's inspections that began in 1992. "

After that, the plant was started up again, and plutonium could not be removed. Under the Agreed Framework, it was shut down and sealed.

That shutdown was a major international incident, and it was the reason people suspected NK could have had nuclear weapons. However, it was only 70-100 days, and was over by the time GHWB left office, and prevented from recurring under the Agreed Framework.

GWB let NK get plutonium from Yongbyon for years, and it now has God alone knows how much plutonium. I do not, myself, think this was a Good Thing.

Wow are the comments there between Trevino and Mencken quite the site to see.

    Trevino: Well, the die is cast, etc., etc. It’ll be a few weeks — partly so you have some time to think things over when you’re not as hot about getting shown up — but barring a return to sense, it’s coming.

what a freakin loon - threatening, among other unspecified things, to 'out' another blogger. so much for Mr OnlineIntegrity, eh?

"Yup. I’m wondering what my Internet searches this morning on plutonium, uranium, 'nuclear weapon design', etc. will lead to."

You can try this, if you like. Here is what it is.

"It was pretty clear in 2001 that the Bush administration was not going to live up to its end of the Agreed Framework bargain, so the deal was a dead letter much earlier than 2003 - when it was formalized."

It was clear by 1998 that NK was not living up to its end of the deal. But I'll agree with you wholeheartedly that the Agreed Framework was a dead letter much earlier than 2003--when it was formalized.

Once again, I'm very happy to see China as a signatory. That is, I was going to say 'very encouraging' but that is overplaying it, somewhat encouraging.

(Is 'somewhat' less than 'rather'?)

Definitely a stretch. Beyond a stretch actually. But, er, who was doing this?

Development of a nuclear weapon is a long involved process. I think that comments like, “The weapons he didn't have before George W. Bush came to power, but now has?” and, “We blame him for letting Kim Jong Il get the nuclear weapons.” are ignoring that fact.

I think that much of the hurdle is gaining the ability to enrich and extract weapons grade materiel and I don’t think anyone can blame that on Bush.

The ability to machine plutonium is another significant hurdle, and they demonstrated that ability one year after pulling out of the agreement.

I think that you can really only say with certainty that NK admitted to having weapons under Bush, not that they acquired them under Bush. If you want to argue that they made that announcement because we did not agree to two party talks I’m with you.

It was pretty clear in 2001 that the Bush administration was not going to live up to its end of the Agreed Framework bargain, so the deal was a dead letter much earlier than 2003 - when it was formalized.

Bush suspected NK wasn’t maintaining their end of the agreement. He re-evaluated continuing where Clinton left off. The CIA began collecting evidence of the secret program during Clinton’s second term, so I assume he had some basis for that.
A little over a year later NK admits it had in fact developed a clandestine uranium enrichment program. Then they pull out. How does that do anything except vindicate Bush’s initial suspicion? How would continuing exactly as Clinton had been done anything to prevent them from continuing the clandestine program?

The clandestine program could have been brought to the fore, and the Agreed Framework re-worked accordingly.

Also, see my comment upthread about the differences between uranium and plutonium.

Hil:GWB let NK get plutonium from Yongbyon for years, and it now has God alone knows how much plutonium. I do not, myself, think this was a Good Thing.

Nor do I – no disagreement there. I just disagree that he allowed them to acquire nuclear weapons initially or in totality. This has gone on through multiple administrations and I don’t think you can lay it all at the feet of the latest administration.

Eric:The clandestine program could have been brought to the fore, and the Agreed Framework re-worked accordingly.

So when caught cheating under the current agreement, we should have just shrugged that off, agreed to immediate two-party talks, and said let’s work out a new agreement. We’ll give you a bunch of new incentives if you agree to freeze this new program too, and really really promise not to just start cheating again.

That doesn’t strike me as the basis for any reliable agreement.

OCSteve,
I don't think it's reasonable to go back to, say, the Industrial Revolution to point out that the lion's share (aside: I love that expression for the mental picture. "Roar! That's *my* share, buddy.") of the work leading to the NK bomb didn't occur under Bush.
I know, that may seem stretched compared to your position, but I don't see where we can draw the line when we start pardoning current mistakes by pointing out that the groundwork for those mistakes was laid in the past. I suspect that this argument could be made for almost every Presidential mistake ever made (eg Carter's Desert One fiasco was the fruit of the US-supported coup in 1953, itself explained by the Allied invasion of Iran during WWII, which was due to the British-supported coup of 1921, etc).
Typically, we judge actions by their own merits, compared to other actions that could've been taken. We don't excuse foolish actions by pointing out that the potential for foolishness would not have existed if not for the Big Bang/Genesis/[Insert Creation Event Here].

