The Iraqi "press" -which is more like Saddam Hussein's bulletin board -has been hysterical about the "double standard" we're applying to Iraq and North Korea.
"Look how Washington deals with the two situations, how it threatens to invade Iraq, which has no weapons of mass destruction ... at the same time, the U.S.
administration is saying it wants a peaceful end to the crisis with North Korea," thundered the editors of Al Thawra, the official newspaper of Iraq's Baath Party. "So why do America and Britain continue to threaten (Iraq)?" asked the newspaper. "Is it because Iraq is an Arab country? Or because Iraq is an oil country? Or because the Zionist lobby inside the U.S. administration wants to settle old scores?"
How about because Iran and North Korea are different places?
But before we get into that, what I'd first like to know is, when did we decide that double standards are always wrong? Obviously, double standards are sometimes wrong.
So, if by "double standard" you mean unfairly expecting one level of behavior from one person or institution and another level from another, I agree that double standards are wrong. But the key word here isn't "double" or "standard," it's "unfair."
Convicted criminals are held to a different standard from ordinary citizens. We tell people on parole or probation who they can hang out with, where they can live and what they can do for a living every day. Children of different ages are held to different standards all the time. Johnny can go to the demolition derby because he's 17, but little Timmy has to stay home because he's only 10. Some employers entrust longtime employees with great responsibilities and watch new workers like a hawk. We take dogs to the park, but we leave cats at home. None of these things are unfair, but they are all examples of double standards. And that's just fine.
Of course, all this may seem unfair to the convicted criminals, little Timmy, new employees and, of course, the cats. But that's their problem. The same goes for North Korea and Iraq.
"Critics of the Bush administration's Iraq policy say that North Korea is much more dangerous than Iraq and that a double standard is being applied in which the North is being protected from U.S. attack by its terrifying array of weaponry," writes Barbara Demick of The Los Angeles Times.
"The North Koreans firmly believe that the difference between them and Iraq is their nuclear program and (that) if they abandon that, it would be easier for the United States to attack them," Lee Jong Seok, of the Sejong Institute, a South Korean think tank, told The Los Angeles Times.
"There's no concept of foreign policy justice. We're playing one kind of game with Iraq, another kind of game with North Korea," exclaimed an exasperated Julianne Malveaux on CNN's Sunday program "The Final Round," on which I am a regular panelist.
Um, yeah. That's because North Korea has the fifth-largest standing army in the world, huge supplies of weapons of mass-destruction, probably including nukes, and the ability to inflict staggering casualties on South Korea, Japan and our own troops.
Obviously, if the brutal North Korean regime could be toppled without any casualties on either side, it would be immoral not to topple it. But that's not the situation we're in. When Ronald Reagan kicked the communists out of Grenada, he did it in part because he could without paying a very high price. No one doubts that he would have dearly loved to throw the communists out of Moscow and Beijing, too. But the price was just too high -global nuclear war.
Does this mean that the United States should have negotiated with Grenada because it had to negotiate with the Soviets? Should a cop negotiate with a criminal who has a baseball bat, just because he has to negotiate with criminal who has submachine gun?
Refusing to do right where you can because you can't do right where you can't, is moral and intellectual childishness on a grand scale. North Korea and Iraq have already done everything possible to deserve whatever comes their way. The last thing we owe them is consistency.
Of course, Iraq wants to be treated like North Korea. That's why Iraq is pursuing weapons of mass destruction. And that's why the Bush administration wants to keep that from happening. The whole rationale for stopping Saddam now is that the price might be too high to stop him later, like it already is with North Korea.