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Jewish World Review March 12, 2003 / 8 Adar II, 5763

Seth Gitell

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The North Korean hawks are missing the big picture | Now that the United States is presumably within days of launching a military invasion to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq (already, there are approximately 300,000 troops in the Gulf), a loud and clarion voice is being heard from Capitol Hill: to confront Kim Jung Il of North Korea. "Given the magnitude of the stakes, we have repeatedly urged the Administration to get off the sidelines and face up to this developing crisis," declared Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle.

Meanwhile, Senator Ted Kennedy told the Christian Science Monitor last week: "It is an extraordinary irony that we are prepared to accept a nuclear power with North Korea ... [while] going to war in Iraq [which] doesn't have [nuclear weapons]." Senator Ted Kennedy told the Christian Science Monitor last week.

North Korea is of grave concern. There are reports of missile tests that have not only reached the North China Sea but even into US territory, Alaska.

But there is a problem with many of those complaining the most loudly about North Korea right now. As a practical matter, they don't have an answer for what they would have the US do. If the only suggestion is that US troops ought to be pulled out of the Gulf and inserted into South Korea -- which is not a point being made explicitly by almost anyone -- that cannot be right. Such a scenario would only embolden the Iraqi leader, Saddam Husein, and allow him to escape from pressure once again. It's unlikely that Hussein would permit weapons inspections to continue without the stick of an impending invasion. Retreating on the Iraqi front now would put Hussein into a position of becoming the next Kim Jung Il, and one who has already used chemical weapons twice against his internal and external enemies.

And imagine the outcry from around the world if large numbers American troops were landed unilaterally into South Korea, a country that has been far too reluctant to see any danger from their neighbor to the North? And does anyone believe that China, which is still smarting from the US destruction of its embassy in Belgrade in 1999 and views itself as a regional rival to our country, will welcome a resurgence of American power on its doorstep? The last time the US put soldiers into North Korea, China answered by sending millions of troops to stop them.

If the answer is negotiations with North Korea, there is no reason the Bush Administration couldn't attempt that right now -- even with a war in Iraq. Peter Beinart, editor of The New Republic, offered one of the best perspectives on North Korea published in recent days. Beinart faulted the Bush Administration for failing to pay enough attention to North Korea without using the issue as a way to make the case against war with Iraq, which he supports. Beinart raises the possibility that the administration is trying to ratchet down tension surrounding North Korea because the US can fight only one war at a time.

That must be what is happening. Even the hawk-of-all-hawks, JWR columnist Charles Krauthammer, recently opined sometimes appeasement is the only available policy." (This is despite the Pentagon's express policy of being able to fight two major set-piece wars at one time.) What the Bush Administration probably would say if it could, but obviously can't, is that the more swiftly we deal with Hussein, the sooner we can get to North Korea. What the new Korea hawks fail to say is how we'll deal with North Korea given the mess we're in.

JWR contributor Seth Gitell is the political writer of the Boston Phoenix Comment by clicking here.

02/21/03: Urban fight: Military takes lessons from Mogadishu, Chechnya, Jenin
02/13/03: Imagine that, Bin Laden not listening to Chris Matthews!
02/06/03: Powell's powerful presentation
02/05/03: Making the case that Saddam Hussein is linked with Al Qaeda
01/31/03: Gen. Schwarzkopf is against going to war with Iraq. Since he messed things up so bad the first time around, why is anyone listening to him now?
01/24/03: Cynthia McKinney for president
01/16/03: The Sharpton test
01/13/03: Lieberman is in a pickle --- and it's becoming increasingly more sour
12/26/02: Where does the war on terror go from here?
12/23/02: Why democracy never came to Iraq after the last Gulf War
12/20/02: Vermont governor Howard Dean hopes to bridge the gulf between New England and the Western states, and bypass the socially conservative South. Should John Kerry be worried?
12/18/02: No Gore 2004: Follow the Money
12/06/02: Gore, like Dicken's Jacob Marley, Dead as a Door-nail
10/24/02: War with Iraq may not happen, after all
10/22/02: Winning European hearts and minds
10/18/02: Lieberman makes 'em laugh --- on purpose
10/04/02: Hawking an interpretation (in which Scott Ritter tells our columnist to 'go to H-LL!')
09/13/02: Bush Challenge to U.N. Members: Are You Better than League of Nations?
09/06/02: Iraq attack: Ritter's reversal
08/30/02: Stick with comedy, Jon Stewart
08/16/02: Green around the gills: Nader Effect could cost the Dems the election in three states
08/01/02: Gore's low profile is no accident
07/31/02: President Hillary? Despite her denials, candidacy is not that unlikely
07/26/02: On the road with John Kerry
07/17/02: Meet the 'Clinton' of the 2004 New Hampshire primary
07/12/02: Ancient rivalry: Williams vs. DiMaggio
07/10/02: Warrior spirit
05/08/02: Hosting a TV show will keep Clinton off the streets
04/26/02: Truth in advertising in SaudiLand --- and ours
02/28/02: Time for hipsters to do a reality-check

© 2002, Seth Gitell