Oh man, I’m such a pretentious twit. I managed to get about 20 seconds into the interview before I interrupted the host to correct him (he said the “Axis of Evil” line came from the 2003 State of the Union speech, when of course it came from the 2002 speech). The rest of it went so fast I don’t remember it very clearly, but I think I was a pretentious twit for at least some of the rest too. I think I made the following points:
-Nuclear proliferation is a bad thing. Nuclear proliferation involving North Korea is a bad thing. But let’s be clear about this: It’s not as if North Korea is suddenly going to get dangerous the moment it acquires properly working nuclear weapons. For decades now North Korea has had a massive conventional deterrent. And during this entire time millions of South Koreans and tens of thousands of American servicemen and women have lived in the shadow of its artillery fire. A frighteningly large percentage of these people would be dead within a few hours of the beginning of such an attack. This is hardly ideal, but that’s the point: we’ve lived with the very-far-from-ideal for a while now. So let’s put this in perspective.
-If I were negotiating with North Korea, I would try to offer non-aggression assurances, as well as some reasonable inducement to give up the nuclear program. But then I’d be willing to walk away if they didn’t take me up on the offer. (What I didn’t get a chance to say is that I’d probably focus on interdiction and other non-proliferation strategies and simply try to wait for the regime to collapse. These kinds of things happen incredibly suddenly when they do happen, and no one sees them coming. But I would not be at all surprised to see something very surprising happen in North Korean within five years, which would render all our current projections moot, based as they are on the assumption that the present will continue much as the past has.)
-I claimed that the United States has to get used to the idea that Iran is going to have a certain amount of influence in Iraq. Unless the US is planning to install a Sunni dictator, it’s extremely likely that large portions of the leadership of Iraq will have significant ties with Iran. Many will have spent time there in exile, they’ll have religious ties, and so on. And there’s only so much the U.S. can do about that.
-As far as dealing with Iran on nuclear proliferation, the U.S. can do lots of things. The first is to take seriously its own commitments with respect to non-proliferation agreements. It just hasn’t done that. Up until a few years ago the Bush administration was talking openly of mini-nuke bunker busters until congress finally squashed that. And they’re probably still developing them anyway. And it’s not just the US that has a serious hypocrisy problem here. How in heaven’s name can a representative of France – France, with its long history of nuclear testing in defiance of world opinion – tell an Iranian counterpart with a straight face that non-proliferation is important?
The second criticism of U.S. diplomacy I made was that it is so often incredibly undisciplined. For example, the United States needs Russia very much in its dealings with Iran. So why oh why would they choose this time to antagonize Russia completely unnecessarily with the anti-ballistic missile nonsense, especially when it will never work and everyone knows it.
We then made fun of me for being Canadian. I was asked if I speak French:
Me: Non. Un petite peu. Seulement.
Me: Monsieur Landart would be so disappointed in me.
Host: I’m sure she would.
Me: He. Um, most Monsieurs are he’s.
I’m leaving out a lot. Oh yes, I claimed to be wearing a clown suit, which the host assured the audience was the national dress for Canada.
Anyway, I suppose there was a lot of talking for about 15 minutes. I had a good time, and I’m glad I enjoyed it because I doubt it’ll happen again for a long time.