I think that you can really only say with certainty that NK admitted to having weapons under Bush, not that they acquired them under Bush.

How about 'they didnt have the plutonium?'
I mean, they *had* it, but it was being monitored by international agencies & not being used for anything. Whereas now, that plutonium (presumably) makes up the core of several bombs, and they've made a bunch more of it. Slice it, dice it, julienne it, it's still Bad News.
Hellfire, I can't say with certainty that they didn't acquire it under the Carter administration. I just have no reason or factual basis for thinking that- so I don't invoke it in an argument as a basis for anything else.

How would continuing exactly as Clinton had been done anything to prevent them from continuing the clandestine program?

First, it's not Bush's fault because there's a lot of history leading up to his bad decisions, and now it's not his fault because continuing to do exactly what Clinton did might not have worked. Maybe Clinton would've done something different had he been president from 2001-2007, there's no reason to think that he wouldn't have been allowed to tweak (or even drastically modify) his course as new events occurred (the Clinton team has indicated that they thought the NK regime might fall sooner rather than later, so kicking the can, if that's what it was, made sense).
Hey, maybe Clinton was *wrong* to do the 1994 agreement, but how does that make Bush right to a)tear it down and then b)try to rebuild it from a weaker position? At least in 1994 that approach hadn't already been tried.

All of this, but nowhere do I see a defense of Bush's actual decisions: label NK an evil terrorist state, insult her dictator, pull out of the 1994 agreement without even an attempt to build on/fix/replace it, spend several years demonizing NK and stalling diplomatic initiatives, give NK no reason not to want a nuke and every reason to want one, and then finally, in the face of a nuclear NK, attempt to put the cat back in the bag with a very similar agreement to the one he disparaged in 2001-2. He gave NK a much stronger bargaining position by treating them like a pariah but not using muscle to back it up (unlike Clinton)- they were able to publicly go nuclear without serious diplomatic fallout or fear of military consequences.

nb while NK was likely in violation of the framework by 2000, the US/Japan/Korean group was also failing to uphold its side of the bargain: we promised NK a light-water reactor by 2003, but had made virtually no effort to secure it. The argument could be made that this was justified by NK's likelihood of cheating, but then I suppose NK's cheating could be justified by the likelihood of the allies not living up to their end of the bargain, either.
I only point this out bc I think it undercuts claims that NK perfidy makes any deal pointless- if neither side trusts the other to fulfill the agreement & therefore both cheat, then I can't see the justification for blaming one side over the other.
But I do think that, given the partial success of the Agreed Framework (they closed their reactor, agreed to monitoring, and we provided oil to compensate for the lack of power production) we could've built on the part of the agreement that did work, and gradually established more trust. If we aren't threatening NK they've got no need for a nuke, so that's an easy chip to give up in return for continued economic support from the US, Japan, and South Korea.

I must also emphasize that Clinton appeared willing to bomb the NK reactor in 1994. Maybe he wouldn't have, or maybe it would've been a huge mistake- but he made a good show of it. Bush proved incapable of playing the game at that level (why? I have no idea).

So when caught cheating under the current agreement, we should have just shrugged that off, agreed to immediate two-party talks, and said let’s work out a new agreement. We’ll give you a bunch of new incentives if you agree to freeze this new program too, and really really promise not to just start cheating again.

Absolutely not. What I would have done was let the Agreed Framework die, make brash statements about evil, let NoKo escalate the situation, basically neglect North Korea for five years - bringing the region to the brink of a nuclear arms race - at which time I would then push North Korea to...adopt the Agreed Framework.

Tell me how Bush's approach was better. At least under Clinton's approach, there was nothing going on with the Plutonium. There were no bombs being made, nor bomb making plutonium based material. That is a positive. Under Bush's approach, not so much.

And now, we're back to, what you dismissively referred to as: relying on North Korea to really really promise not to just start cheating again.

Only years later. Tensions increased. And more bomb making plutonium and nuclear weapons produced than would have been had we just stuck with the Agreed Framework all along - even a reconfigured one with more teeth.

"How about 'they didnt have the plutonium?'
I mean, they *had* it, but it was being monitored by international agencies & not being used for anything."

