Bush's illogical foreign policy

The nuclear threat from North Korea reveals the limits of the Bush administration's preemption doctrine.

Published January 2, 2003 6:59PM (EST)

Darn, but those weapons of mass destruction keep turning up in the wrong places.

Forward air bases, Army infantry units, a hospital ship and docile yet combat-trained reporters are all being readied for a "regime change" war against Iraq promoted as a way to rid the world of an arsenal Saddam Hussein doesn't seem to have.

That United Nations inspectors, even after American intelligence briefings, are coming up empty-handed is embarrassing enough, but then North Korea had to steal the show by taking the wraps off its far more advanced nuclear weapons program.

That's pretty scary because American intelligence agencies believe that bizarre, unpredictable North Korea already has enough plutonium and tested bomb technology for one or two functioning nuclear warheads that can easily be lobbed at our ally South Korea, home base of 37,000 U.S. soldiers. Pyongyang in 1998 fired one of its long-range Taepodong missiles over Japanese territory. American intelligence officials believe that the regime is working on missiles capable of reaching Hawaii and beyond.

Yet we have made it clear we are not planning to go to war with North Korea.

"We have no hostile intent toward North Korea, and we hope they will come to their senses," Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday. He later added that "nobody is mobilizing armies, nobody is threatening each other yet."

Powell went on to say: "Let's take this patiently. Let's take it with deliberation. Let's work with our friends and allies."

Perhaps not surprisingly, it's the one proven warrior in the Bush White House who seems to understand that peace is worth fighting for and that diplomatic finesse is not a sign of weakness; war is.

Were it not for Powell, the chicken hawks in the administration -- warmongers who have not themselves experienced battle -- already would have us invading Iraq without giving U.N. inspectors a chance.

Led by Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, these strident cheerleaders for so-called preemptive action are obviously disappointed that the Iraq inspections have turned up nothing more then the rusting remnants of a deadly weapons programs originated -- and used -- with the full knowledge of the U.S. government to punish fundamentalist Iran.

Now, however, Iran -- still in Bush's putative "axis of evil" along with Iraq and North Korea -- may have a much more advanced nuclear weapons program than Iraq.

In fact, the Shiite fundamentalists must be high-fiving in Tehran over the costly American makeover of Central Asia. These fundamentalists would be the biggest benefactors of any takedown of neighboring Iraq, as they were when the United States installed Iran's longtime puppets, the Northern Alliance, as top dogs in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, the nuclear nonproliferation regime is a shambles, with President Bush publicly derisive about existing arms-control pacts. Bush insists that we will be just fine relying on a cockamamie missile defense fantasy that is arguably the biggest defense contractor boondoggle in the nation's long history of such deals.

Feeling safe yet? You shouldn't be.

Washington's foreign policy is now less logical than that of Pyongyang. A starving dictatorship's clumsy blackmail attempts at least make some twisted sense, in that the Bush administration has refused, from its very first days, to even discuss North Korea's persistent request for a nonaggression pact with the United States.

The administration plan is to isolate this paranoid excuse for a nation, as if it isn't already the most isolated place on earth. If we can't make peace with an utterly defeated nation like North Korea, we're in trouble. From Columbine to Weimar Germany, humiliating those with nothing to lose is always a recipe for disaster.

South Korea and Japan understand this, and both countries are making major moves in an attempt to bring the North Koreans back into the world community. The United States, which unleashed the nuclear monster and is still the only nation to have used this deadliest weapon of mass destruction against innocent civilians, should also understand why other nations want one.

It's a sick and ultimately suicidal obsession, but who are we to talk when we are designing ever more efficient nuclear weapons for preemptive use, underground "bunker busting" and God knows what else?

We are the ones who continue to give legitimacy to the weapons of mass destruction, threatening devastating preemptive strikes, including possible use of nuclear weapons, against those who defiantly refuse to bend to the will of Washington.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration remains detached from the destabilizing Israeli-Palestinian nightmare, is struggling to gain footing against al-Qaida and is apparently indifferent to the successes of Muslim fundamentalism in Chechnya, Lebanon, Yemen, Palestine and Pakistan.

Instead, we are mobilizing our massive forces against a weakened secular dictator 6,000 miles away who doesn't seem to have had anything to do with a series of devastating terrorist attacks.

What is happening here? Certainly not the construction of a coherent foreign policy aimed at increasing the security of the United States or our allies. This is an administration that in two years has so mucked up our approach to the world that merely applying the demands of logic is made to appear unpatriotic.

By Robert Scheer

Robert Scheer is a syndicated columnist.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Iraq Middle East North Korea Nuclear Weapons