“North Korea” and “Missile” Are All I Hear

Well, this was predictable. No sooner had North Korea’s attempted missile splashed prematurely into the ocean than giddy UN-bashers began pointing their fingers accusingly at the UN Security Council, diplomacy, and, hell, even the entire goal of non-proliferation. Simply because the words “North Korea” and “missile” were involved, hawks are shaking their sabers in the direction of the easiest scapegoat — which is, unsurprisingly, the United Nations.

A little perspective: North Korea broke the rules. But it also completely flubbed its highly touted missile launch, an achievement that was supposed to achieve glory for the DPRK and strike fear in the heart of America. Instead, the missile is lying dormant on the ocean floor — probably bubbling its musical paeans to Kim Jung Il incomprehensibly. There was never any danger to U.S. security, and now there’s even less so, given the project’s failure.

Keep in mind that this missile launch also had nothing to do with North Korea’s nuclear program. Yes, the rocket would be — in Kim Jung Il’s fantasy world — filled to the brim with nuclear explosiveness…but it wasn’t. And couldn’t be — thanks, it’s worth pointing out, to the shift toward diplomacy that the Bush Administration undertook in its second term. Its first term warmongering and stick-wielding only pushed North Korea out of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, induced it to kick inspectors out of the country, and re-start its uranium enrichment process. As Dana Carvey might put it, before diplomacy, nuclear program; after diplomacy, no nuclear program.

So why mock the entire principle of non-proliferation over a failed, overhyped missile test that couldn’t even carry nuclear material? And what exactly do hawks have in mind when they sputter about “getting tougher” with North Korea? Bombing? Tighter sanctions? Even this latter step — unlikely to occur, given Chinese and Russian opposition, and of questionable efficacy, considering the possible damage to North Korea’s already beleaguered civilian population — would amount to taking the bait of Pyongyang’s petty provocation. North Korea had rashly threatened to withdraw from the six-party talks in response to even Security Council discussion of its “satellite” launch; this is ridiculous bluster, but there is no sense in feeding such brinkmanship. Rather than escalate tensions between both sides, the best solution remains to ignore North Korea’s latest bit of melodramatic theater (and a poor performance it was indeed), reprimand its rule-breaking, and focus on more important non-proliferation work.

(image from flickr user BHowdy under a Creative Commons license)