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January 14th 2016 print

Michael Galak

North Korea and the Saddam Delusion

The Iraqi dictator wanted the world to believe he was much tougher and far better armed than was actually the case -- a bluff that eventually put his head in a noose. With their crowing and preening about a purported H-bomb, Pyongyang's elite may have made the exact same mistake

koreansThere are troubles and concerns, certainly, but on the whole Australians have reason to regard the year just begun with a measure of guarded optimism and confidence. Mostly that is because our blessed country is far removed, at least for the moment, from the terrible triumvirate of insanity, turmoil and idiocy that reigns over the rest of the planet.

Even so, the year started with a bang, literally, when North Korea exploded what it claims was a hydrogen bomb. While Pyongyang’s psychopaths strut and posture, the rest of us might want to turn our attention from beach and barbecues, at least for a moment or two, to wonder where it all might lead. North Koreans can deliver their latest bombs whenever the whim strikes them, thanks to the Soviet rocket technology that is ready to be placed underneath fresh batches of warheads. The fact that North Korea’s missiles are old fashioned, primitive by contemporary standards, is small consolation. Sure, they lack the range and accuracy to hit Sydney or New York, but they can make Tokyo or Seoul without too much of a problem.

Now cast your mind back to how it all started, how five nations  — America, China, Russia, Japan and South Korea — set out to entice the North Koreans into behaving themselves, the bribe being food in return for a pledge to stop developing nukes. This farce dragged on for more than a decade, with North Korea telling shameless lies while continuing its infernal programme while insisting that its interest in matters nuclear had nothing whatsoever to do with weaponry. No, those reactors and research facilities were strictly for peaceful purposes! Everyone knew there wasn’t a grain truth in the charade, but our leaders chose to go along with it. That way they could wave pieces of paper and declare peace in our time, leaving it the next generation of leaders to cope with Pyongyang’s bluster. And isn’t that what politics — as opposed to security — is all about? Kicking the can down the road, making it the next bloke’s problem.

Does that doomed and dishonest process of remind you of anything? It does me — several things, in fact. Time and time again the Soviets behaved in exactly the same manner, signing arms agreements which they broke behind closed doors, immediately the ink was dry and without compunction. Insist on verification? That would have been an affront to sovereignty and precious national dignity, so hollow words were accepted as genuine in the tacit knowledge they were anything but.

That’s the past, but my thoughts also turn to the future — a time soon to be upon us when Iran has the bomb it swears, with fingers crossed, it doesn’t really want. We know Tehran’s mullahs are lying, just as North Korea and the Soviets were lying, but we persist in clinging to the necessary fiction that they can be trusted.

We know, too, that Obama is a child in president’s clothing, that no one so shallow and self-worshipping could ever negotiate a proper deal with the hard men of Iran. But, as so often before, it suits our purposes to pretend that there is some merit, some hope of promises being honoured, when Obama looks the TelePrompter in the eye and swears, as so many have done before, that there is substance and worth in the pact he brought home to Washington. There isn’t, not a jot. The only distinction between Clinton’s accord with Pyongyang and Obama’s with Tehran is that the North Koreans started earlier than the Iranians. With treaty in hand, sanctions lifted and nothing that resembles a worthwhile inspection agreement, we can fully expect them to continue making up for lost time.

While I can understand the incentive to proclaim a faux deal as a real one, what I cannot get my mind around is the delusional irresponsibility of various American governments. Be it Clinton or Obama, did it concern neither man that he was shedding the most basic responsibility of any leader, his nation’s self preservation? Stalin fell prey to the same short-term temptation when he endorsed the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact; so did Chamberlain at Munich.They knew well and good that they were urinating into the wind, all the while understanding the consequences. Yet still they kidded their audiences that a postponed crisis is every bit as good as a resolved one.

After the recent North Korean nuclear test some countries voiced suspicions that the explosion was produced by something other than a hydrogen bomb. Fair enough. It might or might not have been a hydrogen bomb. This uncertainty, though, represents a danger in and of itself, as it could lead to a conflict in its own right, perhaps even a nuclear one. Again, turn to the past, but think this time of Saddam Hussein, who also sought refuge in fostering illusions. He was a mass-murdering war criminal who butchered countless numbers of his own citizens, using poison gas among other things. Saddam was responsible for the war against Iran, which left almost a million dead. He also invaded a sovereign nation, Kuwait, and was invaded in return, but allowed to stay in power after that initial conflict, the first Gulf War. Only when he quite deliberately created the illusion that his country was plentifully supplied with well-hidden weapons of mass destruction did a second war begin, this time dedicated to the proposition that he simply had to be removed from power once and for all. Saddam’s prestidigitation ended at the end of a rope. One wonders if, as the trapdoor dropped open, his last thought might have been a sincere appreciation that bluffing the world about his purported arsenal had not been a terribly good idea.

