As the fourth anniversary of the Senate's Iraq War authorization vote quietly passed, the world press found itself obsessed with a new threat. North Korea detonated what appears to be their first nuclear test explosion, and the Bush Administration was clearly delighted to have the public's attention diverted from the spiral of violence in Iraq, new intelligence data showing that the Iraq War is making world terrorism worse, and the coverup of the Foley Affair by the Republican House Leadership. When life gives them lemons (Hurricane Katrina, the 9/11 attacks, the 2001 recession), no one makes lemonade like Karl Rove and the Bush Administration.
The apparent rush to development of a nuclear capability in North Korea was superceded only by the Republicans' rush to blame the Clinton Administration for the problem. Condemning the conciliatory behavior of Madeleine Albright and the Korean Sunshine Policy that won the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize, Senator John McCain and President Bush tried this week to shift the balance of public opinion away from dialogue and toward the use of threats in dealing with Kim Jong-Il. They seemed oblivious to the obvious: 6 years of Administration threats to build Korea-targeted missiles, to resume nuclear testing of our own, and to develop new "bunker-busting" nuclear weapons probably targeted at the Yong Byong nuclear facilities had successfully provoked the obvious self-defensive behavior on the part of the North Koreans. Rarely mentioned in press accounts is the fact that General Douglas MacArthur had sought to use nuclear weapons during the Korean War, and Pyongyang could easily have become the third Hiroshima.
Mr. Bush began threatening North Korea as a presidential candidate in 2000. From a Catholic standpoint, the destabilization of the Korean peninsula under Mr. Bush is a classic illustration of how threats of violence only beget mutual threats of violence. It may be popular to portray the North Korean leadership as "unpredictable and unbalanced," but in fact nothing is more predictable than the human instinct to fight back when threatened. It's a story straight from Genesis--Cain-vs-Cain all over again—with the lives of millions of South Koreans and Japanese in the balance.
As Catholics, we must utterly reject the use of threats and the devaluation of human life to solve our problems, big and small. The Clinton Administration so clearly had this one right. The current Bush efforts to belittle Madeleine Albright and Korean détente are a bald attempt to follow that other deeply un-Christian human dictum: the best rhetorical defense is a good offense.