January 14, 2003

We have axes of evil to grind

Habitual critics of President Bush are fond of pointing out the discrepancy between his policies on Iraq and North Korea. They observe that Bush is edging the country closer to war with Iraq while taking a less aggressive track with North Korea. Since the two situations both involve rogue states developing nuclear, chemical, and biological (NBC) weapons, they argue that there must be sinister motives behind Bush's disparate articles.

And to think Bush is the one called a simpleton! Anyone who thinks the two situations should be treated identically is ignoring the obvious, and there is no reason to think the two situations warrant identical approaches.

Even if the United States wanted to attack North Korea, it physically could not do so. China and South Korea are the only two countries bordering the North, and neither will let us use their borders now or in the foreseeable future. That leaves the possibility of an amphibious invasion from Japan, and Douglas MacArthur left town fifty years ago. Therefore, threatening North Korea with military action could only be self-defeating, as they would have no reason to fear such a threat.

This problem does not exist with Iraq, as we have several allies bordering it who are willing to let us use their territory as a launching pad for attacks. Combine this consideration with the fact that North Korea has a large, well-trained, and well-equipped military, while Iraq does not.

Additionally, North Korea has close ties to China, and to the south. While neither of these countries would permit an invasion by the U.S., these relationships swing both ways. It is easier to negotiate with North Korea because we could have China and South Korea pressure them.

Iraq has no allies. Russia and France have opposed an American invasion, but that is because they do business with Iraq and do not want to lose money. Both countries have indicated a willingness to be bought off with promises in exchange for dropping their objections. As for Iraq's neighbors, their expressed solidarity with Iraq is more about opposing the United States than actual support for Saddam Hussein's regime. They would secretly be happy to see Hussein gone.

Axis of evil rhetoric has a lot of liberals here and abroad convinced that Bush is some dimwitted ideologue. What they do not realize is that Ronald Reagan used the same strident language against the Soviet Union, then proved more willing than most to negotiate arms reductions with its communist regime when the opportunity arose.

Bush's detractors have extremely short memories. All the trouble facing us now, in Iraq, in North Korea, and with al Qaeda, is partly the result of our previous commander-in-chief being asleep at the foreign policy switch. He was hosting self-congratulatory summits between Arafat and the Israelis (look at how successful they've proven) while doing nothing to respond to the USS Cole and embassy bombings.

I endorse war with Iraq at this point. We have to do something internationally to show our strength and resolve. For too long we have relied on scraps of paper and empty promises to defend ourselves. The past 18 months have shown the futility of this policy. Even if there is not unambiguous evidence of NBC weapons in Iraq, does anyone really think that Hussein does not have these capacities? Anyone who insists that weapons inspectors need to find evidence first is deluding himself: it's time to end that ridiculous charade and show who's number one again.