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Thumping the old strawman
Posted by: McQ on Friday, October 27, 2006

Graham Allison, former assistant secretary of defense under President Bill Clinton, and present director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government writes a piece entitled "Deterring Kim Jong Il" for the Washington Post.

He begins:
In an interview aired last week, George Stephanopoulos put the question to President Bush: What would he do if "North Korea sold nukes to Iran or al-Qaeda?" Bush replied, "They'd be held to account."

Seeking specifics, Stephanopoulos asked: "What does that mean?" The president answered, "I want the leader of North Korea to understand that he'll be held to account. Just like he's being held to account now for having run a test ."

Say what? If North Korea sells a nuclear weapon to Osama bin Laden or Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, he should expect the United States to go to the United Nations and negotiate further sanctions? And if al-Qaeda sneaks that bomb into the United States and we awake to the president's nightmare in which a mushroom cloud engulfs Washington or Los Angeles, then what? If this formulation stands — without further specification — America risks becoming the victim of a catastrophic "deterrence failure."
I'm sorry but his is just nonsense on stilts. A) Bush isn't going to say to George Stephanopolis, "We'd nuke them, George". It would be an asinine and stupid thing to do, and regardless of whether or not you like or agree with George Bush, you know as well as I do, that's something he wouldn't (and really couldn't) say.

B) It is a matter of degree. Setting off a nuclear blast in your own country as a test is not at all the same as selling a nuclear device to an avowed enemy who'd like nothing better than to get such a device into the US.

So obviously the "accountability" would be commensurate with the action involved. Set off a nuclear test - sanctions. Sell a nuclear device to a terrorist who explodes in the US - big fireball in Pyongyang.

Kim knows that. He doesn't need Bush saying it on Septhanopolis's show for it to be understood. Allison waxes nostalgic about the components of deterrence and how we managed it so well during the Cold War.
Deterrence emerged as a central concept in Cold War strategy. It meant convincing the adversary that the costs of taking an unacceptable action would greatly exceed any benefits it could hope to achieve. How did the United States prevent the Soviets from seizing Berlin? By convincing Soviet leaders that such an attack would trigger a response that would destroy their country.

Effective deterrence required three components: clarity, capability and credibility. Clarity meant bright lines and unacceptable consequences. Credibility was understood to be in the eye of the beholder. How credible was the threat to trade Boston for Berlin? Never 100 percent. But U.S. forces, exercises and communication were crafted to convince Soviet leaders they dare not test it.
Again, no evidence exists that the same sort of understanding doesn't exist now depending on North Korea's actions. Does anyone really believe that the same sort of threat doesn't still exist concerning North Korea? Instead it is Pittsburgh for Pyongyang. We can absorb a hit to Pittsburgh, but Kim knows it's all over if Pyongyang disappears.

Pretending that the sanctions to be imposed for a nuclear test are the same sort of action we'd take if a nuclear device were detonated in the US by a North Korean proxy has no apparent basis in fact, but does indeed provide a convenient, if specious strawman for Allison's claim of "failure" with North Korea.

Or said another way, more election year propaganda to be ignored. If you had any doubt about Camille Paglia's concerns about elite Ivy League schools turning out the product she claims they do, Allison's piece goes a long way toward validating it.
 
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Deterrence emerged as a central concept in Cold War strategy. It meant convincing the adversary that the costs of taking an unacceptable action would greatly exceed any benefits it could hope to achieve. How did the United States prevent the Soviets from seizing Berlin? By convincing Soviet leaders that such an attack would trigger a response that would destroy their country.

Effective deterrence required three components: clarity, capability and credibility. Clarity meant bright lines and unacceptable consequences. Credibility was understood to be in the eye of the beholder. How credible was the threat to trade Boston for Berlin? Never 100 percent. But U.S. forces, exercises and communication were crafted to convince Soviet leaders they dare not test it.
Since I was a kid during the Cold War, I have some questions:

1. Did Reagan explicitly say he would nuke parts of the USSR?

2. Were Democrats generally supportive of our foreign policy wrt the Soviet Union?

3. If the US adopts a similar policy with NK, will Ted Kennedy try to coordinate with Kim Jong Il to undermine it?
 
Written By: err
URL: http://
Come on. Election year propaganda?

