Thursday, January 25, 2007

Ultraviolence. (Even Apocalypse is Misleading)

Think back to a much simpler time in this world—no, not your childhood, that is a bit too far. Think back to a time before we were bogged down in Iraq. I know it is hard, but I’m sure we all remember it at least faintly.

In 2002, during his third State of the Union Address, George W. Bush called Iraq, Iran and North Korea the “Axis of Evil”. President Bush must have thought he was being pretty witty, playing on past terms to tug at the hearts and minds of his compatriots. The old adage that history should never repeat itself should have been heeded by President Bush, though. Even if hindsight it 20/20, I firmly believe that Iraq should have never been invaded for a second time. North Korea should have been the focus from day one.

There are myriad reasons that President Bush should have ignored Iraq (at least right away, anyway). Saddam had already been checked in the early ‘90s once (remember?) and was left with a fraction of the power that he previously had. We wasted effort going into Iraq to attack a man and a country that had essentially become the Middle Eastern equivalent of Cuba. Saddam made a lot of threats and talked really big, but he had no means of doing anything beyond his own borders—though Israel felt threatened by Iraq’s SCUD missiles, we have yet to see them in action. Saddam would have used them if he had them (or if they worked) to try and repel the American advances in Iraq in 2003. He didn't.

North Korea, though, is in a geographic position that should make President Bush quake ever second of his life. Not only can North Korea’s troops push into South Korea within hours on foot, but they can also bombard Japan, who is arguably our second biggest ally on the planet (and who is left without a standing army as a result of an addendum to their constitution done after World War II).

President Bush should have jumped when he heard that the North Koreans were working on a nuclear programme. Yes, a nuclear warhead placed on a missile powerful enough to drop it on Seoul, Tokyo, Honolulu or Los Angeles in the hands of a despot is scary in itself, but think about what that idea forces countries in the region to think: that a nuclear holocaust is constantly imminent. What are these countries going to do other than to try and arm themselves? India and Pakistan, who are constantly bickering over land rights, have both armed in the wake of hearing about North Korea working on their own nuclear programme. China is undoubtedly doing the same. Sure, we have Iran working on one in the Middle East, but the proximity of all of these countries in East Asia who have or are working on nuclear warheads is frightening. What was President Bush’s response? Let’s go to war in Iraq, boys…oh, and let’s try and build a missile shield over the entire Pacific and tell South Korea and Japan that it will work when it is needed, even though it has never completed a successful test once!

By going after North Korea, Iran would have also been frightened enough to want to come to the table. What did seeing bombs over Baghdad make Tehran do? Work even harder on their nuclear program. Iraq was never going to be an example because Saddam Hussein was in a different stage of his rule than the regimes in North Korea and Iran were. Again, Saddam Hussein was an old man who was clearly in his lame duck years—much like Fidel Castro. North Korea and Iran are teenagers, pushing the boundaries and rocking the boat. Seeing the “old man” go down is only going to make the teenagers fight even harder to show the changing of the guard has indeed taken place.

I am not saying that we should have attacked North Korea, but we should have placed our diplomatic attention there before we focused on Iraq. It is very encouraging to hear that the US and North Korea are talking privately in Berlin, but this should have been done before Iraq, and if it was, I believe that the Iranian problem would already have been solved.