News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


U.S. find itself at other
end of nuclear spectrum

Henry Kissinger used to say that United States foreign policy benefited from the world’s perception of President Nixon as something of a madman.

Mr. Kissinger believed other heads of state, who reasoned that only a madman would use the nuclear option, would give in to U.S. demands for fear that Mr. Nixon was just crazy enough to use America’s growing nuclear arsenal.

It was sort of an “act unstable and carry a big stick” theory.

Today, the U.S. is in the unenviable position our adversaries faced three decades ago.

In the wake of a purported nuclear test, North Korea’s Kim Jong Il is throwing out public demands and threats. Considering Mr. Kim’s recklessness and perceived instability, the United States has no choice but to listen.

The U.S. is seeking U.N. Security Council sanctions against North Korea for its refusal to resume six-party talks over its nuclear program. Mr. Kim has demanded that the U.S. negotiate one-on-one with the rogue nation. He also claims that North Korea needs nuclear weapon capability to stave off the threat of a U.S. invasion, says that U.N.-imposed sanctions would be considered an act of war and threatens to launch a nuclear-tipped missile if the U.S. doesn’t help resolve the standoff.

There is also the unspoken threat that Mr. Kim will irresponsibly export his newfound nuclear technology to other rogue nations or to terrorist organizations.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is having to respond to Mr. Kim’s rants. She says President Bush has assured North Koreans that there is no intention to invade or attack them.

“I don’t know what more they want,” Ms. Rice said.

It’s a good bet that, with nuclear weapons at his disposal — even crude weapons that may not work properly — Mr. Kim wants plenty. His list of demands will be long.

And given his instability, the U.S. will have no choice but to listen carefully.

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