The real threat was never Iraq. That we invaded a country for developing and harboring weapons of mass destruction was a lie when it was perpetrated, and has become a farce in the years that have since passed. Withing living memory, the US has spent more capital, be it human, financial or political, on absolutely nothing, with zero return, in Iraq. The entire justification that was sold to the American people and the entire globe was that Saddam Hussein had and was acquiring more lethal weapons of mass destruction. Hans Blix, the weapons inspector, said it wasn’t so. The UN said it wasn’t so. Even Saddam Hussein, sociopath that he was, said it wasn’t so. But George W. Bush, in the paranoid years that followed 9/11 said so. And his notoriously incompetent director of the CIA George Tenet (admittedly, a Democratic appointee) agreed with him.
Now we’re faced with a shooting war in east Asia involving a country that does indeed have weapons of mass destruction. This week, North Korean artillery batteries opened fire on civilian targets on a South Korean island off the coast. Two civilians were killed and there were other casualties and injuries. And this is coming on the heels of the North Koreans sinking a South Korean naval vessel earlier this year, the Cheonan, killing 46 as it went down. North Korea has orchestrated dozens of incidents over the past five decades, be it kidnapping Japanese citizens to assassinating South Korean cabinet ministers to opening fire at the demilitarized zone. In what has increasingly been an impoverished and resource-strapped regime, the Kim clan that rules the destitute country has been trying to ensure their own succession, and in so doing, risk destabilizing the entire region.
So why did I write about Iraq and then follow it up with North Korea? I wrote about it because we’re not prepared as we ought to be. What should have happened was we should have ignored Saddam Hussein for the madman despot that he was, bloody, unpleasant, but not a vital threat to our strategic interest, and we should have stayed in Afghanistan, finished the job, and got out. But we didn’t. Instead we shuffled around resources in such a way as to guarantee disappointing outcomes (at best) in both countries. The end result that we have been caught entirely unprepared for a real military conflict with a country that has nuclear weapons, is unstable and has demonstrated that the gerontocracy that runs is utterly delusional.
We should be prepared to help out our South Korean and Japanese allies on this one. We ought to have three carrier groups steaming towards the Sea of Japan as we speak, readying our bomber fleets for retaliatory strikes against North Korean nuclear installations and generally pulverizing the capability of the nation to threaten Asia. But we can’t. Why not? The past nine years of war, both initiated and mismanaged by Republicans, have left us totally unable stage a separate, full blown third war. This isn’t something that you can pull an all-nighter on. This is something that requires careful planning, investment and consideration. I don’t like war. I’ve never been in one, but I still think that I wouldn’t like it. What I like even less though, is not being prepared for a just war because you just got finished fighting one that wasn’t really necessary.
Republicans have always claimed the mantle of national security when it comes to elections. After looking that this series of events through this lens, I have no idea why. Their policies have made both America and our allies less safe in the past decade. We are not prepared to take the military actions that we and our allies require to protect us from threats from abroad. And we have Republican policies and ideologies to thank for that. This is kind of like my last posting about the budget. National security is like the budget, something Republicans like to talk about being better on than Democrats, but every time they come near it, it just blows up in their face. And, consequently, ours.