Sunday, June 18, 2006

Your most important job is what?

If, as he states during each of his press opportunities, whether in a surprise appearance in the Green Zone, or a not-so-sunny day in the Rose Garden, he thinks of his most important job as protecting Americans, why has so little been done over the past 5.5 years of Bush's presidency about North Korea?
While the US invaded a country--led by an undoubtedly evil dictator--on the pretense of destroying weapons of mass destruction that apparently no one with access to undoctored intelligence thought Iraq had, North Korea has gotten so far ahead with its own widely-publicized and acknowledged program that they are, even now as I type this, fueling an ICBM capable of reaching the United States.
Other than the presence of oil in one of these countries, the grudge that we held against Iraq both for the invasion of Kuwait and Saddam's funding of an attempt on the earlier President Bush, the hard-on neo-cons have had for Iraq for the last twenty years and the non-existent connection between secular Baathism and world-imamate al-Qaeda, what are the relevant policy differences that have led us to essentially ignore this threat (or, rather, to treat it diplomatically, where "diplomatically" means both refusing to talk to North Korea and not really bringing any significant pressure to bear)?
Unfortunately, I don't know what we can do about North Korea. Kim is insane, the government is willing to starve its people for military spending, the country is already a pariah, there is little that we can imagine that sanctions would achieve. But at the same time, it seems that our government has thrown a lot of money and resources (though not planning) at a country that was, at best, a distant threat, while ignoring a very real and immediate danger, a North Korea with ballistic missiles.
So, if you really think your most important job is protecting Americans, you aren't even living up to your own standards, President Bush.


John said...

I suggest an all night dance-off between the US and North Korea. If it's good enough for Lindsay and Paris, it's good enough for me.

Tyler Hower said...

I think that North Korea might win. Have you seen Kim's Cuban-heel boots and those outfits? He is a dance machine.

John said...

Yes, but once my grandmother takes her glasses back, he'll be blind and vulnerable.

Anonymous said...

And don't forget Iran! Oil and revenge aside, out of the three members of the "axis of evil" he went against the easiest target. Some cowboy.

Tyler Hower said...

Come on Gilad, he proved his cowboy abilities when he defended Texas airspace (well sort of) during Vietnam.

Unknown said...

North Korea would certainly win. They produce Crystal Meth on a State level for export to the USA and other places. Kim himself has thrown parties that last for days just to test the mettle of those loyal to him.

All jesting aside, North Korea is a nuisance to the USA, but it represents a real security, and even worse, humanitarian threat to the region. Having to feed an additional 25 million North Koreans if the DPRK should fail is not something China, Russia, Japan, or South Korea are prepared to do. (Think how much good the re-unification of Germany did for it's economy initially, and that is presumeably small potatoes compared to the re-unification of Korea).

In all likelyhood, the United States policy towards North Korea is all about China. Just like they are using Iran against us.

Anonymous said...

"While the US invaded a country--led by an undoubtedly evil dictator--on the pretense of destroying weapons of mass destruction that apparently no one with access to undoctored intelligence thought Iraq had"

Now, Bush was wrong about WMD, but so was everyone. The French acknowledged that Sadam had them, as did Gore, Kerry, Clinton, and every Democratic big-wig at the time.

The CIA director Tenet told Bush that the case for Iraqi WMD was "a slam dunk." Colin Powell went to the UN and presented the evidence which he believed to be true. They were all wrong. But that's different than bad faith. I think the reflexive approach to all political discourse over the last 14 years (since Clinton came into office) is to suggest that those with whom you disagree are not only wrong but liars. That's a poisonous atmosphere.

Unknown said...

It should be noted that the Soviet Union's support of North Korea was to turn it into an industrial powerhouse to support cheap product manufacturing. North Korea was and is an industrial powerhouse. They make cheap products. Just like the rest of Asia. However, their economy wasn't balanced with any agrerian concerns, so, without the support of the Soviet Union and China (their primary trading partners) they have no money to buy food, etc.

By the way, most products that are made in North Korea, are actually labeled "Made in China" and you can buy them at your local Wal-Mart.

Unknown said...

Tom - also, China does give a shit about North Korea. The 4th largest standing army in the world is on their border. They are angry, starving, and borderline fanatically insane, and if the Kim regime fails, they'll all be running into China, Russia, and/or South Korea.

Besides, China can and has used NK and Iran to distract the USA. They work indirectly through their "trading partners" in a way that is sometimes even greater than our own corporate overlords, and the government that they elected to rule us.

Tyler Hower said...

As, I've been away, dancing my ass off in New York, I will have to take some time to digest what's gone on here in my absence, and perhaps respond.