That isn't true. The removed plutonium was not all accounted for.

"while NK was likely in violation of the framework by 2000, the US/Japan/Korean group was also failing to uphold its side of the bargain: we promised NK a light-water reactor by 2003, but had made virtually no effort to secure it. The argument could be made that this was justified by NK's likelihood of cheating, but then I suppose NK's cheating could be justified by the likelihood of the allies not living up to their end of the bargain, either."

This not particularly correct. The design of the light water reactor was made to make the chance of being able to get weaponizable radioactive material very small. NK objected to the design and wanted changes that were not in line with normal designs for light water reactors, and which would problematize the whole point of having light water reactors--letting them have reactors without letting them have increased access to dangerous (for proliferation purposes) radioactive material. The light water reactor floundered on that basis--which is to say because NK insisted on trying to get around the whole point of the light water reactor.

OK – it’s all Bush’s fault. I give.
Next time, given the choice of several topics in an open thread I’ll go with ‘poo in the elevator’ or ‘National Impotence Day’.
;)

Sheesh: Tac has gone so far out of line in those comments. -- And what's with his sudden decision to use my actual name, rather than hilzoy?

Sheesh: Tac has gone so far out of line in those comments. -- And what's with his sudden decision to use my actual name, rather than hilzoy?

He thinks it makes him powerful - see all the times in that thread he put up HTML Mencken's real name.

By the way. I'm coming out in the comments.

Anyone care? ;)

That is, as you point out over there, it gives him the power to inflict the consequences of "outing" someone online on that person - despite (as you also note) not knowing what those consequences would be, and despite that he has no right to do so. It's an exercise of raw power for its own sake - or at least as some petty revenge for what seems to be a relatively minor transgression.

SH,
Naturally when a country abandons (or seems to abandon) a position previously agreed to, it will create an explanation of why their move is principled. NK has, at every turn, given a rationale for their actions.
We don't necessarily have to accept those rationales, either from the NK or from the US/Japan/Korea.

I have read in several places that the reactors were far behind schedule mostly bc of funding- certainly it doesn't make any sense to me that the reactors would be behind schedule- but still being built- if they were a security risk & negated the point of the agreement (unless both sides had agreed to punt on those questions until construction demanded answers). "Behind schedule" sounds much more like a funding issue, but then I've not seen the sources you're relying on here.
If you could provide some citation, that would be nice.

As far as failing to keep the agreement, it's clear that the US failed to fulfill its commitment to modify or end the sanctions on NK bc of the GOP takeover of the US Congress (which also caused delays in the oil shipments). One might hear all kinds of rationales from the US government how this was not a violation of the Agreed Framework, but (as above), we aren't obliged to accept them on face value.

That isn't true. The removed plutonium was not all accounted for.

To our satisfaction. As we learned with Saddam, just because we aren't completely satisfied with the intel that something is true doesn't mean that it's false. Estimates of the quantity of plutonium produced varied widely, as no one knows exactly how much they could produce per day or how many days the reactor was on line.
So, yes, it's possible that they had some plutonium hidden away. But I don't know of any positive evidence that this is the case. Again, if you've got proof, Id love to see it. (honestly; I am not as well-read on these matters as a could be, Im not trying to sound like a [email protected]).

In general, you seem willing to claim absolute truth ("that isn't true", "that isn't particularly correct") for matters where at a minimum the facts admit to multiple interpretations.

Speaking of inter-blog spats.

"Severing ties with my hate site"

by CB.

OCSteve,
All Im saying is, if you want to defend Bush's handling of the situation, do so. If you want to argue that the AF was a terrible mistake and that Bush could do little to stop NK from getting nukes because of it, do so.
Don't waffle around generically blaming the quirks of history or claiming that Bush was forced to either emulate Clinton or do the opposite of Clinton.

And please, ferchristsake, don't act all put upon when someone challenges you. I dont know, maybe Im misinterpreting your comments and you weren't intending an oblique defense of Bush- but if that's the case, I guess we'll never know.

"I have read in several places that the reactors were far behind schedule mostly bc of funding- certainly it doesn't make any sense to me that the reactors would be behind schedule- but still being built- if they were a security risk & negated the point of the agreement (unless both sides had agreed to punt on those questions until construction demanded answers)."

They are behind schedule becuase Japan and the US failed to fund the new plans, and construction under the old plans had been on and off based on how hard North Korea was pushing the new plans.

