Wednesday, May 11, 2005


Children Playing With Nuclear Dominoes

For anyone who wants a clear and concise explanation for how nuclear proliferation in Iran and North Korea can be halted, see Thomas Friedman’s article in today’s New York Times. (Link via The Corner)

Here’s the thrust of it:

North Korea's nuclear program could be stopped tomorrow by the country that provides roughly half of North Korea's energy and one-third of its food supplies - and that is China.

All China has to say to Kim Jong Il is: "You will shut down your nuclear weapons program and put all your reactors under international inspection, or we will turn off your lights, cut off your heat and put your whole country on a diet. Have we made ourselves clear?" One thing we know about China - it knows how to play hardball when it wants to, and if China played hardball that way with North Korea, the proliferation threat from Pyongyang would be over.

Ditto Europe vis-à-vis Iran. If the European Union said to the Iranians: "You will shut down your nuclear weapons program and put all your reactors and related facilities under international inspection or you will face a total economic boycott from Europe. Which part of this sentence don't you understand?" Trust me, that is the kind of explicit threat that would get Tehran's attention. Short of that, the Iranians will dicker over their nuclear carpets forever.

So why haven't China and the E.U. said these things? …Mr. Mandelbaum said, "the Chinese and the Europeans are all for combating nuclear proliferation - just not enough actually to do something about it.".

Gee, I wonder whom it is that China and the EU rely on to be mature enough to actually confront such an explosive (pun intended) issue? Again quoting Johns Hopkins foreign policy professor Michael Mandelbaum, the article states:

The Chinese and the Europeans "each assume that in the end, the U.S. will deter both the North Koreans and the Iranians anyway, so why worry," Mr. Mandelbaum said.

It must be nice to be able to sit back and continually criticize the world’s only major power willing to step up and try to actually do something about these issues. Makes me wonder whether the term “World’s Babysitter” would be more appropriate than the “World’s Policemen”?

The problem is, as Friedman explains, the U.S. does not have sufficient leverage to effectively diffuse these situations apart from staging an actual confrontation. And unfortunately, there are horrifying ramifications of not taking action soon against the nuclear proliferation. Here’s his sobering conclusion:

This is not a joke. If North Korea and Iran both go nuclear, that step may trigger a major realignment of geopolitics - the likes of which has not been seen since the end of the cold war. If North Korea sets off a nuclear test, how long will Japan continue relying on the U.S. for its nuclear shield?

And what will South Korea and Taiwan do? And if Japan or South Korea goes nuclear, how may an anxious China react? And if Shiite Iran becomes a nuclear power - in tandem with Iraq's being run by Shiites - the Sunni Arab world will go nuts, not to mention the Israelis. Will Saudi Arabia then feel compelled to acquire a nuclear deterrent? Will Egypt?

We're talking nuclear dominoes.

That's a great story. Waiting for more. » » »
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