Baby Kim’s Ace in the Hole: Western Moralists

by | Oct 11, 2003

North Korea just announced it is using plutonium extracted from spent nuclear fuel rods to make atomic weapons. How could the United States let this happen? In 1994, when North Korea was on the brink of economic collapse, its new leader Kim Jong Il, following in his father’s footsteps, demanded the help of his reviled […]

North Korea just announced it is using plutonium extracted from spent nuclear fuel rods to make atomic weapons. How could the United States let this happen?

In 1994, when North Korea was on the brink of economic collapse, its new leader Kim Jong Il, following in his father’s footsteps, demanded the help of his reviled enemy, the United States of America. Then-President Bill Clinton agreed to supply food, oil and two light-water nuclear power reactors.

What did America receive in return? The withdrawal of a threat of nuclear war that North Korea had no capacity to wage, but which it might be able to wage some day, if it could keep itself fed, fuelled and powered long enough to develop its nuclear capacity.

How could an aging dictator nicknamed “Baby Kim” extort protection money from a superpower, for no more than a promise to suspend development of nuclear weapons? Did he, like some fictional super-villain, hold some ace card? A special hostage?

Whatever Baby Kim’s ace was, it worked so well that he decided to use it again.

In October 2002 Kim revealed that he had broken his promise and had resumed uranium enrichment. He demanded that America negotiate a new deal.
George W. Bush refused. Kim threatened “merciless punishment” for the United States and a “sea of flames” for South Korea. Bush declared this was a “diplomatic” not a “military” issue. Kim withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and fast-tracked his development of nuclear weapons. Bush responded by offering to consider Baby Kim’s new demands, provided North Korea’s neighbours were included in the talks.

How can Kim be getting away with this again? Why doesn’t Bush give an ultimatum to the regime he called evil, then work out the safest way to destroy its military capacity? Whatever the risks of an attack, the risks of continued appeasement are much greater, as the result of the 1994 deal, and history, prove. So, how is it that Baby Kim is the one who makes the threats, and Uncle Sam the one who does the conceding? What does the tyrant have up his sleeve?

Baby Kim does hold a couple of ace cards. They were slipped up his sleeve by Western moralists.

Most Western moralists agree on one premise–that there is no premise that can provide an objective standard for moral judgement. Every culture, they insist, is sacrosanct and can be judged only according to its own subjective standards. Accordingly, foreign regimes are immune from moral condemnation–a brutal communist dictatorship such as North Korea must be considered morally equivalent to the United States of America. Despite his “axis of evil” rhetoric, Bush is incapable of challenging this moral relativism. Consequently, he lacks the moral certainty that would give him the courage to take decisive action. He is reduced to issuing empty threats, followed by appeasing proposals, followed by more empty threats.

But despite their explicit premise that there is no universal standard of morality, the moral relativists implicitly take one moral precept for granted, as if it were unquestionable: altruism. According to altruism, the ethics of self-sacrifice, the rich and powerful are guilty by the mere fact of their success and are duty-bound to sacrifice their wealth to those who have less. Thus, rich and powerful America must assume moral responsibility for the impoverished North Koreans.

According to this moral trap, America must not only respect the sovereignty of North Korea, regardless of Baby Kim’s policies of domestic enslavement and foreign belligerence; it must also feed and empower it. If North Koreans die as human shields or when the collective crops fail or when the food aid stops, Kim knows that it won’t be he who will be denounced as morally culpable–it is Bush who will be denounced, for attacking North Korea, or for not providing enough aid. Kim can use his people as hostages, can threaten any atrocity and demand any ransom, knowing that Bush will want to appease him rather than face the denunciation of critics wielding a morality he dare not reject.

The indecision and paralysis engendered by moral relativism, coupled with the appeasement and self-sacrifice engendered by altruism, is suicidal. If America does not throw off these moral chains, it will continue to be the prey of the Baby Kims, Ayatollahs, Arafats and bin Ladens of the world. Just as an individual must act unapologetically to preserve his life, so must America.

America must proudly proclaim its right and intention to protect its citizens, their liberty and their property. It must meet any threat with retaliation that pre-empts loss of American lives.

John Dawson is a businessman and freelance writer from Melbourne Australia. He runs the website www.aynrand.org.au.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

Have a comment?

Post your response in our Capitalism Community on X.

Related articles

The Young in America Turn Against Capitalism

The Young in America Turn Against Capitalism

If young people worry and wonder about their retirement future, their health care, and medical needs, their chance to afford a place to live, and a reasonable possibility for their lives to be better and more prosperous than their parents, it is precisely because government over the decades has either taken over or heavy- handedly imposed itself over all these and other sectors of the American economy — and brought them to financial crisis and imbalance.

The Justice of an All-Volunteer Military

The Justice of an All-Volunteer Military

The most equitable and just sharing of the burden of America’s military is assured by its all-volunteer nature, and that conscription would be inequitable and unjust.

No spam. Unsubscribe anytime.

Pin It on Pinterest