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Friday, January 03, 2003

Is Arming Japan an Option?

Tony Adragna
I started posting in the fray again 'cause you can now include linkage. Did you know that, Will? Didn't ask for my star back, though I think I had some few people rooting for it, and getting noticed by JD — I'm assuming that's because of the linkage & blockquoting — did the trick.

'Tis also nice not having to deal with multiple profiles, and with Slate profiles being linked to Net passports 'steada cookies we don't hafta worry 'bout not being recognized as a celebrity when in unusual climes.

Now, on to what I wanted to write about.. That is, do we have the option of supporting a nuclear armed Japan as a counterpoint to North Korea's arsenal? In a thread on whether to engage or disengage — Zathras arguing for disengagement — one atsjackson posits"[...} a stronger challenge to the regional powers involved in this 'crisis' would be plans to support the emergence of Japan as the de facto nuclear power in Asia."

I didn't think much of the argument, and wasn't going to respond 'til I saw Chuck The Hammer made a similar argument on today's op-ed page. After reviewing the situation and asking, "What to do when your hand is so poor?", Charles answers
Play the trump. We do have one, but we dare not speak its name: a nuclear Japan. Japan cannot long tolerate a nuclear-armed North Korea. Having once lobbed a missile over Japan, North Korea could easily hit any city in Japan with a nuclear-tipped weapon. Japan does not want to live under that threat.

We should go to the Chinese and tell them plainly that if they do not join us in squeezing North Korea and thus stopping its march to go nuclear, we will endorse any Japanese attempt to create a nuclear deterrent of its own. Even better, we would sympathetically regard any request by Japan to acquire American nuclear missiles as an immediate and interim deterrent. If our nightmare is a nuclear North Korea, China's is a nuclear Japan. It's time to share the nightmares.
But is this really an option? One of the conditions that's got to be present in order to consider something an "option" is a fair likelihood that the actors you'll be depending on to make the thing happen actually committing to that thing happening. In this case, that means Japan committing to going nuclear: What's the probability of that?

Let's first disabuse ourselves of the notion that Japan's constitution wouldn't allow the maintenance of a nuclear arsenal. Since at least 1965 — when Prime Minister Eisaku Sato remarked to President Lyndon Johnson that "If Chicoms [Chinese Communists] had nuclear weapons, the Japanese also should have them" — there has been an argument that a Japanese nuclear arsenal as deterrent would not violate Japan's constitutional prohibition against offensive arms.

Sato's remarks at that time reflected not just his own personal opinion, notwithstanding his assertion to the contrary, but also had support among some Japanese politicians and scientists. In fact, successive Japanese governments have long relied on a nuclear arsenal in their defensive posture — nevermind that it's somebody else's arsenal.

It could be argued that, well, the Japanese government never accepted reliance on a U.S. nuclear umbrella. Indeed, you can point to Japan's refusal to allow U.S. nuclear weapons onto Japanese territory as expressed disapprobation of such an arrangement. But, you've got then to deal with the reality that Japan has tacitly approved exactly such an arrangement, accepting the U.S. position that we "neither confirm nor deny" the deployment of nuclear weapons aboard U.S. warships or at military bases.

Sounds like a nuclear armed Japan is an option, right?

Problem is that an overwhelming majority the Japanese polity still has a "nuclear allergy" — a perfectly understandable adverse reaction traceable to a particularly horrific experience. The Center for Defense Information — a DC defense policy think-tank — noted in its May 18, 2000 issue of Weekly Defense Moniter
According to weapon system analyst Carey Sublette, "Should Japan decide to do so, it is likely that emergency capability nuclear weapons could be deployed by Japan within a few months of a decision to produce them." Several factors have prevented Tokyo from going ahead with building and deploying the Bomb. First, Japanese public opinion remains bitterly against nuclear weapons, even as the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki fade from living memory. A 1998 Gallup poll revealed that 89% of Japanese said their country did not need nuclear weapons. Even after the North Korean missile launch, 79% of all respondents in an Asashi Shimbun poll stated that all countries should destroy their nuclear weapons without exception.
Despite my skepticism of polls in general, I'm inclined to accept the cited results as an accurate reflection of Japanese public opinion. There's no evidence that any developments since then have moved opinion in Japan toward a favourable view of nuclear weapons.

