A simple but frightening conjecture: What if Iraq and North Korea are working together?
Let’s start with the obvious. Just as American plans to invade Iraq were hitting high gear, scraping together armed forces, active and reserves, to make a powerful fighting force to take Baghdad, what should happen? North Korea springs into action against the United States and the United Nations. Pyongyang defies U.N. agreements about restricting nuclear technology, brings forbidden weapons into the DMZ, threatens nuclear attack against the U.S. and our allies in the region.
This has to affect U.S. war plans. If there is even a slightly good chance that the Communist North will attack South Korea or use nuclear weapons even in a test, the U.S. will have to split up our already too-thin forces between Iraq and faraway Korea. This drastically complicates our ability to concentrate forces against Saddam.
Is this possibly a coincidence? Well, of course, possibly it is. Anything is possible. But North Korea and Iraq are already closely linked militarily. North Korea has been a major supplier of forbidden missile technology and presumably Scud missiles themselves to Iraq. That link is already established. North Korea is chronically short of money because of its insane economic policies and the costs of maintaining an army of over one million in a small country. Iraq is immensely rich from oil. It is well within the realm of possibility that Iraq simply paid North Korea to stir the pot in the Far East just as Iraq was feeling vulnerable so that Iraq might win some sort of respite from U.S. attentions.
If this is true, it tells us something we need to pay attention to: contrary to the pipe dreams we had in the Clinton years, the world is not yet in a golden age. The forces of terror and violence are still strong on the ground out in the murky fields of reality. We find enemies in North Korea, in the Middle East in many places, in Islamist extremism all over the world and in terrorist movements in Central and South America. We no longer face the might of the Soviet Union, but we do face an immensely powerful and still militant China, with clear designs on Taiwan, oft stated and extremely problematic to deal with.
We are an island, a large and rich island to be sure, but an island, in a sea of angry, armed, and dangerous nations, peoples, and movements.
We are already at war with some of these — namely Islamic extremism — and war against all of them simultaneously is a possibility. History has a knack for delivering the worst possibilities.
This tells us that we have to finally wake up and start rebuilding our defense capacity in a big way. For more than a decade, since the Gulf War, the U.S. armed forces have been steadily allowed to wither. We have far fewer armed forces personnel, ships, and aircraft than we did eleven years ago. We are now spending roughly three percent of our national income on defense. This is not enough in a world as dangerous as the one we face. During World War II we spent close to half of our GDP on defense. During the Cold War we spent close to ten percent year in and year out on defense. Now is the time to move up the scale again. Defense is the number one priority of Americans, the number one requirement to preserve the nation. We should have enough military so that we could fight in Korea without having to go nuclear right away. We should have enough active duty military to fight in Iraq without having to use reserves who might be needed elsewhere. This is a terribly rich nation. The preservation of our nation is a far greater imperative than tax cuts or more consumer spending.
As a nation, we have allowed our strength to ebb under the delusion that the world was a much safer place than it is. Now, let’s grit our teeth and pay for the defense we need … starting with decent pay for our armed forces. Nations do not pass from the scene because they have too much defense, and if we have to err, let us err on that side. Defense is our greatest priority. We neglected it terribly in the Clinton years. Now is the time to rebuild our strength, and it is not a moment too soon. If North Korea and Iraq can work together — just a hunch at this point — then so can all of our enemies, and we need to be strong enough to deal with them all. We can afford it. The only thing we can not afford is to fail to defend ourselves.