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Showdown with Iraq and North Korea

By Carol Devine-Molin
web posted January 13, 2003

Iraq and North Korea are now at the forefront of our foreign policy and national security concerns.

Throughout the past week on the various cable news channels, Left-leaning pundits have invariably charged that President Bush has applied a "double-standard" regarding the differential manner in which the nations of Iraq and North Korea are being treated. Sure, both nations have incipient nuclear programs, and to be fair, North Korea probably has already squirreled away a few nukes while Iraq is at a lesser stage of super-bomb development as it diligently seeks to procure fissile materials. Yet, Iraq is subjected to an American-led military action and "regime change", while North Korea must only contend with a diplomatic initiative at this juncture. Well, why the contrasting approaches? The extremely dangerous nature of Saddam Hussein is at the heart of it.

KIm Jong Il
Jong Il

Despite the fact that North Korea is already in possession of various weapons of mass destruction (biological, chemical, nuclear), its leader has wisely eschewed utilizing them. Sure, the current leadership under Kim Jong Il is given to extorting and extracting inducements from the US in exchange for halting its "nuclear ambitions". And Kim Jong Il acknowledged North Korea's secret nuclear weapons program and expelled the monitors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, in violation of North Korea's 1994 agreement with the US.

But despotic North Korea, although highly vocal or "mouthy", and given to saber rattling and demands, has ultimately responded to the pillars of containment and deterrence throughout the years. North Korea is really no more than a bankrupt Stalinist regime that is dependent upon the oil and humanitarian food supplies of the US and other nations. And its "godfather" China provides quite a bit of North Korea's weapons technology, which unfortunately represents its only significant source of income and bargaining power within the international community.

According to William Choong of The Straits Times of Singapore, the US is developing options to effectively deal with North Korea: 1) Intercept its arms exports to cut off foreign revenues, 2) Boost economic sanctions against Pyongyang, and 3) Move ahead with missile defense for the region. As to the latter, many American commentators have already advocated arming both Japan and South Korea with nuclear weaponry, which would surely gall China and North Korea. Moreover, the imposition of sanctions is intended to cause North Korea's all-important monies from arms sales to quickly dissipate. Kim Jong Il may very well come to regret tipping the applecart, or in this particular case, discombobulating the status quo.

That said, the Korean peninsula, with the exception of an occasional problematic episode, has been more-or-less stable since the time of the Korean War. Therefore, implementation of a more cogent approach, now known as the "Bush Doctrine" of preemptive strikes, probably won't be necessary in North Korea -- at least not at this time. In terms of the current pot-au-feu, the US is naturally receptive to working through diplomatic solutions with North Korea since this method has proven somewhat effective for over fifty years. However, it would be fair to say that stringent sanctions against North Korea would inevitably become part of the mix if it does not immediately reverse course and dump its nuclear program. Reportedly, Japan, South Korea, Russia and China are now acting as intermediaries in discussions with Kim Jong Il. Loose talk among media types regarding possible bombing strikes against North Korean nuclear facilities seems awfully far-fetched. In view of the overarching circumstances and America's concerted endeavor to avoid military confrontation throughout the decades, a deal with North Korea will certainly be struck, in my humble opinion.

Hussein (C) meet's with his son Qusay(R), supervisor of the Republican Guard, in Baghdad on January 6
Hussein (C) meet's with his son Qusay(R), supervisor of the Republican Guard, in Baghdad on January 6

However, Saddam Hussein wanton megalomania and his perverse character are key to understanding America's current response to the Iraqi regime. Unlike other despots, Saddam Hussein is unique in that he has already inflicted catastrophic attacks, specifically chemical warfare strikes, against both his own people the Kurds, and his neighbors, the Iranians, during the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980's. Saddam's reckless aggression is legionary as he invaded Kuwait, launched scud missiles at Israel, and was poised to grab the oil-rich nation of Saudi Arabia during the run-up to the Gulf War of 1991.

Saddam is undeniably a full-fledged psychopath who poses an imminent threat to both his neighbors and his enemies, most notably Israel and America. And I underscore the term "psychopath", which denotes an individual without conscience. Saddam is not "psychotic", indicative of an individual who is significantly out-of-touch with reality. Given Saddam's considerable propensity to utilize weapons of mass destruction, it's felt that he would have no qualms about setting off a nuclear bomb, most probably through a surrogate terrorist organization. This tyrant represents a profound peril and must be removed from power, one way or another.

And I would not discount the possibility that Saddam Hussein will ultimately choose exile over annihilation at the very last moment. Reportedly, Russia and a few Arab nations are attempting to convince Saddam to leave Iraq with his sons and his entourage for safe haven in Russia or Libya, in order to avert a war that would surely result in his demise and the deaths of others. Psychopaths are not martyrs – they very much want to live. So up until the last nanosecond before war ensues, Saddam should be offered an escape hatch. However, if Saddam is facing certain death, with his back up against the wall, I don't think there's any question that he would enact scorched-earth vengeance with chemical or biological warfare.

Carol Devine-Molin is a regular contributor to several online magazines.

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