As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Sunday, April 05, 2009

North Korea, Missile Defense And Proliferation

North Korea's rocket launch has led to a round of denunciations from global leaders and apocalyptic visions of nuclear proliferation. Can we at least acknowledge that the launch, as consistent with other efforts by the North Koreans in this area, failed?

"The satellite is transmitting the melodies of the immortal revolutionary paeans 'Song of Gen. Kim Il Sung' and 'Song of Gen. Kim Jong Il' as well as measurement data back to Earth," it said, referring to the country's late founder and his son, its current leader.

But South Korea's defense minister and the U.S. military disputed that account. North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command officials said in a statement that the first stage of the rocket fell into the waters between Korea and Japan, while the two other stages, and its payload, landed in the Pacific Ocean.

I heard an entire hour of the Sunday shows about the rise of proliferation and the failure of sanctions without remarking on this. The North Koreans claimed this was a satellite launch, and yet nothing went into orbit. Given that North Korean society is built on juche, or self-reliance, it seems that more sanctions making them MORE self-reliant, none of which have worked to this point (they are already internationally isolated), are less crucial than loudly noting in the international media that they failed. The US response has been that the launch itself is a violation of international law, but doesn't their consistent failure to pull off a launch merit at least some notice?

Obama's speech, by the way, while including a condemnation at North Korea, concerned his vision of a nuclear-free world, which is absolutely commendable, and a first among US Presidents, to my knowledge.

Shifting on an eight-day European trip from the economic crisis to the war in Afghanistan and now nuclear capabilities, Obama said his goal of "a world without nuclear weapons" won't be reached soon, "perhaps not in my lifetime."

But he said the United States, with one of the world's largest arsenals and the only nation to have used an atomic bomb, has a "moral responsibility" to start taking steps now.

It is not only a lofty goal. Gary Samore, Obama's arms control coordinator, said the plan has a strategic aim: to give the U.S. extra leverage in opposing the pursuit of nuclear arms in adversarial countries such as North Korea and Iran. "We are trying to seek the moral high ground," Samore said.

Devoting an entire speech to the longtime "no nukes" cause of the political left is more popular in Europe than in the United States. Obama signaled he would not allow America to become more vulnerable, saying that surrendering nuclear weapons must be a global all-for-one, or not-at-all, endeavor.

In this respect, he conditioned the deployment of missile defense in the Czech Republic to the threat from Iran. Calling the system "cost-effective and proven" is a real stretch - there is no conclusive evidence that hitting a bullet with a bullet works, and it's sad to see Obama going down that road, even in service to the noble goal of a nuclear-free world.

Overall, I give Obama a mixed review on all this, so far.

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