First, I'll dispatch with the brilliant part: Kurtz is one of the very few pundits who has never really signed on to the six-party nuclear talks, and now that Stalinist North Korea's nuclear dalliance with Syria is an open secret, he aims squarely - and correctly - at the Bush Administration for its weakness:
President Bush did in fact adopt the Democrats’ North Korea policy. And now, within a year, that Democratic policy has failed. Almost immediately after North Korea’s nuclear test on October 9, 2006, President Bush warned that “the transfer of nuclear weapons or material by North Korea to states or non-state entities would be considered a grave threat to the United States and we would hold North Korea fully accountable.” Having deployed the stick, at the behest of conservative hawks, the president then offered the carrot of economic aid and promises of security in return for disarmament . . . The problem is that a combination of carrots and sticks has not stopped Kim Jong Il from handing Syria extensive nuclear technology, and perhaps even fissile material.
Indeed, it hasn't, just like many of us said it wouldn't.
Kurtz then goes on to detail just how damaging to American deterrence this is, how both the Administration and its critics are trying to downplay the SNK-Syria connection in the hope it goes away, and then ends with an ominous (but not necessarily inaccurate) prediction: "Based on current trends, in the decade ahead, a nuclear attack on the United States seems at least as likely as not." The piece is brilliantly and cogently written for its limited scope. However, it is exactly the limitation in scope that also makes the piece completely useless.
Why do I say that? Simple, in all of Kurtz's 2,200+ words on Stalinist North Korea, the number of times he mentioned Communist China was - exactly - zero. Not one reference to the regime that has propped up North Korea for almost sixty years; no mention of the Communist-run Bank of China's possible role in helping the Stalinists launder money for its nuclear program or Communist regime's sale of plutonium making, uranium enriching tributyl phosphate; and no discussion of Communist China's history of running interference for its Stalinist ally during the six-party talks.
Kurtz's glaring omission become all the more shocking when one finds his comments about the similarities between SNK today and Cuba of 1962:
The answer, says Allison, is a direct and unambiguous warning to Kim Jong Il modeled on President Kennedy’s statements during the Cuban Missile Crisis. As Kennedy warned Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev that any nuclear missile launched from Cuba would be regarded as an attack by the Soviet Union, President Bush needs to unambiguously promise retaliation for any nuclear explosion of North Korean origin on American soil. According to Allison, America will only be safe if Kim feels “in his gut” that North Korea will be held directly responsible for nuclear terror — even if the blast results from material passed through a chain of rogue states and only eventually into terrorist hands. On the other hand, if Kim feels as though he can escape detection as the ultimate source of a terrorist nuclear weapon, or if Kim believes that he will not be held directly responsible for his place in a long and complex chain of nuclear proliferation, the path is open to likely nuclear terror on American soil within the next decade.
The ignorance is jaw-dropping.
Contrary to Kurtz's assertion (I know he quotes Harvard professor Graham Allison here, but it's pretty clear he agrees with him), Kim Jong-il has never been in the Krushchev role during this crisis; he's in the Castro role. Kim is not acting on his own, he is acting in concert with his de facto colonial masters. Any threat against him is utterly useless for this reason.
It is not Kim Jong-il who must face the threat of annihilation by counter-strike, it's the Communist Chinese regime that props him up. They are in the Krushchev role, not Kim; they are the source of America's proliferation worries. In fact, it is Communist China, not its Stalinist puppet, that killed off non-proliferation. So long as learned men like Stanley Kurtz continue to ignore this fundamental fact, they will miss the forest for the trees, and not only will nuclear proliferation not be stopped, it will likely be accelerated, due to the simple fact that the true culprit continues to act unnoticed, let alone unchecked.
Stanley Kurtz is a brilliant writer and thinker, one of the very few outside of the anti-Communist community that I respect. Therefore, I can only ask (in the hope he responds): what was he thinking?
Cross-posted to the right-wing liberal