Here's one that I wanted to give a couple of days of thought to, especially after someone of Wendy McElroy's stature took the time to quote me in a complimentary manner. Here's the point of divergence that I'd like to gnaw on for a moment:
"I disagree with Thomas one point, however. I think there are significant differences in the policies of the two men. Just one example: their attitudes toward North Korea and strategy for handling NK's nuclear presence."
Read Wendy McElroy's article in its entirety here ...
My first impulse is to throw up my hands and say "fair cop -- I guess there really is a difference." But after a little thinking and a little research, I don't agree. Here's why:
The stated policy difference between Bush and Kerry is that Bush is pushing six-party talks including China, and Kerry is pushing bi-lateral talks directly with North Korea.
This is, of course, counter-intuitive. Kerry spent most of the debate stressing alliances, while Bush spent most of it emphasizing the need for the US to act unilaterally in its own interests.
In the end, I don't find it that contradictory, however.
Bush doesn't have quite the aversion to alliances that he's portrayed as having, or he wouldn't have tried to put together the "coalition of the willing" for the Iraq war. He makes a virtue of unilateralism to the extent that he feels unilateralism is forced on him by an intransigent UN Security Council and such.
Kerry, on the other hand, wasn't really counseling unilateralism with regard to North Korea. He was counseling having the US speak for the other parties to the talks ... and China has actually recommended bilateral, as opposed to six-party, talks.
In other words, nothing really surprising, revealing, or departing from what we already knew about these two candidates.
But the final question, really, is "what can be done about North Korea's nuclear weapons program?" And the answer that both candidates know, although neither will admit it, is ... nothing.
Kim Jong Il will not bring his fission devices to the table for six-party talks. He won't put them into play for bi-lateral talks, either. North Korea is now a nuclear power. It's going to remain one. Rhetoric aside, that is an absolute certainty. Neither Bush nor Kerry is going to attack North Korea in order to try and shove the nuclear genie back into the bottle; neither will any of the Asian powers. That's the thing about nuclear genies ... you don't want to mess with them.
The other certainty is that nuclear arms or no, Kim is a rat in a cage. His nukes, like those of any other country, are useful only as a deterrent against attack. Any offensive use of those weapons will result in the conversion of Pyongyang to a smoking, radioactive cinder. He knows this. So does everyone else.
The absolute limit of any talks, six-party or bi-lateral, will be to decide when and how the US is going to give the rat some cheese in return for meaningless, token concessions.
Either candidate, as president, will find a way to deliver a few morsels. Either candidate, as president, will claim that the cheese delivery has made the US "safer." Nothing of substance will change that wouldn't change anyway (i.e. Japan or South Korea are just as likely to get nuclear weapons of their own on President Bush's watch as on President Kerry's).
And ten years or so from now, whichever president does so will be roundly and retrospectively condemned for "appeasement" when Kim Jong Il pulls his next "Stupid Communist Dictator Trick."
I don't see any substantive differences here.