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June 18, 2006

When Intimidation Backfires

By Neil the Ethical Werewolf

You get these right-wingers claiming that the American demonstration of "resolve" is a good consequence of the Iraq War, the idea apparently being that we'll be better able to intimidate bad countries into changing their ways.  If we actually were getting these benefits, I'd be impressed -- there's plenty of ways I'd want to make North Korea and Iran change their behavior.  But look what's actually happened.   North Korea looks to be test-launching long-range missiles, breaking a moratorium on launches that started in 1999, and Iran has moved ahead with its nuclear program.  There's still plenty of hope for diplomacy in Iran's case, but we're in a much worse bargaining position than we were in three years ago. 

Rather than frightening other countries into knuckling under, we scared them into improving their nuclear defenses against future American aggression, making the world a much more dangerous place.  Just one more reason to avoid wanton invasions. 

June 18, 2006 in Foreign Policy | Permalink


Rather than frightening other countries into knuckling under, we scared them into improving their nuclear defenses against future American aggression, making the world a much more dangerous place. Just one more reason to avoid wanton invasions.

This was entirely predictable. If you're those countries, the lesson from Iraq is that if you don't actually have nukes, you better get some, because (a) you can't prove a negative, and (b) the United States can't be trusted, it has to be deterred.

Thanks, President Bush, for creating an incentive for more nukes in the world. I feel safer.

Posted by: paperwight | Jun 18, 2006 1:43:20 PM

THF Breaks the Story on Kim Jong's Giant New WMD

Posted by: urthwalker | Jun 18, 2006 2:07:47 PM

urthwalker, I have been amused in the past by the fact that "dong" seems to be in the names of all the North Korean missiles.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Jun 18, 2006 2:15:03 PM

...we're in a much worse bargaining position than we were in three years ago.

Iran restarted it's nuclear program in the late 1980's and I don't recall anyone really doing anything about it. So now it's all Bush's fault! Bush seems to be the only one interested in engaging them.

We haven't had enough rain in the midwest. That goddam BUSH!!!

Posted by: Fred Jones | Jun 18, 2006 2:32:47 PM

Key problematic phrase & mindset, IMNSHO:

the American demonstration of "resolve"

Seriously, when did government policy become strictly a matter of performance art? I try really hard not to complain about reality shows, with their crappy amateur improvisation exercises-- after all, entertainment really is a free-market endeavor, much more so than most of what we consume-- but for the sake of extending that analogy, professional performers are usually a) quite aware of what is real and what isn't, and b) adept enough at reading other actors to anticipate the direction a scene's going in and adjust their performance accordingly. World politics are supposed to be chess, not friggin' professional wrestling.

[/tangential rant]

Posted by: latts | Jun 18, 2006 3:21:29 PM

when did government policy become strictly a matter of performance art?

Sometime around January 2001?

Posted by: djw | Jun 18, 2006 4:28:26 PM

The Clinton, Carter solution. They were some foreign policy geniuses!

"Bill Clinton's negotiations with North Korea represented a "decade of delusion." Evidence that North Korea was violating the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty surfaced within weeks of Clinton's first inauguration. After a year of inaction allowed Pyongyang to create at least one nuclear weapon, the emboldened Stalinists announced their formal withdrawal from the treaty. It seemed North Korean officials were angling for a payoff. They must have realized they struck the jackpot when Clinton named tough-as-nails Jimmy Carter as his principal negotiator.

Under the final terms of the Agreed Framework approved in October of 1994, Clinton agreed to provide the "Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea" (DPRK) with two light water nuclear reactors and a massive allotment of oil. The U.S. agreed to ship 500,000 metric tons of oil annually in response to the North's pretense that the energy-starved backwater had developed the nuclear facility to generate power. These shipments have cost taxpayers more than $800 million to date - a bargain compared with the $6 billion spent on constructing the nuclear reactors, which now empower North Korea to produce 100 nuclear bombs each year.

All these measures failed to quell the North's atom-lust."

Posted by: Captain Toke | Jun 18, 2006 5:31:45 PM

I don't recall Carter threatening atomic carnage upon anyone for the fantasised presumption that they might somehow be ready to make atomic weapons, all evidence to the contrary.
The thrust of Bush policy is evident and successful - not to mention deliberate. Make enemies where there were none.

Posted by: opit | Jun 18, 2006 5:52:12 PM

Captain, you are correct.