The distinction between the plans is moot of course if they maintain a workable reprocessing plant--even under the better design, 100s of kgs of plutonium will be produced, it will just be more difficult to make weapons-grade.

Carleton, I am going to do something not to be done, and defend OCSteve to some degree. I don't think he is trying to defend Bush per se, rather I think he is trying to say that it does not all lay at the feet of Bush.

And that is why I agreed with him above, even though I do think a goodly portion of blame does attach to Bush.

BTW, I didn't mean defending OCSteve was not to be done, but attempting to read his mind.

I believe construction has been abandoned since the end of the Agreed Framework.

Britain surrenders to the Islamofascist menace!!!11!ONE!! AQI in Iraq declares V-U.K. Day! America stands alone against the evil forces of Osama bin Darth Sauron!

JM,
I agree, in both a broad and a narrow sense. Bush didn't create the universe, or the atomic bomb, or North Korea, so in that large sense it's not his fault.
In a narrow sense, he inherited a bad situation. He isn't responsible for inheriting a bad situation. But as I was attempting to point out with hyperbole, all bad situations rest on the historical antecedents that created/perpetuated them.

Hilzoy very clearly spelled our her dissatisfaction (the bit after "more precisely"). I think that discussing 'blame for NK getting nukes' by invoking either of those causalities is hiding from the real question: did Bush screw up badly, or was he handed a situation that was basically unsolvable? Was the AF really a bad deal?

Those are discussions worth having. Merely excusing Bush as not solely responsible without wanting to discuss a)other responsible parties or b)whether the situation was already lost, well, there isn't much to say there IMO. No one is responsible for history.

otoh, if OCS thinks Bush screwed up bigtime & Im just misinterpreting his comments, Id love to be corrected.

Sheesh: Tac has gone so far out of line in those comments.

On who Tac thinks is sane.

SB,
Yes, I understand that construction has been halted. If you have a link that discusses the plan modification issue Id love to see it; I have read that funding was at least part of the issue, I don't know if both issues worked together to kill the reactor or if it was basically dead in any case given the other problems with the AF...

In general, I just wanted to bring up the (apparent) fact that our side also failed to fulfill its commitments, and that the AF was fundamentally flawed by both sides' distrust. otoh, as I said above, there were some successes, and I think that those successes could've been built upon to produce a greater degree of trust. By treating NK as a completely untrustworthy and dangerous country, Im afraid that the Administration created a self-fulfilling prophecy, and I don't see what the downside of attempting more trust in the 2001-2007 period would have been.

We've had the disagreement about the Agreed Framework before, and it's not like anyone's mind is going to be changed. I would simply point out that NK nuclear test was a plutonium bomb, not a uranium one, based on atmospheric sampling. This means that the plutonium that NK was able to obtain and process was used, and they wouldn't have done that if they didn't have a surplus of plutonium. If they had a surplus of plutonium, it was because Bush pushed brinksmanship.

btw, I will reveal that I live in Japan, just in case anyone wants to out me.

hilzoy - SN! fixed it for you.

America stands alone against the evil forces of Osama bin Darth Sauron!

i have a sudden burning desire to Photoshop a certain formerly-pseudonymous blogger's head onto Luke Skywalker's body. best douse that urge with beer, lest i end up getting outed (or worse!) by the vindictive little war-fetishist.

Better to Googlebomb said formerly-pseudonymous blogger with this.

Or we could instead save our sanity (/grin) and go for a Kilkenny or three.

Careleton And please, ferchristsake, don't act all put upon when someone challenges you.

Sorry if it came across that way, that is not the case. Occasionally, there reaches a point in these discussions where it becomes clear (to me) that there is little to gain by continued discussion on a topic. When then happens I will generally bail on the topic. It will usually take the form of:

OK, I give – it’s Bush’s fault.
Throwing in the towel.
Look! A unicorn.
Or something similar.

I try not to do drive-bys: pop in and stir things up then disappear. But when a discussion reaches a point where I feel like we are just going around in circles and there are no clear undisputable facts against my position such that I feel the need to retract my position – I may just stop defending it. Sometimes time constraints may be involved, but sometimes it’s just “let’s agree to disagree”. I’ll end with some explicit comment that I’m bailing. The intent is to let others who may be engaged not to bother spending more time on it for my sake.

