A Sensible Inconsistency
The Scene: Secretary of State Colin Powell is explaining to the
United Nations why the Bush administration believes Saddam Hussein
is defying the world body and refusing to disarm. As he points to a
satellite photo, he says, "No, wait-this is of a North
full functioning nuclear bomb plant … next
Of course, this didn't really happen. I'm describing a Mike Lane
editorial cartoon that appeared recently in the Baltimore
. But it highlights a lingering criticism from anti-war
activists-that President Bush (wrongly, in their view) isn't
willing to handle Iraq with the same diplomatic kid gloves he uses
on North Korea.
This isn't an argument confined to street protesters, by the way.
Former Secretary of State Warren Christopher raised it in an op-ed
for The New York Times
: "North Korea's startling revival
of its nuclear program, coupled with the unrelenting threat of
international terrorism, presents compelling reasons for President
Bush to step back from his fixation on attacking Iraq and to
reassess his administration's priorities."
In fact, Times
columnist Maureen Dowd wonders why we're
not already at war on the Korean peninsula. "Powell has all the
evidence he needs to convince the U.N. Security Council that we are
justified in making a pre-emptive strike on North Korea," she wrote
on Feb. 2. "Only one hitch: President Bush doesn't want to attack
North Korea; he wants to contain North Korea."
The reason for containment is simple, of course. North Korea has
It continued developing them during the 1990s, in direct violation
of an agreement it signed with Christopher's boss, President Bill
Clinton. In the event of a war, North Korea would pose a direct
nuclear threat to our regional allies South Korea, Japan and
Worse, intelligence reports indicate that Pyongyang has at least
one untested missile capable of reaching the West Coast. So it
makes sense to avoid confrontation with the North Koreans for
Iraq, on the other hand, hasn't joined the nuclear club-yet. But
it's trying to.
Israel handed Saddam a major setback in 1981, when it bombed the
Osirak nuclear facility his government was building near Baghdad.
That forced Saddam to focus on other weapons of mass destruction,
including mustard gas and sarin, which he used to kill thousands of
Kurds in 1988.
Since the Gulf War ended in 1991, the United Nations has tried to
restrain Iraq through sanctions and weapons inspections. But with
Saddam willing to let his own people starve while he builds a
clandestine weapons program, it's clear this approach won't
Back in November, the United Nations decided to give Iraq a final
chance to disarm when it passed Resolution 1441. Iraq has been in
"material breach" of that resolution since at least Dec. 7, when it
submitted what was supposed to be a "full and complete" declaration
of its weapons programs. That report was woefully
. It added little new information and failed to
account for thousands of items inspectors have been aware of for
That's why it's time to explore a new option, the military option,
to prevent Saddam from acquiring nuclear weapons-and turning Iraq
into the next North Korea.
"There is no cookie-cutter approach to foreign policy," my
Heritage Foundation colleague Peter Brookes observed earlier this
year. "In the Axis of Evil, one size does not fit all-nor should
Brookes is exactly right. Yes, we're taking a harder line on Iraq
than we are on North Korea. But frankly, that's the only way to
ensure that Saddam never gets that "full functioning nuclear bomb
is president of The
Heritage Foundation (www.heritage.org), a Washington-based public
policy research institute.