Andrew Sullivan really does have breathtaking
cheek. In the Sunday Times , he has the brass neck to accuse the Bush
administration of "incoherence" because they don't fancy taking on
Kim, when they did take on Saddam (disastrously).
Sullivan's piece is strongly suggestive of a lust for Korean blood. Kim is
a "genocidal, certifiably loopy dictator." North Korea "has launched
missiles aimed at the American homeland , has the potential
to murder millions in a country allied with the West, has constructed concentration
camps for dissidents, has starved thousands to death and is far further along
in the nuclear bomb-making process." It "has the potential to hand
such WMDs to terrorists and wreak havoc on the West."
It is obvious from Sullivan's piece that his position is that North Korea
should be further confronted, whether militarily or (initially) through sanctions,
as soon as possible. Although he stops short in the piece of openly advocating
a U.S. military assault (and even says he would "be largely persuaded"
by arguments that a "multilateral" approach to attacking the North
Koreans might work best), he stops at nothing in his fear-mongering about the
supposed dangers of leaving the North Korean regime unconfronted. Sullivan knows
he is in the right, and attempts by China and Russia to "block meaningful
action" concern him not a jot, except to reinforce his certainty that something
must be done by the U.S. Russia and China, of course, are merely motivated by
evil, pragmatic self-interest, in contrast to the morally elevated humanitarian
compassion of Sullivan and Western regimes (when they are agreeably aggressive
toward those he wants attacked, anyway).
Sullivan, of course, thought it was a great idea to invade Iraq. He subsequently
appeared to have been somewhat
chastened by the bloodbath that has resulted from that particular policy,
but in fact his regret was merely the tactical apology of the true ideologue.
Like Western communist apologists for the murderous crimes of Soviet Russia
and Maoist China, his unshakable ideology (Western liberal democracy) leaves
no room in his mind for any other conclusion than that it just wasn't done right
last time, whereas next time it will be.
Communism would have worked, you see, if it had been done properly. If only
it hadn't been corrupted by those pesky human factors – greedy kulaks, corrupt
Party members, Western sabotage, etc. Liberation and democratization would have
worked in Iraq if only the Bush administration had done it right, and of course
(in Sullivan's fervent imagination) it will be done right next time, whether
it is in Iran or North Korea. It only remains to be determined tactically whether
"liberation and democratization" should be imposed upon Iran and North
Korea by direct military invasion now, or following a period of ever tighter
confrontation (sanctions and other murderous bullying) to prepare the ground.
The Western communists were wrong, though. It wasn't just particular implementations
that failed in the case of communism. The pesky human factors that made it fail
weren't just particular bad circumstances for the particular attempts to create
communist societies. They were problems inherent in the ideology, and something
like them will bring down every attempt to establish a communist utopia. Similarly,
the attempt to bring about liberation and democracy at the point of Western
guns will almost invariably require massive violence by virtue of its very nature,
not merely as an unfortunate consequence of particular errors in its implementation.
Like all ideologues, though, Sullivan regards mass death as "a price
worth paying" for progress toward his particular promised land.
But Sullivan's lack of entitlement to criticize the Bush regime for incoherence
does not stem merely from his ideological blinders. The foolishness of his piece
lies most obviously in the inherent absurdity of his claim that there is a threat
from North Korea that requires action. In reality, North Korea, although highly
militarized, is a small, impoverished, Third World dictatorship that is comprehensively
outclassed, in technological and numerical terms, by the U.S. and its allies.
The U.S., on the other hand, currently spends almost as much on military force
as the rest of the world put together, and has enough nuclear weapons to destroy
the world many times over.
There are no conceivable circumstances whatsoever in which North Korea could
substantively attack the U.S., or any ally the U.S. chooses to shield, without
facing its own certain, immediate, and total destruction. There is no plausible
future scenario in which this situation could change.
Sullivan would have us believe, presumably, that for some reason Kim will
commit suicide merely to get in a blow against the U.S. or its allies. Needless
to say, he prefers not to discuss the precise chain of events by which this
will occur (in the absence of continuing U.S. aggression 
toward North Korea, that is). Rather, he makes dark hints by describing Kim
as "certifiably loopy," implying that he'll probably do it just because
he's crazy. This is a great way to avoid the need for explanation. Except, of
course, that Kim isn't "certifiably loopy" in the sense of being likely
to bring about his own immediate destruction by rank irrationality. The only
sense in which he is probably mentally unbalanced is the one that applies to
all those who seek power at any price, to the extent required to achieve national
leadership – which certainly applies to Blair and Bush. (Ironically, since Kim
inherited his position, that may apply less to him than to most world leaders).
A "certifiably loopy" national leader with so little regard for his
own and his nation's well-being that he might frivolously launch an attack against
the world's only superpower would, of course, soon be removed from power by
those around him, who certainly will not be similarly insane.
The only situation in which North Korea (or Iran, or Saddam's Iraq) might
attack the U.S. in the face of their own certain national destruction would
be in the case of utter desperation, having been driven to the wall by U.S.
economic and political pressure, or following an act of military aggression
doubtless mendaciously dressed up as a defensive "preemptive" attack .