Today, North Korea’s commissars could well be making the same mistake.  Their impoverished, dysfunctional and irrational regime, which throws tantrums in a bid to project strength, has no industry to speak of, few natural resources to be relied upon, no allies and a pauperised , semi-starved, terrorised population isolated from the rest of the world. It simply cannot be a match for a contemporary army.

North Korea’s need to demonstrate how tough and dangerous it is stems from  its leaders’ clear understanding of their own criminality, their fear of losing power and the gallows they know is waiting if their control of the country and its society is ever wrested from their hands. This fear drives eccentric and irrational behaviour, the essence of which could be expressed as “Don’t touch me, I am crazy! I am capable of anything!”

The reality is that North Kore’s despots are rational and clearheaded in pursuing what amounts to a flawed strategy. Indeed, in their desperate drive to stay in power, they may well have aped Saddam’s fatal blunder by presenting themselves to the world as much stronger than is actually the case. They can be reasonably confident that the weakling Obama will do nothing, but can they be sure the next president will be so spineless?  In breaking promises and thumbing their noses at the nations which thought, or pretended to think they had obtained an agreement, they mistook the peaceful nature Western democracies for weakness. Have you noticed that all dictators seem to make the same mistake?

And now, for all their boasting and crowing, North Korea’s leaders might have just convinced the West that they have become too dangerous to ignore. In my imagination I hear the sound of saws and hammers. It is the noise of the gallows being erected. At least I sincerely hope that is what I can hear.

Comments [23]

  1. acarroll says:

    America was extremely irresponsible for allowing Israel to gain nuclear weapons.

    Iran provides balance in the region to Israel, the USA and Saudi Arabia. All the evidence over the past 50 years suggests they’re the loose canons, the ones to worry about.

    Perhaps the US themselves are worried about Israel, hence the deal.

    • Lawrie Ayres says:

      The Israelis have been extremely patient while under extreme duress. They might have nuclear weapons but have never used them or threatened to use them against their constant irritants. Israel is not responsible for the mess that is the Middle East. It’s responses to the frequent small scale attacks have been measured but portrayed by the western MSM as overdone. The Left seems more interested in allowing the crazies in Hamas and Hezbollah to dominate rather than a democratic Israel. The really loose cannon is Obama who is an Islamic sympathiser and who’s foreign policy is appeasement where strength is required.

    • Eeyore says:

      Why irresponsible? They haven’t used them in what amounts to pretty extreme provocation. Which is really the point, they hold sufficient power to turn the better part of the middle east into a wasteland, yet they don’t.

      Consider the other side, if Hamas had the same power would they have the same restraint? Will Iran when it is fully loaded?

      • acarroll says:

        It was quite the gamble to assume that Israel would show restraint at the time though, was it not?

        Yet the gamble was made, not without significant resistance in some quarters.

        Hamas wouldn’t have to be as outwardly militaristic if it had nuclear weapons, because with MAD it means they can actually bargain, rather than have to fight an asymmetric war.

        Likewise with Iran. Iran has already a formidable military capability in the conventional sense. An involvement militarily in Iran is a very different prospect to Iraq or Libya. Iran is an extremely capable nation in many fields. I strongly suspect that if Iran wanted nuclear weapons they’d have them already. Why they would need them is a strategic question you’d have to ask from their perspective.

        Also, if the USA wasn’t involved, perhaps Israel would have turned the better part of the middle east into a wasteland. The USA has been their overwhelming conventional military force on the ground, turning it into a wasteland all the same — no need for nukes!

        If a state can manipulate its “friends and allies” to do its bidding in this way, why not? I don’t hold that against Israel, they’re doing it in their national interest. It most certainly doesn’t appear to be in any European state’s, Australia’s or the USA’s national interest however. By this I mean the regular tax payer, not the 1% and not the dual citizens. Explain, how do I gain from Australia’s involvement in any middle-eastern war?

        I can certainly see how I lose.

        We honestly don’t know much about the nature of Hamas at all frankly, because Hamas don’t have a massive lobbying and media apparatus behind them to suppress or highlight their actions in order to manufacture their image in the richest most powerful countries. This is the plain fact of the matter. Likewise Iran. How much do we REALLY know about Iran and its intentions? I suggest that the vast majority of the information we’ve received about Hamas and Iran over the years is propaganda.

        That’s not to say they are “good guys”, but what, the USA, UK, France, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey are? Last I checked it wasn’t Iran and Hamas that were causing a massive flood of refugees out of the middle east for a nebulous multiculti democracy project. (A spontaneous project in Iran that just happened to be crushed with the USA’s backing, producing what you have now. No democracy for a capable, mostly united people but democracy for a multiculti rabble? Makes sense if you want chaos and instability.)

