Tuesday, October 10, 2006

So N.Korea has the Bomb

After three or four years of "Yes they do", "No they don't", "Yes they do", "Maybe they don't", we know finally know: North Korea has tested a nuclear weapon, no ifs buts or maybes.

Well, perhaps a few buts. France is publically wondering whether the test went as well as N.Korea wanted -- the explosion was very small. By design, or did it fizzle? And having nuclear weapons is one thing, but being able to deliver them is another: there is no indication that N.Korea has the practical technology to use the weapons in battle. Without a delivery system, the bomb itself is not terribly useful.

Of course, the world's major nuclear powers -- the USA, Russia, China, France, Britain -- are condemning the test. Nobody has the honesty to say "How dare you try to defend yourself against the thousands of nuclear weapons already aimed at you!" but that's what they're thinking. N.Korea is surrounded by enemies -- perhaps rightfully so, but nevertheless they are surrounded by enemies. At best, they have a strained relationship with China. They have hostile relationships with Russia, Japan and South Korea, and let's not forget the USA.

I'm not suggesting that N.Korea is the victim here. By all accounts, there are good reasons they are feared and distrusted by their neighbours. But regardless of who is right and who is wrong, who's good and who's bad, if the rest of the world wants them to not defend themselves, what's in it for them?

Hawks often accuse doves of being impractical and of having heads filled with airy-fairy ideas of peace and brothership of all mankind. That's a load of malarky. It's the hawks who are impractical and foolish in their reliance of what I call the two-year-old model of international relations: if you shake your fist and scream and shout and stomp your feet and threaten to hit people, they will give you what you want. Of course, the hawks don't often literally scream -- that worked for Hitler against Chamberlain, in private, but in public it just makes you look like a buffoon. (An interesting case involves USSR Premier Nikita Krushchev: did he or didn't he bang his shoe on the table at the UN?) No, the hawks dress up their threats in polite language, but it comes to the same thing really: Gimme! The fatal flaw in the strategy of threatening an enemy if they don't give up their nukes is, once they have nukes, you can no longer make good on your threats without suffering yourself.

Of course, regardless of N.Korea's practical ability to strike at other countries with their nuclear bombs, or more to the point their inability, this could destabilise the area. Japan, in particular, may feel it is in their best interests to have their own nuclear deterrant, and not be reliant on the US nuclear umbrella which could so easily be turned against them, although the Japanese constitution forbids them from developing nuclear weapons.

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