Wednesday, December 29, 2004


U.S. Established A Nuclear "Red Line" Against North Korea.

Great news, if totally true (H/T Drudge):
Only months after invading Iraq in 2003, the U.S. warned North Korea that it had designated the overseas transfer of nuclear materials as a "red line" that could warrant the use of force against the communist country, a former U.S. envoy on North Korea said.
Read more at the not-always-reliable World Tribune.

I've long maintained that a major corollary of the Bush Doctrine involves not only actual preemption but a clear message that preemption is a possibility. I've written here before about the need to flesh out the deterrence aspects of the Doctrine more clearly. Diplomatic actions like this one taken against North Korea are a positive step in that direction.

However, no deterrence is possible without the credible means to do so. Obviously, our conventional military options are limited right now, in fact pretty much non-existent. As for the nuclear option, once again that pesky problem arises, "will we or won't we?"

America has long relied on an ambiguous nuclear deterrence strategy. The question today is whether such a strategy is ideal in "drawing the red line" in relations with nation-states that may not understand American attempts at signalling.

Don't think that's possible? Just think how many times in the past fifteen years where the United States has been unable to successfully convince dictators of our intent-- Panama, Saddam numerous times, and Serbia. About the only success we've had in recent years involved the Haitian junta, and even then they waited until the last possible moment to cave.

Very interesting. . .

WRT "unsuccesful signals"...

I'll defer to your military knowledge, but would you be intimidated by the US in the last 30 years? We've done some nice stuff here and there granted. But mainly we've cut and run or not done anything at all. OBL bet the farm on that and more or less won, until 9/11.

-Chris Mayhew

I was going to comment on that a bit in the post, but decided not to (enough ranting for one post!).

The problem we have is that we're not serious until we're serious, and then we're serious.

For example, we can spend ten years dorking around with Saddam, but the moment Dubya put a deadline on it, we were going to war. Ditto his father in '91, the trendsetter for all such deadlines, which have sort of become de rigeur for American military policy (Haiti, Serbia, Iraq '98, Afghanistan, Iraq '03, etc.).

As for being afraid of the U.S., the only thing that will strike that fear into an enemy is a message from the President, from the Oval Office. Anything less than that-- diplomatic couriers, Foggy Bottom press conferences-- and you run the risk of repeating April Glaspie's mistakes in 1991.

That's why I'm so hard up on anything that President Bush can say, because it has much more impact than this low-level putzing around. While I don't think that a lot of these nations can necessarily be deterred in the long run, the only chance is by making it clear, official policy.

Want proof on how effective a presidential declaration is? Three words: Axis of Evil. Those words would've never stuck had Bush not uttered them in a State of the Union, on national TV. THAT'S the kind of stage messages like these need to be uttered, unambiguosly and repeatedly.
I meant April Glaspie's mistakes in *1990*.
Concur then. Makes sense when you put it in that light. I seriously dislike this deadline bit. Our chief weapon is surprise...surprise and fear...fear and surprise.... Our two weapons are fear and surprise...and ruthless efficiency. Well, actually, they really are, but no reason to telegraph the punch 6 months in advance.
Could you elaborate (perhaps in email) on "April Glaspie's mistakes in *1990*."
-Chris Mayhew
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