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The Captain Tries His Hand at Science Fiction


Ed Morrisey tries to put lipstick on a pig:

Context remains important here, which both Reed and the Times fail to consider. Intelligence is not an exact science, and conclusions have to be drawn on spotty evidence at times. The United States cannot allow itself the luxury of academic analysis paralysis; we have to prepare to meet danger before it becomes an unassailable fact, and that is especially true with nuclear proliferation.

Which is, really, no more than a typically wingnutty fetishization of the “decision” such that deciders get credit even when the decisions they make are obviously, stunningly, and disastrously wrong. More to the point:

No one disputes the fact that North Korea clandestinely bought 20 uranium centrifuges from Pakistan. That broke their part of the Agreed Framework, a violation that the US could not just ignore. After all, there are no other uses for uranium centrifuges than to enrich uranium, a process which the Kim regime supposedly had eschewed as part of the 1994 treaty. It seems a fairly reasonable conclusion that Kim didn’t spend his hard currency on the centrifuges just to put them in a museum, but to enrich uranium.

When confronted on this, Kim refused to acknowledge it. That left the US a couple of choices. One, we could continue to operate our side of the agreement and supply them with oil while we attempted to get them to acknowledge that they were pursuing HEU. The other was to cut them off and force them back to the table.

This is simply wrong. Indeed, the central case that the United States made regarding the uranium enrichment program was that North Korea had acknowledged it, even if that acknowledgement may have depended on a mistranslation. More importantly, asserting that the cut off was intended to bring the North Koreans back to the table is just silly. Once the US stopped fuel shipments, it was obvious that a complete North Korean defection from the agreement was possible. Recall the context; the United States was committed to building a case for attacking Iraq, and there was no interest in Washington for making any serious military threats against Pyongyang before the Iraq issue was settled. The breaking of the seals at Yongbyon and the disruption of the verification equipment was an entirely predictable consequence of the US action.

Ed can pretend all he wants that the outside possibility that North Korea might, someday, be able to enrich uranium was a larger threat than their capability to use the plutonium at Yongbyon. He can also pretend that the breaking of the agreement had nothing to do with North Korea’s ability to assemble and detonate a nuclear device last year. Finally, he can pretend that the new agreement is something other than the Agreed Framework under terms less favorable to the United States. I suppose that, in order to defend the North Korea policy of this administration, one must pretend to believe all kinds of things.

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