We can’t exactly say that the North Korean nuke test was a shock. They said they would do it; they’ve done it. And now nukes are in the hands of yet another power-​​mad, dan­ger­ously nar­cis­sis­tic dic­ta­tor­ship. (And no, the other one isn’t Pakistan. Or Israel. Or India.)

Tony Snow was on Sunday, claim­ing that the NKor test, thank­fully con­ducted under­ground at least, was “a provoca­tive act in defi­ance of the will of the inter­na­tional com­mu­nity” (apolo­gies to those whose irony meters just exploded), and Il Duce him­self had this to say.

Once again, North Korea has defied the will of the inter­na­tional com­mu­nity and the inter­na­tional com­mu­nity will respond.

Huh. This is a pretty big shift in rhetoric from the “damn the UN” atti­tude that’s been ooz­ing from DC for the last half-​​decade, innit? Is it pos­si­ble Bush has learned a lit­tle humil­ity, real­ized that work­ing with inter­na­tional allies is bet­ter, pos­si­bly even decided to be less bellicose?

Not really.

The fact is that we’re stretched so thin now with Iraq and the rapidly-​​imploding meadow muf­fin that is Afghanistan that we can’t do any­thing about North Korea, any more than we could about Iran.

What hap­pened to Bush’s fetish for unseat­ing dic­ta­tors sus­pected of hav­ing non­con­ven­tional weapons? We’ve known about Mr. Kim for quite some time — known his nation was almost cer­tainly work­ing on arm­ing up with nukes — yet, for some rea­son, Iraq got fingered.

There are a lot of opin­ions as to why that hap­pened; apart from the rea­sons, though — what­ever they may be — we have the much deeper ques­tion of why Bush was allowed to be so fuck­ing stu­pid to begin with. He’s clearly sur­rounded him­self with lack­eys and bootlicks; his cadre of yes-​​men and –women fill him with a con­fi­dence he does not deserve, has not earned, and should not have.

And you know what’s going to be hap­pen­ing now. Repub con­gres­sional can­di­dates are going to be stump­ing about this one, blath­er­ing on about the need for a stronger, safer bla bla bla, sug­gest­ing that two more years of their “lead­er­ship” is what we’ll need to keep us safe from the ter­ri­ble Yellow Menace.

Wrong.

Two more years of the same … will be pre­cisely that. Are we safer now than we were five years ago? Are we a stronger, hap­pier, more secure, more respected nation? Are our bor­ders, air­ports and ship­yards imper­me­able to would-​​be assassins?

But watch. Just watch the Repubs start their rhetoric. And here’s the answer to it.

Military offi­cials* are all in agree­ment that the US armed forces are des­per­ately overex­tended. We don’t have the sol­diers, we don’t have the equip­ment, we don’t have the sup­port sys­tems. Far too much of Iraq was geared toward “pri­va­ti­za­tion” — read war prof­i­teer­ing — with no atten­tion paid to pro­fes­sional sol­diers who knew the strate­gic risks going in, and who tried to warn Il Duce of the folly of his (and Rummy’s) slip­shod plan­ning and utter lack of fore­sight. Those pro­fes­sional sol­diers were replaced by spine­less cow­ards will­ing to kow­tow, crea­tures as happy as the Republican con­gress to sell their nation out in the name of hold­ing on to a lit­tle bit of per­sonal power, gain­ing a lit­tle bit of per­sonal status.

Meanwhile, while Bush obsessed on Iraq, Osman Bin Laden made good his escape, Afghanistan has desta­bi­lized and is now pro­duc­ing even more opium than it was before we attacked it; Iran is con­tin­u­ing to rat­tle sabres and we’re in no posi­tion to do any­thing about it; Pakistan has climbed into bed with the enemy; and now Kim Jong Il has a new and dan­ger­ous fire­cracker to play with. Il Duce’s fix­a­tion on one nation — which was never a seri­ous threat to us to begin with — has allowed at least three other pal­pa­ble, real dan­gers to flourish.

And that is how Democratic can­di­dates need to speak to the peo­ple over the next thirty days. Foley and Bush, a deadly pair, have left the Republicans reel­ing. But if Dems remain silent on North Korea, the Repubs may find their feet and try to use the threat of Asian nukes to bully them­selves back in office. However, if the argu­ment is seized and inverted on them before they have a chance to start trump­ing up fear in the masses, it’s pos­si­ble for the Dems to real­ize vic­to­ries in areas that, so far, aren’t even believed to be in contention.

I real­ize this sounds par­ti­san, but I don’t intend it to be. I don’t want the Dems in; I want the Repubs out. And in these sit­u­a­tions, I’ll side with the enemy of my — of America’s — enemy.

Addendum: Watch China. We can’t do shit there. That will leave it up to Japan, South Korea and China to han­dle this. I’m will­ing to bet that the Chinese response will be well-​​received, and improve that nation’s sta­tus in the eyes of most of the rest of the world. Except, of course, in the US. By being unable to react, Bush has left the door open to the pos­si­bil­ity of a sino-​​nipponese alliance; the entire pol­i­tics of deal­ing with Asia will be utterly dif­fer­ent by 2010.

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* Rumsfeld, a career civil­ian, does not count as a “mil­i­tary official”.

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