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Baby Kim's secret weapon

By John Dawson
web posted February 24, 2003

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

What did America receive in return? The withdrawal of a threat of nuclear war! 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 a 60-year-old 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? A super-weapon?

Kim Jong IlWhatever Baby Kim's ace was, it worked so well that he has decided to use it again.

Last October Baby 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, whereupon Bush declared this was a "diplomatic" not a "military" issue and agreed to talks. Kim withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and fast-tracked his development of nuclear weapons. Bush responded by offering more aid for Baby Kim to stop.

How can Kim be getting away with this again? Why doesn't Bush give the regime that he branded as evil an ultimatum, then work out the safest way to destroy its military capacity? Whatever the risks of an attack, the risks of appeasement are much higher. So why is it Baby Kim who is making the threats, and Uncle Sam who is doing the conceding? What does the baby have up his sleeve?

Baby Kim holds a couple of ace cards, slipped up his sleeve by Western moralists.

Today's moralists adamantly insist that there is no objective standard of morality. Every culture is sacrosanct and immune from judgment. This moral relativism implies that a brutal communist dictatorship such as North Korea is morally equal to the United States. Unwilling to challenge this sacred cow, Bush is disarmed. He lacks the confidence and certainty that would allow him to take action, so he is reduced to issuing empty threats followed by more empty threats.

But despite their hard-line relativism, Western moralists do offer one moral precept that they consider unquestionable: altruism, the ethics of self-sacrifice. According to this doctrine, those with wealth 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 is morally responsible for the impoverished North Koreans, which is why Bush hurriedly offers "food and fuel" and other unnamed aid to Kim.

According to this view, America must not only respect the sovereignty of North Korea, regardless of how Baby Kim enslaves and impoverishes his people, but it must also feed and empower that impoverished population.

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 will be Bush because he didn't bail Kim out of the problems caused by Kim's unproductive, repressive economic system.

So as long as Kim is ruthless enough to sacrifice his people, while Bush accepts that their misery is America's responsibility, Kim can use them as a weapon. Their lives are in his hands, but he knows that America will be held responsible for their fate.

While he holds his own people in hostage, Kim can threaten any atrocity and demand any tribute, knowing that Bush will appease him rather than face the denunciation of critics wielding a morality he dare not reject.

The fear and indecision engendered by moral relativism, and the sacrifice of America engendered by altruism must stop. America must do no more penance for its achievements. It must stop appeasing every petty tyrant with pay-offs. America must recognize that its wealth and power are earned. It must be proud, not humble. It must protect and defend the rights of its citizens.

If America does not throw off the moral chains imposed by so many Western intellectuals, it will continue to be victimized by the Baby Kims, Saddams and Bin Ladens of the world. Just as an individual should act to preserve and sustain his life, so should America. The alternative--for individuals and nations--is suicide.

John Dawson is a writer for the Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine, CA. The Institute promotes Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. Send reactions to reaction@aynrand.org.

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