Saturday, May 30, 2009


It's always hard to interpret the policy implications from speeches given by administration officials, no matter what the administration. Still, the latest offering by SecDef Gates concerning North Korea has left us scratching our heads.

Asserting that the US will 'not accept it as a nuclear weapons state' seems on the surface the usual belligerence that was so common during the Bush administration. But it also has some unstated implications.

Firstly, N. Korea is now a 'nuclear weapons state', whether the US likes it or not. So that ups the stated level of belligerence to something approaching a direct threat.

Next, the statement also can imply that North Korea could be accepted by the US, if they give up their nuclear weapons. Up to now, since the Korean War, the US has never recognized North Korea as a legitimate state, even though for most of that time they had no nuclear weapons program.

But whatever the implications, the US is on the road to increase, rather than decrease tensions. The current South Korean regime has also been moving down that path. Some think that skirmishes might start soon around islands in the Yellow Sea.

We'd like to remind Gates of the words of Caspar Gutman, "That is an attitude, sir, that calls for the most delicate judgment on both sides, because, as you know, sir, men are likely to forget in the heat of action where their best interests lie and let their emotions carry them away."


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