North Korea's Nonexistent Uranium

What is the preeminent goal of our national security policy? Nuclear Nonproliferation, right? Everyone talks about it in the debates and on TV shows, and these are serious people, mind you, so I'm sure their actions will be in line with their rhetoric about this most serious of all topics - national security. Hold your breath with me...

Clinton's Agreed Framework achieved an excellent victory in the battle to decrease the ultimate security threat we face - that of loose nukes in the hands of incredibly hostile regimes. Through an agreement that was essentially a bribe, we achieved our goal of completely stopping the enrichment of plutonium inside North Korea. We stopped the North Koreans from making nuclear weapons with the Agreed Framework - an achievement to be celebrated.

Instead, it was alleged by the Bush Administration that the North Koreans were cheating on the agreement by enriching uranium - much more difficult to manufacture a bomb with - and using that uranium for a clandestine program. Incensed that America would be taken in by this "thug," the Bush Administration pulled out of the Agreed Framework entirely, rather than trying to ratchet this uranium program into the existing framework. The rest (including the half-dozen nuclear weapons the North Koreans now possesses) is history.

Now we find out that the straw that broke the camel's back wasn't even a real straw. From the Washington Post:
The Bush administration is backing away from its long-held assertions that North Korea has an active clandestine program to enrich uranium, leading some experts to believe that the original U.S. intelligence that started the crisis over Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions may have been flawed.

....The administration's stance today stands in sharp contrast to the certainty expressed by top officials in 2002, when the administration accused Pyongyang of running a secret uranium program -- and demanded it be dismantled at once.
Or from the NY Times:
For nearly five years, though, the Bush administration, based on intelligence estimates, has accused North Korea of also pursuing a secret, parallel path to a bomb, using enriched uranium. That accusation, first leveled in the fall of 2002, resulted in the rupture of an already tense relationship: The United States cut off oil supplies, and the North Koreans responded by throwing out international inspectors, building up their plutonium arsenal and, ultimately, producing that first plutonium bomb.

But now, American intelligence officials are publicly softening their position, admitting to doubts about how much progress the uranium enrichment program has actually made. The result has been new questions about the Bush administration’s decision to confront North Korea in 2002.

“The question now is whether we would be in the position of having to get the North Koreans to give up a sizable arsenal if this had been handled differently,” a senior administration official said this week.
"The Question now is whether we would be in" a better position now if we had followed a sane policy not based on machismo, but on pursuing the desired results. Heaven help me, what a question.

The Blogosphere has been all over this one. This revelation catapults this failure from disqualifying to intentional. We weren't even sure about the uranium program, so we let them open the plutonium program again for no reason! Given how much greater a threat a plutonium program is than a uranium, this is an absolutely unbelievable mistake. In no way could such a trade-off ever make sense.

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