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Why Submit to Blackmail When Bribery Is Available?

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President Bush says he’s not going to submit to blackmail by North Korea, but apparently he has nothing against bribery because he’s now offering North Korea fuel, food, and an easing of U.S. sanctions in return for North Korea’s promise not to produce nuclear weapons.

Unfortunately, the president and other members of the federal government, including most members of Congress, just don’t get it: North Korea wants nuclear weapons to deter or protect itself from a U.S. attack! And who can deny that that is a very rational fear, especially given the U.S. government’s arrogant and pretentious interventionist foreign policy in which it intends to preemptively attack and invade “evil” nations anywhere in the world for the purpose of effecting “regime change”?

After all, don’t forget: Bush has already publicly announced that North Korea is a charter member of his “axis of evil” and that he “loathes” North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong Il for starving his own people. Moreover, there are those who are even openly suggesting that the upcoming invasion of Iraq for the purpose of “regime change” should be accelerated so that the U.S. government can then turn its full attention to North Korea.

Therefore, from North Korea’s perspective, no matter how much in bribes Bush is willing to offer, there can be no doubt that the communist regime falls squarely within the U.S. government’s policy of preemptive strike and “regime change,” especially after the upcoming U.S. invasion and regime change in Iraq is completed.

While it’s true that many nations would (and do) kowtow to the United States when confronted with its threats of bombs, embargoes, sanctions, and invasions and its offers of federal bribes (i.e., foreign aid), why should it come as any surprise that not all of them will succumb? Some nations actually have a little pride and sense of independence, and that is what has befuddled and angered U.S. officials for many, many years.

For example, consider the Vietnam War. Lyndon Johnson was certain that all he had to do was offer millions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer money to North Vietnamese officials, and they’d agree to enter a peace treaty guaranteeing the independence of South Vietnam. Johnson obviously felt that if federal money distributed to U.S. officials as part of Washington’s socialistic welfare state could win their loyalty, why wouldn’t such bribery work with North Vietnamese communist politicians and bureaucrats?

One simple reason: Some people have a sense of pride and independence.

It’s the same with Cuba. The real beef that federal officials have had with Castro since the time he took over is not his economic or political philosophy. After all, Castro’s socialist economic philosophy is no different in principle from the welfare-state philosophy of Washington’s Republicans and Democrats — public schooling and national health care (both of which have been praised by Republican Colin Powell and Democrat Jimmy Carter), a drug war, gun control, economic regulations, trade and travel restrictions, welfare, income taxation, occupational licensure, and coercive equalization of wealth. Castro also favors foreign interventions and foreign wars, a perpetual war on terrorism (especially terrorists with ties to the CIA), military tribunals, and no constitutional technicalities for accused terrorists. Ask yourself: How many federal officials oppose those things here in the United States?

The real reason that U.S. officials have resented Castro for so long is that he has a sense of independence — he’s always refused to make Cuba a compliant member of the U.S. Empire.

The same holds true with respect to Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, a Marxist socialist who has maintained his independence from Washington ever since he was elected president a few years ago. If tomorrow Chavez were to signal to Washington his willingness to now become a “team player” for the U.S. Empire (especially if he promised increased deliveries of oil to the United States at reduced prices), do you honestly believe that U.S. officials would care about any bad things that Chavez was doing to the Venezuelan people? On the contrary, they’d be helping him to suppress his citizenry to make certain that he stayed in office, just as they have supported brutal but loyal dictators in other Latin American countries over the years (Chile, Guatemala, Panama, and countless others) as well as dictators in other countries around the world (Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, and countless others).

Compare the U.S. government’s attitude toward Kim Jong Il, Castro, and Chavez with it’s relationship with President Musharraf of Pakistan. Musharraf meets all the characteristics of a dictator: he’s an army general who ousted the democratically elected president in a coup and he’s brutal, having absolutely no respect for the fundamental rights or liberties of the Pakistani people. And he actually claims and exercises the power to amend his country’s constitution by presidential decree.

Yet U.S. officials, especially Bush, love Musharraf. Why? Although he was one of the Taliban’s most ardent supporters, when he was faced with the prospect of U.S. bombs and embargoes and was offered sizable amounts of U.S. taxpayer cash, he switched sides and became a loyal “team player” for the Empire. Today, Musharraf is a “good guy” because he’s “with us.” Of course, that could change tomorrow, given that the “good guys” and the “bad guys” change regularly.

Consider Saddam Hussein. No one can deny that he was once a U.S. “team player,” to such a large extent that U.S. officials, including the current president’s father, entrusted him with anthrax and other biological weapons, assorted chemical weapons, cluster bombs, and nuclear-weapons components. (That’s undoubtedly why Bush is so certain that Saddam still has the weapons; as social satirist Mark Russell has pointedly observed, we know that Saddam has the weapons because we have the receipts.) The problem, however, was that around 1990 “team player” Saddam Hussein went “independent” and thus had to be targeted for a “regime change.”

Smaller nations have learned that pride and a wish to stay independent are sometimes not sufficient. Consider for example Panama, which the U.S. invaded and where the U.S. effected a regime change. Or Granada. Or Haiti. Or Afghanistan. Iraq will be the next example.

Yet, notice something important: North Korea now has nuclear weapons, and Bush isn’t attacking, invading, or blockading. Instead, the president of the United States, the commander in chief of the most powerful military force in history, is eating humble pie at the table of one of the most brutal communist dictators in history, dangling bribes and payoffs in the form of U.S. taxpayer money in the hopes that such bribes and payoffs will be as effective as they are with public officials in the United States.

That sends out a powerful signal: If you want to remain independent of U.S. government control and you want the U.S. government to treat you nicely, there’s a good way to accomplish it: acquire nuclear weapons, which North Korea has already done.

Is it any wonder that Saddam has tried to acquire nuclear weapons? Is it any wonder that other small nations that wish to remain independent of Washington’s control will do the same in the future?

Thus, as Ted Galen Carpenter of the Cato Institute suggested in a recent essay, the perverse consequence of our own government’s arrogant and interventionist foreign policy — an imperial philosophy based on threats, bribes, payoffs, bombs, embargoes, blockades, and bluster — is an inevitable proliferation of nuclear weapons among smaller nations, at least those who wish to remain independent of Washington’s control.

While it’s possible that President Bush’s offers of bribes might yet prove successful, they are only a short-term solution because, again, some nations wish to remain independent of imperial control. Some of them might even take the money, make the promises, and then proceed to breach their promises. After all, in the long run how effective were the bribes that President Clinton previously paid to the North Koreans in exchange for their abandoning nuclear development?

The U.S. government is unable to come up with a long-term solution to the Korean crisis for one simple reason; the U.S. government fails to recognize that it — and specifically its arrogant, interventionist foreign policy — is the problem. Thus, the long-term solution to the crisis in Korea, to paraphrase Henry David Thoreau, lies with the alacrity by which the U.S. government pulls its 37,000 sacrificial lambs out of South Korea and brings those troops home (and discharges them); ends its imperial foreign policy of bribes, bombs, and embargoes; minds its own business; and, last but not least, shuts up.

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    Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.