What's All This Then?

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Tuesday, October 10, 2006
As one of the "evils" rotates on its axis…..

It isn’t good news when a dictatorship sets off an atomic weapon as North Korea appears to have done yesterday - but I would imagine that it is at least somewhat good news for President Bush and some Republicans who are locked in tight re-election races that could swing either way. We’re less than thirty days away from Election Day and as someone said recently - 30 days can be an eternity in an election season. The implication of such a statement is in itself scary as all get out. It says that people can be swayed this late in an election campaign - by what? By an ad? By some national or international event? It says that there are voters who are that malleable - who can be manipulated into voting one way or another in the fading hours of an election race.

That if course doesn’t include voters who change their minds about a candidate because he’s suddenly revealed as someone who has betrayed their trust. For example, some Republican leaders who may have covered up the activities of Mark Foley because their desire to stay in power was stronger than their perceived obligation to protect Congressional pages from a sexual predator.

But today, the Foley affair is off the front pages of our newspapers and likely won’t be the lead story on tonight’s newscasts - as indeed it wasn’t last night. It was the North Korean atomic test yesterday and it will be the same story today and maybe for days to come. And the perception that Republicans will spread will be that this represents a specific threat to the United States and that the way to respond to such a threat is to elect Republicans to Congress who, as we all know, are the first line of defense against an attack by that Axis of Evil nation - just as they are against all kinds of terrorists who are plotting to murder us in our beds. The Democrats of course would want to dissuade them from attacking us with warm hugs and promises of free health care.

To his credit, Mr. Bush did not wear his full sized cowboy hat nor his favorite six guns when making his statement on the North Korean action yesterday. No mention of evil axis. He did say that the test was "unacceptable" but there was no overt threat of military action. Which is just as well - because at this late date it simply isn’t a reasonable option.

It seems to me that if we can use history as a guide - including recent history - it shouldn’t take too much brain power to arrive at the conclusion that military action isn’t a response that could hope to succeed against this perceived "threat." I seem to recall a time when we were deeply involved in trying to resolve problems of the Korean peninsula by military action - albeit military action that was actually sanctioned by the United Nations. The result was what we see today. The two Koreas that were created by us and the Soviets after World War Two remaining two countries - one becoming a democracy and the other an Axis of Evil dictatorship.

A few years later, we tried to solve the problems of another divided Asian nation by military means - and that became known as the Vietnam War. A war that we - as allies of South Vietnam - lost!!

And of course three years ago, we invaded Iraq - a nation in which we are bogged down militarily and which we eventually will be forced to leave without the achievement of any "victory" though we might do the save face thing and declare victory and go home.

One would think that by this time - sixty one years after the end of the last World War - we would have learned that the military option is one that you resort to only when you have to - when another military power attacks you or an ally or when there’s absolutely no doubt that he’s about to attack you. But in other circumstances - as we should have learned from the Korean and Vietnam wars - and as - for the sake of our children and grandchildren I hope we are learning from the Iraq debacle - it is simply not a solution..

I don’t know how we or the rest of the world should deal with North Korea and whatever threat we think it poses - but here’s one idea. Maybe we should find people other than politicians to come up with answers and to deal with them. I was inspired to come up with that thought this morning after reading about an unfolding local issue that I think is typical of the way politicians create chaos out of calm.

I’ve been writing about an impending increase in local electric rates after a Commerce Commission approved the end of a 10 year rate freeze and a new way to arrive at the cost of generating power. Generating companies came up with bids to supply the power - and contracts were concluded between them and Commonwealth Edison, our local electric distributing company. Now, some of the State’s politicians have decided that maybe this isn’t such a good idea after all and they are preparing to legislate a three year extension of the recently expired price freeze.

Commonwealth Edison is crying foul. The horse is already out of the barn. The cost for the electricity they are going to bring into our homes via their wires has been locked in by contract. It’s more than they’ve been paying. If they can’t pass that increase on to their customers, they’ll go bankrupt. To which the politicians say - too bad. We have to protect the consumers. Our voters!!

Well it’s a fine idea - but being suggested at the wrong time. The time to have taken some action to continue the freeze was before it expired - not after the process of signing new contracts for energy production was allowed to go forward and be concluded.

Well, the same sort of thing has happened with North Korea. The time to have dome something about its march toward the production of atomic weapons was before it got there!! It doesn’t do a damned bit of good to stand up and say that testing atomic weaponry is "unacceptable." And it won’t do a damned bit of good to impose sanctions on what is already the most isolated country in the world. It won’t remove the atomic weapons and you can be damned sure that it won’t persuade KIM Jong IL to destroy any of them.

There is a glimmer of light coming from Bush senior’s Secretary of State James Baker, to whom Dubya may be listening or to whom he may be persuaded to listen . Baker has always said and is once again saying very publicly that it doesn’t hurt to talk to your enemies - the exact opposite of the Bush approach to foreign affairs.

For the eight years of the Clinton presidency, we talked to North Korea and they did not separate plutonium and they did not produce and test an atomic weapon. Since Bush ascended to the White House and declared his new foreign policy, they moved forward in leaps and bounds - arriving to where we are today.

We have more than two years left of the Bush presidency - two years in which to change or "stay" the Bush course of foreign policy. Towards North Korea. Towards Iran. And towards Iraq. We know that it will change when Dubya, Laura and Barney leave the White House. The only unanswered question is - how much of the world will be left toward which our changed approach to world affairs can be directed?