10 January 2003
"I don't get it," says your friendly neighborhood doofus. "Iraq may or may not have nukes, and they're about to get incinerated. North Korea definitely has nukes, and we're tiptoeing around them."
Your point being?
"Well, if we're not going to fight Pyongyang, why are we going to fight Baghdad? Did they suddenly find oil in North Korea?"
Ah, yes, the oil thing again. Well, actually, no, they haven't found oil in North Korea; if they had, there might be an outside chance of averting mass starvation north of the 38th assuming the government didn't suck up all the revenues for itself, which, Stalinist bunch that they are, they most likely would.
But why aren't we drawing the same line with North Korea that we are with Iraq? It all boils down to Who's In Your Neighborhood. Iraq is surrounded by a ragtag collection of emirates and such which could be Saddam's for the taking, should he so desire. (In the case of Kuwait, circa 1991, he did so desire, and there's no reason to think he's mellowed.) North Korea, should it try to extend its influence beyond its borders, will run smack dab into South Korea and Japan, which are backed by the US, and China, which isn't, but which also isn't likely to take crap from Koreans.
The Timekeeper has more thoughts on this at Horologium, including excerpts from a Newsday op-ed by Michael Mandelbaum of the CFR that makes this and other points.