Come to think of it, there was a discrepancy between Washington's treatment of North Korea and its treatment of Iraq only if one was searching for a just principle behind the actions. Abandon principle and settle for an abiding pattern, and it becomes clear that what animated the administration's assault on Baghdad was what also puts the spring in the step of every schoolyard bully: the smell of vulnerability. ©By ILANA MERCER
There's more. War is beneficial not only to Fox News' ratings; it's good for the presidency too. The dynamic behind war as a vehicle for political popularity is quite simple, even primitive. Anyone of the Fox News anchors makes a good case study, and the other network personnel soon caught up. The writing was on the wall well before hundreds of embeds officially slipped between the sheets with the military.
At the best of times, Fox anchorwomen are an aggressive amalgam of furiously gyrating facial muscles and staccato Pidgin English. But to watch these women doing the Countdown to Obliterating Iraq segments was like watching bitches on heat. One anchorwoman's memorable Freudian slip was to express disappointment that there was as yet no "evidence that'll give us an excuse [her words] to attack Iraq."
Since the Bush war whirl began, the intellectual climate has changed so rapidly that such faux pas didn't even register with viewers. The American people had taken this war, its propaganda, and its prosecutors to their hearts—perverted warpath patriotism was what was getting the folks hot. People who are in a constant state of heightened emotional arousal tend to want to remain that way; the emotions are self-reinforcing.
The president and his advisers knew that to keep the people tuned-out, they had to keep them turned-on. Simpler than the Stay On Heat principle is the bully convention. It explains why the impressive display of aggression by the North Koreans was a winner that kept Bullyboy at bay.
It was not Iraq that raised the specter of a "Third World War," after announcing its withdrawal from the world's foremost nuclear arms-control treaty. And it wasn't Saddam's relatively subdued rhetoric that sent U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly scampering to consult with China, Singapore, Indonesia, and Japan. The Iraqi state-controlled press might not have been particularly complimentary about Americans.
But it paled compared to the North Korean press' call to "turn the citadel of imperialists into a sea of fire." Or its dictator's promise to "smash U.S. nuclear maniacs" in a "holy war" if they didn't back off. There was absolutely no mixed message in the signals that came from North Korea's man in charge of liaisons with the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency.
As the Associated Press reported, Mr. Son Mun San promised that his plutonium reprocessing plant stood in a state of "readiness." That sounded like an unadulterated "make my day" message to me. Surprisingly, Pyongyang's unambiguous bellicosity was interpreted in the U.S. as a "mixed message." That the U.S. chose to dilute a pure threat with favorable interpretations should occasion no surprise. Show a bully a fist and he will usually retreat, preferring to put a face-saving spin on the affair rather than follow through on the threat.
Which brings me to the multicult cards. Mr. Bush enlisted New Mexico's Governor and former Clintonite, Bill Richardson, to hold meetings with the North Korean Deputy UN Ambassador. Diversity Dick put the conflict down to cultural differences, claiming that North Koreans simply "don't negotiate like we do. They don't have our same mentality." There's an element of truth to this.
Whereas the North Koreans were genuinely hopping mad at the perceived threat from the U.S., not least being plunked on the axis of evil, Saddam and the Iraqi people were truly terrified. Saddam's actions proved it. He had, after all, allowed UN inspectors to transform Iraq into a sophisticated crime scene. Asian self-control being what it is, when the usually inhibited Asians froth at the mouth, beware! Arab effusive demonstrativeness being what it is, when Saddam, the habitual blowhard, toned down his truculence, it should have been taken as a sign of resignation.
That is if sincere diplomacy was ever the administration's objective, which, of course, it wasn't.
Soon another American conceit reared its head. A million (doubtless hungry) North Koreans marched on that nation's capital, many chanting promises of "revenge with blood" for any country that violated their sovereignty. Just as Americans imagined the Iraqi people were panting for an occupying force to liberate them from Saddam, they doubtless believe North Koreans, at their core, are hunkering for a delivery of U.S.-style democracy.
American sentimentality, childishness, and insularity simply don't admit of a strong national pride in so wretched a people as the Iraqis or the North Koreans. However oppressed, people would sooner deal with their homey Hun than submit to a foreign force, even if it comes bearing minute-made democracy.
January 15, 2003