Nuclear Epistemology


So, is North Korea an active nuclear threat? Despite Bush administration assurances that it is–that it has working bombs already and is on the threshold of an effective system of producing highly-enriched uranium–this long and detailed story from today's Los Angeles Times concludes that the proper answer right now is: we don't know. This article by Douglas Frantz is a hard slog, true, but it is educational about the morass of guesses and conflicting reports that feed into the shorthand conventional wisdom on foreign policy. A relevant excerpt:

Analysts said other reports within the U.S. intelligence community have been contradictory and inconclusive about North Korea's advances in both plutonium bomb-making and uranium enrichment.

To some, the wording of the CIA report [that declared North Korea "has produced one or two simple fission-type nuclear weapons"] shouted political considerations, not proof.

" 'We assess' means they concluded based upon a judgment of North Korean intent and capabilities," said Robert Gallucci, the Clinton administration's top negotiator with the North. "Those are political judgments."

A former Bush administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said he suspected the recent statements were driven by politics. He described it as "a case of pleasing the bosses by telling them what they want to hear or analysts covering their backsides."

NEXT: Professional Courtesy

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  1. but are you willing to risk the lives of your loved ones that North Korea might NOT be a potential imminent threat someday? North Korea hates our freedom.

  2. Does it really matter whether North Korea has nukes? We know their leader is a bad guy who hates our freedom, we know the world would be better without him, and we need to show the terrorists of the world that we mean business. So let’s just invade now. Kim Jong Il probably has some sort of links to the Islamo-fascists, so we can either fight him now in Pyongyang or we can fight him later on American soil.

    Besides, even if he isn’t linked to the Islamo-fascists, he’s friendly with the Chinese. Some day they might challenge us. Let’s send a message to them that America will not let any potential possible future threat go unchallenged. We can either hold them off at the Yalu River, or some day they’ll invade Yosemite.

    The only way for America to remain free is to demonstrate our willingness to fight anybody and everybody who is even the least bit unfriendly to us!

  3. I forgot to add two things:

    1) We either fight them in North Korea now or we’ll fight them in North Dakota later.

    2) Anybody who doesn’t want to fight a war against an impoverished nation that’s far weaker than the Soviet Union ever was must be some sort of wimp who doesn’t care about American freedom. You can’t negotiate with these people, you have to fight them.

  4. thoreau,

    Very cutting. Did you go to the ENA?:)

  5. Thoreau: Why bother fighting? Wouldn’t 3 or 4 a-bombs and six months opf starvation effectively end all resistance above the 38th?

    The only good communist North Korean is a dead communist North Korean.

  6. BTW, is there any decision made by a politican that isn’t at least partly driven by politics? Isn’t that what politicians are for? That is to act politically; to represents the interests, desires, etc. of the body politic, as well as to try to drive that body politic into certain positions? Though I loathe the Bush administration, I think the mantra of “they are driven by politics more than any other administration in memory” sounds hollow after a while, and distinctly ahistorical too boot. In other words, saying that Bush is somehow more political than either Clinton, his father, or Reagan sounds almost like a lie.

  7. Walden-

    Good point. We should just nuke the whole country out of existence. That will make us safer.

    Come to think of it, we should nuke China too. China is a major economic power and is constantly improving its armed forces. We have to show them that we rule the world. So nuke those yellow reds.

    And while we’re at it, how about we just turn the whole Middle East into a big glass factory? They can’t kill us if we kill them first. And we know we can’t reason with those people. They want to kill all of us and take away our freedom, so our only option is to invade the whole place and transform it. Well, I say enough with the Wilsonian notion of transforming the Middle East into liberal democratic republics. Let’s transform it into a big sheet of radioactive glass instead!

    Jean Bart-

    What’s the ENA?

  8. thoreau,

    Rhode Island! I HATE Rhode Island! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve almost been wiped out by and old lady or young punk with a Rhody plate.

    So I nominate Rhode Island. It’s them or us.

  9. Whoa! Is jean bart on or what, ladies and germs….lord, can that fellow serve up a hot dish of cold irony!

    radioactive glass! you gotta be good to figure out that melted sand/glass connection…anger…comedy…and in one place, for pennies a serving.

    but seriously-I’m no fan of much GWB foreign policy, but I think ya gotta admit the team at 1600 Penn isn’t nuts to ponder dark NorK sceanarios….crazy ass, cultic leader….check. Gulag archipeligo approach….check. Violates any and all treaties shown him, including the favorable ones….check. hell bent on acquiring nukes and placing them in hands of sociopath….check. habit of pre-emptive war/launching missiles across Japanese bow….you catch the drift.

    I mean, it’s ok to hope, but assuming these guys are up to no good, and will export this no-goodness for a price, doesnt seem too dumb.

    re Middle east. Would dearly love to see the states there, in your humble opinion, that have a good record on seeing reason via diplomacy.