It is up to the U.S. to make sure this doesn't happen (though in practice it
is highly unlikely the Chinese would allow it to, in the case of North Korea).
In the meantime, however, confrontation merely confirms to the North Korean
people that their government's claims of an external threat are true.
Sadly, the term "warmonger" has become rather difficult to use effectively,
having been largely discredited by the preceding set of universalist ideologues
too certain of their own moral rectitude to feel the need for honesty. It's
particularly sad because "warmonger" is the perfect term for Sullivan
and his ilk. For a useful antidote to the hysterical warmongering over perfectly
legitimate missile tests, note the responses of ordinary South Koreans recorded
in the L.A. Times .
Among the usual responses to pointing out the absence of threat from such
bogeyman nations as Iraq, Iran, and North Korea is to ask for an alternative
course of action to aggression (whether military or nonmilitary). Here, then,
is the simple policy solution to the "problem" of North Korea for
the U.S. president: do nothing. It's also known as masterly inactivity. In due
course, the nature of the North Korean regime will change, whether that change
is peaceful or violent. It will probably change a lot more quickly if North
Korea's economy has more wealth and wider links with the outside world, rather
than being further isolated by demonization and sanctions on top of the constraints
imposed by its own government. It will also help if Kim's attempts to seek nationalist
legitimacy by claiming an external threat aren't regularly demonstrated true
by Washington. In the meantime, North Korea isn't going to attack anybody so
long as Kim knows that the result would be his own destruction.
Dithering, This Dictator's Really Got WMDs," Sunday Times, July
2. A straightforward lie by Sullivan, this, which he repeats
later in the piece: "a nuclear-armed dictator fired failed missiles at
Hawaii." Much like the apparatchiks of the Blair regime, Sullivan evidently
considers himself fortified against ordinary ethical requirements by his (self-assessed)
moral superiority to the target of his enmity.
3. Reality check for Sullivan and his ilk: test-firing missiles
into the sea is not aggression. Seeking to acquire nuclear weapons is
not aggression. Calling for international sanctions to try to prevent
a country from exercising its sovereign right to develop weapons for self-defense
is aggression (albeit nonmilitary). Whipping up paranoia against a much
weaker nation is aggression (again, nonmilitary).
The U.S. and its apologists think that rules just don't apply to Washington.
The U.S. testing missiles and developing weapons is defensive, whereas other
nations doing the same is aggressive. The U.S. can make hostile statements about
other countries and it is mere diplomatic or political rhetoric, whereas other
countries doing the same is clear evidence of rogue-nation status. The U.S.
can spend vast amounts to destabilize other nations' governments and seek to
economically strangle those it dislikes, and that's just promoting liberation
and democracy. All this is just simple hypocrisy.
4. The arguable exception to the above is the case of Afghanistan
under the Taliban, and its supposed conspiracy with al-Qaeda over the 9/11 attacks.
This, in any case, is entirely sui generis. There is no plausible reason
to suppose the Afghan precedent has any relevance to North Korea or Iran.
Koreans Take North's Missiles in Relative Stride," L.A. Times,
July 9, 2006:
"'You'd be surprised, but nobody is really talking about North Korea and
the missiles,' Bae said. 'They don't care. They're more worried about Japan
than North Korea.' In fact, the big concern in recent days has been a war of
words with Japan over a South Korean ship that conducted an oceanic survey of
a disputed cluster of rocks known here as Dokdo, off the east coast. And the
big summer blockbuster film here is expected to be Hanbando ('Korean
Peninsula'), opening next weekend. Its futuristic plot pits the two Koreas against
Japanese forces who are trying to stop their reunification. At Bae's restaurant,
customer Kwon Jeong-eon said that North Korea's missile tests would help the
two Koreas defend themselves. 'I'd like to see the North Koreans become stronger,
especially for when we are united,' said Kwon, a homemaker in her 40s who had
just polished off a bowl of the slippery buckwheat noodles known as nengmyeon.
In the event of a war between North Korea and the United States or Japan, she
said, 'we would of course be on the same side as the North Koreans.' Among student
groups, the views were more extreme. 'North Korea's missiles are the last fortress
of peace to deter a U.S. invasion. We should celebrate,' a group called the
Citizens Movement for the Withdrawal of U.S. Forces in Korea proclaimed on its
Web site. …
"'What is scary to us is that the Bush administration will start something and
then the North Koreans, figuring they have nothing to lose, will attack us,'
said Park Kyong-ah, a 36-year-old social worker who describes herself as a conservative."
Also note the South Korean government's response to Japan's saber-rattling
May Postpone North Korea Resolution," Seattle Post-Intelligencer,
July 10, 2006:
"South Korea, not a council member, has not publicly taken a position
on the resolution, but on Sunday Seoul rebuked Japan for its outspoken criticism
of the tests.
"'There is no reason to fuss over this from the break of dawn like Japan,
but every reason to do the opposite,' a statement from President Roh Moo-hyun's
office said, suggesting that Tokyo was contributing to tensions on the Korean