I dont know, maybe Im misinterpreting your comments and you weren't intending an oblique defense of Bush

I’m not a huge Bush defender these days, but my position in this case is that the entire mess can not be laid at his feet. As I said way upthread – blame everything after Oct 2002 on Bush and I agree with you. Blame him for events that transpired before he took office and I don’t. Blame him for what did or did not transpire between Jan. 2001 and Oct 2002 and it is a lot murkier. It’s also the place where I can say I think he did some things right and some things not. But I have difficulty with people proposing that if he had only done this or that the outcome would have been much different. We don’t know and it is an un-provable argument. It’s a case where I can’t prove my case, but others can not prove theirs to my satisfaction either. So…
Look! A Unicorn!

John Miller: Thanks – I think. :)

A Bizarro World post on the McClatchy blog in Iraq that hilzoy posted about the other day and the (apparent) editor who oversees McClatchy's Iraq coverage response (assuming the response isn't taken down/edited by the time you read this).

Heh (though they'll just use his response as proof of liberal bias and thus you can't believe anything McClatchy reports).

Did somebody say 'unicorn'?

Just to be clear on what I do and don't think:

No, not all of NK's nuclear weapons program can be laid at GWBush's feet. Kim had a nuclear program decades ago. He probably removed plutonium from Yongbyon in '89, and might have used it to make a nuclear weapon or two by 2002. He also pursued uranium enrichment under the Agreed Framework.

That said, the uranium program was slow, and using it alone he probably wouldn't have gotten any nuclear weapons by now. And the plutonium he previously had wasn't enough to let him sell nuclear weapons; given the fizzly test he carried out, it probably wouldn't have been enough to let him get even one nuke that actually worked right.

Letting him remove the plutonium that was previously under seal, and use the reactor to make more, has greatly increased the amount of plutonium he has, which means that he's surely more likely to have enough to test more bombs, and thus probably enough to get the design right; and he may have enough to sell.

What we finally agreed to, after all these years, was basically what we had before. (Yongbyon shut down, a gesture at denuclearization of the whole peninsula, which would include the uranium program, but this has yet to be negotiated.) But in the years it took us to agree to this, very, very bad things have happened, all of them needless.

That's "McClatchey" to you, "Ugh" (as per "Mark Kilmer".)

That's "McClatchey" to you, "Ugh" (as per "Mark Kilmer".)

That's it [mattbastard's name] of [mattbastard's still not quite correct location], I'm outing you - just as soon as I get out of this Darth Vader mask.

OC,
Im as baffled as before. I admit, I tend to jump to conclusions when they aren't clear, so my posts often sound like "do you mean this, then blah blah blah blah? Or maybe you mean that, so blah blah bleh bleh". Im impatient.

But even now it's not clear to me. Yes, I think we can all agree that Bush isn't responsible for the NK situation prior to 2001. In fact, I can't imagine that anyone would take the contrary position. Since that seems like such a tautology, I wonder why it would be brought up- ie what is the point that you were driving at? I exaggerated the point to show that nothing occurs in a historical vacuum, but we still feel comfortable criticizing policy decisions, but I feel that you were suggesting something else (eg that Bush was handed an impossible situation).

Obviously at this point we're arguing hypotheticals, and nothing can be definitely resolved. That doesn't mean we can't at least probe into each other's worldviews & learn something. For example, I learned that the LW reactors might (cite?) have been delayed due to design changes rather than just a lack of funding (which had been my previous understanding).

I think I've made my position pretty clear: I think the AF was a strong, good move on Clinton's part (and a relatively ballsy one, too). I think that neither side followed up on that initial success as well as they could have, and mistrust/backsliding resulted almost immediately. But I think that the AF could've served as a jumping off point, building trust based on the parts that did work. Otoh, NK is all screwed up, and a nuclear NK might have occurred anyway (although maybe without the explicit withdrawal from the NPT and other diplomatic brouhaha). One of my main arguments for some sort of extension of the AF is that it wouldn't have cost much, and if the alternative is a nuclear NK either way, it's a good gamble.
I don't know if you think that the AF was a good idea, bad idea, made a nuclear NK inevitable, etc. I dont know what things you think Bush did wrong/right. I dont know what you think could've been done better.

Ugh- I don't think they will be too quick to delete the post. First they have to find him and start sending death threats.

Yes, I think we can all agree that Bush isn't responsible for the NK situation prior to 2001. In fact, I can't imagine that anyone would take the contrary position. Since that seems like such a tautology, I wonder why it would be brought up- ie what is the point that you were driving at?