Of course, beginning with deployment as part of the East Timore peace keeping force, and more recently in support of operations in Afghanistan, Japan has been willing to deploy forces outside of home waters, and that's a major change in policy. But, the latter deployment was authorized under legislation that allows Japan's self-defense forces to participate only in a non-combatant role, and that law is still considered controversial — maybe even unconstitutional. Even if a majority of people support those deployments — I've no idea one way or the other, but it doesn't matter since I make no assertions on that point — it's not suggestive of a change in Japanese opinion on nuclear weapons.

Maybe Krauthammer is right and Japan will overcome its "nuclear allergy" in the face of North Korea gone nuclear — that's in addition to already going ballistic. Until I see something to support that proposition, however, I don't see a "nuclear Japan" on the table.

The "they won't play along" problem isn't the only thing that makes arming Japan — or South Korea, as Thrasymachus proposes — a non-option. There's also the need to reconcile a proliferation solution with our from the begin committment to non-proliferation. There may good a good reason for a radical change in our own policy — let's face it, non-proliferation hasn't worked. But, this particular radical change amounts to dangerous fatalism that makes the world less secure, not safer. That's true if MAD is dead, anyway, as we've been told so often in the missile defense debate.

But MAD can't be dead if atsjackoson & Thras want their solution to work — the DPRK has got to be deterred by the nuclear forces opposite. Krauthammer's solution has the potential to work as declaratory policy pushing China to "squeeze" North Korea, but failing that it has the built-in fallback position of posing a deterrent nuclear force at the threat.

So, is MAD defunct? Let me restate the question, since MAD really was constructed for a bi-polar world that no longer exists: Does the threat of retaliatory nuclear response still deter a nuclear threat? If yes, then why doesn't the U.S. "nuclear umbrella" in the region still deter a nuclear armed DPRK? If not, then what's the point of a nuclear armed Japan [making exception for Krauthammer's "squeeze"] or a similarly armed South Korea?

Here's a question I can answer! Let me set aside the whole question of nuclear deterrence and get back to Zathras' argument in re disengagement to the point of withdrawal from the peninsula. We agree that "sea-launched American nuclear weapons" serve to deter a North Korean nuclear threat. But, in what way does that make "American ground forces in Korea [...] clearly superfluous as a deterrent"? In my opinion, the presence of U.S. troops on the DMZ is deterrence plus. North Korea can't but assume that an attack — whether conventional or nuclear — on U.S. troops would be responded to militarily.

Withdrawing U.S. troops only makes it easier for North Korea to launch a conventional attack across the DMZ, and more difficult for the U.S. to lend South Korea aid. Could that be why Kim Il Sung says, '[...] the issue of reunification of the Korean Peninsula will never be solved without putting an end to domination and interference by foreign forces..."? The withdrawal of U.S. forces has been a repeated demand of the DPRK, so call it a "redeployment" if you want, but it is in effect surrendering to "nuclear blackmail".

So, why not withdraw from the Korean peninsula? Because it serves North Korean interests while doing nothing to advance ours...

The Comeback of a Star

Will Vehrs
Congratulations to Tony "Quasipundit Number 1" Adragna for his recent mentions in Slate's Best of Fray and ... drumroll please ... for reclaiming his long dormat star. He's now an elite star poster--again! Best of Fray writer J. D. Connor makes the presentation here.

That star will look much better than those check marks ... way to go, Tony!

Faraway boy makes good: Dodd Harris' Ipse Dixit is mentioned as a favorite blog in today's Washington Post. It's certainly one of my favorites, too.

