Favorite

How much harm could he do? 

When North Korea exploded a nuclear device and ushered in a new age of nuclear terror last week, those halcyon days of peace and optimism that marked the turn of the century suddenly seemed so much further back in the mists than a mere six years.

America then bestrode a peaceful world like no other nation in history, almost universally admired and by its few enemies grudgingly respected. Its leader, despite personal disgrace at home, was feted and mobbed by admirers in any capital in the world he cared to visit. Remember?

So confident were we in the future that it did not seem to matter terribly that the new president-to-be was a man who knew and cared little about even recent history and who surrounded himself with people who thought its lessons were no longer of any consequence. The country was going to be run by a man with only a few simple ideas, one of which was that any obstacle to American designs in the world could be resolved easily by American power or the threat of its use. How much harm could he do, really, to a nation so resilient and robust and a world happy to follow its lead?

Incalculable, we have quickly learned. The United States soon found itself warring endlessly in two countries and knowing not how to end the hemorrhaging and destruction, facing the prospect of a new and hostile nuclear power in the Middle East that taunted the United States with impunity, and, finally, confronted by the reality of nuclear bombs in the hands of a paranoid outlaw in the Far East. Except for solitary Saddam Hussein, the few enemies of 2000 are transcendent.

The Bush administration likes to explain it by saying that 9/11 “changed everything,” everything including the way that the United States has conducted its affairs in the Middle East and Asia since at least Eisenhower. The perils in Iraq, Iran and Korea are not the fruits of the 19 terrorists of 9/11 but of a president who was either ignorant or dismissive of history and who believed that brave talk and threats, not diplomacy, were the only tools for dealing with even pallid enemies like Iraq, Iran and North Korea, the “axis of evil.”

When he unilaterally invaded a virtually prostrate Iraq in 2003 to get rid of nonexistent weapons and to sever a key link to al Qaeda, Bush may really have not known, as he would claim, what his father and every cognizant leader of the world knew: that Osama bin Laden loathed Saddam (and vice versa) and would celebrate his ouster.

In the spring of 1991, after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, the Saudi royal family rejected bin Laden’s request that his men, who had helped bring down the Soviet-backed regime in Afghanistan, repel the Iraqis. If the Americans came to the holy soil, he correctly predicted, they would never leave. Bin Laden left Saudi Arabia and settled in Sudan to begin his jihad against the new occupiers. The first attack on the World Trade Center followed two years later.

Iran and North Korea are essentially the same story. Unlike Saddam, they worried about American power and Bush’s implied threat to change their regimes. Nuclear bombs clearly were a deterrent. And it worked. At some pains, Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice declared last week that the United States had no plans to ever attack North Korea. Even that implied threat was taken out of the sanctions resolution of the United Nations Security Council over the weekend.

Four years late, the Bush family agent, James Baker, advised the president two weeks ago that talking to your critics and foes was not, as the entire administration had been saying, appeasement.

North Korea launched its nuclear quest 50 years ago when President Truman and then his successor, Eisenhower, suggested obliquely that the United States might use atomic weapons against the country if it did not negotiate peace. The Soviet Union supplied the North with a research reactor in 1965 and the country built upon it. During the Reagan administration, the country began reprocessing fuel into weapons-grade material, but then in 1985 diplomacy persuaded the dictator to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Under the first President Bush, the United States removed the last of its nuclear weapons aimed at Pyongyang from South Korea. The North tried to withdraw from the treaty in 1994 but direct negotiations with the Clinton administration, including assurances that the United States would not attack them, produced the agreement to seal the spent fuel under international monitoring, which the Bush administration seeks to blame for the current crisis.

The regime secretly hedged, but the fact is that diplomacy quelled the nuclear threat until 2002, when President Bush declared the government evil, threatened military action and refused direct talks. Now he has what he said he would never accept and what United Nations sanctions will not change. We must all face another arms race, involving nations far less rational than the Russians and Chinese, which seemed unimaginable six short years ago.


Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • Sunday and another open line

    Got anything for the open line?
    • Jul 23, 2017
  • But what about the Clintons? Last refuge of Trump, New York Times

    Trying to compare Donald Trump's reaction to the Russia investigation with Bill Clinton's dealings with Kenneth Starr should be a non-starter if the facts mattered. But these days — and to the New York Times — it ain't necessarily so.
    • Jul 23, 2017
  • Football is king, Bentonville edition

    Good analysis in the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette of an unannounced Bentonville School Board vote last week to put $2 million into a football stadium for West High School despite board assurances in last May's tax election that no money would go to a football stadium.
    • Jul 23, 2017
  • More »

More by Ernest Dumas

  • Trusting

    It is a Fourth of July ritual to appraise where we are in meeting the Declaration of Independence's promise to institute a government that would, unlike King George, secure human rights equally for everyone who sets foot on American soil.
    • Jul 6, 2017
  • Obamascare

    Republicans at long last may be about to see their most fervent wishes and wildest predictions materialize — millions of people losing their medical and hospital coverage, unaffordable insurance, lost jobs, a Medicare financial crisis, mushrooming federal budget deficits and fiscal crises across state governments.
    • Jun 22, 2017
  • Ethics upended

    Every week, Donald Trump finds another way to upend conventional ethics in government and politics. Here's one that has been in the making since the campaign but is reaching maturity in the Russian investigation: He is turning the heroes of government scandals into the villains.
    • Jun 15, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • AEC dumps ALEC

    No matter which side of the battle over global warming you're on, that was blockbuster news last week. No, not the signing of the climate-change treaty that commits all of Earth's 195 nations to lowering their greenhouse-gas emissions and slowing the heating of the planet, but American Electric Power's announcement that it would no longer underwrite efforts to block renewable energy or federal smokestack controls in the United States.
    • Dec 17, 2015
  • No tax help for Trump

    The big conundrum is supposed to be why Donald Trump does so well among white working-class people, particularly men, who do not have a college education.
    • Aug 11, 2016
  • Dollars and degrees

    Governor Hutchinson says a high graduation rate (ours is about the lowest) and a larger quotient of college graduates in the population are critical to economic development. Every few months there is another, but old, key to unlocking growth.
    • Aug 25, 2016

Most Shared

  • So much for a school settlement in Pulaski County

    The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Cynthia Howell got the scoop on what appears to be coming upheaval in the Pulaski County School District along with the likely end of any chance of a speedy resolution of school desegregation issues in Pulaski County.
  • Riverfest calls it quits

    The board of directors of Riverfest, Arkansas's largest and longest running music festival, announced today that the festival will no longer be held. Riverfest celebrated its 40th anniversary in June. A press release blamed competition from other festivals and the rising cost of performers fees for the decision.
  • Football for UA Little Rock

    Andrew Rogerson, the new chancellor at UA Little Rock, has decided to study the cost of starting a major college football team on campus (plus a marching band). Technically, it would be a revival of football, dropped more than 60 years ago when the school was a junior college.
  • Turn to baseball

    When the world threatens to get you down, there is always baseball — an absorbing refuge, an alternate reality entirely unto itself.

Latest in Ernest Dumas

  • The ACA can be fixed

    Majority Leader Mitch McConnell threatened his 51 disciples in the Senate and his party with the gravest injury imaginable.
    • Jul 13, 2017
  • Trusting

    It is a Fourth of July ritual to appraise where we are in meeting the Declaration of Independence's promise to institute a government that would, unlike King George, secure human rights equally for everyone who sets foot on American soil.
    • Jul 6, 2017
  • Obamascare

    Republicans at long last may be about to see their most fervent wishes and wildest predictions materialize — millions of people losing their medical and hospital coverage, unaffordable insurance, lost jobs, a Medicare financial crisis, mushrooming federal budget deficits and fiscal crises across state governments.
    • Jun 22, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

July

S M T W T F S
  1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31  

Most Viewed

  • Another Jesus

    If you follow the logic of Jason Rapert and his supporters, God is very pleased so many have donated money to rebuild a giant stone slab with some rules on it. A few minutes on Rapert's Facebook page (if he hasn't blocked you yet) also shows his supporters believe that Jesus wants us to lock up more people in prison, close our borders to those in need and let poor Americans fend for themselves for food and health care.
  • Pay attention

    If anyone thinks that a crisis with the Power Ultra Lounge shooting, then he hasn't been paying attention to Little Rock.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Another Jesus

    • IBS, were you there in Benghazi to personally witness all of Hillary's blunders like you…

    • on July 23, 2017
  • Re: Another Jesus

    • If God felt it necessary to replace the ten commandments, he could do it like…

    • on July 23, 2017
  • Re: Football for UA Little Rock

    • He's BSC. Students and tuition-paying parents should be VERY vocal that a football program won't…

    • on July 23, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation