Monday, October 09, 2006

How Long Now?

Since August 9th, 1945, we’ve been on a countdown to the next nuclear blast. Problem is, we don’t know how close we are to 0:00. That’s why the world gets so jittery every time another nation acquires nuclear weaponry. We sense the clock is ticking faster.

So the whole international community paused today and condemned, North Korea’s nuclear test. Strong but likely futile sanctions and non-military actions will be forthcoming. Everyone will talk big but nothing will really be done. Just like nothing was really done when India and Pakistan tested their weapons.

The real question isn’t how to punish North Korea (even though punishment of some sort is proper). The real question is: how do we keep these new bombs from ever being used? And that’s a multi-level question for which I don’t pretend to have all or even many of the answers..

However, I can point out that it’s extremely unlikely North Korea would ever use these weapons directly. To do so would be suicidal. After all, our enemies’ trigger fingers have always been staid by the knowledge that we’re the largest nuclear power on the planet and can destroy any enemy within minutes. As megalomaniacal as Kim Jong Il may be, he doesn’t seem hell-bent on ending the world – or, at least, his world.

No, North Korea has acquired the bomb not with the intent to use it militarily but with the intent to use it diplomatically. Problem is, now that they have nuclear weapons, what’s to stop them from selling a bomb or two? After all, with all the newest sanctions the nation is likely to face, an under-the-table deal to make some quick cash is hardly out of the question.

Surely the intelligence forces of our nation and of our allies must focus on ensuring North Korea’s nukes stay in North Korea. We certainly do not want to see the rhetorical axis-of-evil become an actual one with Kim Jong Il striking a deal with Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Ahmadinejad is, after all, a lot more likely to actually use a nuclear weapon as either a way to destroy Israel or as the catalyst to bring about the end-times—two goals he says he desires to achieve. A man that welcomes or at least doesn’t care about retaliation is not a man you want in possession of nuclear weapons.

Unfortunately, the fact remains that North Korea may not be the most worrisome nuclear power. That dubious honor belongs to Pakistan where strongman/president/quasi-ally Pervez Musharraf is keeping a finger in the nuclear dyke. Should that nation ever fall into the hands of Islamic radicals, we could very well see a nuclear strike on India or even elsewhere. Pakistan the nation wouldn’t even have to instigate such an attack. All that needs to happen is enough internal chaos whereby the nuclear weapons fall into the hands of those willing to use them.

In the end, we’ve had a surprising run of 61 years without a nuclear attack. And we may last many, many more years. While proliferation undoubtedly increases the chances of another mushroom cloud, the real worry is the increase in people unconcerned about the consequences of using the bomb.

We should be able to contain North Korea simply because North Korea doesn’t want to be wiped from the map. But not every leader or faction is concerned with self-preservation. Those are the people we need to worry about most. And those are the people we sure-as-hell better be keeping away from nuclear weapons, whether they are self-developed or acquired from another nation.


Blogger amba said...

What happens in North Korea stays in North Korea.

12:35 AM  
Anonymous Walrus said...

Seeing as the consensus seems to be growing that the bomb was a dud, North Korea seems to be less of a priority.

But I think you've hit something very important - that Pakistan is a lot scarier. They've certainly got a lot more competent people, and a lot more internal dissent which is pro-Taliban and pro-Al-Qaeda.

2:35 PM  

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