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January 08, 2003

Fight or Flight #2

Fred Caplan in an article The Unspeakable Truth :What Bush dares not say about North Korea. ponders the differences between the US response to N. Korea and to Iraq.

Some excerpts:
We're going to war against Iraq because we can; we're not going to war against North Korea because we can't.

Of course, the argument could be made that North Korea shows what could happen if Saddam is not toppled and proceeds to build these weapons himself. We are essentially being deterred by Kim Jong-il. Do we want to sit around for a few years so Saddam Hussein can also deter us and use his own arsenal as a protective cover for aggression?

The latter issue [Saudi Arabia] constitutes an additional unstated argument for invading Iraq. Though few officials speak of it, even off the record, there is a train of thought, in certain quarters of the Pentagon and the State Department, that large numbers of U.S. soldiers should not remain based in Saudi Arabia for much longer. Our military presence provides a handy target for terrorists (rhetorically, if not physically) and aligns us too tightly with a corrupt kingdom from which we might wisely begin to seek distance. However, it would be unsafe and unsettling, for the entire region, to pull out of Saudi Arabia while Saddam Hussein is still in power. Saddam must go so that we can go. This may be the best rationale for "regime change" in Iraq, although, for obvious reasons, you will never hear any official articulate it.

This rationale also marks Iraq as a unique case, which therefore allows North Korea to be considered as a unique case as well. Which means policy in one place doesn't necessarily have anything to do with policy in the other place—though it would be nice, in each place, if Bush did present a coherent policy.

Ted Belman