Europe and the Crazy Missile Men
I love when George Bush goes to Europe. Because despite all of the mistreatment we get over there from the abundant Euro-Berkeley crowd, Bush has a way of making the Europeans agree with his policies, absent any compromise.
And it happened again yesterday. He got widespread agreement from the European leaders about holding the line on Iran and North Korea. He even got away with giving a non-answer about changing anything at Gitmo by stating that he was awaiting Supreme Court action on the matter, meaning that he will do nothing. And when it came to questions from Euro-media critics that the U.S. was the greatest source of terror in the world, Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel came to Bush's defense. And Bush also got the Europeans to agree to hold Iran to a deadline for response to the "incentives" package offered to get it to drop its nuclear program and a hard line on North Korea on missile testing. Bush could not have dreamed for better.
And with that, we move on the game being played by Iran and North Korea.
A few sources have written me about the psychological issues that must be going on in the mind of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Mullahs what run that country, but none was so instructive as this piece from fellow blogger and psychoanalyst, Stanley Renshon who opines at his blog "Political Psychology" that Iran is on a quest for dignity, not security. In other words,
The development of missiles capable of hitting Israel, parts of Europe and eventually parts of the United States, coupled with the push to develop nuclear war heads, along with aggressive rhetoric has little to do with dignity and everything to do with threat. The Iranians frame their military quest as a matter of dignity at their own risk with an administration seared by 9/11.Meaning that in order to be a legitimate player, Iran feels that it needs to be able to threaten the rest of the world. But per this analysis, it seems that what many of us have been thinking about Ahmadinejad may be accurate: he is a neophyte buffoon who wants to grip international power and to do so is playing a very dangerous game whose rules he just does not understand. But he is a less significant problem at this stage.
The real worry is North Korea. And I believe that the North is possessed of much the same psychological needs as described above, but with two distinctions: they may actually have a nuclear device, they actually have flying missiles, and their leader, Kim Jong-Il, rather than being a blustery buffoon, is a paranoid and unstable crackpot.
North Korea is planning a missile launch at some point in the next few days just to show the United States and the rest of the world that it can reach out and touch them. And while the North probably doesn't have anything close to the technology to mate a nuclear warhead to a missile, that's not the point. The point is that they are attempting to reach out and touch someone, and that much simpler things can be put atop that missile that can do significant damage. In any case, if they launch the thing, the Bush Administration would be remiss not to give an appropriate response, in the form of a defensive interception of the missile, or perhaps an offensive hit on the missile launch complex.
The idea of a missile intercept is indeed an exciting one, as it would be the ultimate checkmate to the North's posturing. The matter has been discussed at length (H.T. RealClearPolitics), and it is not at all clear just how effective our missile defense system is. It will almost certainly be up and running in two years, but to launch an intercept to North Korea's test and have it fail would indeed be a humiliation and would reduce its deterrent value. And I do not expect the Bush Administration to risk such an embarrassment if it believes that there is any chance that our defensive system would fail.
But in an interesting offering from an equally interesting source, former Clinton Defense Secretary William Perry suggests a submarine-launched Tomahawk strike against the Taepodong missile launch site in North Korea to destroy the launchpad and thereby, North Korea's ability to launch missiles altogether if they refuse to drain the fuel from the missile and return it to the warehouse. It's certainly an option, and likely one that would generate very little international outrage--the destruction of a couple of acres of an aggressive, nuclear-armed nation's launch pad, making that region of the planet a heck of a lot safer for a time versus an increase of regional tensions that may lead to war and the loss of millions of lives. This from an Administration that paid blackmail to North Korea which caused the very situation we now have, rather than taking the advice ten years ago that it offers only now--but I digress.
Stephen Hadley has dismissed the notion of such a strike, indicating that diplomacy is the route we are choosing. But how serious can the White House be about negotiation with a dictator who already lied to us once?
My fervent prayer is that this Administration is buying time to prepare to squash Kim's regime by insisting on the six party talks, which were doomed to failure from the moment they were conceived. And the same with Iran. It seems that Condoleeza Rice is playing Ahmadinejad's game--offering incentives that are very reasonable but which he cannot accept because they force Iran to abandon their nuclear weapons program--in an effort to force Iran into a corner with many fewer incentives and many more imperatives with most serious consequences for failure to comply. Because to do anything else is to give in to the demands to two of the original members of the Axis of Evil, and to surrender the high ground taken after 9/11.