Jewish World Review Jan. 13, 2003 / 10 Shevat, 5763

Zev Chafets

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No time for experts


http://www.jewishworldreview.com | Until a few weeks, ago I didn't even know the name of the capital of North Korea. I want to say this right upfront, so nobody takes me for an expert. Because, when it comes to North Korea, the experts clearly don't know what they're talking about.

In 1994, the experts in the Clinton administration made this deal: North Korea shuts down its nuclear weapons program in return for U.S. help in building a nuclear reactor for peaceful purposes.

In October, the North Koreans shocked the experts by admitting they were still secretly trying to make nuclear weapons. Next, they kicked International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors out of their Yongbyon nuclear facility. Within six months, Yongbyon can probably produce six nukes.

The experts blamed this development on President Bush. He had driven the North Koreans to desperate measures by including them in his axis of evil.

Then the experts found out - because the North Koreans told them - that they had been cheating on the deal since it was made, roughly six years before Bush's election.

Okay, said the experts, what's done is done. What matters now is the future. They advocated immediate negotiations to get North Korea to agree to what it had agreed to, following negotiations, in 1994.

Bush didn't get it. Why should the U.S. pay twice for the same merchandise? And what made anyone think the North Koreans would honor their word this time?

A great chorus of expert denunciation greeted this unsophisticated, Texas cowboy approach. The Koreans got themselves caught out on a limb, said the experts. Talks are the ladder that will allow them to climb down from the tree.

So Bush did what he often does with expert advice - he tried it. Okay, he said, to the North Koreans, let's talk.

And North Korea said: No thanks. Instead, it said it was pulling out of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. No nation in history has ever done that.

This announcement came Friday. On Saturday, NorthKorea added that it will begin testing long-range missiles - giving the experts just 24 hours before the Sunday talk shows to concoct a new formula for making reality conform with theory. Doubtless it will call for a mixture of diplomatic discussions and American concessions.

Meanwhile, North Korea, if it isn't stopped, will build a lot of atomic bombs very soon. It will sell these bombs to Iraq, Iran, Al Qaeda, the Russian mafia, the Colombian drug cartel and anyone else with a few million bucks and a grudge. Why would North Korea do that? Because it is broke and has nothing else to sell; and because, in Bush's words, it is an evil regime.

So, what should America do? Here are the choices: 1) Ignore the whole thing and hope it goes away; 2) Cut another deal, knowing in advance that it's worthless, or 3) Disarm North Korea, in line with the doctrine of preemption.

The thought of force makes the experts shudder. North Korea has a million-man army on the South Korean border. It has artillery aimed at downtown Seoul. There will be bloodshed. Economic disruption. Diplomatic outrage. Unilateral military action is unthinkable.

This leads directly back to options No. 1 and No. 2: wishful thinking.

The alternative is very straightforward. Give North Korea an ultimatum to dismantle the reactor. If it refuses, the U.S. should do what Israel did in Iraq in 1981 - destroy the enemy's nuclear reactor. And, as the world's sole superpower, the U.S. can do two things Israel couldn't: Warn North Korea that a military response will bring about a calamitous reaction, and second, inform the government in - what's the name of the capital again? - that it will never be allowed to develop nuclear weapons.

Of course I'm no expert. But then again, thankfully, neither is Bush.

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JWR contributor Zev Chafets is a columnist for The New York Daily News. Comment by clicking here.

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