But upon closer examination, the situations are not identical. There are substantial differences between the two countries that affect any decision. Here are a few:1. North Korea most likely already has nuclear weapons. The capital of South Korea, Seoul, is only 40 kilometers away from the border. An attack to remove Kim Jong-il could quickly turn into a nuclear war, making an attack on North Korea more dangerous than an attack on Iraq.
2. We have a “vital interest” in Iraq: oil. Our interests in North Korea are more abstract: to prevent war and nuclear proliferation. That is important in the long run, but the Iraq issue is more urgent.
3. North Korea has admitted to having a program to develop weapons of mass destruction. Iraq claims it has abandoned such efforts, despite its admitted attempt before the war of 1991. I believe Iraq is lying. North Korea is showing remarkable candor. This suggests a nonviolent solution of the Korean situation may be possible.
The last item is important. The real news in October was not that North Korea had started such a program; the U.S. already knew that. The news was that they admitted to it. Despite pundits who suggest the opposite, my reading of recent history is that the U.S. is not quick to go to war. We negotiated with Iraq for eleven years (1991 to the present); the current crisis was precipitated four years ago, when Iraq cut off the access of the inspectors. North Korea, in its announcement, may be indicating that they want to negotiate seriously. North Korea looms as the next potential Iraq. It is important that we steer it in a different direction, if we can.