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Jewish World Review Feb. 6, 2003 / 4 Adar I, 5763

Robert W. Tracinski

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Defending America's second front | Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld announced Tuesday that the United States is thinking about redeploying 24 long-range bombers within easy striking distance of North Korea. The only thing we ought to find shocking about this announcement is the fact that the administration is only considering this option. Faced with grave threats to our security, there is no excuse for being so tentative about defending the second front in America's War on Terrorism.

This announcement comes after official confirmation that North Korea is moving its store of Plutonium-bearing nuclear fuel rods to reprocessing plants, which would allow the Stalinist regime to begin producing nuclear bombs within the next few weeks or months. The timing, I am sure, is no coincidence. The North Koreans are hoping that the Bush administration can't walk and chew gum at the same time -- that Bush will be so busy with the war in Iraq that he will let North Korea slide until it is too late.

There are plenty of American commentators and politicians who tell us that this is inevitable, that the North Korea problem can only be solved through months of painstaking diplomacy. But we don't have that long -- and we don't need that long.

We don't have that long, because by the time the diplomats are done jaw-jacking, the North Koreans could have more than half a dozen nuclear weapons. This would pose an intolerable threat to the 37,000 American troops stationed in South Korea -- and it would pose an even more intolerable risk that nuclear weapons material could be sold to terrorists, who would use it to kill tens of thousands of American civilians.

We don't need that long, because our military drew up plans for the proper response almost a decade ago, during the Clinton administration's stand-off with North Korea in 1994. The solution is to bomb the North Korean nuclear facilities and reprocessing plants, a series of targeted strikes that would halt North Korea's nuclear program overnight. Then cut off all foreign aid to North Korea and starve the regime into collapse.

But, the appeasers will now scream, this strategy carries an unacceptable risk that North Korea will strike back at South Korea, potentially killing tens of thousands. That fear is why the Clinton administration -- showing the same courage and foresight that caused them to shelve half a dozen plans to take out Osama bin Laden -- caved in and settled for a fraudulent compromise deal, long since violated by North Korea.

But this timid approach refuses to recognize the fact that America has an unchallengeable military advantage -- from our conventional forces and from our enormous nuclear arsenal -- and all we need is the courage to use it, unreservedly and unapologetically. We should bomb North Korea, then make it clear to them that any retaliation means their total annihilation. For North Korea, a war means suicide -- and they know it. We need to make it clear that we know it, too.

North Korea is a hold-over from the Cold War, and what is required to deal with them is old-fashioned Cold War brinksmanship. The squeamish left would like us to believe that this kind of Cold War threat was some form of wild-eyed lunacy. But such policies are merely a recognition of the grave seriousness of the nuclear threat we face.

If you think the stakes are being exaggerated, consider the current debate in Egyptian newspapers. Observing that Iraq and North Korea have gotten away with illicit nuclear weapons programs for as long as a decade at a time, Islamic hard-liners are now demanding that Egypt restart its nuclear weapons program. The reason is simple. Nuclear proliferation is not kept in check by the paper barriers of U.N. treaties; it is kept in check by the threat of overwhelming force. If we aren't willing to use that kind of force against North Korea, then every tin-pot dictatorship on earth will scramble to acquire nuclear weapons -- creating a world so dangerous that facing down North Korea will look, in retrospect, like a walk in the park.

U.S. military doctrine is based on acquiring the ability to fight two major wars at the same time. But destroying the North Korean nuclear program will not require an enormous new quantity of material resources, just a few dozen bombers -- and a few dozen ICBM silos. What our North Korea strategy really needs is something in much shorter supply: enough extra courage and moral resolve for a vigorous defense of America's second front.

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