SCORE ONE FOR BILL CLINTON and Jimmy Carter.
As of this writing in the early morning hours of October 9, President Bush is expected to announce that North Korea has conducted an underground nuclear test. Unlike the abortive launch in July, last night’s explosion netted the Stalinist gulag valuable information and packed a lethal impact. At 9:35 p.m. EST, the U.S. Geological Survey measured a 4.2 magnitude disturbance approximately 240 miles northeast of Pyongyang.
The Left quickly attempted the shopworn tactic of pinning the blame on the Bush administration’s rhetoric or unwillingness to bribe Kim Jong-il. Early this morning, Joseph Cirincione of the George Soros-funded Center for American Progress told CNN, “They had numerous opportunities to negotiate a deal…They did not.” He concluded, “I think the North Koreans came to that conclusion: that there is no deal to be had with this administration, and they decided they had nothing to lose.”
By way of commentary, the popular left-wing blog The Daily Kos quoted Selig S. Harrison from the international edition of Newsweek:
North Korea's missile tests in July and its threat last week to conduct a nuclear test explosion at an unspecified date “in the future” were directly provoked by the U.S. sanctions. In North Korean eyes, pressure must be met with pressure to maintain national honor and, hopefully, to jump-start new bilateral negotiations with Washington that could ease the financial squeeze. When I warned against a nuclear test, saying that it would only strengthen opponents of negotiations in Washington, several top officials replied that “soft” tactics had not worked and they had nothing to lose.
The Kos feels no need to explain which U.S. provocation justified the birth of the North Korean nuclear program in 1994 – during Bill Clinton’s presidency – nor that the DPRK’s “‘soft’ tactics” entailed firing a missile over the Japanese mainland and threatening to strike the United States.
Worse yet, Kim Jong-il’s methods have paid off handsomely. Each act of brinksmanship has brought cash, supplies, oil, nuclear reactors, or additional concessions from the West. Within two months of the Taepo Dong missile scraping across Nippon in August 1998, President Clinton sent North Korea a multi-million dollar aid package and reopened bilateral negotiations.
The Dear Leader’s nuclear test could not have occurred without Bill Clinton’s decade of dalliance. Clinton could have obliterated the Yongbyon reactor with one strike when he first learned of North Korea’s covert nuclear program in 1994. Instead, he allowed Jimmy Carter’s private foreign policy to preempt him. Upon completing the “Agreed Framework” in 1994, Clinton stated, “This agreement will help achieve a vital and long-standing American objective: an end to the threat of nuclear proliferation on the Korean peninsula.” We now know the $4.6 billion bribe gave the Communists the two nuclear reactors they used to create their current arsenal.
If the Left’s policies allowed Stalinists to arm, they left Americans defenseless. The Democratic Party has defined its defense policy in opposition to the concept of defense. For more than two decades, the Democratic Party has worked in concert to block any missile defense program and castigated those who tried to shield the United States from a doomsday device. When President Reagan announced the Strategic Defense Initiative in 1983, Ted Kennedy promptly denounced it as “Star Wars.” The New York Times called it “a projection of fantasy into policy,” and other outlets fretted the abandonment of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) would encourage the United States to pre-emptively attack the Soviet Union. Bill Clinton pledged his support for a missile shield in theory during his 1996 re-election campaign, then withheld critical funds and scheduled deployments in his second term. When George W. Bush pulled out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty – negotiated in the 1970’s with a nation that no longer exists – the Left branded him a “unilateralist.” During the 2004 campaign, John Kerry adviser Rand Beers said North Korea was able to acquire a nuclear weapon, not because naïve leftists insisted on bribing its playboy despot, but because “Bush and his closest advisers were preoccupied with missile defense.” Twenty-three years after President Reagan’s vision of “rendering these nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete,” the United States remains vulnerable to madmen like Kim Jong-il…or whoever purchases his wares. Ironically, the Left’s got it wrong on SDI twice: the mere idea of missile defense caused the Soviet Union to spend itself into bankruptcy, and the fact that it remains merely an idea emboldens tinhorn dictators to engage in nuclear blackmail.
