Switch

One of my favourite incidents in Stranger in a Strange Land comes when Michael Valentine Smith meets with the Secretary General to discuss his status under the Larkin Decision. Jubal Harshaw takes control, and says the following:

“‘Once a long, long time ago, when I was a little boy, another little boy, equally young and foolish, and I formed a club. Just the two of us. Since we had a club, we had to have rules…and the first rule we passed–unanimously, I should add–was that henceforth we would always call our mothers, ‘Crosspatch.’ Silly, of course…but we were very young. Mr. Kung, can you deduce the outcome of that rule?’
‘I won’t guess, Dr. Harshaw.’
‘I tried to implement our ‘Crosspatch’ decision once. Once was enough and it saved my chum from making the same mistake. All it got me was my bottom well warmed with a peach switch. And that was the end of the ‘Crosspatch’ decision.’

‘Before we attempt to parcel out lands which do not belong to us, it behooves us to be very sure what peach switches are hanging in the Martian kitchen.'”
-(Robert A Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land, uncut edition, pages 257 & 258)

When the United States first began fussing over the Axis of Evil, I was reminded of the peach switches. I found it intriguing that the United States government was making a lot of posturing, but not following through with actual action, and it caused me to wonder whether or not we knew which peach switches were hanging in the kitchen of the Axis of Evil. Obviously none of the nations in the Axis would have a vested interest in sending us an itemized list, but North Korea was rather frank about having naughty weapons. Weapons which might be used against South Korea, for example.

And I would like you please to imagine Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong Il, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad cooking together, perhaps arguing over the amount of salt to use on the potatoes and how long the souffle should be baking. (But Saddam! I thought you had your eye on the cupcakes!)

At any rate, we invaded Iraq first, despite clear evidence that North Korea possessed nuclear capability and that Iran probably wasn’t far behind. Is it possible that we felt secure invading Iraq first because we knew what was there? After all, we sold most of it to the Iraqi government, so it probably wasn’t a big deal for someone to go into a database and look up “Purchase Orders-Iraq” to see what we might find. What we found in Iraq was a lot of pissed off Muslims and evidence of what used to be storage and processing facilities…during the First Gulf War.

Meanwhile, Iran refuses to allow the UN to inspect their facilities, and North Korea is launching missiles into the China Sea. One of those missiles, by the way, would have potentially been capable of hitting Alaska, a major source of American oil. But Iraq, sandy war torn mess that it is, is apparently a bigger concern that the imminent destruction of the Western Seaboard by nuclear warhead. Now that I think of it, perhaps the administration figures this is a handy way to get rid of a big chunk of blue states.

And let’s talk about those missiles for the moment, since it’s kind of the major political news of the week.

In case anyone missed it, North Korea launched six missiles on 4 July, one of which, the Taepodong-2, was a long range missile. All of them landed in the Sea of Japan, which suggests that one or more of the launches may have failed. (Unless the intent was for the missiles to fall short of any actual target…after all, it was a test, not a direct attack.) After three years of talks, North Korea has apparently decided it’s time to up the ante.

North Korea, like the rest of us, is entitled to some self-defense capability. They are right to be distrustful of the United States, given all factors. But North Korea is also extremely poor, and looking for ways to boost the sagging economy. Is it possible, as some columnists believe, that North Korea intends to use the weapons as a bargaining chip in negotiations with the United States?

South Korea, rightfully, stands the most to lose in this situation, hence a very cautious and nonaggressive stance combined with attempts at peace talks. It is to the advantage of South Korea, after all, to keep the North stable and economically healthy. Japan is facing mounting pressure from their population to take decisive action, thanks to the traditional enmity between the two nations. China and Russia appear to be taking a more talks-oriented stance, perhaps because they stand to lose influence and resource control if they push North Korea too far.

An assortment of nations stand in various places on the issue, including of course the United States. It appears that we intend to try and push sanctions through, although North Korea warned of “stronger physical actions” if it encountered international pressure. To me, it seems a bit questionable for a nuclear country to be pushing another nation to give up nuclear capability–I’m an all or nothing kind of girl. (And it would be awesome to see an end to nuclear proliferation.)

The international reaction appears to be one of generalized dismay about North Korea’s hardline stance. Mr Bush called it “isolationist,” which is funny coming from the leader of one of the most isolationist nations in the first world. Yet North Korea remains firmly defiant–because they have nothing left to lose, or a lot more hiding in the cupboard? I suppose only time will tell.

[North Korea]