Thursday, February 10, 2005

The Bush Cowboyism Backfire

After 2 years of confrontation, the North Korean's have declared that they have a nuclear weapon. The rationale behind the building of the bomb was growing fear of a hostile Bush administration.

"We ... have manufactured nukes for self-defense to cope with the Bush administration's ever more undisguised policy to isolate and stifle the (North)," the North Korean Foreign Ministry said in a statement carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency. 1

What further complicates the picture (and a shadow on the Bush policy) is that we cannot even be sure if the North Koreans were even actually working on a nuclear weapon program prior to the Nov, 2002 claim by the Bush administration and the subsequent withdraw from the 1994 treaty. With the revelations that the CIA had it completely wrong in Iraq, there is new doubt that North Korea was violating the treaty, as claimed by the Bush administration.

The claim could not be independently verified. North Korea expelled the last U.N. nuclear monitors in late 2002 and has never tested a nuclear bomb, although international officials have long suspected it has one or two nuclear bombs and enough fuel for several more.

After confronting N.K. in 2002, N.K. forced out IAEA inspectors, thus ending any chance of actually monitoring what was happening within the country, and N.K. restarted their nuclear program in earnest. When Bush proposed 6 party talks, one of the conditions of dealing with N.K. was requiring that N.K. admit to a secret nuclear program prior to 2002. To me, this is reminiscent of the Salem witch trials where the accused were forced to admit guilt while the kindling ignited around them.

Since 2003, the United States, the two Koreas, China, Japan and Russia have held three rounds of talks in Beijing aimed at persuading the North to abandon nuclear weapons development in return for economic and diplomatic rewards. No significant progress has been made.

A fourth round scheduled for last September was canceled when North Korea refused to attend, citing what it called a "hostile" U.S. policy.

On Thursday, North Korea said it decided not to rejoin such talks any time soon after studying Bush's inaugural and State of the Union speeches and after Rice labeled North Korea one of the "outposts of tyranny." 1

But the Bush administration's effort to keep N.K. isolated predated the Nov. 2002 breakdown of the 1994 treaty. In response to plans by South Korea and Japan (which Bush strongly disapproved of), the White House started ringing the uranium issue alarm with the two nations (sounds reminiscent of Iraq's supposed importation of yellow cake). A CIA report that was presented to Congress in 2002 was anything but a slam dunk for Bush's claims.

CIA report submitted to Congress in November 2002, Pollack wrote that "the imprecision in the CIA analysis underscored the difficulties of estimating the extant capabilities and ultimate purposes of the North's enrichment program" and left it unclear "how complete and compelling the intelligence data may have been." According to Pollack, the CIA report indicated that North Korea had no operational enrichment facility to declare. ... The intelligence community believed that North Korea still [would have] confronted daunting obstacles had it decided to build an enriched uranium weapon, or even to acquire the production capabilities that might ultimately permit such an option. Most officials recognized that the path to a meaningful enrichment capability remained a distant and very uncertain possibility.

Despite its limited knowledge about the uranium program, the U.S. government "opted to exploit the intelligence for political purposes." The uranium issue "furnished powerful ammunition to render the Agreed Framework a dead letter"--something enormously appealing to hawks in the administration, who had opposed Clinton-era diplomacy toward North Korea as much too soft. As Pollack described it to a New York Times columnist, the Bush administration used "whatever [intelligence] was there on North Korea to step away from a set of obligations, to shine a shaming light on North Korea and perhaps to get others to put the heat on North Korea."2

Once again, the path here is very similar to what happened in Iraq. Bush broke off any negotiations with Iraq and then forced the inspectors out. Without anyway to verify the existence of WMDs, Bush was able to push through the Neo-con agenda. The same CIA evidence that Bush used in Iraq, he was also using for N.K. Replacing "North Korea" with "Iraq" and I think we can all agree that this is the same "evidence" that Dr. Rice presented to Congress.

