Sunday, April 05, 2009

And the Winner Is....

Maybe it's the influence of sports in our lives.

Or that human desire to measure everything in terms of who came out on top, and who got left behind.

Whatever the reason, there's no doubt that life, love and international relations are often defined in terms of winners and losers. And, with that in mind, we're pleased to announce the world leader who emerged triumphant at this weekend's EU summit in the Czech Republic.

May we have the envelope, please? (drumroll)

Taking top honors without so much as showing up, the top prize for grabbing global attention--and embarrassing the U.S. in the process--goes to Kim Jong-il of North Korea.

Think about it. With today's launch of a Tapeodong-2 long-range missile, Mr. Kim achieved a slew of political goals in less that 15 minutes--the time required for his rocket to fly from North Korea, to splashdown in the Pacific.

First, the DPRK dictator once again thumbed his nose at international convention. Virtually everyone from President Obama to Kim's Asian neighbors warned him against the missile test, but the TD-2 went off as scheduled. Did we mention that many of these same leaders still favor diplomacy as the preferred method of engaging Pyongyang?

In fact, the new U.S. envoy to the Six Party talks--aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear program--has suggested that Washington may be prepared to "overlook" the missile test, if Mr. Kim will return to the bargaining table. Fire off a long-range missile and get Washington to beg for a resumption of negotiations? That's a win-win by any one's standards.

But it gets even better. Not only did Kim Jong-il put his regime back in the global spotlight (and score an impressive propaganda victory to boot), but there's virtually no chance he'll be punished for his actions. While Mr. Obama is talking about additional sanctions, North Korea's friends on the U.N. Security Council--China and Russia--have veto power over any measures, and both are urging "restraint" in any new resolution against Pyongyang.

That means the likely "punishment" for the DPRK is another meaningless diplomatic warning. They haven't deterred North Korea in the past, and this time is no different.

While the diplomats haggle over language, Pyongyang will press on with its missile and nuclear weapons efforts. An Iranian delegation was present for today's launch, and the ICBM technology being developed in North Korea will quickly find its way to the Middle East.

By some accounts, at least one stage of the TD-2 is built in Iran, another testament to Mr. Kim's worldwide proliferation program. From Damascus to Caracas, there is no shortage of willing customers for North Korean weapons technology, including petro-states who will underwrite his development efforts.

Not bad for a guy who was supposedly on his death bed just a few months ago. You know, the same, two-bit dictator who has been written off time and time again. As we've noted before, various experts in the State Department and the intelligence community have been predicting the demise of North Korea for decades. Clearly, the DPRK's economic and political models are unsustainable. But it's naive to believe that Pyongyang will disappear anytime soon, or make significant concessions on its most important issues.

Obviously, if Kim Jong-il was the big winner this weekend, then there had to be a loser of equal proportions. Our vote goes to President Obama, who has been ignoring or downplaying the North Korean issue for more than a month. Refusing to use missile defenses to shoot down the TD-2, Mr. Obama then expressed surprise and outrage over the test. His response? Get the U.N. to pass another, empty resolution.

We would imagine that Mr. Kim is genuinely looking forward to the next four years. His country is bankrupt and millions of his citizens are starving, but suddenly, North Korea's global prospects seem particularly bright.


J.R. said...

Propaganda victory? Only if you believe the missile functioned as intended. This is only the third time in a decade he's been able to scrape together the hardware to do a multi-stage rocket launch, and it's the third time it's failed. Call me back when they've got a credible two-stage missile, including a working reentry vehicle.

Augurwell said...

'Well... '

Blonde Venus 1932

This has nothing vodo with nord korea.


Brian said...

A few points. One, for all their supposed progress indications are that North Korea is simply back to where they were in 1998 after the disastrous 2006 failure.

Two, outside of a preemptive strike on the launch pad that incites open war or more economic sanctions that further punish the North Korean people, I can't think of anything the US or the UN can really do to prevent this stuff.

Three, Obama's reaction wasn't much different from Bush's in 2006.

Mrs. Davis said...

The real chance to deal with the problem was Clinton's in 1994. After passing that one up, it became more difficult each time to take action.

Having failed to put the genie back in the bottle, now all the bad guys will get nuclear weapons systems. It seems to me the smart thing would be to start selling them to the good guys. The alternative is that the good guys who feel threatened will develop their own and then the knowledge of how to build them will be even more widely dispersed.

Wanderlust said...

We should have used an SM-2 to take out the NoKo test just because we could, the moment it became apparent that its trajectory would take it over Japanese airspace.

Regardless of the fact that this test may have been a statistical failure, it was a resounding propaganda success. A shootdown would have discouraged NoKo to do another test over the territory of one of our allies, and would have robbed NoKo of the knowledge they now undoubtably have gained over the cause of the test failure.

JR said:

Call me back when they've got a credible two-stage missile, including a working reentry vehicle.

With all due respect, guy, when they have met your criteria for success, it may very well be that the "working re-entry vehicle" is one that will wipe a city off the map.

I think I'll take a pass on that one, thanks.

Next up: Obambi calls in Jimmah to do Round Two of the bribes done back in 1994...


J.R. said...

The SM-2 is/was/remains the wrong tool for the job - maybe you mean the SM-3? Also, are you sure it was ever in Japan's airpsace? For diplomatic purposes, at what altitude does a launch cross into space and no longer need to respect international borders?

I disagree that a shootdown would have discouraged Kim Jong-Il from testing further over Japan; between Japan and China on its borders, North Korea doesn't have any free-territory azimuth to orbit. If they're going to test and try to make it to orbit, Japan's the only way to go. But that seems like an academic disagreement that we could only settle if we had Kim himself between us. If I ever end up in a bar with you and Kim Jong-Il, I hope that you and I can quickly agree on an amicable way to split the reward money.

Anyway, back to the technical side: with midcourse defenses (incl. but not limited to Aegis BMD) you can't shoot a booster down until it's ballistic. Once it gets to burnout, whoever launched it has already collected all the telemetry they need to go back and correct any problem that occurred in-flight. Other than a boost-phase intercept, there is no way a shootdown can deny them that test information.

I can't see them building a working RV without significant flight testing, but I guess they could get lucky. If there were indications that a launch from their east coast facility was carrying a lethal payload, the U.S. could easily stack the deck against its success - pre-boost intercept with a Tomahawk or even a .50cal rifle; boost-phase pull-out-the-stops test of the ABL; and/or midcourse and terminal missiles to blot out the stars.

That moment's not here yet, though, and overreacting to what was ultimately a failed launch would have dignified the launch with a gravity that it did not deserve. The only people who see it as a propaganda victory are the poor bastards in North Korea who believe the launch was a success.

Do you think anyone told Kim Jong-Il that it failed?