Wednesday, January 01, 2003

2002 In A Nutshell

Tony Adragna
Will, shame on you for not bringing to the attention of our readers what is the best bit of year end wrap to have been written this year — A. Barton Hinkle's [...] The Year That Was in Virginia
January, when female members of the General Assembly score a victory for women's lib and get their own restroom. Caught up in the moment, three of the Delegettes rush outside to burn their corsets and washboards, and are promptly arrested for crimes against Nature (despite the fact that "Burning Corsets" would make a really good name for a rock band). Governor Mark Warner announces the state faces a $5 billion shortfall. Richmonders learn their Sheriff, Michelle Mitchell, has spent profits from the jail canteen on membership at a social club, photographs of herself, and parties and gifts for deputies. And speaking of city officials, in . . .
Hey, Chesterfield even gets a mention
MAY, THE Chesterfield Board of Supervisors, hoping to slow the county's population growth, votes to impose restrictions on adult-oriented businesses, thus disappointing Chairman Kelly Miller, who had hoped to ban sex altogether...
Actually, Chesterfield gets mentioned again later
In religious news, Cyndi Simpson, a local witch, is refused permission to give the invocation at a Chesterfield Supervisors' meeting despite her insistence that Wicca is a religion of peace, and if she doesn't get her way certain people are going to get some very uncomfortable rashes. Chairman Kelly Miller introduces a measure to ban obscene works such as Chaucer's "Miller's Tale" and the racier bits from Ovid's Metamorphoses...
What gives with Kelly Miller?

OK, so it's satire, and parochial satire at that. But, it's still a great read from one who on my list of favourite writers is right up near the top with Churchill.

QuasiPundit's 2002 Editorialist of the Year: A. Barton Hinkle!

Happy New Year!
¡Prospero Año Nuevo!
Prost Neujahr!
С Новым Годом !
Felice Anno Nuovo!
שנה טובה

Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Dear Leader Gets to Cut In Line?

Tony Adragna
I've great respect for Warren Christopher, Will, but I think he's doubly wrong in arguing that Iraq Belongs on the Back Burner.

We already screwed the pooch on North Korea via, as as Josh notes
[...]One of the most important rules of foreign policy is not to let yourself get pushed around. An even more important rule, though, is not to make threats or issue ultimatums that you either can't or won't follow through on. That not only makes you look weak. It also makes you into an object of contempt. That's just what the administration has done in this case.[emphasis added]
Iterating again what I said last night: We would've eventually ended up with a crisis on the Korean peninsula irrespective of declaratory policy or the underlying policy aims — that's just the nature of dealing with North Korea. But, our ability to deal with crises as they arise depends on where we find ourselves at the time of arousal, and right now we're in a hole of our own digging.

We've got only two real options vis a vis North Korea: (a) maintain the push for isolation, or (b) talking. Problems with option (a) is that isolation hasn't worked, and isn't likely to work in the future, because there's no political will to make the option work. Best efforts at containment are always more akin to cargo nets than sieves, with engagement supporting nations passing supplies through the holes instead of blocking them up.

Even if there existed political will to completely isolate North Korea, I'm not sure it would have an impact on the DPRK's leadership.

Most damning to our call for containment is not just the fact that there's a lack of political will to follow our prescription — not even tacit support exists — but that countries in the region are calling for a formal expression of option (b) — that's diametrically opposed to our preference.

What to do? Well, it seems to me that we're trying a mixture of both options: Maintenance of our singularly unanimous call for isolation, at the same time that we're talking but attempting to mitigate our admission that talking is necessary.

