Now that America is replacing capitalism with a system of proliferating bailouts, there is the intriguing question of whether the U.S. mint is physically capable of printing all the banknotes that might be needed if anyone tries to redeem as cash even a portion of the hundreds of billions worth of rescue-stimulus-bailouts-of-the-rescues-of-the bailouts. As the numbers head toward the trillions, where might extra $100 bills be produced in a hurry?
A friend suggests that the U.S. Mint might profitably enlist the help of North Korea, which has a rich history of printing exquisitely crafted U.S. banknotes — counterfeit, of course, but almost indistinguishable from the real thing. At the U.S. State Department, with its endless quest to engage with Pyongyang, surely folks like Condi Rice and her point man for North Korea, Chris Hill, would grasp instantly that this idea is a paragon of win-win diplomacy. Hey, give North Korea some aid, and Pyongyang might be your friend for a day (if that). Give North Korea an official blessing to help America print hard cash, and it almost goes without saying that Pyongyang would think twice before helping anyone blow up Washington.
OK — before the State Department gets all excited about the possibilities — I’m kidding. But is this idea all that much more absurd than some of the things the Bush administration has actually been doing? — including taking North Korea off the terror list in October, just weeks after U.S. authorities apparently blocked a North Korean plane enroute with a load of missile parts to terrorist-sponsoring, uranium-enriching rogue state Iran. The Wall Street Journal broke the story of the blocked plane on Nov. 1; Newsweek has just published an item elaborating on the likely cargo: “missile parts (possibly including gyroscopes for guidance systems).”
And there must be plenty to this story we have not yet heard. The plane was blocked not in North Korea, but in Burma, where it had stopped over enroute to Tehran. Permission for the plane to fly to Iran through Indian air space was first granted by India, then suddenly revoked — reportedly at the request of U.S. authorities. Good for them. But what has not been reported is what the plane stuffed with missile parts was doing in Burma in the first place. Or, after being refused permission to overfly India, where did it go? Where are those missile parts today?
As in the case of that secret nuclear reactor built with North Korean help in Syria, and near completion when it was blown up by the Israelis last year, all we get from Washington is a sketchy and belated admission (in this case, from nameless U.S. officials) that something outrageous and dangerous was thwarted. That also means that even after all the Six-Party Talks and promises from North Korea and concessions from the U.S., Pyongyang remains wedded to its longtime proliferation habits.
The game at State seems to be that nothing North Korea does, no matter how egregious, will be allowed to derail the process of “engagement.” Help Syria build a secret reactor to make nuclear weapons? Airlift missile parts to Iran? Test missiles, miss deadlines, demand money, refuse inspections, and unilaterally revise the terms of any and every step of any deal? You name the outrage; North Korea’s regime since signing Chris Hill’s vaunted Feb. 2007 denuclearization deal has tried it.
And the U.S. response? One concession after another, with more talks due early next month. The scene we have here is that American officials spot North Korea red-handed, ferrying missile parts via Burma to Iran — and what happens? I have no inside information, but it is becoming all too easy to imagine a scene in which North Korea’s nuclear negotiator unfolds a scribbled note from his American counterpart. It reads: Hey guys, if you insist on supplying Iran’s arsenal, would you please re-route those missile parts so we can’t track them.