Kamikaze McCain

by Patrick J. Buchanan – January 22, 2003

Is the War Party setting up President Bush for a charge of having carried off an Asian Munich? So it would appear.

In a bylined piece by John McCain in The Weekly Standard (“Don’t Appease Pyongyang”), Bush is warned: Do not return to the status quo with North Korea that existed from the Clinton-Carter Agreed Framework of 1994 – prior to last fall’s discovery that Kim Jong Il has been operating a secret uranium-enrichment program.

“We clearly enjoyed a false peace from 1994 to 2002,” says McCain. “There can be no going back. In the face of North Korea’s nuclear provocation, a return to the failed policies of the past is unacceptable. … Those who counsel a return to the status quo fail to grasp the danger of rewarding threats with retreat and concession.”

“Rewarding threats with retreat and concession”? That is the very definition of appeasement. Yet Bush has taken that road by offering his “bold initiative” if Kim will only get back in the box.

To McCain, Pyongyang “poses a greater danger than Iraq.” Yet, there has been a “rapid deterioration of our resolve” that is as “reckless as it is disingenuous.”

“America’s challenge in Asia,” McCain argues, “is to compel North Korea’s nuclear disarmament.” For Kim’s “pursuit of a nuclear arsenal directly threatens the security of the American people, as well as our ability to shape the international order. …”

Translation: Both U.S. security and our Asian hegemony are at risk. Pressing Bush to make Beijing aware of the stakes, McCain says China “would surely want to avoid any American military occupation of North Korea in the event of war with Pyongyang. …”

This is a startling statement. To occupy North Korea, America would have to send 500,000 troops and fight a second Korean War. Bush, out of fear of provoking just such a war, is not only headed the other way, he has ruled out a pre-emptive strike.

To McCain, this is capitulationism. The administration, he writes, “appears to have embraced, and in some respects exceeded, the style and substance of Clinton diplomacy. Both the president and the secretary of state ruled out the use of force, although force could eventually prove to be the only means to prevent North Korea from acquiring a nuclear arsenal – a dangerous shortsighted precedent that even the Clinton administration did not publicly suggest.”

For a Republican senator to accuse a Republican president of adopting a policy softer than Clinton’s is an affront and insult that comes close to a political declaration of war.

What does McCain recommend? A U.S.-led isolation of North Korea. Across-the-board U.N. sanctions. A U.S. blockade to interdict “critical shipments.” A threat to China that if it does not cooperate Japan will go nuclear. No negotiations with Pyongyang until it halts all nuclear programs, surrenders all its enriched uranium and plutonium fuel rods, and dismantles its nuclear reactor.

If South Korea, Japan, China and Russia balk? We go it alone.

“And spare us,” writes McCain, “the usual lectures about American unilateralism. We would prefer the company of North Korea’s neighbors, but we will make do without it if we must.”

McCain and the Standard believe America should, if necessary, fight a second Korean War to effect the total and complete nuclear disarmament of North Korea. Yet, that policy has no support among our allies and almost none here in the United States.

What, then, are McCain and the Standard up to? Is this a threat that if Bush jettisons the War Party’s plans for empire, he will have to face McCain in the primaries, or in the general election?

But, that is pure bluff. If Gov. Bush routed John McCain in 2000, how could McCain win a single primary against a President Bush who has an approval rating in the GOP of over 90 percent? If McCain dared to try, he would lose his Senate seat.

As for running as an independent, that means leaving the GOP, splitting his base, getting on 50 state ballots and then winning enough votes to keep both Bush and the Democratic nominee at 33 percent of the vote or less, a political hat trick that has never been done.

No, the threat McCain poses is as a kamikaze. He can wound the president by painting him as a war wimp who backed away from his Churchillian duty to achieve the nuclear disarmament of North Korea.

In the final analysis, however, McCain and the War Party are bluffing, while making Bush pay a price for abandoning their cause of Asian empire. May the Lord help the president if he aborts the War Party’s plans for hegemony in the Arab and Islamic world.