April 25, 2003

North Korea, of course….

North Korea could nuke California – but do we really have to cite recent polls showing the increasing popularity of the GOP in the Golden State to deter the President from writing us off?

The North Korean challenge to this administration far surpasses anything we have faced in the post-cold war era. The widely hailed talks that supposedly signified the North Koreans kowtowing to the U.S. in the wake of the Iraq invasion proved to be a new platform for the harlequinesque Kim Jong Il's nuclear brinkmanship. Not content to merely wield a nuclear stick, the Stalinist troglodytes of Pyongyang openly threaten to export their nukes far and wide, as the Washington Post reports:

"At one point, one U.S. official said, Li Gun, deputy director of American affairs for North Korea's Foreign Ministry, pulled aside Assistant Secretary of State James A. Kelly and in effect told him: 'We've got nukes. We can't dismantle them. It's up to you whether we do a physical demonstration or transfer them.'"

A physical demonstration – on Tokyo? Or on U.S. troops in South Korea?

The North Korean jack-in-the-box is popping up just as the neoconservatives, pumped up with testosterone-laced triumphalism, are completing their conquest of the American foreign policy establishment and celebrating our Pyrrhic victory in Iraq. In other words, it couldn't have come at a more dangerous time.

The illusion of victory is not yet dissipated in the minds of our policymakers, and their deluded camp followers in the media: they really believe their own rhetoric about spreading "democracy" by the sword, and their smug complacency is unassailable. But while the neocons rhapsodize on about the glories of "democratic" imperialism, and engage in an orgy of self-congratulation, the real consequences of their policies – and the insufferable arrogance with which they are enunciated – threaten the peace in a way we have not seen since the Cuban missile crisis.

The eruption of the North Korean crisis into nearly full-blown proportions underscores the central objection to the bellicose policies and rhetoric of this administration: they haven't made us any safer. If the purpose of government is to protect its citizens from harm, then the "axis of evil" bombast emanating from Washington is, by any measure, an abject failure. There are some 30,000 American hostages to nuclear blackmail south of the demilitarized zone, and more in Japan. I wouldn't want to be a U.S. soldier stationed at Okinawa right now. And I don't feel much safer in California, come to think of it….

A strategic doctrine that put America first, and not some abstract idea, would never have left American GIs hanging in South Korea – or Japan, for that matter – exposed to the shifting moods of Kim Jong Il. The Korean stand-off is a relic of the cold war, one that should have melted away with the last of the Marxist frost. But the Bushies nixed a deal based on peaceful, voluntary re-unification and instead opted for confrontation. And now they have it….

The U.S. was counting on China to broker an agreement that would allow the North Koreans to save face, but the quarantining of the Chinese delegates at the talks, supposedly due to the SARS scare, is not a hopeful sign. In addition, a major intelligence failure – one that may dwarf that of 9/11 in terms of the death toll – seems to have occurred. Recall that we were told by this administration that Pyongyang was on the verge of churning out nukes, and now they are telling us the process is already begun. Not only that, but Pyongyang is hinting strongly that a test of their nuclear capability is imminent.

The U.S. has developed a plan to bomb North Korea's nuclear facilities, which just goes to show that Kim Jong Il is not the only lunatic involved in this crisis scenario. As United Press International reports:

"The Pentagon hardliners said to be behind the plan reportedly believe the precision strikes envisaged in it would not lead to North Korea initiating a general war it would be certain to lose."

That is one pretty huge assumption – and the question is, how much is this administration willing to bet on it?

This crisis is firmly rooted in the interventionist foreign policy of the United States, which mandated a troop presence in South Korea long after both sides of the DMZ began to cry out for rapprochement and normalization of relations. That particular outpost of empire should have been abandoned the moment the Berlin Wall fell, but it was not to be. As we postured and preened as the new hegemon on the block, humiliating the Arab world and threatening Syria and Iran, the North Korean crisis was put on the backburner. Now the pot is not just boiling over, but is looking like it's going to explode.

War on the Korean peninsula may be unavoidable, given the ideological orientation of this administration and the peculiarities of this particular moment in history. A rational American leadership would recognize the grim reality and beat a strategic retreat. What good are American troops doing in South Korea – or in Japan, for that matter? The answer is: none. Withdrawal of all U.S. troops from North Asia is no longer an increasingly popular policy proposal – it is an absolute necessity.

But more needs to be done. The U.S. has a responsibility to the people of South Korea, and Japan, to ensure the peace: ex-White House speechwriter David Frum's "axis of evil" phraseology started this, and there is only one way to finish it that won't involve the deaths of hundreds of thousands, possibly millions. What possible objection could any rational human being have to the U.S. signing a non-aggression pact with Pyongyang, pledging no first strike on North Korean soil?

The U.S. has announced a policy of preemption, a doctrine that enshrines our role as the world's policeman in holy non-negotiable writ. But North Korea is calling our bluff – and it is a bluff. It just isn't possible that our rulers are ready to go to war with another nuclear power, however nascent, in order to prop up their imperial pretensions – is it?

There is only one way out. Washington needs to negotiate directly with the man in charge: Kim Jong Il. Colin Powell is right not to rule out a visit to Damascus, but I say: Pyongyang first, if you please. The "more humble foreign policy" George W. Bush touted as a candidate needs to make a last minute reappearance, and quick, if catastrophe is to be narrowly avoided. As hard as that will be for our vainglorious neocon policymakers to swallow, perhaps a cold draught of humility will wake them up to the danger of having to answer for losing Korea, Japan – and Los Angeles.


Murray Rothbard was not only a social philosopher and economist whose ideas provided a sound basis for libertarianism, he was also a talented humorist – and a short play, "Mozart Was A Red," recently posted on Lew Rockwell's site, had me rolling on the floor when I first read it. A short introduction by yours truly puts the subject – the Ayn Rand cult – in context. Check it out.

The foam-flecked Stephen Schwartz, a.k.a. Suleyman Ahmad, a.k.a. "Comrade Sandalio," has vomited up yet another screed supposedly linking me to people I've never met nor heard of, and causes I've never embraced, thereby proving a) that David Horowitz will post any libel against me on his website, provided it is scurrilous enough, and b) that Schwartz/Suleyman/Sandalio is a danger to himself and others when he isn't taking his meds. As an example of unintentional humor (the best kind), Schwartz's bile reveals more about the author than about his ostensible subject.

Schwartz's piece was posted a few days ago, and this morning there is yet more, this time apparently from one of his lobotomized interns, purporting to link me to an obscure website that pushes neo-Nazism and Satanism (!) The piece also falsely claims that I am a "columnist" for one of several websites claiming to be the "real" "Pravda." For the record: I have no connection to either site. But the degeneration of Horowitz's "Frontpage" website into a compendium of outright slander, without even a minimal regard for facts, is worth noting as a reflection of his very public slide down the slippery slope into sheer lunacy. Apparently he believes that any methods, no matter how foul or obviously deranged, are justified in order to smear those he perceives as his enemies. Horowitz's evolution into the Julius Streicher of the War Party, however, discredits only himself.

– Justin Raimondo

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Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com. He is also the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (with an Introduction by Patrick J. Buchanan), (1993), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against U.S. Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He is an Adjunct Scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Libertarian Studies, and writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard.

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