Conflict of Interest

Well….North Korea tested a nuke. As Josh Marshall says, this is further proof that the Bush Administration’s foreign policy is a complete failure :

President Bush came to office believing that Clinton’s policy amounted to appeasement. Force and strength were the way to deal with North Korea, not a mix of force, diplomacy and aide. And with that premise, President Bush went about scuttling the 1994 agreement, using evidence that the North Koreans were pursuing uranium enrichment (another path to the bomb) as the final straw.
. . .
Threats are a potent force if you’re willing to follow through on them. But he wasn’t. The plutonium production plant, which had been shuttered since 1994, got unshuttered. And the bomb that exploded tonight was, if I understand this correctly, almost certainly the product of that plutonium uncorked almost four years ago.

So the President talked a good game, the North Koreans called his bluff and he folded. And since then, for all intents and purposes, and all the atmospherics to the contrary, he and his administration have done essentially nothing.

I wouldn’t use the word “nothing”. At least one member of the Administration has been doing something, though it would probably be described as too much carrot, not enough stick :

Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary, sat on the board of a company which three years ago sold two light water nuclear reactors to North Korea – a country he now regards as part of the “axis of evil” and which has been targeted for regime change by Washington because of its efforts to build nuclear weapons.

Mr Rumsfeld was a non-executive director of ABB, a European engineering giant based in Zurich, when it won a $200m (£125m) contract to provide the design and key components for the reactors. The current defence secretary sat on the board from 1990 to 2001, earning $190,000 a year. He left to join the Bush administration.
. . .
Many members of the Bush administration are on record as opposing Mr Clinton’s plans, saying that weapons-grade nuclear material could be extracted from the type of light water reactors that ABB sold. Mr Rumsfeld’s deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, and the state department’s number two diplomat, Richard Armitage, both opposed the deal as did the Republican presidential candidate, Bob Dole, whose campaign Mr Rumsfeld ran and where he also acted as defence adviser.

One unnamed ABB board director told Fortune magazine that Mr Rumsfeld was involved in lobbying his hawkish friends on behalf of ABB.
. . .
The type of reactors involved in the ABB deal produce plutonium which needs refining before it can be weaponised. One US congressman and critic of the North Korean regime described the reactors as “nuclear bomb factories”.

North Korea expelled the inspectors last year and withdrew from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty in January at about the same time that the Bush administration authorised $3.5m to keep ABB’s reactor project going.

Give it a second for those last few paragraphs to sink in. One of the biggest enemies of the United States just joined the nuclear club over the weekend and our secretary of defense was involved in selling them the technology to do it. I won’t even bother to speculate about the ulterior motives that have surely shaped our policies towards North Korean non-proliferation, but I’d love to know how much money Donald Rumsfeld has made helping Kim Jong-il make a nuclear bomb. Between Rummy and North Korea, the Bush family’s close ties to the Saudis, and our nuke-selling, Bin Laden-harboring “close allies” Pakistan, I can’t help but look forward to 2008 when our country has another chance to choose a leader who isn’t all chummy with the bad guys.


UPDATE : As commenters and emailers have pointed out, Rumsfeld’s chumminess with the North Koreans is a little more complicated than I let on. The nuclear reactors that Rumsfeld helped sell Kim Jong-il likely weren’t the source of this weekend’s nuclear test. So Rummy isn’t arming rogue leaders, he was just doing business with them. Or as it was put in the Guardian article :

Critics of the administration’s bellicose language on North Korea say that the problem was not that Mr Rumsfeld supported the Clinton-inspired diplomacy and the ABB deal but that he did not “speak up against it”. “One could draw the conclusion that economic and personal interests took precedent over non-proliferation,” said Steve LaMontagne, an analyst with the Centre for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation in Washington.

Sounds like the kinda guy you want running the Pentagon, huh?