Simply that much or even most of the difficult work of acquiring a weapon was done prior to Bush. I’m not a physicist (and I don’t play one on the Internet) but let’s say that plutonium extraction represents a third, machining plutonium represents a third, and the trigger assembly represents a third. Then IMO they were 2/3 of the way there at a minimum prior to Bush. I believe there is enough evidence to indicate they had a fully functional weapon prior to Bush. But say it was just 2/3. Even in that case, saying they acquired the weapons because of Bush is still a stretch if all they really did is pop some seals and assemble the physics package (I am exaggerating). I’m saying they had the bomb or at least most of the bomb sitting on the shelf ready to go. Blame Bush for failed/no negotiations – but all they did is take the bomb down off the shelf – they did not acquire it while Bush twiddled his thumbs.

I don't know if you think that the AF was a good idea, bad idea, made a nuclear NK inevitable, etc. I dont know what things you think Bush did wrong/right. I dont know what you think could've been done better.

To expand on this a little more:
Blame him for what did or did not transpire between Jan. 2001 and Oct 2002 and it is a lot murkier. It’s also the place where I can say I think he did some things right and some things not.

Evidence came to light during the second Clinton administration that NK had a clandestine enrichment program. Bush inherited that when he took office. Both Koreas are pushing Bush to hurry up and pick up where Clinton left off, but Bush knows they (NK) are cheating on the current agreement.

I think it is entirely reasonable under those conditions for a new President to say, “Not so fast, I think its time to re-evaluate this whole thing”. NK threatens and blusters through the summer and performs a missile engine test in July.

Then it’s Sept 12 and proliferation takes on a whole new ominous meaning. From that point through 2002 I’m probably still mostly with Bush. He looses me after the secret program is made public and things really go to hell from there.

That is my opinion. It is also opinion when someone else tries to make the case that if Bush had just kept blowing sunshine as soon as he took office that NK would not have nuclear weapons today. I think they had them long before Bush took office for one, for another it is pure speculation that things would not have taken a similar course after 9/11 in any case. NK did nothing but threaten and bluster through the Clinton years and long before Bushes axis of evil SOTU.

[mattbastard's still not quite correct location]

AKA "somewhere between Heaven and Hell", or "a town called 'malice'" - take your pick.

Thanks for laying your points out OCS. I think you are overlooking the fact that rapprochment was very close at the end of the Clinton admin, and that Kim Dae Jong's sunshine policy was specifically and harshly rejected by Bush. The truth of this is underlined by the reports that Rice had to bypass the clique of the VP in order to get this agreement with NK. Gary raised Japan and South Korea, but they are going to prefer a stance that allows NK to hobble along, especially SK, after seeing what happened to West Germany after the Wall fell. Yes, this is a highly pragmatic stance, and I'm not too enamoured of it, but I'm not living in downtown Seoul in the sights of North Korean artillery.

I'd be happy to provide any number of links, but I'm off to work right now, but these two links here and here can give some background. The second link might be infuriating, but I think it provides some important background information.

Well, I agree with some parts of that. I think you're overemphasizing the physics and underemphasizing the politics prior to 2000; Clinton put up a credible threat of force in 1994 to get NK into the AF. Once in, we had the basis to build a more cooperative relationship. Even if that "more cooperative" relationship was us paying them with oil to follow a slower track to the bomb, each side was getting something useful.
How far they were along in the physics department isn't as critical when the plutonium is under lock and key & it would take a big diplomatic fuss to unlock it. While we had a carrot to offer, they had no real reason to break the seal. Once we took the carrot off of the table and started calling them out in public, they had every incentive to break the seals- if for no other reason then to avoid looking weak.

I don't know that there's any scenario where NK doesn't get nukes. The only way to stop them if the really wanted it would've been military action. Other than that, we'd just have to convince them that the carrot was worthwhile, and given how paranoid KJL is, that would have to be a Mighty Carrot.
But even with that, a nuclear-armed NK is only half of the failure here. We've got a nuclear-armed NK with very little diplomatic fallout. We've got a nuclear-armed NK that didnt have any investment in not making big waves.
[Consider the case of Pakistan, which supposedly sat on its nukes for over 15 years. Open testing in the late 90s created huge tensions in the subcontinent, and fears of open nuclear war].

