It is maddening to see the Bush administration downplay the North Korea crisis because of its singular focus on Iraq. We might not even be in this predicament if it weren’t for Bush’s attitudes and policies toward North Korea in the first place.
If we don’t refocus our diplomatic and military resources on the Korean penninsulaimmediately after securing a military victory in Iraq, we could be powerless to stop the selling of nuclear weapons to other countries in the future.
But at the same time, the North Korea situation also shows us how important it is that we disarm Iraq. Unlike Kim Jong-il, Saddam has a history of armed aggression toward his neighbors, designs on dominating the region and a demonstrated eagerness to use unconventional weapons when it suits him. That makes him just as dangerous, if not more.
One could certainly argue that North Korea should be our focus first because 1) its nuclear program is more advanced, and 2) it will likely sell its arms and/or technology to another country.
However, disarming Iraq cannot be put off indefinitely. Like North Korea, Saddam continues his weapons development programs and will press forward with nuclear armament as soon as he thinks the United States is too preoccupied to attack him.
Just as we would not trust in the sanity and restraint of Kim Jong-il to remain “contained” and not proliferate WMD throughout the world, we should not engage in wishful thinking and assume Saddam can be “contained” once he gains a nuclear deterrent. And as we’re painfully learning with North Korea, deterrence works both ways; we might not have the option of attacking later without putting ourselves and his neighbors in great peril.
The point, I think, is that we must be ready to deal with both countries, forcefully if necessary.