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Friday, June 23, 2006

# Posted 7:32 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PRE-EMPTIVE STRIKE ON NORTH KOREA? Bill Perry served as Secretary of Defense during the Clinton administration and Ashton Carter was one of his assistants. In yesterday's WaPo, they called for a pre-emptive strike against North Korea in order to prevent it from going ahead with a long-range ballistic missile test.

I think that's an incredibly bad idea. Perry and Carter discount the possibility of North Korea responding with a full-scale attack against South Korea and Japan, but I am not persuaded by their argument:
North Korea could respond to U.S. resolve by taking the drastic step of threatening all-out war on the Korean Peninsula. But it is unlikely to act on that threat. Why attack South Korea, which has been working to improve North-South relations (sometimes at odds with the United States) and which was openly opposing the U.S. action? An invasion of South Korea would bring about the certain end of Kim Jong Il's regime within a few bloody weeks of war, as surely he knows.
Let's remember that "bloody" means tens, possibly hundreds of thousands of dead South Koreans, as well as thousands of American soldiers. And this is assuming that the war goes well (even though most of our ground forces are busy in Iraq or recovering from their deployments).

But more importantly, what about North Korea's other options for retaliation? It could launch a few missiles directed at Tokyo or Seoul, killing thousands. It could even use standard artillery to kill as many people in Seoul as it wanted. Worst of all, it may decide to share some of its uranium or plutonium with other US adversaries.

I guess the one silver lining in this debate is that certain liberals are willing to take such outlandish options quite seriously when proposed by leading Democrats. Although concerned, Matt Yglesias writes that:
One shouldn't dismiss [Perry & Carter] out of hand as know-nothings. Indeed, they know a great deal more about this than I do.
Josh Marshall is also wary, writing that:
Bill Perry isn't some nut. Far from it. He was Bill Clinton's second defense secretary. He's a very shrewd, level-headed guy. And he's been deeply involved in the North Korea issue for years.
So let's read between the lines. Yglesias and Marshall are saying that the ideas proposed by Carter and Perry sound like those of a "know-nothing" or a "nut". In other words, if Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz had proposed an attack on North Korea, it would be safe to dismiss them as know-nothings or nuts. But Carter and Perry are good guys, so no criticism from Matt and Josh.

Well, as far as I'm concerned, this idea is simply nuts. Any Democrats who condemns Bush for invading Iraq without considering the possible consequences should condemn Perry and Carter for being at least that reckless.
(13) opinions -- Add your opinion

Comments:
Is there any international law that exists prohibiting North Korea from developing and testing missiles?
 
Carter and Perry mention that NK agreed to a moratorium on missile launches in 1999, but I don't know what status that has.
 
In other words, if Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz had proposed an attack on North Korea, it would be safe to dismiss them as know-nothings or nuts. But Carter and Perry are good guys, so no criticism from Matt and Josh.

Well, yes. That's the difference between having a reputation for competence and having a reputation for incompetence.
 
If a voluntary moratorium is the only legal reason for North Korea not to test missiles, what right do Japan or the United States have to complain?

After all, they seem to feel perfectly free to test missiles of their own, including ABM missiles clearly intended for possible use against North Korea.
 
David:

of course matt and josh would think better of ideas coming from clinton-types than coming from bush nuts. perry and carter are presumed to be motivated by good thought and intentions, bush and rumsfeld not so much.

how do you say that perry and carter haven't considered the possible consequences? they have considered possible NK reaction, they simply either don't think such doomsday scenarios are likely or that, even if NK was to do X or do Y, destroying the missile is more important. and, along those lines, you can't say that bush and rumsfeld didn't consider the consequences of invading iraq. they considered, they dismissed.

But what is missing from the commentary is the acknowledgement that even some clinton types are less concerned about fallout among our allies than they are about pre-empting a threat against us. This is a big deal and represents a huge departure in clinton/democrat doctrine that what the US does to protect itself has to tempered against what our supposed allies think about it.
 
Milan,

there are more reasons than legal reasons to complain about North Korea testing missiles.

The nature of the regime is important. I would suggest that the world's last Stalinist state testing missiles, as an inherently aggressive and unstable kind of regime, is a greater concern than liberal democratic Japan testing them.

Not all questions of international relations are reducible to reading legal documents. This is where I can't agree with liberal internationalism.
 
A call for such a bold action by Clinton foreign policy advisers can mean only one thing:

Bubba's been banging the interns again.
 
This is really bad policy, but good politics: it gets some Dem bigwigs to Bush's right in a national defense issue. If something nasty happens with that missile, Dem pundits could plausibly say "Bush could have nipped this in the bud if he followed our lead".

If nothing happens, this punditry will be forgotten...
 
Hello Foobarista. Great name. But I think this move is terrible politics, because if things heat up with North Korea, the Dems will never go along with Perry & Carter. Their position on the right will only highlight divisions within the party.

But it may be good personal politics for Carter, since a Dem president in 2008 will almost surely be looking for a Dem hawk to head up the Pentagon.
 
Also, a note for alkali. Having a reputation for competence means people trust you to carry out certain tasks. It doesn't mean your kooky ideas are any less kooky than they would be coming from someone known for incompetence.
 
David,
You know I don't have much agreement with Josh's thinking, but I sure wish he'd given us something to clarify the "he's been deeply involved in the NK issue for years". Said involvement probably centering around defending the Clinton Admin.'s fake deal with NK.
I knew Perry in the mid-80's, he founded, then sold for big bucks, an electronic warfare company, EDS.
He then became associated with an overly self important San Francisco investment banking firm, and a big donor to the Democrats.
About the only positive statement about his tenure as SecDef is that he wasn't Les Aspin.
Smart guys, who venture into waters they really don't have clue about, can really come up with ignorant ideas, published only because of who they are. Can you spell "Pat Buchanan"?
 
We had already selected the "outlandish option," in keeping our troops there for 51 years after the war, if you ask me. What would be so crazy about letting the Koreans, Chinese and Japanese deal with Kim themselves? If we just pull out it would change those "pacifist" South Koreans mighty fast.
 
I just wish we still used the cold
war tactics, and got rid of some of
these despots using the CIA.
I grew up in the Vietnam era and probably was safer then because of those tactics.
 
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