For what it's worth, in response to Brian, I do actually believe that the intelligence that got to the White House was, at the very least, heavily colored by a prior desire to invade Iraq. That there was a desire to invade before any evidence was gathered is evident in part from the policy papers written by Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz during the Clinton administration arguing for our need to invade, and in part by the ever-shifting rationale for the invasion. It may well be too strong to claim that the administration was acting in bad faith in invading Iraq; a more nuanced claim would be that it was only willing to see evidence to justify what it already desired to do; and that the knowledge of this desire colored the way in which the intelligence was delivered and analyzed.

Anonymous said...

Let me make one point for Father Squeaky O'Grumpus to respond:

Your argument on North Korea is that the US has done nothing to stop North Korea form its belocosity. True dat. However, once a nation becomes nuclear armed, it's not easy to take any action. North Korea has always blackmailed the west even before it got nukes. Seoul is close enough to the DMZ that North Korea could bombard it with shells shot out of a cannon, killing thousands. The US could accomplish regime change only with serious death reigning down upon its ally (and its service men stationed there). Now that North Korea has nukes, any action is even more dangerous because it could result in a nuke lobbed into Tokyo. Because KIJ has so little concern about the people he rules, he has nothing to lose by rattling his saber. We can only take him out at a high cost to our friends and stability in the region. He rightly believes we're not willing to sacrifice thousands of Japanese or South Korean lives to do that.

So as a retrospective look at the Iraq war says to me: well at least Sadam didn't have nuclear weapons yet. He wanted them. He did try to get yellowcake from Africa (and to hell with Wilson, he was wrong on that).

Bush deserves no credit for being wrong about the level of WMDs in Iraq. More aggravating is the fact that he believed that after the war, you could just install Chalabi and all would be right as rain.

But it takes a very special kind of opportunist to blame a chastened Bush for not being more aggressive towards North Korea and Iran while criticizing the war in Iraq from top to bottom.

Anonymous said...

That was me. Sorry.

Tyler Hower said...

When I saw a reference to Fr Squeaky O'Grumpus, I had absolutely no doubt who it was, so no apologies are needed.

I agree that, with nukes, an ounce of prevention is worth several megatons of, well you get my drift. But Bush hasn't exactly been so good at prevention in the case of North Korea, either. On his watch KJI went from (reportedly) 2 nuclear devices to (reportedly) 10. That means, of course, that Clinton's foreign policy (or lack thereof) is to blame for the first 2.

At the same time, Pakistan and India have increased their nuclear capacities during his tenure and he has taught the world, as KJI is now quoting, that treaties don't really matter, since it is always a country's prerogative to unilaterally withraw. And, Iran has gotten itself into a place that, seriously, must mean that it will have nukes in the very short term.

So, even if I grant that Saddam was trying to get yellowcake and had some real possibility of achieving both that and the construction of nukes from it--was he trying in the way that I am trying to get Anto Scalia to fall in love with me or in the way that I am trying to figure out where my socks are?--Bush and his neocon cohort chose the war in Iraq, not because Iraq was in fact the most dangerous member of the Axis of Evil but for other, personal (?) reasons.

Now perhaps that was because they thought it was the easiest, most winnable war, but then they didn't plan and they simply listened to a man--Chalabi--who had been in exile both from his country and his country's mindset for far too long.

I suppose it might have been better had they continued to focus on the war on terror--how is Afghanistan these days?--and not gone off on nation-building adventures. It was Bush who said that he didn't do that, clearly meaning that he didn't know how to.

Tyler Hower said...

As for whether I am an opportunist: I am not the one who has consistently claimed that my first and most important job is to protect the American people and that I am primarily Commander in Chief (the rest of the description of the Executive in the Constitution be damned). Since Bush has set himself up as the Prime Defender and Champion of the People, then it is incumbent on him to identify the greatest threats to his people and deal with those first. He has misidentified the greatest threats and failed to deal even with those very well. His mouth has written a lot of checks that his ass can't cash. By his own doctrine of preemptive war, he picked the wrong (though thought to be easiest) war and has allowed someone (Rumsfeld, the generals, who?) to bungle it.
And, in case, taking a page from Ann Coulter, you think that I am enjoying the mess in Iraq, I am actually kind of tired of watching my friends in the Navy and Marines here disappear for a year into Iraq, not knowing whether they will be killed by an insurgent, in a war that they didn't train for (light infantry don't make a particularly good occupation force) and which no one in control of the military seems to have any idea what to do about.
As for being chastened: Bush said a few weeks ago that he might have been misunderstood when he said "bring it on", not that he was wrong, not that he regretted what he meant, but that he regretted the way some people have taken what he said. His vice president has run around since the invasion saying that Saddam did have have WMDs and that we know that he had a direct connection with al-Qaeda. He has consistently changed the justification for the war to avoid ever having to say he was wrong for invading (when he did). That is the closest he has come to expressing any opinion that he has made any mistakes whatsoever. If that is sufficient to make one chastened, that is a particularly low bar.

Tyler Hower said...

But in other news, how's the summer in Chicago?