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Is North Korea tutoring Iran? One of the curiosities of the media hysteria over North Korea moving its military toys around is what it might be teaching the Iranians about the value of having a nuclear weapon or two even if you might not be able to deliver them.North Korea is a country on the brink of falling apart while its people starve. The media is galvanized by every incomprehensible word that falls from its leader's mouth and publishes pictures of battle plans that would shame Civil War re-enacters. Yet there is little chance that any government, including the U.S. or China, is going to do anything other than Tsk! Tsk! There are many reasons, of course, but one of them is that North Korea actually has nuclear weapons and nuclear capability. It has a deterrent. And, if necessary, it has a close target, Seoul, South Korea.Will Iran conclude that when a country has a nuclear deterrent, the rest of the world will leave you alone--militarily speaking?I wonder.

About the Author

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.



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Your suggestion is a scary one that seems too plausible for comfort. And what should be US response?

As far as I can tell (from reading), the U.S. will do nothing about North Korea except reassure South Korea and Japan that we have their backs, which we do. The U.S. is hoping that China will do something to calm things down (it will probably not be public). I suppose there is the possibility that the U.S., China, and Russia might try to triangulate something, but an attack seems to be something everyone is trying to avoid for different reasons.On Iran: maybe the interested parties should go on meeting in exotic places (now Kazakstan) and never come to an agreement. The situation in Syria ought to make everyone, especially Israel, wary of an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. What lessons Iran is taking from the North Korean kabuki dance? At least somebody in Iran must be thinking a nuclear deterrent is a good idea. But they have elections coming up and so perhaps like the U.S. everything stops for that.

Up to now nuclear deterrents have always been a stopgap from war. No nuclear powers have gone to war. Why wouldn't Iran think that? This keeps India and Pakistan from extending their battles. My guess is that the US will try to get food to the North Koreans in a way that they can safe face. Big powers have always co-opted explosive forces at lower levels. It is the reason a lot of black leaders got rich.

Casto's "friendly" admonition to the Koreas was surprising and welcome.

You mean this? "In the brief piece published in Communist Party daily Granma and other official media, Castro warned of the impact that nuclear war could unleash in Asia and beyond. He said Havana has always been and will continue to be an ally to North Korea, but gently admonished it to consider the well-being of humankind."Now that you have demonstrated your technical and scientific advances, we remind you of your duty to the countries that have been your great friends, and it would not be fair to forget that such a war would affect ... more than 70% of the planet's population," he said.Castro used stronger language in addressing Washington, saying that if fighting breaks out, President Barack Obama's government "would be buried by a flood of images that would present him as the most sinister figure in US history. The duty to avoid (war) also belongs to him and the people of the United States." Here:

And here is China weighing in--somewhat obliquely.

Hopefully China will take N. Korea in hand and explains things to the Dear Leader. For our part, President Obama has thankfully deployed the much sneered-about and much derided missile defense weapons to Guam. I remember how leftists bawled and moaned about that system back in the Reagan days. Now it might just come in handy.

Wasn't Reagan's missile defense system to be located above the earth and not on it?? But yes, whatever has been sent to Guam might help, at least as a deterrent. Though as you probably know, such systems have a fail rate, i.e., they are not 100 percent accurate. Even Israel's Iron Dome system is reported to miss almost as often as it hits.Do wonder how far North Korea will go, especially if its tantrum-like behavior continues to elicit negatives responses from the rest of the world, instead of the bribery that has been used before somewhat successfully until now.Here is an interesting piece by Stephen Walt: "Seoul food for thought"

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