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Hypocrisy approaching nuclear levels

By Mirko Bagaric - posted Friday, 13 October 2006

Contrary to prevailing Western sentiment, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is not a complete madman. After being included in the “Axis of Evil” by George W. a couple of years ago and seeing what happened to a nuclear free Iraq, the rational thing for him to do was crank up his nuclear program.

Hence, no one should be surprised that North Korea is now the ninth member of the nuclear club - joining the five permanent members of the Security Council, Israel, India and Pakistan.

Kim Jong-il has virtually guaranteed the territorial integrity of his country. No nuclear power has ever had its territorial sovereignty invaded by another country.


North Korea’s progression to nuclear superpower confirms basal elements of the human psyche - self-preservation nearly always comes first, even if it means forcing a few million people to go hungry in the process.

There is yet another important message about human nature in the latest nuclear tussle. It’s all about double standards. The threat by the United States to request the Security Council to beef up sanctions against North Korea is act of hypocrisy of nuclear dimensions.

The most aggressive nation on earth; the only nation that has exploded atomic weapons on people (killing hundreds of thousands of people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki); the nation that has more nuclear firepower than the rest of the 192 countries on the earth combined; and the nation that militarily dominates the earth, tries to mount its wonky moral high horse when an impoverished (albeit badly intentioned) economic and military bit player in the geopolitical arena gets a few of its own nuclear toys. It would be hilarious, if it wasn’t true.

We should not be surprised that the US is grumpy. History shows when important strategic interests are at play, nations ultimately always act on the basis of self-interest.

But what is dispiriting is the black hole that has engulfed the intellectual rigor and wiped the memories of western politicians and social commentators when it comes to their judgment on international affairs.

Nearly every commentary on the North Korea nuclear issue in the increasingly parochial western press has applied the same herd mentality. United States good; North Korea evil - let’s get the bad guy for wanting to get stronger. The media has swallowed the George W. “good versus evil” folly, hook, line and distasteful sinker.


It’s time for a reality check and to put an end to the mother of all double standards. People and nations aren’t divided into good and evil. There is a bit of both in each entity. Certainly North Korea is not wholly evil and the US is hardly virtue personified. To the extent that a moral book keeping exercise can be undertaken, the best indicator is an agent’s actions. On this front the US fares dismally.

It is the most aggressive nation on earth. Since World War II, the US has used force against another state on more than 30 occasions - the most notable examples being Vietnam, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Cambodia, Korea, Grenada, Afghanistan and Iraq (twice).

Some of these interventions were lawful. Some certainly were not, such as Nicaragua and the present Iraq campaign. Notably, despite this, the sum total of the adverse consequences that have been imposed against the US, in the form of international sanctions, is zero. When it comes to doing what it wants, the US enjoys unprecedented freedom. This is becoming increasingly the case.

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About the Author

Mirko Bagaric, BA LLB(Hons) LLM PhD (Monash), is a Croatian born Australian based author and lawyer who writes on law and moral and political philosophy. He is dean of law at Swinburne University and author of Australian Human Rights Law.

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