How we're having to deal with North Korea — and there really aren't any other workable options — ends up in the debit column on Mr. Bush's foreign policy balance sheet. But to follow Mr. Christopher's advice would create a double entry. As Messrs. Berger & Gallucci argue on WaPo's op-ed page today, "There are no safe back burners." While noting that the situation in North Korea must be dealt with now, the question arises, "Does that mean the United States should switch its focus from Iraq to North Korea?"
Iraq's nuclear program -- which many consider the most serious strategic threat the country poses to us -- is not nearly so far along. Iraqi nuclear weapons in the near term cannot be ruled out, but they are not likely. Nevertheless, putting Iraq on hold to deal with North Korea would have serious consequences. It would send a chilling message that the United States can be knocked off course in one arena by troublemaking in another. It would drive any expectation of the constancy of our purpose into a tailspin. The president has invested American credibility in disarming Iraq. The prospect of a nuclear Iraq, which would profoundly change the political landscape of a critical region, is strategically unacceptable to us. In the absence of voluntary disarmament, sidestepping Iraq now would be an emboldening victory for Saddam Hussein, making it even more difficult to deal with him later.
There's your answer.

And note that Berger & Gallucci offer advice on North Korea — an approach to engagement that doesn't mitigate having to talk, but puts the onus back on "the North on concrete verifiable actions that go beyond the Agreed Framework and move the peninsula to greater security, not greater danger."

Monday, December 30, 2002

'Cause We Can In Iraq, And We Can't In North Korea!

Tony Adragna
That's the short answer, Will — you know it, I know it, and Mr. Bush knows it. So, why not admit of it?

Look, I've been saying for months now that those who oppose going after Iraq "because it diminishes our ability to deal with other threats" are just plain ol' wrongheaded. The other military threats cited are the PRC vis a vis the ROC, and the DPRK vis a vis the ROK. Massing troops & weapons platforms in the Iraq theatre means that we have fewer assets to front against the "People's Army." That's so obvious as to be a tautology. But, it's also misleading as it's irrelevant. Why?

Because we can't deal with the PRC & DPRK the same way we're about to deal with Hussein's Iraq, and we couldn't do so even if we weren't preparing for Iraq!

Now, there are folks wanting to present this evidence of disparate treatment as part of an indictment against plans for a military confrontation in Iraq. These folks are not so much interested in seeing how different the situations are and recognizing that what's indicated in one case may be counter-indicated in another. They just see the doctor prescribing different remedies to what appears the same illness, and from this they conclude that there's quackery being practiced.

To wit: They see Mr. Bush getting tough with Iraq just because he can, not because it's the correct regimen.

Why the administration is going to have a hard time 'splaining is 'cause it kinda set itself up. This "Axis of Evil" rhetoric was bound to come around and bite somebody in the ass. I think the DPRK was gonna do what it's doing anyway, eventually, regardless of what Mr. Bush said in that speech. North Korea engineers these crises every so often because they think it's in their interest to do so. But, having said what he said in the "Axis" speech, Mr. Bush now finds himself in a hole of his own digging.

'Tis not a deep hole, though, and getting out of it needs only stealing wind from the critics' sails by admitting that, well, we do what we can and don't what we can't and there's nothing suspect in what's so plainly obvious.

Attention to orders!
Whereas David Brooks is always well prepared, civil, witty, and insightful.

Whereas His only bad call was musing in summer that Republicans might lose 30 House seats.

Whereas He's not Paul Gigot [though, he's not David Gergen either]

Be it known by all these presents that David Brooks has been elected by popular acclaim Punditwatch Pundit of the Year
I do oft disagree with Brooks, but I never have thought him disagreeable. Great choice, Will. Let's hope he keeps giving good quotage for another year.

Can Mark win next year?[please, huh, in the interest of comity would 'ya do that for me?...]

Sunday, December 29, 2002

George Will Constipated, Kim Jong Il in Harry Potter

Will Vehrs
Here's my last Punditwatch of 2002. Secretary of State Colin Powell was the star, but other noteworthy appearances were by a constipated George Will, Kim Jong Il in character, and a diagnosing Charles Krauthhammer.

Senator Joe Biden also explained how nuclear bombs work. It's all in Punditwatch.