From the Editor

John Turner


I've heard a number of commentators say lately that the American people are getting really weary of relentless scandals and foul-ups delivered to them by the current political system. If they are weary, they should know what to do about it in the upcoming Congressional elections. The Democrats may be dull but people need to reflect that in politics, dullness is a good thing. We should expect to get our kicks from something else.

The response to North Korea's testing of a nuclear weapon is curious. According to international opinion, this is intolerable. Why it's intolerable no one bothers to say. And nobody even hints that nuclear weapons ought to be intolerable generally, regardless of who has them. It's hard to know what "intolerable" means in this case. The overt meaning of the term is "not to be tolerated." Yet, as far as I can tell, there's nothing else to be done.

For years we've been told that North Korea possessed nuclear weapons. They seemed to be tolerable then. The test merely confirms what we said we knew. Yet, the test is presumed to have changed everything.

One thing the test makes clear. The all stick and no carrot policy of the United States towards other countries isn't effective. In fact, it has the opposite effect of what's supposedly intended. States like North Korea cannot be intimidated by the United States. We may seem overwhelming to ourselves but we're not overwhelming to them. They see us now, tied down in Iraq and Afghanistan, as militarily impotent.

Clearly, we have more than enough military force to defend ourselves against aggression. But we are not close to having enough to dominate the world in the way the Bush administration has attempted. So, maybe, we, the people, should think about getting a government with enough imagination to try something else.



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Harvard Square Commentary, October 9, 2006