Wednesday, October 23, 2002
Wait a couple of days, and let someone else do it: I'd planned on writing a little dissection of this piece in Monday's San Diego Union-Tribune by columnist James Goldsborough. The piece is a lame attempt to equate Iraq's quest for nuclear weapons with North Korea's acquisition of them.
The Bush administration's reaction to North Korea's revelation of a nuclear weapons program last week was to point out the differences between the North Korean and Iraqi regimes and call for a peaceful end to the crisis.
It won't wash. The North Korean and Iraq regimes are similar, and to treat them differently points to the flaws in Bush's Iraq strategy. North Korea's nuclear confession, which Bush officials say was made belligerently, may even be linked to Bush's Iraq policy, challenging Bush in effect to fight two wars at once.
Goldsborough seems to suggest that it's all Bush's fault that we have this problem with North Korea. This argument, however, is irrelevant. The timing is not important -- the fact that North Korea violated several international agreements is the only important fact.
The question Bush must answer is this: If war is justified because Iraq might be building nuclear weapons and hiding missiles, why is war not justified with North Korea, which admits it is building nuclear weapons and has tested long-range missiles?
Goldsborough is an intelligent man, which is why it doesn't become him to make such a stupid argument. War is justified with Korea because of its construction of nuclear weapons. But, to borrow a phrase that is often told to students of newspaper design, just because you can do it, doesn't mean you should do it.
Which brings us to today's column by The New York Times' lone conservative voice, William Safire. Safire succinctly addresses the very argument Goldsborough made earlier in the week.
That strategic fact of life and death invites the question that coolly consistent sophists love to ask: If we are disinclined to attack the nuclear buildup in North Korea, why are we hot to attack a somewhat less imminent threat of mass destruction from Iraq?
Saddam Hussein is a recent, serial aggressor, while totalitarian North Korea has not launched an invasion in the past half-century. Moreover, the potentially high human cost of wiping out the Korean threat should be an unforgettable lesson to every nation: The world must not allow Iraq to gain the level of destructive power that appeasement and misplaced trust permitted North Korea to achieve.
Iraq and North Korea are very different. Goldsborough, and others like him, know this. But, in order to make a consistent (but not pragmatic) anti-war argument, they are reduced to "cool sophistry."
The American public deserves better, more honest arguments from the left. The ones they're trotting out doesn't lift the level of public discourse.