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Accepting the Unacceptable

Here’s Mark Steyn on the collective non-response to North Korea’s nuke test:

It is remarkable in just five years how the world has adjusted to the inevitability of a nuclear North Korea and a nuclear Iran. Nudge it on another half-decade: Whose nuclear ambitions will be unstoppable by 2015? Syria’s? Sudan’s? Selected fiefdoms in Somalia?

Meanwhile, speaking in Singapore on Saturday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, “We will not stand idly by as North Korea builds the capability to wreak destruction on any target in the region — or on us . . . Our goal is complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and we will not accept North Korea as a nuclear weapons state.”

I remember George W. Bush saying the same thing about Iran.

The meanings of the words “acceptable” and “unacceptable” have taken a funny turn. There used to be a preventative connotation in refusing to accept a certain possible outcome. Now it’s more to do with registering an official complaint when faced with that outcome. Later in Gates’s speech he was a bit more accurate about where things stand: “At the end of the day, the choice to continue as a destitute international pariah or chart a new course is North Korea’s alone to make.” He’s got that right. Kim will be left alone to do as he pleases.  Declaring the unacceptable has become a statement of impotence, not power. At least Barack Obama’s preferred “game changer” keeps expectations accurately low.



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