I doubt anyone can truly claim to be shocked by North Korea’s atomic bomb test on Sunday. After all, it’s been largely a matter taken on faith since at least 2000 that Kim Jong Il had or was developing nuclear weaponry. While Bush’s Asix of Evil was only so much empty-headed political rhetoric designed to reinforce his paperback fiction view of the world, the regime of North Korea and its aims are deadly serious.
However, as with nearly every international crisis of the last six years, the Republicans in Washington and their mouthpieces are hard at work building North Korea’s actions into a roiling thunderhead of pants-wetting terror, cunningly brewed to send average conservatives screaming in terror to the polls in November. Fox “News” today was a veritable smorgasbord of unearthly chills. Shiny CGI missiles exploding over California, launched by the platform-heeled tyrant of Pyongyang but handily intercepted by that most glorious of all Republican boondoggles: the missile defense shield. Guest after guest postulated about the possibility of military action, shoving aside all obligation and consequences of that “other war” in a place, unlike North Korea, where weapons of mass destruction don’t actually exist. The fear and hysteria was palpable, as were the furtive whispered prayers by the rightwing punditry for a new war that would be everything the last isn’t. Never mind that our war with North Korea never really ended, nor the pervasive experience of mankind that demonstrates how war is never what politicians and pundits plan it to be. Never mind any of that because fear sells and fills ballot boxes.
As usual, the reality on the ground is not quite the same as the garish bleating of the conservative media sheep or their crooked GOP shepherds. North Korea is dangerous, certainly, but much more so to its neighbors than to the U.S. First of all, any hypothetical that demonstrates a North Korean missile attack on the west coast of the United States is assuming an entire library of facts not in evidence, the chief of which being a North Korean missile capable of delivering such a blow. Dr. David C. Wright, writing for the Union of Concerned Scientists, had the following to say about North Korea’s missile technology:
Assessments of North Korea’s military capability often portray North Korea as possessing a long-range nuclear missile capability, or as able to rapidly acquire one. This is not true.
North Korea has short-range variants of the Scud missile, with ranges up to 500-600 kilometers for a payload of 500 kilograms, that are well tested.
Of course, North Korea has, since that article was written, tested some long-range missiles. The results of those tests from May of this year, are telling: the long range Taepo Dong missile failed 35 seconds after launch. The bottom line is that while North Korea is certainly a danger to its neighbors and a destabilizing force in the region it, like every other enemy Bush chooses to name, is not a clear and present danger to the United States.
Which is actually not a surprise, given that Bush’s treatment of North Korea has been seriously at odds with his fiery rhetoric. For example, a summary by the Congressional Research Service from March 2003, lists the following as the Bush administration’s primary policy position on North Korea’s nuclear program:
(1) Continuing priority to Iraq: President Bush reportedly has said that he does not want two simultaneous crises. U.S. officials say they will rely on diplomacy and expect diplomacy to run well into 2003. They argue that North Korea’s actions do not constitute a crisis.
A rather muted reaction, given that North Korea is a much-ballyhooed member of Bush’s Axis of Evil and, unfortunately, actually does have the kinds of weapons programs that were used erroneously in selling the invasion of Iraq. It’s ironic, in an “Oops, there goes the planet” sort of way. North Korea may not be the doomsday army ready to trample apple pie and the American flag into the ground (Fox reserves that designation for Iran) but it is certainly many magnitudes a greater threat to the world than Iraq ever was. For all that Bush claims his job is protecting the American people (along with lecturing us like we’re all as stupid as he), apparently Bush doesn’t take his “job” very seriously at all. Almost as if he were nothing but an empty suit designed to raise campaign contributions for his father’s political allies…but I’ve said too much!
In all seriousness, a rekindling of the Korean War becomes a very real possibility after Sunday’s test. The drumbeat for war is page one of the GOP political hymnal and it looks to be a very ugly election year for God’s Own Party. Will it be the end of the world again, as Fox and its half-wit analysts claim? I hope not. I hope it’s all just more fear mongering by the Republicans in a vain hope to paper over their gross incompetence and ethical lassitude during the past 6 years. In any case, there’s no need for the GOP to scare us any further; just knowing that America’s fate in this time of crisis is in the hands of George W. Bush, Condoleeza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld is enough to tremble the stoutest heart.