        • Eeyore says:

          I would not be entirely confident that Hamas would not use them, they have in their charter the specific statement that they intend to commit genocide and not just limited to the middle east.

          Who should we listen to if not them about their intent?

          MAD depends on some level of self preservation, a trait that appears rare in the followers of that brand of religious delusion.

          I don’t own sufficient alfoil to make a hat of sufficient thickness to comprehend your statement about Israel’s manipulation of friends and allies.

          • acarroll says:

            No tinfoil required.

            Take a read of the following

            “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy” (Mearsheimer, J. and Walt, S. 2007)
            “The Samson Option: Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal and American Foreign Policy” (Hersh, S. 1991)

            http://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-spy-net-on-israel-snares-congress-1451425210

            List of Israeli dual citizens neo conservatives with influence in US foreign policy (compiled from Wikipedia): http://hugequestions.com/Eric/TFC/FromOthers/list-of-neocons-for-Iraq-war.htm

            Maybe it is just a loony “conspiracy theory” with evidence and motive to back it up.

            I’m happy to be shown evidence to the contrary.

          • acarroll says:

            @Rob,

            I have a reply for you but it’s “awaiting moderation” (presumably because it has links). Hopefully the moderators will allow it through.

          • acarroll says:

            Ok let’s try that again.

            No tinfoil required.

            Take a read of the following

            “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy” (Mearsheimer, J. and Walt, S. 2007)
            “The Samson Option: Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal and American Foreign Policy” (Hersh, S. 1991)

            Google “Wall Street Journal US spy net on Israel snares Congress”

            Also Google the list of US neoconservative dual citizens who’ve had influence in US foreign policy, particularly in Iraq, and their representation PNAC strategic position paper.

            Then Google former US general Wesley Clarke’s recollection of a conversation with former colleagues with regards to “invading 7 countries in 5 years”. The timetable hasn’t been kept, because Syria hasn’t fallen yet.

            Maybe it is just a loony “conspiracy theory” (albeit with evidence and motive to back it up).

            I’m happy to be shown evidence to the contrary.

        • LBLoveday says:

          Quote: “what, the USA, UK, France, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey are?” (good guys).
          To my mind you leave off the most obvious “bad guy” – Pakistan who provided safe haven to bin Laden and many other truly “bad guys”? And of course Russia, second only to the USA in numbers, and, in my opinion, also the second most likely, again after the USA, to use them. And don’t overlook China, currently strongly flexing its muscles in the South China Sea.

          • Eeyore says:

            acarroll. Impossible for me to disprove a negative. I will have a read this evening with interest the links provided.

    • mark says:

      You may be interested in this letter from JFK to Ben Gurion expressing his concern about Israel’s then planned nuclear program: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/US-Israel/FRUS5_18_63.html
      He was assassinated several months later. Soon afterwards LBJ ok’ed the deal

      • Eeyore says:

        Hello Mark, So lets see if I can read between the lines, Israel had something to do with JFK assassination and evolution isn’t true.

        • mark says:

          Hi Rob, Let’s see if I can read B/w the lines. You are unable to put a coherent argument together so you resort to sarcasm.

          • Eeyore says:

            I am a bit lost about the “coherent” part of your statement. But the rest is pretty much correct, I admit to sarcasm (creotards do raise that less than lovely attitude in me) but in my own defense I did manage to avoid an ad hominem in lieu of argumentation.

            Prove your statement, provide evidence that Israel were part of a conspiracy to kill JFK. Provide verifiable evidence.

  2. LBLoveday says:

    Quote: “With their crowing and preening about a purported H-bomb, Pyongyang’s elite may have made the exact same mistake”.
    Or they may have provided their country with an effective deterrent against Obama’s bombs. Remember Libya? Libya agreed to give up their nuclear program and destroy their chemical weapons. No sooner done, deterrent gone, and Obama bombed them into the 18th century.
    Why can Obama have 2,000 nuclear weapons at his beck and call, and thousands more able to be quickly readied, the Pakistanis who provided safe haven to bin Laden have more than 100, but North Korea be denied even one little bomb?

    • acarroll says:

      Power is a zero-sum game. By definition when a new player enters the game the existing players lose some.

      It’s a good question regarding Pakistan being allowed its arsenal. How does the USA benefit? There must be something else regarding their government we don’t know.

      The fact that they’re nominally a democracy makes no difference to their potential for clandestine trade in nuclear material and/or explosives, particularly given that the majority of their population support radical Islam.

