First things first. I am now a co-blogger at Centerfield, the blog of The Centrist Coalition. The following post is also cross-posted there. This does not mean that I am abandoning this blog. I don't anticipate posting any less frequently here. I will merely be dropping in that blog from time to time to throw some thoughts out. Anyway, the blog is great and I highly encourage y'all to read it. Now, on with our story.
North Korea has the bomb.
Of course, U.S. policymakers have suspected NK had nukes for some time now. But obviously, their flagrant admission, paired with their withdrawal from mulitparty talks, changes the geopolitical situation dramatically. What's a centrist supposed to do?
When discussing NK, there are two aspects to keep in mind. The first is the security issues. To be perfectly clear: North Korea is a security threat to the United States in a way Iraq never was or had the potential to become. There are a few reasons for this. First, their Taepo-Dong II missile, with nuclear warhead capabilities, can hit Hawaii and possibly the west coast of the US. Furthermore, nuclear proliferation offers one of the few ways for the cash-strapped North Korean regime to gain hard capital. Even if Kim Jong Il was bound by moral scruples (he's not), it would be hard to pass up that opportunity given the abject poverty and desperation the country faces on a daily basis. Finally, and not to toot my own horn here, but current US policy is making the situation worse. Several months ago, I predicted that continued US work on the ABM missile defense shield (paired with a more aggressive foreign policy stance generally) would cause NK to accelerate its nuclear program as a hedge against potential US military intervention (I made a similar prediction with Iran as well). Lo and behold, NK has picked up the jitters and has accelerated its nuclear program. It goes without saying, obviously, that Kim Jong Il with nukes is more dangerous than Il without them.
The second issue is of humanitarianism. Though there are a million and one factors that play into whether or not the US should seek to depose a given regime, Centrists must never forget that the most dangerous nations in the world also tend to be engaged in the most brutal human rights atrocities in the world. Every moment that regime stays in power, every moment that the world community fails to act, another political prisoner is shot, another family is imprisoned, another child starves. The human rights situation in NK is notoriously brutal. Between state sponsored terror and oppression (forced labor camps abound for even minor crimes), and the more general famine and economic poverty that is pervasive in the country, North Korean citizens rank amongst the most desperate in the world. For better or for worse, US and global inaction lends tacit consent to all of these activities. So while the security situation might demand caution, the human rights situation demands decisiveness and action. There must be a strong statement (and I don't mean that in the UN resolution sense) that government sponsored brutality is not and will not be tolerated by any nation, anywhere, at any time. Morality demands it.