NY-29: North Korea - Failure of Leadership
by Eric Massa, Tue Oct 10, 2006 at 04:03:18 AM EDT
It is now clear that North Korea has detonated a nuclear device. What is also clear is that this development has dramatic and dire implications with respect to the security situation in the Pacific. During my 24-year career in the Navy, I had the opportunity to serve several tours in the Pacific Fleet, so I have had some opportunity to study these issues first hand. Although I am no longer privy to the classified intelligence briefings, from watching CNN and other news sources, a number of things become immediately apparent.
Now, five years after September 11th, 2001, and six years into the Bush Administration, we are less safe, not more. We are bogged down in a war of occupation and attrition in Iraq. Our army is overextended, our military resources are strained to the breaking point, and our few military allies have come to view us with suspicion. Now, faced with a real threat--a rogue state armed with actual weapons of mass destruction--we have dangerously few military options to defend our country.
Not only has this Administration with its cowboy diplomacy led us away from the real mission, finding and killing the terrorists who attacked us, but they have abandoned our traditional alliances. This travesty has cost us dearly in the effort to combat terrorism by allowing al-Qaida and similar networks to spread unchecked through countless countries. With the advent of a nuclear North Korea, even more desperate consequences are fast becoming apparent.
To counter these effects, and attempt to forestall the day when we may have to face an atomic struggle in East Asia, I believe that the United States must take the following actions immediately. I also fear that the record of this Administration suggests that any of the following actions are extremely unlikely.
1) Reconvene. President Bush should call an emergency session of Congress tonight to respond to this crisis. Last year, during the Schiavo family medical tragedy in Florida, the Congress reconvened in emergency session to pass a law that had nothing to do with national security, nothing to do with making America safer, nothing to do with the public welfare. Instead, they passed and signed a law in midnight session that purported to intervene in the private medical decisions of a family in crisis. If this Administration and its allies in Congress truly value life, truly value the security of this nation, then they ought to be able to give the same consideration to national defense.
2) Refocus. The obsessive focus on Iraq that has characterized the Bush Administration's approach to the world has left us willfully ignorant of ever changing political dynamics across the globe--particularly in East Asia. It is no longer sufficient to reduce the world to slogans and Axes of Evil--we must fundamentally refocus our efforts on a global level.
3) Redeploy. Over time, our military has been gradually withdrawn from bases in South Korea and repositioned to support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This has had the dual effect of suggesting to the North Koreans that we are not committed to the defense of South Korea and of dramatically reducing our ability to exert force in that part of the world. In addition to redeploying our military, we must also redeploy the other facets of our international power--trade, diplomacy, and economic aid. The flow of resources in this government has been focused for too long upon a misguided and counterproductive war in Iraq to the detriment of our interests worldwide.
4) Re-energize. We must now seek to understand the motives and machinations of our adversaries even as we seek to reach out to our traditional allies in that region: Japan, Australia, and South Korea. Using these relationships, and employing skillful diplomacy instead of a reckless cowboy approach, we may be able to leverage our power, and that of China, to force North Korea to disarm.
All of this, however, will require a level of diplomatic skill that this administration has so far not demonstrated. President Bush and his adminstration are mistaken in their notion that talking with enemies is for the weak. As former Secretary of State James Baker said recently (link):
So my point is, you know, you talk to your -- you talk to your enemies. You don't just talk to your friends, and it's not a sign of weakness to talk to somebody, and it's not necessarily appeasement provided you do it in the right way and you just don't roll over and give something that you're hard-nosed and tough about it.
We need better leadership. We need more than tough talk and meaningless political slogans to address the problems we face in the world as a direct result of the poor leadership we have seen from President Bush and the Republican Rubber Stamp Congress.
Yesterday I was on the Ed Shultz show discussing North Korea. Audio from that program is available here. I will also have a press conference later today with House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer addressing the failure to prevent North Korea from acquiring nuclear weapons. More information is available at my website MassaforCongress.com.
This week, we have three more debates. The next one will be this (Tuesday 10/10) evening in Elmira and will be televised live in the Elmira/Corning area. Please visit the "Debate Update" section of the website for more information about all the upcoming debates--as well as any others that may be scheduled. I will be addressing these leadership issues in the debates. During the last debate my opponent decided to close by bragging about the government's response to Hurricane Katrina (video of that here), so the other debates should prove interesting.