An examination of the November 2002 CIA report that set forth the basis for Kelly's confrontation confirms these charges of imprecision. Although the document alludes to "clear evidence" that North Korea had "recently" begun constructing a centrifuge facility (centrifuges are machines used to enrich uranium), the CIA did not explain the nature of this evidence beyond mentioning, in general terms, that Pyongyang had acquired "centrifuge-related materials in large quantities." No specific evidence was presented to support the report's conclusion that North Korea was "constructing a plant that could produce enough weapons-grade uranium for two or more weapons per year when fully operational, which could be as soon as mid-decade." 2

I have no doubt that N.K. had nuclear aspirations. The question is whether or not they were actually acting on them or if they even could, subject to international embargos on the bomb making equipment. Either way, the Bush cowboy attitude of shoot now and ask questions later that he applied in Iraq has hastened the N.K. development of nuclear weapons. Just like the old west, every one needed a gun to protect themselves. The only viable option for N.K., given the Bush unilateral enforcement action doctrine, the break down of the 1994 treaty, and Bush's statements labeling N.K. as a tyrant, is to develop nuclear weapons for self preservation. Once again, Bush has blundered diplomatic policy and made the world a less safe place. His swagger has, for the second time, made a bad situation, worse.

1- N. Korea Announces It Has Nuclear Weapons - AP

2- Did North Korea Cheat - Foreign Affairs Magazine


Sigmund, Carl and Alfred said...

Excellent post and I can hardly disagree, save for one point- the North Koreans, irrespective of who was in office, would have embarked on their nuclear quest for bombs, as you said.

Given the NK realities of riding their own pony irrespective of anything, the fact is that once nuclear material/knowledge was put up for bid, they were going to be buyers, no matter how we reacted.

That of course, does not negate the points you made.

Boomr said...

I agree that NK was most likely going to be in the nuclear arms business at some point or another.

That said, and at the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, I think this sort of situation is exactly what President Bush wanted. He needs an enemy, not only for political purposes, but for an even greater cause -- the continued dominance of defense-related industries.

Here's the scenario: During the height of the Cold War, when the "arms race" was in full swing, the Republicans were in office in a virtually unbroken line of succession from Nixon to Ford, with a pause for Carter, then to Reagan and Bush the Elder. During that period, defense spending increased dramatically, while the US had one scary, seemingly equally superpowered enemy in the USSR. International conflict -- or at least the possibility of international conflict -- made defense contractors billionaires.

Now we live in an era after the fall of the Berlin Wall, after the collapse of Soviet communism, where even China is tempering its formerly bellicose socialism with a little capitalism and a hint of democracy. Terrorism, the new antagonist to replace the USSR, leads to two wars, which at least nominally were won quickly and will probably not lead to extended periods of increased arms purchases by either the US or its enemies. In fact, "democratic" elections were just held in one of the countries comprising the dreaded Axis of Evil.

So, what's a President to do when he has no other people (besides the ineffectual Democrats) to blame for the mixed-up state of the world, in order to help out his defense industry buddies? Force the hand of another Axis member. While NK was most likely pursuing nuclear weapons for some time in secret, there's now a very public ratcheting-up of their research and development program. Enter the new enemy, stage right.

The result is that after years of baiting a bad, but relatively non-war-mongering state, we've now got an active opponent with the big guns to show the world. This will likely lead to an increase in our own nuclear program, as well as a revival of other Cold War darlings like SDI. The billionaires will become multi-billionaires.

This is the problem with a President who has complete ignorance of the concept of the rule of international law. President Bush and other Republicans revile the UN, whose sole purpose is the promotion of "international peace and security." Why would they do this? Because their political survival and the increased wealth of their real constituents in the defense industry is in serious jeopardy when "international peace and security" is actually a reality.

President Bush's entire term of office has consisted solely of identifying enemies and waging war on them, whether literally or figuratively. The literal wars are good for him and good for his pals in the business of profiting from conflict. This is the President's main goal: to help himself and his friends.

With this as a goal, it's no wonder he's picking a fight.