I’m finally getting around to reading the March 2003 issue of Commentary. It features this outstanding piece by Joshua Muravchik about North Korea. Muravchik first traces the sorry history of appeasement that led us to the current crisis, including the special role played by Jimmy Carter. Bill Clinton’s appeasement strategy was based on the view that the North Korean regime would soon fall of its own weight, and that we just needed to buy a few years (Carter, though, does not seem to have embraced this view; he apparently perceived the regime as a popular and successful concern). Clearly, the Clinton view turned out to be wishful thinking.
Muravchik then considers the options going forward. Essentially, he concludes that no solution that contemplates the disarmament of North Korea without regime change can succeed because even in the unlikely event of an agreement to disarm — whether secured by more appeasement, Chinese presssure, or whatever — North Korea will continue its nuclear program. According to Muravchik, the North Koreans are simply too good at hiding their weapons of mass destruction for us to detect violations of any agreement.
But for Muravchik, the biggest danger stems not from North Korean possession of nuclear weapons but from its willingness to share its weapons and technology with our most hostile enemies. Thus, one approach is not to lobby for an agreement that purports to disarm North Korea, but rather to focus on preventing the sharing of North Korean weapons and technology. Muravchik assumes that any agreement by North Korea in this regard would be worthless. The only serious proposal is some sort of blockade. But Muravchik does not believe that a blockade would be effective. Thus, he concludes that war with North Korea may be the only means of preventing terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction from that country.
If Muravchik’s analysis is correct, then we must prepare for war with North Korea. Perhaps our first option should be a blockade, which certainly would increase the risk of war. If our intelligence raises serious doubts as to whether the blockade is working, then an attack on North Korea, sooner rather than later, may be our best option.
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