Although the press covers it as if it’s a total shock, North Korea’s nuclear test is anticlimactic. Everybody–well, almost–knew they were working on nuclear weaponry. Now it’s official.
The main loser in this blast is South Korea, and not just for the obvious reason. They have been obsessed with reconciling themselves with their northern bretheren for a long time, not only for reasons of kinship but because they wanted to eliminate and dependency upon the U.S.–whose troops in the present they resent–and Japan, whose troops in the past they resent. Now their idea that this would be attainable in the forseeable future has gone up in radioactive smoke.
Cold wars with really intrasigent communists (the Chinese are too practical to fall into that category) are endurance matches, one the U.S. won in in the 1980’s. South Korea needs to understand that. They need to get away from doing what we almost did in the Cold War and realise that they need to stay the course until the North’s economy implodes.
Turning to another debacle, we know that Henry Kissinger has been telling President Bush that he needs to do the same in Iraq. But Bush is dealing with an entirely different dynamic in the Islamicists he faces in the Middle East. As we have pointed out time after time, the Arab world tends to be centrifugal, and Bush needs to exploit this and quit fighting the last war. But for those who still are, the rules are still the same.