Tim Blair


New Criterion



Tuesday, June 03, 2003
IS LOVE ENOUGH? If you think that murderous regimes like those of Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong Il just need a bit more care and attention to desist from their murderous ambitions you are certainly a US Democrat or an Australian Laborite.

Last night's Four Corners treatment of the North Korea problem, which makes Iraq look like a pimple in comparison with a tumour, took a carefully Democrat approach and will probably be syndicated to Frontline. With a new narration, of course.

It seems that those nasty Congressional Republicans stopped Clinton being nice enough to the DPRK, and so they had no choice but to go on with their WMD programs and sell their technologies to other problem states. After all, selling WMD technology to the nastiest customers is just what any rational government would do when the only alternative was fixing its economy so its people could be saved from starvation. If the nasty capitalists won't pick up the welfare bills while the stalinists get on with making the anthrax and plutonium they stand condemned in the court of public opinion. In Auntie's kangaroo court, that is.

Still, Jonathan Holmes's report doesn't disguise the nastiness of the DPRK, the routine torture, the deliberate starvation of children, the glorification of military aggression.

Nor does he pretend there are now easy options. None of the DPRK's neighbours want it to do what it is doing. Chine doesn't want a nuclear-armed Japan. But South Korea doesn't want fire raining down on Seoul.

If there's a weakness in the Holmes analysis it's this. It suggests, as China does, that there's a Chirac option here; keep negotiating, keep bribing, send in the inspectors again.

The problem with this analysis is that the risks and the rewards of the options aren't equal. The US knows who will be targeted by the DPRK, apart from South Korea. And it knows the plans of those who are buying WMD technology from the North.

If you refuse to sit back and wait for disaster, and this is the policy of the Bush administration, the options are limited.

Calibrated action against the North is likely to destroy the South. The safer option is not surgical strikes, but massive pre-emption, even nuclear attacks.

For once Auntie understates the potential consequences of current US policies. Perhaps because it can't think of credible alternative to promote.