- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 15, 2003

The stated reason Sen. Bob Graham, Florida Democrat, is running for the presidency in 2004 is that he believes our resources in the war on terror are being misapplied, that al Qaeda and similar organizations deserve the bulk of our effort and are a greater threat to U.S. security than terrorist states like Iraq, when it was one, North Korea and Iran.

What the senator is doing harkens back to an old tactic of politicians from parties that held power for a long time and then lost it: blame the country’s problems on the tactics of the sitting president of a different party rather than examine the myopia of their own leaders.

During World War II, some Republicans accused Franklin D. Roosevelt of knowing about Pearl Harbor before the attack. They also insisted Japan should receive the weight of American force rather than Germany. Indeed, had Adolf Hitler not made the huge strategic mistake of declaring war on the United States, FDR probably would have been unable to persuade the American people to let him put the bulk of U.S. power against Germany, clearly the most dangerous of the Axis powers, thus jeopardizing the prospects for Allied victory.

At present, despite Mr. Graham’s assertions, the war on terror goes well, whether against terrorist organizations or states. Al Qaeda has lost its base in Afghanistan and a source of sympathy and support in Iraq. Significant numbers of the top leaders have been killed or captured.

The Korean part of the war on terror stands at a watershed. The new South Korean leaders have a choice to make. They can continue to promote and expand the spirit of appeasement embodied in the so-called “agreed framework” of the Clinton era, which the North Koreans have violated, or they can resolve that the only path to true peace is through an iron-clad alliance between them and us that admits no diplomatic or military daylight.

President Roh Moo-hyun must scrap the anti-American stance that facilitated his electoral victory. So long as the North Koreans believe they can insinuate a wedge between South Korea and the U.S., that will be the crux of their policy.

The recently announced redeployment of U.S. forces 75 miles south of the Demilitarized Zone has both tactical and strategic significance. Tactically, as far as U.S. forces are concerned, it invalidates North Korea’s artillery assets, because it moves the bulk of U.S. forces out of range while at the same time making any strong North Korean move south subject to increased U.S. firepower on the ground and in the air.

Strategically, it makes any prospect of North Korean military victory even more remote than it already is and therefore should show the South Koreans clearly that their only hope of dealing effectively with their renegade neighbor to the north is in tight unison with U.S. political and military strategy, with them as full participants.

One has to understand North Korea’s actions as an admission that they have failed as a nation-state, so they must resort to blackmail. They can’t win a war, nor will they, or should they, be allowed to have nuclear weapons. To allow that would mean that the general war on terror, in all probability, would be lost. It would also undermine, possibly irrevocably, the principle of nuclear nonproliferation, since all of North Korea’s neighbors would quickly seek to become nuclear powers, for their own protection at a minimum.

The Bush administration is correct to seek a multilateral solution to the problem of North Korea. China’s role is crucial, since it provides North Korea with the bulk of its sustenance. It is inconceivable that North Korea would ever give up its nuclear ambitions, unless it believed it had no alternative. Therefore, the only realistic policy for us to pursue is to put pressure on North Korea, particularly through China, to give up those ambitions for good and all, transparently, so as to facilitate its ultimate integration into the South Korean economy.

There is no rationale for North Korea’s existence without the nuclear and rocket technology they wish to export. By the same token, they can choose their future: total annihilation, or a slow integration into their more successful neighbor.

The only way for South Korea to avoid a war or a huge diplomatic defeat, such as the withdrawal of U.S. forces, is not to pay North Korea’s blackmail but to strengthen its ties with the U.S., confront North Korea, and force it to choose peace rather than war.

President Bush has shown himself to be the heir to the legacies of three great presidents: Franklin Roosevelt, who vanquished fascism; Harry Truman, who confronted and blocked Stalinism; and Ronald Reagan, who destroyed the most dangerous expression of communist utilitarianism, the Soviet Union.

The terrorism we now confront is the last vain expression of tyranny at its worst. However, at least up until now, it hasn’t shown itself to be as dangerous as its predecessors, but its potential cannot be ignored or trifled with.

The war on terror is more complicated than past wars because it is two-dimensional. In the past we confronted states and defeated them. Now we confront both terrorist states and their catspaws, such as al Qaeda. But this president has shown he has the willingness and expertise to eviscerate their power and personnel no matter what form they take.

This war won’t last as long as some critics think. If we succeed in North Korea, Iran probably will evolve into some sort of Islamic representative government, because its leaders will be forced to confront the bankruptcy of Iran’s theocratic dictatorship and acknowledge the aspiration of its people for freedom.

Other countries of the Middle East will also gradually change from oligarchies or dictatorships to states in which the common people have some degree of powerful participation.

States where the people govern to a significant degree are loath to go to war. George W. Bush will be known in history not only as a great liberator but a great peacemaker as well. Globally, the principle will be affirmed that the day of tyranny is expiring and the day is dawning of freedom animated and buttressed by justice.

William Goldcamp, a diplomatic historian, wrote his master’s thesis on the Korean War during 1950-52.

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