Did Graham Allison say "Kim-Jong-Il’s nuclear test demonstrates that Bush has failed?" No. This isn’t about politics.

What’s very strange is that you’re attacking Graham Allison depsite agreeing with his entire argument.


So obviously the "accountability" would be commensurate with the action involved.

I’m sure Graham would agree. His point is not otherwise. His point is that Bush has relied to much on hard-line rhetoric - "intolerable" - without saying clearly enough what specific consequences intolerable means. Did, in fact, Kim-Jong-Il know we were going to push for increased sanctions after our nuclear test? Did he instead think that we would bluster a lot and then come back to the table? Could we have made what we were going to do more clear?

Set off a nuclear test - sanctions. Sell a nuclear device to a terrorist who explodes in the US - big fireball in Pyongyang.

Kim knows that. He doesn’t need Bush saying it on Septhanopolis’s show for it to be understood


Really? In the warped perceptual and informational universe that constitutes NK-Zone, you don’t think Kim-Jong-Il could miss the ’implicit understanding’? Isn’t our *specific* response to selling nuclear material is going to be worth laying out? Isn’t a threat more serious when it gets into exactly how? Isn’t just the word "intolerable" more likely to be seen as disposable?

Graham Allison is right, and he’s also the preeminent proliferation expert in America. This is nothing at all like a political hit piece. Poor judgement here.

 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
I’m sure Graham would agree. His point is not otherwise. His point is that Bush has relied to much on hard-line rhetoric - "intolerable" - without saying clearly enough what specific consequences intolerable means
That’s rhetorical fluff, glasnost. Kim Jong Il isn’t reacting because Bush talked tough. He’s doing what he always planned to do and blaming it on Bush. That’s business as usual for Kim and you and Allison have bought into the Kim nonsense.

The important thing is that Kim knows what is and isn’t "intolerable", and there is no reason to believe he doesn’t. And there is certainly no reason to believe that what has been proposed for his nuclear tests in terms of sanctions is the same as would be proposed for the other scenario described despite Allison’s implications otherwise.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Did, in fact, Kim-Jong-Il know we were going to push for increased sanctions after our nuclear test?

. . .

In the warped perceptual and informational universe that constitutes NK-Zone, you don’t think Kim-Jong-Il could miss the ’implicit understanding’?
He probably thought Jimmy Carter was going to bring him oil, reactors, basketballs, and virgins (the last item in place of Albright—if they sent Albright to negotiate with me, I’d want to start a nuke program too).

 
Written By: Don
URL: http://
That’s rhetorical fluff, glasnost. Kim Jong Il isn’t reacting because Bush talked tough. He’s doing what he always planned to do and blaming it on Bush. That’s business as usual for Kim and you and Allison have bought into the Kim nonsense.

It’s not that Kim is doing it (neccesarily) because Bush talked tough. (there may or may not be a case, but G.A. isn’t making it) It’s that he might have been succesfully detered by a different kind of tough talking that focused on specific US plans for specific consequences of specific actions. Specific threats are more credible, so goes the argument, then rhetorical ones and buzzwords like "intolerable".
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
It’s that he might have been succesfully detered by a different kind of tough talking that focused on specific US plans for specific consequences of specific actions. Specific threats are more credible, so goes the argument, then rhetorical ones and buzzwords like "intolerable".
Said without ever once knowing what Kim has actually been told concerning US plans should a NoKo nuke find its way here.

Pretending it is necessary for such a message to be conveyed publicly is simply, well, not a very informed position. And it is an incredibly weak argument to boot.

I mean why don’t we require all our diplomats to announce their negotiations with other countries publicly as well? Good idea?
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
"Clarity meant bright lines..."

I don’t think so. My memory is that at least some of it, a conventional invasion of Europe by the Warsaw Pact in particular, was more of a Clint Eastwood "Do you feel lucky, punk?" kind of thing. We attempted to introduce as much uncertainty into Soviet calculations of our response as we could. Will we or won’t we respond with nukes? If so, at what point and how many? Tactical or strategic? Restricted to Europe or world wide?
Then, also, these bright lines were kind of fuzzy depending on Soviet perceptions of Presidential determination and domestic political support.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://

 
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