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(DV) Riggins: Mutually Assured Dysfunction







Mutually Assured Dysfunction: David Frum and the American Enterprise Institute 
by Thomas Riggins
October 24, 2006

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Nothing can be more pitiable to read about than the present direction of American foreign policy. The Bush administration has gotten the country bogged down in the quagmire of Iraq, blown any chances for a peaceful resolution , during its tenure, of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, of reconciling with Iran so as to promote reform, and of keeping North Korea from obtaining nuclear weapons. In fact, everything Bush does seems to be aimed and exacerbating all of these problems and leading the American people closer and closer to more and bigger tragedies. 

We know from many media sources, especially from Bob Woodward’s new book State of Denial, that Bush himself has (or had until just recently) little interest in foreign policy and was essentially clueless when it came foreign affairs.  Unfortunately for the country the people around him, neoconservatives and the ultra-right lunatic fringe, who ended up filling in the blank spots in his brain on this subject poured in a mixture of facts and fantasies leavened with ideological commitments based on the material interests of corporate America. Bush thus represents a boon to the ultra-wealthy conservative business interests and a bane to the majority of his fellow citizens. We will have to suffer another two years of this enemy of the people, but we do not have to suffer silently. 
This article will parse an article from the pro-Bush camp: an article written by a fellow of the American Enterprise Institute (quite representative of the tortured and factually incorrect so-called reasoning produced by the mouth pieces housed there and fed by the corporate big shots who subsidize this outfit), a former speech writer for Bush (he claims to have coined the “axis of evil” phrase) by the name of David Frum. His article, “Mutually Assured Disruption” (New York Times op ed page, 10-10-2006) purports to present a plan for what should be done as a response to the recent nuclear test by North Korea. 
Frum gives four major proposals that he thinks, if adopted, will further American interests. By “American interests” he means those of the military-industrial complex. All four of these suggestions would seriously hurt the interests of the vast majority of the American people as well as those of the people who live in the Pacific area. I hope to demonstrate that all of his proposals are not only dumb, but would be disastrous. You can then judge if this is the type of person who should be writing speeches for, or being listened to by, the Bush administration. But I should note, while Frum denies it, that he was reportedly fired by the White House. 
Frum says the nuclear test “signals the catastrophic collapse of a dozen years of American policy.” This is not true. It only represents six years of American policy: the six years that the Bush administration has been in charge.  During the last six years of the Clinton administration a deal was being worked out that could have led to North Korea giving up its nuclear weapons program in return for a normalization of relations and a promise of a no first strike policy. Bush broke off contact and refused to deal with the North. It was his macho Texas tough guy attitude that has brought about the current situation. 
Frum says that the US has three strategic goals to achieve since the North has gone nuclear. They are: First, to see that Japan and South Korea have "enhanced security" since they are most threatened by North Korea. Well, the best way to do that, I think, is for the US to withdraw from the area, quit grandstanding its "axis of evil" rhetoric and threatening preemptive war and first strike policies. The North is only interested in deterrence and self-defense. The only war hoops and hostile talk is coming from the Bush Administration. If the US withdrew, the North could reach a working accommodation with Japan and the South unless, that is, Japan and the US have a secret agenda to remilitarize Japan so it can play the role of cat's paw in the region for US imperialism. 
Second, "to exact a price from North Korea" so we can "frighten Iran" and other countries that don't do our bidding. Frum uses the term "rogue regimes" for countries which still think they can act independently of US desires. This sound like a great idea. Lets forget all about a rational negotiated settlement. Iran will decide to abandon its nuclear program (there is no definite evidence it is making a weapon, who would believe anything the CIA said anyway after the Iraq WMD boloney) if we just scare the pants off of them. It would not dawn on them that having a nuclear weapon might get the US to tone down. I'm beginning to understand why someone at the White House got Frum fired. But Bush just might take this self-defeating advice anyway. 
Third, we should "punish China." Oh boy! They don't have nuclear weapons yet do they? Its China's fault that the North tested its bomb. The North (puppet that is) would never have made that test if China "had strongly opposed it." So, since its really all China's fault we should make it pay; we will see how later. After China gets what it deserves, we will have the added satisfaction of making the Russians worry about what will happen to them if they get too cozy with Iran. Also Pakistan will think twice before giving a bomb to Saudi Arabia or Egypt. I think Bellevue rather than the AEI is a more suitable venue for Frum's theorizing. 
Here are the four actions the US should take to implement these strategic goals. Frum calls them "swift policy responses." Their implementation would completely isolate us from the entire civilized world, make us laughing stocks (as most of the world already thinks AEI fellows are), and make the chances of our surviving to the 22nd Century slimmer than it now appears. First action: "Step up the development and deployment of existing missile defense systems." This action is just an excuse to get the government to dump billions of dollars to the "defense" industry. These systems don't work. All the real tests of these systems failed so rigged tests had to be substituted. Despite this these programs are kept alive just as an excuse to pour more money into the military-industrial complex and some of the sponsors of the AEI. 
Second action: "End humanitarian aid to North Korea and pressure South Korea to do the same." Even the author subconsciously knows this is a dumb idea (otherwise we would not have to "pressure" South Korea). It is also immoral to make the civilian population (old people, children, etc.,) suffer because we don't like what their government does. Such actions make us look petty and mean spirited (which we happen to be anyway) and will accomplish nothing as most food aid, etc., come from China. Frum thinks we should make China foot the whole aid bill since the North is their "client state." All we will do is get China mad at us unnecessarily because the North doesn't take orders from China. 
Third action: "Invite Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore to join NATO -- and even invite Taiwan to send observers to NATO meetings." This will really lessen the tensions in the region! "Perhaps," Frum writes, "North Korea and China imagine that the nuclear test has tilted the strategic balance in the Pacific in their favors." 

This third action will show them! Is Frum nuts? Here he is saying China was in cahoots with the North and its test. Nonsense. The Chinese don't want nuclear weapons spreading anymore than we do. And this test, estimated to be 1/60th the power of the Hiroshima bomb, looks like it might even have been a dud. No one in their right mind thinks it "has tilted the strategic balance in the Pacific." 
Fourth action: "Encourage Japan to renounce the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and create its own nuclear deterrent." This is the best way, of course, to get North Korea to abandon its weapons program -- by having the Japanese build a nuclear weapon.  You want a "tilt" in the Pacific? How will China react to the US teaming up with Japan to get the latter into the "nuclear club." We are lucky Frum got fired by the White House. Bush has enough bad advice already. 
Thomas Riggins is the book review editor for Political Affairs and can be reached at pabooks@politicalaffairs.net.

Other Articles by Thomas Riggins

* Against the Grain: Safire's Hollow Musings
* Against the Grain: Kerry and Evil (online)
* The Verala Project and the CIA
* 128,000 Reasons to Defeat Bush