Ed Schultz's Advice on Dealing with North Korea: What Would Reagan Do?

That month-long hiatus enjoyed by Ed Schultz since MSNBC put "The Ed Show" on hold has made him unusually perceptive, if only momentarily.

On his radio show Friday, Schultz made a suggestion about handling the crisis on the Korean peninsula that will have many liberals spitting up their decaffeinated double lattes. (Audio clip after page break)

Here's what Schultz had to say while talking with John Nichols, Washington correspondent for The Nation and daily Schultz radio guest (audio) --

SCHULTZ: The fear here is a chain reaction ...

NICHOLS: That's right ...

SCHULTZ: ... the fear here is a misinterpretation, an overreaction, and the next thing you know we got several things happening, you know?

NICHOLS: Well that's exactly right and here's the big scary part about it, Ed. You've got China which has nukes, we don't even fully know exactly what capacity they have, but we know they've got significant capacity. You've got Japan that doesn't have nukes but that has this incredibly close relationship to the United States and it's a deep, deep commitment. Remember, Ed, we've got, you know, a lot of military on the ground in Japan as well as in South Korea. So, we're tied into that region even if a weapon can't touch, you know, Hawaii or the West Coast of the US. And here's where it gets really complicated and ugly. The South Koreans are now saying they want nuclear capacity, that they're saying, the answer to our problem is give us nukes so that if this guy threatens us, we can threaten him back. You understand what we're getting here ...

SCHULTZ: Well, well, well, that would be ...

NICHOLS: ... a nuclear proliferation moment.

SCHULTZ: Now think about that, what you just said, John, and I agree with you, but that would parallel the United States, that's the Reagan policy, peace through strength.

NICHOLS: Hmm mmm.

SCHULTZ: I mean, I mean, the South Koreans are basically saying what Ronald Reagan used to say, uh, you know, if they know we can hit 'em we're going to be peaceful. Absolutely! Give the nukes to the South Koreans! You're damn right! And put 'em right on the border. Absolutely! Peace through strength, right? Isn't that what righties are all about? I mean, I'm about that right now, maybe that makes me a righty all of a sudden for the next 15 seconds, I don't know. But look, if I'm in South Korea and I'm a citizen of that country and I'm relying on the United States, OK, I guess so, they got some ships out there, I want my own protection! Or am I wrong on that?

NICHOLS: Well, here's where the challenge comes in, Ed. If you give that to Korea, Japan's gonna want it too. You give it to Japan, then you're going to start to have other countries in that region that are going to say, look, we need this. You know, the trouble, the trouble with this circumstance is that if you keep building out nuclear power, you give it to enough people, this is where the thing gets into trouble, you give it to enough people you actually are going to get some into the hands of somebody who's actually going to use it some day.

South Korea acquiring nuclear capacity, according to Nichols, would be destabilizing -- as if the status quo is stable. And I think he gets it backward in his claim that Japan would want nuclear weapons if South Korea built a nuclear stockpile. On the contrary, this would make it less likely for Japan to follow suit, since it would provide nuclear parity on the Korean peninsula and thus largely remove the need for Japan to arm itself against North Korea.

I rarely agree with Schultz but this time he gets it right, though I part company with him on planting those South Korean nukes "right on the border." It would be far more destabilizing to prevent South Korea, a democratic, free-market ally as important to the United States as Japan, from being able to defend itself as its people deemed necessary from the predations of the nuclear-armed gulag on its border.

Jack Coleman
Liberated ex-liberal from the People's Republic of Massachusetts