If the above paragraph sounds flippant, then I've written it correctly, because so much of what happened this week was utterly useless. The "big fish" in nuclear proliferation - namely, Iran and North Korea - were never really going to be "caught," largely because the regime responsible for each one's nuclear ambitions - the Chinese Communist Party - was let off the hook, again.
The two large mistakes Washington has made regarding the Iranian and North Korean regimes - and it's a mistake shared by both this Administration and its predecessor - were these: an insistence that the CCP can be a useful partner without being coerced, and a refusal to replace the chimera of non-proliferation with the more robust counter-proliferation.
The first problem is in no small part due to the actions of Tehran, Pyongyang, and Zhongnanhai. It is no accident that the CCP has escaped blame for the actions of the rogue regimes. The cadres have continually sought out allies who meet three key characteristics. They are
- a willingness to frustrate American ambitions or American interests
- a willingness to defend the CCP's interests on the global stage when asked to do so, and
- most importantly, a willingness to take all the blame for their antics, leaving the CCP unnamed and unaccountable
These are what make Tehran and Pyongyang perfect allies and tools for the CCP, especially the last one - and it is only by removing that last characteristic that the free world can get the CCP to seriously address these two regime's nuclear ambitions.
Simply put, the president should tell Hu Jintao the following, in no uncertain terms:
- If the North Korean regime uses a nuclear weapon, Pyongyang and the CCP will be held responsible
- If the Iranian regime uses a nuclear weapon, Tehran and the CCP will be held responsible
- If a terrorist organization uses a nuclear weapon, given that the sources would almost certainly be Tehran, Pyongyang, or CCP-ally Pakistan, that terrorist group and the CCP will be held responsible
The painful fact is this: Tehran and Pyongyang are looking to become nuclear powers in order to use the weapons as blackmail to the rest of the world. It is no surprise that both have pursued their ambitions amid signs that their regimes are undergoing serious decay. They see their survival in blackmailing the free world to keep them in power. Moreover, the Chinese Communist Party finds these regimes useful, and has no incentive to restrain their behavior. That may change if it becomes clear they will suffer consequences from the actions of their allies.
That said, while forcing the CCP to accept responsibility for their allies can help the situation, there is still the regimes themselves to consider. Beijing is not Moscow, and the CCP is still the party of the late Mao Zedong - who famously deadpanned that a weapon capable of blowing up the Earth would only be "a major event for the solar system." Thus, Tehran and Pyongyang probably need more incentive than half-hearted warnings from Zhongnanhai to behave.
This is where counter-proliferation comes in. I first mentioned it three-and-a-half years ago, and I still consider it valid. Tehran may not feel so frisky about its nuclear capability if it new Georgia had a nuclear deterrent of its own (in fact, while Georgia with nuclear protection may mean little to the CCP, it may be enough for Russia to push Tehran to disarm entirely). Pyongyang may have the same concern if Japan, South Korea, and/or Taiwan had ready nuclear deterrents (that would certainly get the CCP's attention). These actions would also make abundantly clear that these regimes will be held responsible for any "loose nukes" that wind up in terrorist hands (the latter set of nuclear deterrents could make the message more pointed for the CCP).
Of course, as I said back in late 2006, these actions won't solve our problem, because the issue is not the nuclear weapons per se, but who has them. This is where my opening paragraph becomes more serious. The idea of democratic France posing a threat to world piece is laughable, but tyrannies like Iran, North Korea, and Communist China are something else again. It is the regimes, not their weapons, that are the threat. Thus, as I've also said before: America will never be secure until Iran, Korea, and China are free.