N. Korea played Clinton like a fine instrument. They knew he would not tackle the hard issues and would kick the can down the road.

They bought time and it worked.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Jun 18, 2006 10:59:15 PM

Right, and N. Korea was refining plutonium for 10 years. wait a minute; no, it wasn't.

On Dec. 10, 2002, North Korea announced it would restart plutonium production and eject the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors who monitored North Korea's compliance with the Agreed Framework.

What Clinton did wasn't perfect, but they were a lot farther away from making a nuke before Bush started his sabre-rattling.

Posted by: verplanck colvin | Jun 19, 2006 8:30:38 AM

Are you two finished with the "history lesson" yet ?
AWOL is enough of a fuckup to keep us busy for a while.

Posted by: opit | Jun 19, 2006 8:30:39 AM

I dont know that _not_ invading Iraq would have improved anything with Iran and N.Korea either. Truly the manner in which Iraq was _actually_ handled has emboldened our enemies. The major reason for that I believe is the fact that we 'staid the course' as long as we have.

We 'staid the course' which means leaving our troops to needlessly drive predicatable routes through Iraq in underarmored vehicles. All at the same time big W and his underlings fumbled around with a popular way to promote it for political gain, without actually accomplising anything.

Had we:
1. a reconstruction plan
2. continued to support the Iraqis with large military operations without putting smaller units at risk.
3. finished with Iraq and made it look easy.

Then our enemies would have had something to think twice on. Instead all we've done is:
1. Prove that our modern military cant be a police force to a feisty country the size of california.
2. The political cost of attacking will likely keep us out of any further entanglements.

Bush managed to every post 9/11 detail in the absolute worst manner possible. He squandered worldwide good will, made our enemies work to become more powerful, alienated our allies, and eroded our rights and freedoms here at home.

Posted by: david b | Jun 19, 2006 10:14:04 AM

Bush managed to every post 9/11 detail


Bush managed to mishandle every post 9/11 detail ...

Posted by: david b | Jun 19, 2006 10:40:41 AM

The expections of war has changed with technology. Where carpet bombing and large nuclear air bursts were acceptable in the past, now we are expected to use "surgical strikes" and have no civilian casualties whatsoever.

Regarless of who is in the "Big Chair", there is an obvious confrontation coming with one of these rogue nuclear powers. My guess is that it will be N Korea. If N. Korea lobs a nuke at us or a strike is imminent, will the public wish to go up against their million man army or would it be a smarter defense to turn Pyongyang into green glass?

Will the world think it's too brutal or must we actually have a strike on San Francisco (if it has to by anyone, let it be SF) first?

Posted by: Fred Jones. | Jun 19, 2006 10:45:46 AM

Will the world think it's too brutal or must we actually have a strike on San Francisco (if it has to by anyone, let it be SF) first?

Fred shows his true colors yet again -- him and O'Reilly. He is just got a complete hard-on for nuking some country, and if some librul homos get it too, that's even better.

Posted by: paperwight | Jun 19, 2006 11:18:42 AM

paperwight, plus there's the "turning (enemy city X) into glass". Wait, don't you need sand to turn a city to glass? Wingnut eliminationist metaphors are tricky things...

Posted by: verplanck colvin | Jun 19, 2006 11:49:30 AM

Mr. paper and Mr. Colvin have not addressed the issue. Is is too brutal if attack is imminent? Is it too brutal if we are attacked first? Would using nuclear bunkerbusters seem too brutal if used to reach underground nuclear facilities?

It seems railing is more entertaining than discussion. Anyone else there that has a real answer?

Posted by: Fred Jones. | Jun 19, 2006 12:07:55 PM

Regarless [sic] of who is in the "Big Chair", there is an obvious confrontation coming with one of these rogue nuclear powers.

Did I mention Fred can also see the future? Us peons might have to wait for crazy things like "reports" and "evidence", but oh no, not him. He knows that a confrontation — nay, a military confrontation — is coming. How? Why? When? Based on what? Don't ask, it's the ineffable will of Fred. The fact that there is no historical parallel to what he is suggesting is only MORE reason to believe.

To be clear, I don't know one way or another how likely a confrontation is. Maybe Kim Jong the First will ring in the New Year by nuking Tokyo. He's secretive. But assuming it to be certain and unpreventable and going from there to plan what kind of scorched earth policy would be coolest is blithering idiocy at best.

