Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Pick Your Poison

To me it seems like six of one, a half dozen of the other, but over at TNR online, Joshua Kurlantzick argues that a nuclear North Korea is worse than a nuclear Iran. Since right now we look more and more to be in a position to stop neither, I'm pretty certain that this is not a reassuring distinction. So my question to the Bush administration is this: Weapons of Mass Destruction are still a bad thing, right? Or are they just another rhetorical arrow for the quiver? Then again, this administration is long on what it seems to think is good rhetoric and rather short on competent action.


Cram said...

Unfortunately, I don’t have access to the article, but without reading it, I already agree with the premise. Although obviously both scenarios are bad, an Iranian bomb is far less frightening to me than a North Korean one. North Korea is run by a totalitarian lunatic whose historic business has been selling weapons to whomever wants them without fear of retaliation or punishment. Because it is centered around a single individual, there is truly no telling what might happen and it is almost a certainty that NK would sell them to the highest bidder. Iran, while still bad, is a different story altogether.

Although I am not as optimistic as Christopher de Bellaigue is in his Foreign Policy article (which you can read for free here: http://www.keepmedia.com/pubs/ForeignPolicy/2005/05/01/820996), I do think that despite the rhetoric coming from its fanatical president, Iran has behaved in ways that make sense from a realist point of view and that should be reassuring.

montana urban legend said...

I think retaliating against N. Korea would be a bit less problematic than retaliating against many others (or few others, as my short list would include pretty much.... Iran - and even there I don't think conflict is so likely as the state of cold war-esque saber rattling that seems to characterize the current situation).

Our problem w/N. Korea seems to be mainly with their actions as a proliferator. It's hard to see how anyone can take them seriously as an international player, which is what Iran aspires to in these actions, along with further consolidation of their regime by playing nuclear as a resounding matter of national pride. But that is easier to make an issue of than rebuking N. Korea for proliferation - which, depending on how openly irrational they act, can be somewhat modified by restraint in the form of sticks from their sponsor, China.

montana urban legend said...

I guess what I'm sloppily trying to articulate is that it is trickier to eke out a successful stance against trafficking arms than it would be against brandishing them - even if in Iran's case there's a chance it may all just end up being for show.

dcat said...

The unspoken problem is that by screwing up so badly in Iraq, we are left with almost no allies there, and we are incapable of reacting strongly even if need be. Imagine if Iran gets a nuke and starts threatening to use it against Israel. How will we even be able to begin to mobilize to prevent such a thing? That is farfetched, I know, but not impossible. the larger point is, with iran, with North Korea, but also with Sudan, we have backed ourselves into a corner where action is nearly impossible.

basically, bth mismanagement and a lack of vision is going to hamstring us for the foreseeable future.