It's hard to overstate how pointless partisan chest-thumping like this is.
Senior Republicans on Tuesday used North Korea's latest nuclear test to attack President Barack Obama's foreign policies and his reported plans to reduce the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
"The Obama administration must replace its failed North Korea policy with one that is energetic, creative and focused on crippling the Kim regime's military capabilities through stringent sanctions that tackle its illicit activities and cuts off its flow of hard currency," California's Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a written statement.
Right, "stringent sanctions." Why didn't the Obama administration think of that? Wait, it did think of that -- the White House has already helped impose sweeping sanctions against North Korea, and has pushed the United Nations Security Council (specifically, China) for more. One would like to think the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee already knows this.
California Republican Howard "Buck" McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, cited Pyongyang's nuclear test as a reason to dissuade Obama from any new plan to make further cuts in the U.S. nuclear arsenal, which some media reports had suggested could come in his State of the Union speech Tuesday night.
"On the same day the president of the United States plans to announce further reduction in U.S. nuclear weapons, we see another hostile regime unimpressed by his example," McKeon said in a statement.
This doesn't make any sense. President Obama, like his predecessors in both parties, hopes to reduce the U.S. nuclear arsenal, but if McKeon is worried about creating a short-term deterrent, the White House's reported goals would still leave the U.S. with over 1,000 nuclear weapons. Besides, the more American leaders push for reducing our nuclear stockpiles -- which are expensive and poorly suited to a 21st-century national security landscape -- the more credibility we'll have on counter-proliferation.
One would like to think the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee already knows this, too.
As for "failed" U.S. foreign policies towards North Korea, congressional Republicans might want to take a stroll down memory lane.
I'm reminded of this Fred Kaplan classic from 2004, which detailed the Bush/Cheney administration's reaction in late 2002 to learning that Kim Jong-il's regime had acquired centrifuges for processing highly enriched uranium, and had a stash of radioactive fuel rods, which could be processed into plutonium.
Thanks to an agreement brokered by the Clinton administration, the rods were locked in a storage facility under the monitoring of international weapons-inspectors. Common sense dictated that -- whatever it did about the centrifuges -- the Bush administration should do everything possible to keep the fuel rods locked up.
Unfortunately, common sense was in short supply. After a few shrill diplomatic exchanges over the uranium, Pyongyang upped the ante. The North Koreans expelled the international inspectors, broke the locks on the fuel rods, loaded them onto a truck, and drove them to a nearby reprocessing facility, to be converted into bomb-grade plutonium. The White House stood by and did nothing. [...]
The pattern of decision making that led to this debacle -- as described to me in recent interviews with key former administration officials who participated in the events -- will sound familiar to anyone who has watched Bush and his cabinet in action. It is a pattern of wishful thinking, blinding moral outrage, willful ignorance of foreign cultures, a naive faith in American triumphalism, a contempt for the messy compromises of diplomacy, and a knee-jerk refusal to do anything the way the Clinton administration did it.
That congressional Republicans never took the slightest interest in any of this -- they, like Bush/Cheney, focused more on invading Iraq -- still amazes me years later. North Korea joined the nuclear club on Bush's watch -- a development that could have been avoided -- and developed nuclear weapons partly in response to Bush's policies.
Royce and McKeon are outraged by the current state of affairs. I wonder if they realize what happened over the last decade to bring us to this point.