Steven Dan Beste misses the point in arguing that we can defend South Korea and invade Iraq simultaneously. I think he’s right. We could. Except that he’s not really arguing that the US can defend South Korea and invade Iraq. He’s arguing that the US could provide air cover (with help from Japan) while South Korea defends itself.
This is, by the by, multilateralism: the awareness that the US needs allies to successfully pursue its goals.
OK. So, but it’s also beside the point. The worry regarding North Korea is not that they’ll try to invade South Korea. The worry is that they’ll develop their nuclear program. The current US foreign policy calls for preemptive strikes to prevent this, particularly in the case of nations that are hostile. North Korea’s part of the axis of evil, which I assume means they qualify.
In the latter portion of the essay, he points out that “The one thing that the North Korean governing elite apparently wants is to remain in power.” This is a powerful argument, and one with much merit. Maybe North Korea is in fact not a danger to us, or even to our allies in Southeast Asia. The irony here is that this is the exact same argument used by many of those who object to war in Iraq. Hussein’s desire to stay in power is greater than his desire to rule the Arab world. He knows that if he uses any weapons of mass destruction he may have, he’s gonna get vaporized. Etc. Yes, Iraq has invaded neighboring countries. Wasn’t all that long ago that North Korea was at war, either. The leadership has not changed in either case.
Dan Beste also says that we can always remove the atomic threat as and when they’re turning out refined plutonium in quantity. He ought, perhaps, to read the statements by Colin Powell, to which he linked: “North Korea has had nuclear weapons for a couple of years in violation of its previous agreements, he [Powell] said.”
The policy that calls for invasion of Iraq also calls for proactive attempts to defuse the North Korean atomic program. If one is important, the other is also important. If we can’t do both at once, we ought to reexamine that policy and modify it to fit geopolitical realities.
That policy is explicitly designed to contain terrorism. It is directed at rogue nations who may possess only a few nuclear weapons. It’s not designed for Russia, it’s designed for new nuclear powers and terrorist organizations. North Korea fits the profile perfectly. If North Korea is not the kind of nuclear power that requires proactive action, what is?