I really doubt that NK had nukes before 2000. If they did then we had no inkling of it (or it still hasn't come to light)- so you're favoring your opinion over an awful lot of specialists. Im all for bucking the specialists, but I don't see a lot of data backing that position up. A hunch?

Im all for bucking the specialists, but I don't see a lot of data backing that position up. A hunch?

Given the CIA’s track record on this (all countries in general) I won’t bother with them. Not so much hunch as hazy memories. I seem to recall at the time a general feeling that the horse had left the barn.

On the physics – my point is that once you learn to do it the first time the genie does not go back into the bottle. If the hurdle is learning how to extract or machine plutonium then once you have it you have it.

LJ: I’ll check those links out.

And now – time for pie. (Seriously, my wife is attempting to lure me away from the computer with pie. I could normally resist that, but this is lemon meringue so I am helpless.)

I put my dibs in as the father of Anna Nicole's baby but Homeland Security has a picture of me at the National Impotence Day Parade on the reported day of conception.

I'm the guy trying to fix the balky compressor on the inflatable Oscar Meyer Wiener float.

they'll just use his response as proof of liberal bias and thus you can't believe anything McClatchy reports

and look at the first response...

    "if anyone ever needed more evidence of the abject stupidity of the American news media they need look no further."

there really are two Americas: the one in their wizened little imaginations and the other one - the one that the they refuse to acknowledge.

there really are two Americas:

Or, in this case, two Iraqs: (i) the land of painted schools, flourishing democracy, and dead-enders; and (ii) the hell of tortured headless corpses, car bombs, 1/2 bodies at the morgue and dead American soldiers.

The other comments are just as precious.

oh yeah... the govt's anti-terror cases? fake.

yes, clearly, these clowns need more authority.

There really are ten Americas: the one that does math in binary, and the other one.

Breaking News!! Publius joins VC!!

Well: this "VC", anyway . (Check the lefthand column) I am assuming this "Publius" ISN'T our newest frontpager: can a blog-pseud be trademarked, or what?

Via Balloon Juice : John Cole, as usual, nails these delusionaries clean: wonder how large the overlap between them and Bizarro World will get?

oh yeah... the govt's anti-terror cases? fake.

Come on cleek, every terrorist's ultimate goal is to commit marriage fraud - they hate us for our freedom, after all.

Publius joins VC

maybe he can talk them into using a logo that isn't a direct echo of the INGSOC flag.

or maybe not... it's nice when silly people discredit themselves right out of the box.

"If they did then we had no inkling of it (or it still hasn't come to light)- so you're favoring your opinion over an awful lot of specialists. Im all for bucking the specialists, but I don't see a lot of data backing that position up. A hunch?"

That isn't the case. According to Robert Walpole (National Intelligence Officer for Strategic and Nuclear Programs under both 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."

There really are ten Americas: the one that does math in binary, and the other one.

Hey, don't ruin our fun slarti, everyone understands the binary language of moisture vaporators these days (and speaks Bocce)! :-)

A Bizarro World post on the McClatchy blog in Iraq that hilzoy posted about the other day and the (apparent) editor who oversees McClatchy's Iraq coverage response (assuming the response isn't taken down/edited by the time you read this).

From his comment:

“by the way, Marcus Traianus, to address the commentator who for unknown reasons has picked as his pseudonym the birth name of a Roman emperor known for pederasty, drunkenness and a military foray into present-day Iraq that ended in disarray after initial success.”

Mark Seibel is my hero.

Slartibartfast: "There really are ten Americas: the one that does math in binary, and the other one."

There really are three Americas: the one that does math without mistakes, and the one that doesn't.

"According to Robert Walpole (National Intelligence Officer for Strategic and Nuclear Programs under both 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.'"

Unfortunately, claims by U.S. intelligence can't be used to support OCSteve's statements on this subject, because he believes their track record makes them useless, and they should be disregarded:

Given the CIA’s track record on this (all countries in general) I won’t bother with them.
You can argue with him, if you like, but presumably he has to be consistent, and either find them a reasonably reliable source, or not; he can't logically just take as evidence stuff that agrees with him and dismiss the rest. :-)

"Unfortunately, claims by U.S. intelligence can't be used to support OCSteve's statements on this subject, because he believes their track record makes them useless, and they should be disregarded"

That's fine, but they can be used to support MY statements on the subject. ;)

Israel doesn't have the Bomb. Publically. South Africa is not nuclear capable. Publically. And it is useful to the world to have us not recognize those facts.