  10. thoreau,

    The ENA is a post-bac “grand ecole” in France; it trains (or trained) the elite French public administrators, etc. In the past fifteen years, it has fallen on hard times as the best and brightest have drifted into French business schools (which are also “grand ecoles” – graduating from a “grands ecole” is generally considered more prestigious than graduating from a university, even the Sorbonne for example, and this has been the case since before the Revolution really). Recently the ENA has had a difficult time even meeting its yearly enrollment requirement; at one time there were was one acceptance per several hundred applicants.

    My comment was a joke about your “smart” remarks. ENA graduates are often derisively referred to as “dictator” or “emporer” or “Napoleon.”

    I need some coffee, my English is deteriorating. 🙂

  11. thoreau,

    I like Rhode Island; Providence is a very beautiful city, and I love their renaissance water festival that occurs there throughout the summer. 🙂

  12. My, my, thoreau, this BCS business got your shorts in a twist? Might as well nuke Baton Rouge and Norman, OK as well. And the whole BCS admin.

  13. Accept the love of Jesus Christ or we’ll nuke you to Hell!

  14. Thoreau,

    No no, I think i understand what is going on now. The moon base talk, missle defense, it’s all coming together.

    The administration is going to the moon, and then will nuke the entire earth, including those damn democrats and those annoying libertine libertarians (the boring ones will get their own crater).

    It is the ultimate expression of your new vision!

  15. Fortunately it didn’t look like anyone was interested in saying anything useful, so I guess knock yourselves out.

    Alternatives? I see, it’s more convenient not to bother with those.

  16. Let’s blow up the moon.

  17. Rhode Island hates our freedom. We can either fight ’em there in Rhode Island or fight ’em here in Rhode Island.

  18. I want to launch a pre-emptive war against Arkansas. Look who it’s given us: Bill Clinton and Wesley Clark. Since liberals are traitors we should nuke Arkansas to prevent any more such treason.

    We can either fight Wesley Clark in Arkansas now, or we can fight him in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and other early primary states a few short months from now.

    Now I realize that nuking Arkansas might cause problems for Kevin Carson, but you can’t fight a war without collateral damage. This is about American freedom! It’s for the children!

  19. Rod asked:
    Would dearly love to see the states there, in your humble opinion, that have a good record on seeing reason via diplomacy

    I’ll give an answer that my old and new personalities can both agree on:

    It isn’t a question of whether they’ll see reason. It’s a question of whether they will harm Americans. Terrorist groups can’t be deterred at all, and simply need to be hunted down. Rogue governments are sometimes susceptible to deterrence. So we need to make it quite clear what will happen to governments connected with attacks on America.

    Now, my old personality would say that our invasion of Afghanistan was a dramatic lesson for the dictators of the world: Aid people who attack the US, and you’ll lose the thing you love most–power.

    My new personality says we need to go further. We need to attack somebody who hasn’t actually aided the groups plotting against us just to make sure he never does aid them, and to make sure that other governments get the message. We need to show them such awesome wrath that they won’t even so much as sponsor anti-American rallies in their capitol city. While we’re at it, we should invade the West Bank city where some loonies danced in the streets on 9/11. If we have to destroy the whole village to get several dozen loonies who weren’t connected to 9/11 but wish that they were, so be it!

  20. Personally, if North Korea says they either have nukes or will have them soon, and the Bush administration says that North Korea either has nukes or will have them soon, and the mid-90s Clinton administration thought at the time that North Korea would have nukes soon, I’m comfortable with operating under the assumption that North Korea either has nukes or will have them soon.

  21. I miss the merovingian, but it’s nice to see JB again.

  22. Now I realize that nuking Arkansas might cause problems for Kevin Carson, but you can’t fight a war without collateral damage. This is about American freedom! It’s for the children!

    Eggs…omelette…you know the deal.

    – Josh

  23. My simple, 100% guaranteed, money refundable if not completely satisfied, void where prohibited solution to the NorK dilemma.
    Step 1. Load every NK citizen onto a fleet of ocean going barges, which will then be towed into the Sea of Japan.
    Step 2. Carpet bomb everything north of the 38th parallel, leaving nothing intact. No buildings, roads, bridges. NOTHING! Clean slate, so to speak.
    Step 3. Sink the barges.

    This policy can be used over and over and over again, as the need arises.

  24. Just keep baffling them with bullshit, and maybe they (the Ill Jongs) will get tired of being so goddam evil and might just relax and have a nice lunch like the rest of us. Really, it must be exhausting being so driven to be an international pain in the ass.

  25. thoreau,

    You forgot to mention the right of every government including our own to starve it’s people. Note I said “it’s people”. The government owns the sheeple. And don’t you forget it. Otherwise you will ruin your right wing creds.

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