Topic: Couldn't be so...
How did Thomas Hardy put it? The glebe cow drooled. You might know the Thomas Hardy poem where the explosions wake the dead in the church graveyard and they think it must be Judgment Day. God sets them straight -
But there is no rest.
North Korea announced Sunday night that it had detonated a nuclear device, making it the eighth country to conduct such a test. That was the big news. President George Bush then called for an "immediate response" (here) and was pushing South Korea, China, and Russia to consider sanctions. Later in the day the UN security Council vote thirteen to nothing to condemn the test, but the sanctions will have to be worked out.
This was some news, with this twist, Glenn Kessler reporting that senior members of the Bush administration, were really not all that shocked and appalled at North Korea's nuclear test. They'd been eagerly looking forward to it -
Yep, now no one can bitch about how they hate face-to-face diplomacy and don't do it. That's all moot now, isn't it?
Kevin Drum at the Washington Monthly is not impressed -
Ah, but it is a plan, for something or other.
Josh Marshall is more blunt -
Yeah, and it's a hell of a way to start the week.
So why didn't we do face-to-face talks with North Korea before it came to this? Donald Gregg, National Security Advisor for the first President Bush, George H. W. Bush, explains -
That first president's Secretary of State had said just about the same thing just before the North Korean test -
But the son seems to have something to prove to the father, the man so many labeled as a wimp. You cannot be like Clinton or the old man. So here we are.
And by the way, the conservatives like to say turnaround in Libya was a result of the invasion of Iraq and George Bush's hardnosed foreign policy. Nope, it was old-fashioned negotiation, but we like our myths.
And too that Monday odd facts kept popping up, like this (BBC) - "The size of the bomb is uncertain. South Korean reports put it as low as 550 tons of destructive power but Russia said it was between five and 15 kilotons." And this (LA Times) - "One intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said U.S. intelligence agencies detected an explosive event in North Korea with a force of less than a kiloton. Historically, the types of devices used in initial nuclear tests have yielded several kilotons of force."
Kevin Drum here -
Josh Marshall here -
Ah, but the French are always messing with our heads. They told us the Iraq war was stupid, so what do they know?
Then there's Jane's Defense Weekly, a go-to source on such matters with this - if the initial reports of a .55 kT (half a kiloton) blast are correct "it would suggest that the test had been a 'pre- or post-detonation' event (ie a failure), as it had been anticipated that North Korea's first nuclear test would have a significantly higher yield."
One of Josh Marshall's readers puts it this way -
Ouch! That last dig hurts.
And even conservative John Derbyshire at the National Review's "The Corner" says here, failure or not, it may be time for an updated foreign-policy doctrine to address the oncoming wave of nuclear proliferation - "The George W. Bush doctrine died in the alleys and groves of Iraq, and nobody else is likely to volunteer for the job of world nuke cop."
And at "The Carpetbagger Report" the folks there are just working on the spin that is sure to come - all this is Bill Clinton's fault. They offer a reminder - "When Bush took office, Colin Powell endorsed a continuation of the Clinton administration policy, but was quickly overruled (and rebuked) by the White House. Bush ended negotiations, scraped the Agreed Framework, called Kim Jung Il names, and gave up on having any kind of coherent policy whatsoever."
Actually, the definitive history of all that was covered by Fred Kaplan in the Washington Monthly in 2004 here, and he now offers North Korea Tested an Atom Bomb; Now What?, with the subhead, "Four potential scenarios - all bad."
The setting -
The possibilities -
Great, and then there's the possibility of sanctions not working, then escalation and war -
There's no good in any of this. As Kaplan says - "So, here we are. The two major powers in this confrontation are led by blunderers; the provocateur is a chronic miscalculator. It doesn't look good."
So the week began.
Iraq - Gone
So long ago Lyndon Johnson watched Walter Cronkite on CBS News say the obvious about the Vietnam War, and was said to have muttered, "When we lose Cronkite we've lost the war." And he gave up, and walked away from another term in office. He'd had it. He knew.
Fareed Zakaria, the international editor and big gun at Newsweek, is supposed to be fulfilling the Walter Cronkite now, or some folks wish it were so.
Zakaria over the weekend wrote this -
And here's the wishful thinking from Kevin Drum -
And the widely-read Andrew Sullivan here -
Maybe it is, but both discount Mister Fix-It.
That would be James A. Baker III.
Barry Schweid, the AP Diplomatic Writer, explains here -
But they're going to reframe that. It's time for the administration to consider other alternatives in Iraq. You just call it something else.
Of course it's tricky -
Of course the week before Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner, the Republican dude from Virginia, returned from a trip to Iraq and said the war there was "drifting sideways" - if Iraqis do not make progress in three months to reduce ethnic fighting and bolster reconstruction efforts, congress would have to make "bold decisions." And Bush's first secretary of state, Colin Powell had said this - "Stay the course isn't a good enough answer, because to stay the course you have to have a finish line." Other Republicans are jumping on board, or jumping overboard if you want to look at it that way - Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and congressman Christopher Shays of Connecticut.
Well, Baker was a close adviser to Bush's father - White House chief of staff and then secretary of state - and helped the son with the Florida recount during the election of 2000. He fixed that. Why not this?
But Baker also said Sunday he would like "to take this thing out of politics" by delaying the release of any recommendations until after the elections, and possibly even until a new Congress takes office in January. The young American soldiers who will die in that intervening period are sort of collateral damage. But it will give the Republicans a small edge in the upcoming election. Of course their families will think it was worth it.
Some of the recommendations have, though, already leaked -
So much for a new Iraq.
Michael Young at "Reason" says this -
Yep, the whole thing might make Iraqis feel as if they've been jerked around but good. This is not pretty. But Baker can fix anything. And he's being astonishingly blunt.
John Dickerson here wonders about that -
Yeah, that's a winner. Right.
But there is the problem of redefining "cut and run" and all that. The problem is the volume setting on that has been rising, with the president hammering that "the Democratic party is the party of cut and run." He's saying it again and again, and it must be driving Baker crazy.
Dickerson again on that here -
But Baker will fix it all.
As for Afghanistan, see this - "The top NATO commander in Afghanistan warned Sunday that if the lives of Afghans don't improve within the next six months, a majority of them could switch their allegiance to the Taliban."
Have we lost both wars?
How It's All Playing in Peoria
The polling as of late Monday, October 9 -
PRESIDENTIAL APPROVAL RATINGS
New York Times - CBS here - 34%
ABC - Washington Post here - 39%
Gallup here - 37% (down from 44% last month)
HOUSE SPEAKER HASTERT AND PROVIDING COVER FOR A SEXUAL PREDATOR TO SAVE A SEAT IN THE HOUSE
See Survey USA here -
He should resign from congress: 45%
He should resign his leadership post but can stay in congress: 25%
He should stay in congress and should remain Speaker of the House: 26%
SOME GOOD NEWS
Republicans Stand To Benefit from Nuclear Test 'Fear Factor' - "Dennis Hastert, the Republican speaker in Congress, and John Boehner, the Republican majority leader, released statements soon after the North Korean nuclear test announcement. With only a month left to go for mid-term elections, Republicans see the nuclear test issue could bring back their dwindling popularity."
People will be frightened. That helps.
THE BACK-UP PLAN
Just a heads-up -
It's a plan. And it wasn't a good Monday.