I originally published this post approximately three years ago. With North Korea in the news again concerning its nuclear ambitions, I think it is important to understand the background.
As soon as President George W. Bush took office in 2001, Secretary of State Colin Powell stated that he was going to continue the actions of the Clinton administration. Quickly, Vice President Dick Cheney and other neo-cons in the Bush White House worked to silence Powell and reverse the steps that the Clinton Administration took to freeze nuclear weapons production in North Korea.
I believe the way that the US-North Korea relationship has been played out in the media has been ridiculously superficial. Secondly, the American public has been led to believe that everything started with President Clinton. He is portrayed as a hero or a villain, depending upon your point of view. As usual, I think that the real picture is far more complex.
It appears that North Korea’s nuclear plans date back to the late fifties and early ’60s. Being a very small and somewhat paranoid country, North Korea began to send scientists to the Soviet Union right at the end of the Korean War. They did not believe that when push came to shove the Soviet Union would stand up for them. The Cuban Missile Crisis reinforced that belief. The Soviet Union, their ally, backed down when the US show of force and imposed a blockade around Cuba. North Korea thought that Russia would do the same if squeezed by the US. Also, in 1965, the US, Japan and South Korean signed a diplomacy agreement. This served to further isolate the paranoid country. North Korea fired up the first of its two nuclear reactors in 1967. (more…)
One thing is certain. With conservative talk radio and Fox News, a significant portion of our population will continue to blame President Obama for anything and everything. It is his fault that the economy is not better. It is his fault that gas prices are rising. It is President Obama’s fault that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon. It is President Obama’s fault that Somali pirates are attacking ships. It is President Obama’s fault that there are devastating tornadoes in the Midwest and the South. Recently, I posted the picture on my Facebook page which showed that I spent over $60 on gas. I mentioned that this was way too much. I received the following response – “Thank you, Obama, for your environmental whacko-ness contributing to this.” Really?
Exactly what was the President supposed to do?
Oil production has increased under this president, as the graph below indicates (you can get the raw data here). Yet somehow this is unsatisfactory to conservatives. I’m just wondering why conservatives were not all up in arms because the same graph shows that oil production decreased during the Bush administration. Where was the outcry from conservatives that President George Bush wasn’t friendly enough to the oil industry?
To me, the bottom line is the President needs to pursue a balanced approach to our energy policy. Yes, we need more domestic production of oil. We need to figure out why oil refineries seem to be a chokepoint and restrict the availability of oil to the American consumer. We need to develop natural gas. Not only is it cheap, but it is also abundant. We need more buses and cars that run on natural gas. We also need desperately to develop more electric cars. We need more hydrogen cars. We need to invest more money, not less, in developing alternative fuels. Finally, until we figure out what to do with the waste, I am not in favor of developing or building more nuclear power plants.
What are your thoughts? Do you have friends who are suffering from ODS?
While the completely predictable unfolds on TV, I’d like to spend just a couple of minutes talking about the president’s press conference this afternoon.
One of the first topics that the president addressed was Syria. Syria is smack dab in the region of pain. It is surrounded by Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea. Armenia, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan are also in the region. As I predicted several weeks ago, the killings will continue. I see no incentive for the besieged president to stop killing his people. Members of the international community, led by the league of Arab States with support from China and Russia, are going to have to put pressure on Syria to stop the violence. The United States and Europe can help in whatever diplomatic actions are decided upon, but it is crucial that we do not take the lead on this. Please note what the president said. (See video or transcript.)
Iran. The president’s posture today is similar to what he said in an Atlantic Monthly interview that came out late last week. From a political standpoint, the president is not allowing any of the Republican candidates to get to the right of his position. First and foremost, the president has reaffirmed our commitment to, friendship with and love for Israel. This is unwavering. He has left no room for any of the Republican candidates on this issue. Each has tried to say that he would have been a better friend, but in actuality they’ve offered no new solutions. Secondly, the president reiterated that there is no scenario in which we will let Iran obtain a nuclear weapon. This statement is cemented in stone. The president said, “My policy is not containment; my policy is to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon — because if they get a nuclear weapon that could trigger an arms race in the region, it would undermine our non-proliferation goals, it could potentially fall into the hands of terrorists. And we’ve been in close consultation with all our allies, including Israel, in moving this strategy forward.” If we consider nightmare scenarios and what could possibly happen if Iran were to obtain a nuclear weapon, we must conclude that that would be an extremely destabilizing event in an already volatile region. The president’s thoughtful and deliberate statements on this issue have added clarity.
Finally, the president was asked about Sandra Fluke and Rush Limbaugh. The president was 100% correct in stating that we need to improve the public discourse. Here’s exactly what he said. “I’m not going to comment on what sponsors decide to do. I’m not going to comment on either the economics or the politics of it. I don’t know what’s in Rush Limbaugh’s heart, so I’m not going to comment on the sincerity of his apology. What I can comment on is the fact that all decent folks can agree that the remarks that were made don’t have any place in the public discourse.
And the reason I called Ms. Fluke is because I thought about Malia and Sasha, and one of the things I want them to do as they get older is to engage in issues they care about, even ones I may not agree with them on. I want them to be able to speak their mind in a civil and thoughtful way. And I don’t want them attacked or called horrible names because they’re being good citizens. And I wanted Sandra to know that I thought her parents should be proud of her, and that we want to send a message to all our young people that being part of a democracy involves argument and disagreements and debate, and we want you to be engaged, and there’s a way to do it that doesn’t involve you being demeaned and insulted, particularly when you’re a private citizen.”
Let me just underline and stress the point that we need to improve our public discourse. On major issues of policy, whether it be the Middle East, abortion, health care or end-of-life issues, it is extremely common for us to vilify anyone with whom we disagree. This simply does not help us. As a matter fact, it usually causes the discussion to stagnate and before you know it the political discourse has dissolved into a scene from Animal House. If we are truly going to tackle some of the difficult problems that face us, we are going to have to be able to talk through these issues. We have to come to some resolution. For the last 15-20 years, we seem to have been delaying important decisions. Weaning ourselves off of fossil fuels, figuring out a way to pay for increasing health care coverage, and many more topics seem to be wallowing in the mud. We need to thoroughly debate these topics, make a decision and then move on.
What are your thoughts on the president’s news conference this afternoon?