David Frum’s Axis of Ego

Posted October 10, 2006 on 2:40 pm | In the category Iran, Iraq, North Korea | by Jeff

On today’s NY Times Op Ed page David Frum gives us a terrific example of the nuttiness that gave us the Iraq War. Frum is the former White House speechwriter who helped to coin the phrase “Axis of Evil” a phrase that nicely captures the areas where the Bush foreign policy strategy has so miserably failed. No need to remind anyone of the Iraq fiasco, but Iran and North Korea remain to be totally screwed up and Frum is the right guy to advise on just how to continue doing that.

In a typically dishonest maneuver Frum comments in his opening paragraph that over the past dozen years of American policy Pakistan and North Korea have developed nuclear weapons. That would put the timeframe solidly in the Clinton years while N. Korea’s nuclear plans reached its current level entirely during Bush Junior’s tenure. Pakistan developed its program beginning in the mid 1970’s and in October 1990, then-President Bush (senior) announced that he could no longer provide Congress with Pressler Amendment certification that Pakistan did not possess a nuclear weapon. Also on today’s Times Op Ed page Nicholas Kristof reminds us that N. Korea obtained zero plutonium during Clinton’s presidency while under the current administration they obtained “…enough plutonium for about eight nuclear weapons”. For background information on the development of weapons of mass destruction around the world see the Federation of American Scientists website.
Frum’s recommendations avoid placing any responsibility for the current state with the Bush administration and outlines a series of “four swift” actions for the U.S. to take that are uniformly unrealistic.

One: “Step up the development and deployment of existing missile defense systems”. He admits that these systems “are not perfect – but they are something.” What they are is unreliable.

Two: “End humanitarian aid to N. Korea and pressure S. Korea to do the same.” Frum says that this would serve to punish both N. Korea and China and perhaps he is right. But S. Korea is highly unlikely to “swiftly” agree to move away from its “sunshine” policy simply because we tell them to do so. End of the day S. Korea is the country most immediately at risk and China, after all, can return any favor of punishment we might choose to give to them via its economic clout.

Three: “Invite Japan, S. Korea, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore to join NATO…” I am hoping that our Kiwi correspondent will comment on the likelihood of New Zealand running to join NATO. I will simply comment that anyone thinking that NATO would do that “swiftly” lives on a different planet.

Four: “Encourage Japan to renounce the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and create its own nuclear deterrent.” He likes this idea partially because it would also punish those evil Chinese. (who would not respond in any way, like cashing in their U.S. debt chips, for instance).

There is much that is striking in Frum’s piece but perhaps most striking is its resolute inability to place any responsibility on the administration within which he once served. The Bush administration has resolutely refused to negotiate directly with N. Korea or Iran so Frum’s comment to the effect that diplomacy has not worked ignores the fact that real diplomacy has not been tried. A very good piece on the lack of a coherent U.S. policy towards N. Korea by Stephen Bosworth and Morton Abramowitz, published in the Financial Times in February 2005, is available on Bosworth’s website.

What seems apparent is that the world has become significantly more dangerious on the watch of Mr. Frum’s former employers.

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