The Left has specialized in sidelining those who would conduct a vigorous foreign policy, so impugning this president’s integrity as to render anything he says suspect. When the media dubbed the assessment of every intelligence agency in the world that Saddam Hussein possessed WMDs “wrong,” it could not merely acknowledge that statesmen must act on the best information available to them at the time. Instead, they had to brand the commander-in-chief a “liar” and “fraud.” Ted Kennedy famously thundered, “Week after week after week after week, we were told lie after lie after lie after lie.” Congressional Democrats demanded an investigation into whether President Bush coerced intelligence agents into “sexing up” Iraqi intelligence. (Multiple reports proved he did not.) Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid then shut down the Senate last November 1st to demand investigations into whether the Bush administration twisted intel ex post facto. Sen. Pat Roberts’ Senate Intelligence Committee recently released two documents that exonorated him on that point, as well. Yet the current cover story of Mother Jones magazine is, “Lie by Lie: How Our Leaders Used Fear and Falsehood to Dupe us Into a Mideast Quagmire: A Timeline.” Having claimed Bush “lied” about Iraqi WMDs, he finds himself circumscribed in dealing with other rogue regimes; after all, who would follow a “liar” into war twice?
Even this has been insufficient for today’s partisans, who demand Bush’s full demonization. Comparisons to Hitler early became ubiquitous. Al Gore bellowed, “He buhtrayeed Amurrucuh”; Howard Dean referred to Bush-43 as “Big Brother”; and Air America, the British Guardian newspaper, and a new motion picture have pined for his assassination. If Kim Jong-il is insane, in the Left’s view, he is not materially worse than our president.
Not all blame can be placed on the Left, though. This administration’s foreign policy has sent an uncertain message in its second term. The Bush team has offered Kim Jong-il bilateral relations, the Dear Leader’s penultimate goal. (The ultimate goal being U.S. aid. Such prominent Democrats as John Kerry and Hillary Clinton also advocate rewarding Korean belligerence with direct talks.) Having dealt with the result of the Clinton-Carter Agreed Framework of 1994, President Bush offered Iran essentially the same deal. At stages, the war in Iraq has been carried out half-heartedly: backing off Fallujah, allowing anti-Americans prominent governing positions, doing little to stop supplies and terrorists from crossing the Syrian and Iranian borders, etc. There are even reports Yemen “will generate power through nuclear energy in cooperation with the United States and Canada.”
And there are troubling signs of a creeping failure of nerve. Chief of Staff Andy Card, brought in to “shake things up,” has publicly advocated firing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in favor of James A. Baker III. Jim “F-ck the Jews” Baker’s Iraq Study Group will soon release a study reported to call, in broad strokes, for the president to back down in Iraq, “the central front in the War on Terror.”
Today’s crisis has also raised eyebrows. According to early leaks of today’s UN Security Council proposal, the administration’s requested sanctions would exclude China’s oil trade, which provides some 85 percent of Pyongyang’s fuel.
The Bush administration could present a robust plan of action to the United Nations Security Council today as its needed rebound. China will likely veto any measure to curtail its oil exports, but the U.S. could support Japan’s desires to build an appropriate defense. We could and should do the same for Taiwan, as well. In addition to providing a counterweight to Pyongyang, this would apply long-term geopolitical pressure to Beijing. The president would also be well advised to use the crisis to push through greater funding for missile defense, the only ultimate hope of “rendering these nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete.”
Or he could acquiesce to Foggy Bottom’s wisdom and issue yet another empty threat or ineffective sanctions package, followed by offers of diplomatic carrots, which would reinforce the growing perception that, rhetoric aside, the United States is too paralyzed by internal debate to prevent apocalyptic madmen from acquiring nuclear weapons. Like a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq, backing down before Kim Jong-il’s pressure will send a clear message to people like Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales, and other aspiring tyrants.
Before making such a move, President Bush must remember there is something worse than meeting the advance of evil with inaction: that is resisting evil only strenuously enough to give the enemy the thrill of victory.