(How can I write this blog without overusing the phrase “It seems to me . . .”?)
The current difficulty posed by Iran and North Korea does not lie so much in their possession of some nuclear capacity, as it lies in the Eastern and Western great powers of the United Nations Security Council, especially China and the United States. Both China and the United States have a history of untrustworthy use of power, of going rogue–China by the invasion of Tibet, and the United States by the invasion of Iraq. Perhaps it is the utmost in responsible leadership for Kim Jong Il and Ahmedinejad to protect their countries through the public and visible development of WMD and delivery systems. No fear that they will develop WMD, no doubt about what they have, and the clear expectation that if invaded (or bombed) they will have the opportunity to damage countries (Japan and Israel, Formosa and Mongolia) important to the powers that otherwise have all the resources.
It is really difficult to think outside of the box on this one. Remember, though, that one reason the U.S. invaded Iraq was to prevent full development of nuclear capability, sometime in the future. In other words, once Iraq (supposedly) went nuclear, we could no longer invade so easily. It was now or never, so U.S. thought, before the fact of the invasion.
I think the specter of Iraq or Iran or North Korea using nuclear power against a neighbor to assuage ancient hatreds or gain resources is a Hallowe’en (a North American holiday involving ghosts and monsters and all things imagined and fearful) goblin. Deterrence is the major international value, and actual possession of deterrent nuclear power does achieve protection for a country that cannot be accomplished by diplomatic means, or by appeals to the United Nations. To what extent is that worth a starving population? In reality?
Does any country care enough about its greatest social problem (or the greatest social problem of its nearest neighbor) to abandon weapons that allow it to project power among the nations?