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I recently urged “Don’t Say You Want a Revolution,” reviewing the sad and terrible consequences of American presidents talking up “regime change” or “revolution” in other countries. As the people of 1956 Hungary and 1991 Iraq discovered, the United States does not back up such talk with our own blood and treasure, even when local people put their own fortunes, sacred honor, and lives on the line. Now let us shift perspective, from the people to the governing elite.
What lessons should Kim Jong-Un draw from recent history? Does U.S. policy, as it has actually played out, cut against North Korean denuclearization? What of the Khomeinist regime in Iran? Consider Libya and Ukraine as cautionary tales for other governments considering what to do with their own weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs.
Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi was only very technically not “targeted” by a bomb dropped on one of his residences on orders from President Reagan. Gaddafi was briefly chastened and then proceeded to develop both chemical and nuclear weapons programs. These programs were the subject of much international posturing by so-called arms control agencies and various governments. Then President George W. Bush sent the full might of the United States military crashing down on Saddam Hussein, on the claim that he had been defying arms control programs and had some really bad weapons of mass destruction. Gaddafi suddenly became entirely compliant and opened Libya to arms control inspectors: