North Korea Tests Nuke; Yet One More Failed Bush Policy of Faith-Based Hollow Bluster

Brian Zick

AP Reports North Korea said Monday it had performed its first nuclear weapons test, an underground explosion that defied international warnings but was hailed by the communist nation as a ''great leap forward'' for its people.The reported test drew harsh rebuke from North Korea's neighbors. The U.N. Security Council is expected to discuss the North Korean issue on Monday, and the United States and Japan are likely to press for a resolution imposing additional sanctions on Pyongyang.The U.S. Geological Survey said it had recorded a magnitude-4.2 seismic event in northeastern North Korea. Australia and South Korea also said there was seismic confirmation that pointed to a nuclear test. (…) North Korea's nuclear test was equivalent to 550 tons of TNT, a state-run South Korean geological institute said. That is relatively small compared to the bomb the United States dropped on Hiroshima, which was equivalent to 12,500 tons of TNT. Josh Marshall has some analysis. For the US this is a strategic failure of the first order.The origins of the failure are ones anyone familiar with the last six years in this country will readily recognize: chest-thumping followed by failure followed by cover-up and denial. The same story as Iraq. Even the same story as Foley.President Clinton eventually concluded a complicated and multipart agreement in which the North Koreans would suspend their production of plutonium in exchange for fuel oil, help building light water nuclear reactors (the kind that don't help making bombs) and a vague promise of diplomatic normalization.President Bush came to office believing that Clinton's policy amounted to appeasement. Force and strength were the way to deal with North Korea, not a mix of force, diplomacy and aide. And with that premise, President Bush went about scuttling the 1994 agreement, using evidence that the North Koreans were pursuing uranium enrichment (another path to the bomb) as the final straw.Remember the guiding policy of the early Bush years: Clinton did it=Bad, Bush=Not whatever Clinton did.All diplomatic niceties aside, President Bush's idea was that the North Koreans would respond better to threats than Clinton's mix of carrots and sticks.Then in the winter of 2002-3, the US prepared the invade Iraq, the North called Bush's bluff. And the president folded. Abjectly, utterly, even hilariously if the consequences weren't so grave and vast.

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