Yeah, I know, cynical of me. But, look: Who among us honestly believes that this is not what the Bushies will try to do? And then Bill Clinton will get on TV somewhere, warm up that pointing finger of his, and note (as my classmate Josh Marshall already has) that the bomb used in the test was probably made with plutonium from a plant his agreement had closed down, and which was opened up again after Bush kicked the Clinton agreement to the curb. And then this will all be about Bush and Clinton again, not about the fact that North Korea has got the friggin’ bomb. I would like to think that we might actually focus on that.
If the bomb turns out to be the plutonium variety, I think the Bush folks do bear some responsibility in the matter, but let’s not be stupid about this: The North Koreans have been gunning for nukes for a long time and I suspect sooner or later would have done this damn fool sort of thing, regardless of treaties and agreements. As much as it would be fun to say this was entirely the fault of the Bush response to North Korea, I think that’s a faulty appraisal of the situation, because it’s predicated on the notion that North Korea is an honest broker; it’s not and never has been. Its plan was always to acquire nukes come hell or high water. What the Clinton agreement did, in my opinion, was simply buy us and the rest of the world some time to figure out what the hell to do with a nuclear North Korea; when Bush scrapped the treaty, he shortened that amount of time.
Well, folks, time’s up. What do we do with a nuclear North Korea? Because, see, this is the real problem: Given the total disarray of the US diplomatic response to everything else in the world, I rather seriously doubt we have any sort of coherent plan at all. Now, this Time article suggests that perhaps there’s not much that could have been done anyway, and maybe that’s correct. But I would at least like the feeling that the US and the current administration had wargamed this scenario beyond “make stern declarations,” and I don’t have that feeling. I’ll be interested to see what happens next, but I’m not actually confident what comes out of our end of this will make any sort of sense.
Bush and his administration aren’t to blame for the North Koreans having nukes; that’s all about the North Koreans. But unless we see some attempt at a rational reponse from them, like, now, they can be blamed for blowing yet another major foreign diplomatic crisis. That’s not going to be good news for him three weeks out from a national election, and no amount of blaming his administration’s inadequate response on Boogeyman Clinton will make a difference.
Update, 2:30pm: Or was it a nuclear device at all? There are apparently doubts (or, if it were a device, perhaps it didn’t work as planned). If it turns out to have been just a really, really big conventional explosion, that certainly puts a new wrinkle on things, doesn’t it — North Korea would have just shot its wad for no good effect, and the rest of the world won’t look too kindly on it for having done so. Yes, this is interesting stuff, indeed.