Bush effectively forced North Korea to openly test its Nukes and so made it a big P 'player" in a way it wasn't before. Well that is one reason you don't put North Korea and Iran into your 'Axis of Evil' to start with, you just end up elevating people from "Impotent" to "Importent".

Bush added an extra inch to Kim Il Jong's pompadour and seems to think that gave him some bragging rights. Dude it is just hair, moreover it it his hair, stop doing us favors.

I don't expect surfer dude SteveOC to grasp the irony here.

Oh was it OCSteve? My Bad,

Not everyone was an open member of the nuclear club, and there were good reasons for keeping prospective members from claiming membership. Bush chose to offer a "Double Dog Dare Ya!" to North Korea, and seems determined to do the same to Iran. This is not exactly designed to forge a path to World Peace.

Changing focus a little, our old friend http://arablinks.blogspot.com/2007/02/allawi-versus-chalabi.html>Mr. Chalabi is the Gift that keeps giving.

(Why italics, you ask? Because it's in a foreign language . . .)

Too subtle, CharleyCarp ;-) [but I am in full agreement, hehehe]

CharleyCarp: heh.

(Even though I have not only learned German twice, but also forgotten it twice, that is still within my limited ken ;) )

I don't expect surfer dude SteveOC to grasp the irony here.

Yeah, but the pie? Awesome dude.

Bruce Webb: any particular reason for the scorn? OCSteve doesn't deserve it. Imho.

"South Africa is not nuclear capable. Publically. And it is useful to the world to have us not recognize those facts."

My understanding is that the racist South African government abandoned and sabatoged the nuclear program when it became clear that black people were coming to power. But that is a vague impression. Did I mislead myself?

In other interesting news that doesn't seem to have made it across the Atlantic, since the revelation of the Swiss nuclear weapons program (revealed mid 1990s), there have been various rumors around in France, Switzerland and Germany that the Swiss partnered with the South African government in SA's nuclear program.

for your edification: Murtha in the same club as Oswald.

Back from vacation. Not sure if anyone will read this, but...
Sebastian:

It appears to me that a statement of this intel community's consensus was not *produced* in the mid-1990s. It was first stated publicly in 2002 (late 2001 maybe), just as Bush was starting his tough stance against NK.
That is to say, this was a very convenient position for the Administration to take- they could claim that NK was a bigger threat than previously understood & that it was cheating on the core principle of the agreement. Also, Bush very much wanted to disparage the AF- claiming that it had failed to stop a NK nuke would be a damning indictment.

I don't recall seeing anything from the period supporting this though- an NIE etc. Throughout the period the public understanding AFAIR was that NK was not a nuclear power. Which isn't to say that this isn't correct (although that's a big bombshell to keep secret), but *ahem* Im not likely to take the Administration's word on intel (and interpreting intel) at this point (eg Cheney's insistence that the intel community took the possible Atta-Prague meeting seriously bore no relation to the intel community's take on that incident).

This startling news was first revealed in the public version of a National Intelligence Estimate on "Foreign Missile Developments" pub-lished last December (2001). It says, "The Intelligence Community judged in the mid-1990s that North Korea had produced one, possibly two, nuclear weapons." That is not what the Community said in the mid-1990s; the estimates then dealt only with plutonium production, not nuclear warheads.
link to 2002 article


OCSteve- when the CIA has been wrong about weapons systems development, from my memory they have *always* erred on the side of overestimating capabilities and progress. Andrew or someone else may have a counterexample, but if you're discounting the CIA due to accuracy you ought to be fudging their guess further down the road, not using their doomsaying as an excuse for even more radical doomsaying.
[And if we're arguing about track records, the Rumsfeld-Cheney-Team B crew has even less to crow about than the CIA; they've been consistently more wrong than the intel community.]

Carleton: Hope you enjoyed the vacation.

I can’t dig up sources right now, but from memory…

If you go all the way back to the Soviets, their first test caught us by surprise (by 2 years, we didn’t know about the Los Alamos spies) and their first H-bomb test was also an unpleasant surprise.

The Indian bomb caught the entire world by surprise. Weren’t the Libyans ahead of where we thought they were? And we really didn’t seem to have known the extent to which A.Q. Khan had been a busy man.

I seem to recall that in terms of China, Pakistan in general, and South Africa they had a pretty good handle on things.

But I think that in general our intelligence agencies’ record on this has been spotty at best. It seems to me they have underestimated at least as often as they have over-estimated.

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