Wretchard of Belmont Club
May 27, 2009 - 7:39 am
For whatever reason, and following from the NYT’s article, it seems unlikely that the current administration or anyone else will do anything but nibble at the edges of the problem. Freeze an asset here, make a gesture there, but really do nothing substantive to stop North Korea. I think the basic problem is that we are now looking at a breakout. The final, in-your-face collapse of the nonproliferation regime. Kim Jong Il has just buried Obama’s dream of “a world without nuclear weapons” on the White House lawn.
This is the fundamental crisis. In a little while, perhaps not very long from now, there will be similar challenges. From Iran certainly; and perhaps Pakistan will start selling to all comers. North Korea may start selling to non-state actors. Why not? If they haven’t stopped him at this point, will they do it when he has Tokyo and Honolulu in the crosshairs? The day of the exclusive nuclear club died yesterday. It had been expiring for a long time, but it finally climbed into the grave and shoveled itself in.
With this turn, we may now be palpably closer to the nuclear car bomb. It’s not there yet, but with North Korea on the loose and the sheriff impotent, the danger of nuclear terrorism is no longer unthinkable. One response will be to let the nonproliferation regime collapse entirely. If the US can no longer be counted on to deter the tyrants of the world, then other nations may feel themselves free to do so. And it’s not Kim that did this: the West did it to itself, by progressively undermining it’s authority until it has reached this nadir. It was Kim’s very insignificance that underlined the totality of the collapse. Because if Barack Obama can’t stop the ludicrous madman from a starveling nation from threatening the world, then the system is well and truly broken.
Now whatever anyone thinks of Barack Obama, these are ultimately insults aimed at the United States of America, and indeed at all civilized people. And due to the seriousness of events, there’s no room for gloating, because these maniacs, though ridiculous, can kill. We’re not even into the second hundred days yet and the challenges keep mounting. At some point the West has to pick itself up and act. “Words matter”, but they’re not everything.
The world is changed.