North Korea has been in the news for the last several days because they’ve allegedly tested a nuclear weapon. But did it really even happen?
Is anyone suspicious of the fact that the Financial Times website has overhead satellite views of the North Korean nuclear facilities, yet the North Koreans managed to test a nuclear weapon in the one pocket of the world not covered by aerial satellites?
Would Kim Jong Il try to pump up his nation’s image by creating the myth of a nuclear test? At home, he tells the North Koreans that international leaders abroad refer to him by a series of absurd honorifics including “The Eternal Bosom of Hot Love”, “Master of the Computer Who Surprised the World”, and “Present-day God”. He also claims to have scored 38 under par the first time he ever played golf, so the idea of him stretching the truth to grandiose proportions is not an unrealistic notion.
It’s certainly true that a seismic event was detected in North Korea the day the test is alleged to have happened. South Korea measured it at 3.6 on the Richter scale. To put that number into perspective, the Los Angeles earthquake of 1994 was a 6.7--- 1000 times stronger than the seismic event measured in North Korea that day. The South Koreans estimate that to trigger the kind of seismic event that took place in North Korea, the blast was equivalent to 550 tons of TNT. The bombs we dropped on Japan over half a century ago are estimated to have been the equivalent of 15,000 to 20,000 tons of TNT. If nuclear fission even took place that day, it carried less explosive power than some of our traditional munitions.
Is this cause to take this lightly? Not quite. The thoughts of a leader such as Kim Jong Il in possession of even the weakest nuclear weapon is a discomforting thought. It’s estimated (Again, assuming that what the North Koreans have told us is true) that they have enough fissionable material to make between 4 and 13 nuclear weapons, depending upon the size. In the meantime, every ship coming out of North Korea is closely watched by our intelligence agencies. Those are their only delivery systems--- Their missile that they claimed could reach the west coast of the United States crashed less than a minute after liftoff when it was tested in July, traveling only slightly less distance than a Jason Giambi foul ball before crashing.
The greatest danger of the North Korea situation is not some attack from North Korea. As much as Kim refers to himself as “the Supreme Commander at the Forefront of the Struggle Against Imperialism and the United States”, in the grand scheme of things, he’s a mosquito at worst.
The greatest danger is that while the media and the government focus their attention on this, we’re letting the greatest danger to America fester.
And no--- I’m not talking about Iran. Much like North Korea, Iran has no long range delivery options for a nuclear weapon, and a navy that consists of slightly more than three guys in a fishing boat.
I’m talking about Pakistan.
Pakistan is, at the same time, our greatest ally and our greatest adversary in the search for al Qaeda and Taliban holdouts. The ties between the Pakistani intelligence service (ISI) and the Taliban has been well documented.
President Pervez Musharraf has handed us high value al Qaeda targets in the past; When he did, he was averaging one attempt on his life per week. Scarcely a public appearance went by without shots being fired, or an explosion near his motorcade.
We’re not getting any high value targets out of Pakistan these days. Perhaps not coincidentally, there are no more major attempts on Musharraf’s life. This is a compromise position--- He’s giving us enough “middle management” types to keep us happy, while handing over absolutely no one of value.
Meanwhile, Dr. A.Q. Khan, the Johnny Appleseed of the nuclear arms race, is a free man. President Musharraf claims he’s under “house arrest”, but no one’s really all that clear on what that means. Khan is hailed as a hero in Pakistan for having brought his nation the bomb (Before selling it to others as well), so anything too closely resembling real punishment could bring violent repercussions to the Musharraf government.
But these factors aren’t the genuine reason for alarm. As long as Musharraf is in power, there is a balance in Pakistan that we might not be able to take anything resembling true comfort in, but that we can live with.
The real problem arises when Musharraf is no longer in power.
The Muttahida Majils-e-Amal (MMA) is a coalition of Islamist parties operating in Pakistan. They’ve been met with some degree of success, controlling many of the regional governments found in the tribal areas on the Afghan border. They operate largely in rural areas and rule with a Taliban-esque emphasis on Sharia.
Their influence is being felt in urban areas as well. Go into Peshawar, Karachi, or Jalalabad, and you’ll see advertisements on billboards where the faces of women have been very precisely cut out. The men that believe that a woman is sinning by showing her face don’t rule these areas, but they certainly operate with relative impunity.
Discovery Times did a phenomenal show on the MMA once, and several members proudly looked into the camera and pledged their allegiance to the Taliban, and swore revenge on the people that forced the Taliban from power.
The border region of Pakistan is also rich with guns. You won’t recognize the names, but the designs are easy enough to recognize. The arms makers on the streets of Peshawar buy one of every gun on the market, take it apart, and learn how to make every single part of it. The Street Sweeper, a 12 gauge shotgun that fires shells out of a drum like a machine gun, retails for about $2700 new in America. The Pakistani equivalent of roughly $30 US can get you a clone from one of Pakistan’s many street entrepreneurs.
The idea of the MMA gaining power legitimately is far from a longshot. They are one successful social movement away from a majority hold in Pakistan’s parliament, and they would be allowed to choose the next president. I’ve seen video of their rallying cry--- Crowds of them marching down the street together, singing “Death to America, death to Musharraf”. If we move into Iran, we could very well see that happen. A frightened people are a radicalized people, and they will support the strong-arm tactician every time.
Or, with the abundance of inexpensive firearms, they could simply overwhelm the relatively weak Pakistani military.
No matter which way they rise to power, one unimaginable nightmare comes true---
The second coming of the Taliban takes control of a nuclear armed state.
The second that happens, the genuine clash of civilizations begins. We would literally have no choice--- For as distasteful as it may be, we would have no option other than a preemptive attack. We can’t leave their facilities standing. We can’t have Dr. Khan helping to rebuild the facilities.
War would be the best case scenario. We might well have no option other than a nuclear attack, and that’s assuming for a moment that India doesn’t beat us to the punch. With North Korea or Iran, we can rely on the need for the self-preservation of these nations to stave off the attack. The MMA’s closest ideological brethren are men without a country that believe in playing the odds as to whether or not we’ll attack them if they hide among civilians.
Our foreign policy is one tragic mistake built upon another. The tragic mistake of our current focus on North Korea is that it distracts us from the threat down the road. And the tragic mistake of our focus on Iran is that it brings the nightmare scenario described in this article closer to reality.