Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Beacon No. 97: Nukes in North Asia


Soft power rests on saying you’re going to do something, then doing it; “credibility” is a near-synonym. In politics, this means that strong words need to be backed up by strong actions.

How unfortunate for U.S. soft power that the Bush administration has used up its supply of strong words. The Kim regime in Pyongyang has now called the president’s bluff, revealing that the U.S. has no good hand—and never had one—in North Asia.

There is some question as to whether the Kilju blast was a nuclear fizzle, indicating Pyongyang hasn’t mastered nuclear technology, or a very large conventional explosion meant to mimic a small nuke. (No one dares contemplate that North Korea might have started its nuclear age with the kind of small, technically complex nuclear device that only the world’s top nuclear powers can produce.)

But it doesn’t matter whether the North Koreans have actually exploded a weak nuclear weapon or not. They say they have; the world can’t afford to ignore that, any more than Arab regimes can afford to ignore the implied Israeli nuclear capability; and the U.S. literally has way to back up word choices like “intolerable,” “unacceptable,” “will not tolerate” and most recently, “grave threat.”

Bomb North Korea’s nuclear installations? Pyongyang immediately hits Seoul with its in-place artillery batteries.

Tighten trade sanctions? On a starving, already-isolated country the Wall Street Journal likes to call the “hermit kingdom”?

UN Security Council condemnation? The UN and its resolutions aren't tall enough for this ride.

Kim has proven that it’s possible to thwart the international non-proliferation regime simply by calling the West’s bluff before the West has a chance to do the same.

What do you want to bet that Iran is digging a cavern somewhere in its outback, one just big enough to hold the estimated 550 tons of TNT that generated the Kilju blast? And that there's about to be a spot shortage of high explosive throughout Asia Minor?

If a big underground explosion is all it takes to get the international community off your back forever, you can bet that Tehran—which, after all, governs the area in which chess originated—will join the “nuclear” club real soon.

No comments:

Site Meter