Tuesday, October 10, 2006
I don't usually do politics here, so if you want a reasoned, geopolitical analysis, please go elsewhere. But a few thoughts strike me about the news that North Korea has nukes.
1. When I was a teenager, I used to wear a CND badge, even go on occasional marches. "Ah, but if we didn't have nuclear weapons," said older, wiser, more expensively dressed people, "we'd be at the mercy of the countries that do." Could it not be that Kim Jong-il has been reading old speeches by Thatcher and Reagan and everybody else who poured scorn on unilateralism a quarter-century ago? Could it not be that, like any leader, whether loony dictator (which he is) or altruistic friend of the people, he's just protecting his strategic interests? Well, people, this is the multilateralism that was the bedrock of Western defence strategy throughout the 1980s. Mutually Assured Destruction, they called it back then. You like?
2. George W Bush, in his 2002 State of the Union address, identified North Korea as part of an "axis of evil". Wouldn't it have been terribly embarrassing if the US invaded another country on the basis of WMDs that it didn't have? Surely Kim, like Ahmadinejad of Iran, is only trying to live up to his advertising?
3. The North Koreans have been entirely open in their nuclear plans. They withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. They said they were going to develop nuclear weapons; they then said they were going to test one. They did it. Compare this with the Israelis, who still won't admit that they've got them.
4. Can someone come up with an objective, globally applicable criterion for deciding which countries are allowed to possess nuclear weapons, and which aren't? "He's the kind of guy that Dick Cheney might pick as a hunting buddy" isn't good enough, although it is appropriately ambiguous.
None of this is a defence of the Stalinist hellhole that is North Korea, or its mad dwarf of a leader. I don't want North Korea to have nuclear weapons. It's a bad thing. But seriously, once all the indignation and neocon willy-waving has cooled down, what are you going to do about it? To bomb Pyongyang now would either provoke World War III; or prove that all the arguments that underpinned the Cold War, and the geopolitical status quo thereafter, are less substantial and convincing than Kim Jong-il's Eraserhead hair.
PS: Rather more informed comment from Dan Plesch in The Guardian and Richard Lloyd Parry in The Times.