Posted by: Cyrus | Jun 19, 2006 12:18:10 PM

I guess here is what it comes down to:

The US alone has a stockpile of over 10,000 nuclear weapons. Is there *any* scenario in which people like paper and Mr. Colvin feel the use of large nuclear weapons would be justified or recommended.

Yes/ No?

Posted by: Fred Jones. | Jun 19, 2006 12:19:13 PM

Sure there is. I don't think N. Korea fits into that category, though. Seoul is about 100 miles away from Pyongyang, and the fallout from a blast would endanger much of South Korea, an unacceptable situation.

The use of bunker-busters (non-nuke) would be fine if we had good intelligence. If we could be reasonably sure that the main nuke facilities would be eliminated, that's one thing. But what about the other areas we don't know about? It would be quite the hornet's nest if we took out 50% of N. Korea's capacity instead of 95%. And while we're on the subject, nuclear bunker busters are a bad idea. We haven't had a nuke used in war since WWII. Let's try to keep it that way, especially if we have other tools available.

I think we have enough conventional military and diplomatic power to push the use of nukes to all but the most desparate situations. Plus, the days of kill-em-all weapons and large martial forces are over. The future wars will be won via the use of covert ops and lighter, flexible units (what Rumsfeld is trying to accomplish).

Posted by: verplanck colvin | Jun 19, 2006 1:07:13 PM

In (almost) all seriousness, Fred, why do you feel that is what it comes down to? The thread so far has been about relations with North Korea and what effect, if any, invading Iraq had on it. Why is general pontificating about hypothetical use of our nuclear arsenal what it comes down to for you?

Well, if all you want is to reaffirm that anyone who disagrees with you is a radical pacifist and/or hates America, I guess that would be what it comes down to. Otherwise though, I don't see how it's relevant. Whether a person thinks using nuclear weapons is ever justifiable has almost nothing to do with whether they think it's justifiable in your first strike on North Korea.

A variation on my usual theme — if you have any reason to think that is "what it comes down to", please, share with us. Until then, it looks to me like either the kind of bloodthirsty superiority fantasy paperweight and verplanck colvin accused you of, or an attempt to change the subject when you were running out of actual arguments.

Posted by: Cyrus | Jun 19, 2006 1:20:11 PM

Fred, in this scenario, who's telling us a NK nuclear strike is "imminent"? The same people who told us we'd be greeted with flowers in Iraq? The same people who implied that there was a substantial connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda? The people who said they knew where the WMDs were? That pack of fucking liars?

In that case, no, I don't think a nuclear strike on NK is justified. But that's just because I'm not completely fucking stupid.

Get me a credible source that tells me that any city in the US is going to be hit with a nuke -- not just my fair city of San Francisco, Fred, you America-hating piece of moral filth, but even your home town -- and my preference would be for a massive conventional strike. We have a devastating conventional attack capability. We shouldn't use nukes first unless there's an unquestionable existential threat to the United States.

In the case of someone else actually using a nuke on us, or Japan, or South Korea, or Israel, or a NATO nation (including France), or another close ally -- yes, please, I'm fully behind a massive, excessive, even obscene retaliation. The promise of that kind of response is the best possible use of our nuclear arsenal.

Posted by: Violet Slandre | Jun 19, 2006 1:48:06 PM

'..the days of kill-em-all weapons and large martial forces are over.'

That is only true as long as we fight wars of political coercion and economic convenience. Which will remain the conflict of choice, as long as our military remains uncontested in strength.

Its a little off to the side of the topic.. but I worry about this 'covert ops only' sentiment.

Were we to take on a determined enemy with any actual capability, or need to respond to a nuclear first strike, attitudes would make a quick 180.

The whole idea that all the military we need is a stealth platform with seal team on board works great as long as we only fight 2 bit countries and terrorist groups. Other countries like China, Russia, N.Korea, may not remain happy taking 2nd chair to us forever.

Posted by: david b | Jun 19, 2006 1:52:13 PM

*cheer* Violet Slandre

Posted by: david b | Jun 19, 2006 1:53:37 PM

I asked if there were any scenario that the left wingers could imagine....at what point, what line crossed that we should reach for these weapons.

No one can answer.

Posted by: Fred Jones. | Jun 19, 2006 5:03:45 PM

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