      • Ian MacDougall says:

        The US was first to get the bomb, to use on Japan. So Russia (USSR) had to have it.
        After China fell out with Russia, neighbour China had to have it.
        When China got it, frictional neighbour India had to get it.
        When India got it, frictional neighbour Pakistan had to have it.
        Iran’s reputed bomb may continue that tradition.
        Israel’s acquisition of it is a statement of their confidence in US support against the frictional Islamic oil-exporting states of the ME.

  3. Bran Dee says:

    One of the joys of reading QOL is that I find so little on which I am not generally in accord. So being affronted by acarroll and Mark on the same page is worse for me than a bad hair day.

    The suggestion is that Mohammedan countries with the bomb would act reasonably? Agreed that Pakistan has a nuclear arsenal but they remain democratic and selectively defy sharia law by maintaining separation between mosque and state unlike Iran and Isil.
    Jihadist suicide bombers are generally young zealots who are convinced that martyrdom will ensure their instant translation to paradise. When state leaders also believe in martyrdom through MAD and use of their acquired nuclear weapons then the the Middle East is
    headed for conflagration. With ideas of paradise so real to Mohammedans along with their ideas of damnation for infidels then death for all is a win-win result in which all get their just deserts, so they think. If this is agreed then it must also be agreed that Mohammedan
    ideology is the problem.

  4. mark says:

    The problem with this article is that Saddam never claimed he had weapons of mass destruction. In fact he repeately denied it. Some claim that Bush lied in order to start the war: http://www.salon.com/2015/02/10/yes_bush_lied_about_iraq_why_are_we_still_arguing_about_this/ In any case, Iraq was bombed to a pulp, no weapons were ever found, and the country remains a total basket case.

    • Eeyore says:

      1) Not only did he say he had them he used them. Chemical weapons are WMD as well.
      2) Since 1975 France built an advanced reactor (capable of enrichment) and supplied the uranium.
      3) Since the 1980′s German chemical companies had supplied him the precursors to mustard gas.
      4) In the 1980′s other german companies supplied equipment designed for biological warfare.
      5) In the late 80′s german firms sold the centrifuge data to enrich uranium.
      6) In the late 90′s a case of nuclear triggers where intercepted at Heathrow airport bound for Baghdad. Typically and with the usual lack of foresight, USA sold the advanced computer systems. In the 90′s Brittish interests supplied the engineering equipment needed to build the delivery systems (super gun).
      7) In 1991 Iraq advised the inspection teams of the existence of chemical weapons for “defensive” purposes.
      8) In 1995 the general in charge of the weapons program fled in fear of his life, his information forced Iraq to admit to extensive weapons production.
      9) In 1998 the bloke in charge of weapons inspection quit his job complaining about the UN and USA, later that year UK and USA bombed the facilities.

      They used chemical weapons againsts Iran, with deaths of up to 100,000 people.Its part of the resentment felt by middle eastern countries that we in the west, assisted this bastard in the manufacture of such weapons.

      He used them on the Kurds.

      This is not top secret information available on conspiracy webshites, these are common information available to you with the smallest of efforts.

      So whilst it is perfectly reasonable to be cynical of US and EU member policies the history stacks up to support Bush on this one.

      • Eeyore says:

        My previous post could be misread, I am not suggesting for a second that the Iraq war was justified by WMD. It is correct to say that Iraq had not complied with its agreed disarmament but equally correct that what they had left at the time Bush waded in was either useless or small. Hindsite is a wonderful thing.
        Bush didn’t believe the intelligence, given the historical failures perhaps that was reasonable or not.
        In the end the yanks took 2 tonnes of enriched uranium from Iraq, sufficient for 1 bomb. As late as 2006 the locals were using old bombs as IED’s with traces of sarin in them, by this time they were pretty ineffective and from what I have read useless.

        • mark says:

          In the events leading up to the 2003 war he denied having WMD’s. Iraq was invaded anyway based on what turned out to be a falsehood. The veracity of the intelligence and the complicity of Bush and Tony Blair in all this are at least up for debate as my link indicated. The kindest spin you could put on it was that Bush was conned. More likely he was pushed by the neo-cons in his administration.

          • Eeyore says:

            We do love a squabble don’t we. He claimed both, that he had them and that he didn’t at different times to different people. There is also a degree of information that says he sent them to Syria under the guise of assisting in a natural disaster. Later, the guy who was in charge of finding them claims they found the storage facility for them, that much is supported by evidence, from memory they found a few hundred sarin based weapons. One of the classic conspiracy theories is that the Democrats and Republicans know they were there, for the Democrats they don’t want to acknowledge their existence as that would support Bush’s cavalier attack and the Republicans won’t acknowledge them as it would show incompetence. Shrug….another wild theory that does not deserve much thought just like the rest of them without the required tinfoil hat.