The American Interest

Baghdad or Pyongyang?

Last October, North Korea announced that it has a nuclear-weapons program.  Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld confirmed that North Korea already has a “small number” of nuclear weapons, and a Pentagon official later added that the United States thought Pyongyang had two nuclear bombs.

The stunning revelations sent shockwaves around the world, but the White House reaction was surprisingly restrained.  Spokesman Scott McClellan said “We are seeking a peaceful solution.  This is best addressed through diplomatic channels at this point.”  McClellan then went on to describe Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein as a “homicidal dictator who is addicted to weapons of mass destruction.”  He did not comment on allegations that North Korea is also pursuing chemical and biological weapons programs.

This is all very curious.  Suppose that you, a super wealthy and powerful homesteader in a mansion on a hill, have some conflicts with two unruly gang leaders from the wrong side of the tracks.  One is Middle Eastern; the other, Oriental.  One gang leader is said to “gas his own people.”  The other starves his charges to death, in the name of self-sufficiency.

The former, a nasty brute with no powerful backers, tried to take over one of your clients’ properties a decade ago, assuming that it was OK with you.  Once you changed your mind...

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