It appears based on news reports out early this morning that North Korea has carried through with its pledge to test a nuclear weapon.
There will of course be sanctions voted on the hard line Stalinst regime by the U.N. Security Council.
I'd like to make a number of observations.
1. The sanctions won't amount to anything. Most of the world already conducts very little trade with North Korea, and as it is the people there are starving because the government prioritizes long range missile and nuclear weapons development ahead of food. The only country that could really hurt North Korea in terms of sanctions is China, but China won't because 1) the old line communist regime on its Manchurian border is less of a threat to China politically than a democracy would be there, and 2) serious sanctions would send a flood of refugees into China, which the Chinese don't need.
2. The North Koreans once again show the U.S. to be impotent. We can scold them, but we can't do anything about them militarily. True, there are some good reasons for that and they predate the Bush administration (including the fact that the North Koreans have 10,000 artillery pieces trained on Seoul that could all but obliterate the South Korean capital within minutes if we attacked them, and also the fact that the last time the U.S. invaded North Korea the Chinese counterattacked with 2 million troops, and the possibility that history could repeat itself has to enter into any U.S. military calculation.) However, that said, the failure to respond militarily to North Korea helps radical Islamicists who suggest that the U.S. is only interested in making war upon Muslim countries (and in particular Muslim countries with large oil reserves, as in Iraq and Iran.) It does not matter if the Islamicists are right about that or not. That is how it is read in the Muslim world, and that is how they pitch it. It also points out how thinly stretched our military is, so that we can't even threaten to deploy enough troops to the region to make the North Koreans break a sweat because we don't have them available.
3. It is laudible to attempt to 'keep the nuclear genie in the bottle,' but let's be honest-- it left the bottle years ago. For us to think that technology that we developed sixty years ago is somehow inaccessible to other countries is to delude ourselves. Not that we shouldn't continue to make the effort to make it difficult for countries to obtain and trade nuclear technology, parts and fuel, but we have to be realistic and acknowlege that it will happen. It is happening, maybe even in some countries where we've never suspected it, and it will continue to happen no matter how hard we try. On my second ever blog post, On nuclear proliferation and Iran, I dealt with this and suggested that we move the 'line in the sand,' which has been made a joke out of repeatedly by the rising tide of nuclear proliferation to a higher 'line in the sand,' in which we pledge to retaliate militarily against any nation that USES a nuke (as opposed just to building one). This post was written before the continuing failures in Iraq made it clear that a war against the U.S. is no longer to be feared as a deterrent as it once was, but if we could get other countries to go along with it, so that any nation that actually used a nuclear weapon would immediately be at war with all of the nations that signed on to this 'new line,' (with luck the five permanent members of the security council though that might be hard) it could have the potential to hold firm.
4. Given the availability of nukes in the world, we have to follow the recommendations of the 9/11 commission and inspect 100% of cargo containers coming into the country. Right now, only 2% are inspected. Yet this is the most likely scenario for a nuclear attack in the U.S. I'm not saying we should discount the possiblity of a nuclear missile strike on our territory from, say, North Korea (missile defense being one of the few issues in which I've reversed my position from where it was just a few years ago, in light of small rogue states which may be less rational than were the Soviets,) but I do think that we have to focus more on smaller weapons which a single person can transport (and which, unlike a crude ICBM, can with 100% accuracy be guided to their exact target before detonation.)
5. We also have to redouble our efforts to catch and get rid of the leadership of al-Qaeda. Unlike the various small disorganized cells around the world, the leadership (likely still) possesses the kind of cash that could get the attention of the North Koreans or other potential sellers. Obviously if bin Laden or one of his senior leadership were to arrange such a deal and obtain a nuke, there is little doubt that they, being no more at danger for it than they are now, would in fact use it.
6. And finally, don't panic. We had nuclear armed opponents during the Cold War. But we survived that. We did it by appealing to the people in those countries, not by military force, but by the advantages of our system. It took a long time, but eventually it worked. Like I wrote in a post not so long ago, also about Iran, in contrast to ineffective sanctions, trade with them until they can't stand it any longer.
we have the perfect weapon to deal with Tehran. The same weapons that brought down the thousands of nukes in the former Soviet Union, and the same weapons that we haven't used against North Korea or Cuba (hint: alone among old line traditional communist societies, they still stand.)
Disney. McDonalds. Hillary Duff. MTV.
And with products, inevitably follow ideas.
I'm surprised conservatives (who are still railing for an invasion of Iran, as if we have some secret armies somewhere that are just waiting for the command) don't see this. If anyone would see it, I'd expect it to be conservatives.
In North Korea, millions of people are oppressed and have no freedom, no food, in fact pretty much nothing at all. So I'd think this would work just as well (if not better) with North Korea than it would with Iran.
Cross posted at Night Birds Fountain