Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Playing With the Big Boys

In an expected move last Friday, North Korea test launched a missile that would show that the country was capable of launching a nuclear weapon that could possibly reach as far as the United States. While the move has been seen as hostile by most countries, as well as much of the United Nations, any moves to punish North Korea are sure to have little, if any, effect. Why won't North Korea stop developing nuclear weapons? The answer is simple; they want to play with the big boys.

At the very mention of nuclear weapons, everyone pays attention. It does not matter how small you are, or how much military force you can scrounge up, if others think you have the biggest stick, they are going to listen to you. The "haves" as they are called, or the countries that currently have nuclear weapons, are always looked at in a different way than the "have not's". To understand this point, we need only hear a few names: The US, Russia, China, India, The UK, and Israel. I am sure that each of us knows these names and will have some idea of where in the world they are. You may even know a little about our nation's policy towards these countries. Now consider these names: Chad, Argentina, Moldova, Belarus, Somalia, and Turkmenistan. My guess is that you have no idea where any more than one or two of those countries are, and probably have no idea as to US policy towards them.

Now let's consider two final names: North Korea and Iran. Before the war in Iraq, most of us could not tell the difference between Iraq and Iran. All that has changed in the last few years as the potential of these countries developing a nuclear program became clear.

Yes there is reason for us to be concerned with more nuclear weapons in more hands around the world. No one thinks it will be a good idea to go back to a Cold War stance of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), and nuclear proliferation should be done with extreme care. There is no reason to assume, however, that North Korea' s purpose in developing nuclear technology is so that it will be used. We can see from their past actions that they simply what to be included in the conversation at the "adult table".

When North Korea detonated their first nuclear device in 2006, the world quickly moved North Korea to the center of attention. Media coverage focused of the county and its eccentric leader for months. Every news organization vied for the chance to go inside North Korea and be the first "on scene", and for the first time after the Korean War, we all knew what was going on across the Korean Peninsula.

Overnight, North Korea moved from being a small country on the other side of the world that had a crazy leader, to a small nuclear country on the other side of the world with the same crazy leader, but now we cared about them. With efforts for peace and nuclear disarmament we allowed North Korea to remain a major actor in world politics. We sent the New York Philharmonic to play a historic concert that was "bridging the gap" between our nation and theirs. And then the North Korean government started to destroy its nuclear program, or at least the part of the program that we could see and could be broadcast on CNN. Reporters showed us how much progress was being made and how well the world was getting along.

But all that faded away over time, and we all once again stop paying attention to Kim Jong Il. We knew that the North Koreans had nuclear weapons, but they could not send them anywhere. We stopped including North Korea in the discussions and moved on to the "economic crisis" that was bringing the world to its knees. So what is North Korea to do, how about launching a "satellite" that we all know is just a way to show that they have the ability to launch a nuclear weapon into space.

And look, it worked! We all care about North Korea again. We all want to see what is going on half way around the world, and the media is happy to supply us with pictures of projected missile flight paths and of a tiny dot in the middle of a field that we are told is a missile that is ready for launch. We once again respect, or should I say fear, what someone has the power to do on the other side of the world.

Will North Korea use nuclear weapons on South Korea, Japan, or even the United States? That is doubtful. They simply want to feel like one of the big kids and the best way they know to make it happen, Carry the biggest stick around. Don't worry about North Korea. Wait for Iran to develop a nuclear weapons program. Then we might have something to worry about.

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