Sanctions of Evil

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Oct. 15 2006 6:11 AM

Sanctions of Evil

The New York Times leads with the U.N. Security Council's unanimous vote to impose sanctions on North Korea for reportedly testing a nuclear weapon. The sanctions—which the Times calls the "toughest international action against North Korea since the end of the Korean War"—would ban the importation of materials related to weapons of mass destruction, as well as ballistic missiles, some conventional weapons, and luxury goods. The Los Angeles Times stuffs the news of the vote and instead leads with an analysis of the "New Global Nuclear Order." The Washington Post fronts the nukes but leads with a local story: Maryland's increasingly bitter gubernatorial race.

The Security Council's 15-0 vote seems to have been at least a modest victory for the United States and Japan, both of whom overcame initial opposition from China and Russia to win passage of the resolution. But, as everyone notes, the sanctions needed to be watered down before they became palatable. Japan dropped its original call for a blanket embargo, and the final version of the resolution lacks a U.S. provision that would have given North Korea 30 days to suspend its nuclear program or face "further action."

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Also important was China's announcement, after the vote took place, that it would not be participating in the North Korean cargo inspections—by far the resolution's most hotly debated measure. The Chinese ambassador said the inspection provision, which lets countries search cargo going in and out of North Korea, would create "conflict that could have serious problems for the region." If that sounds a bit vague, the New York Times has the specifics on a more plausible explanation: the 1.7 billion dollars in trade that China and North Korea enjoyed last year.

(And anyway, Slate Editor Jacob Weisberg argued recently that sanctions, unfortunately, do not work.)

Everyone mentions that the North Korean ambassador announced that his country "totally rejects" the resolution and stormed out of the conference room after the vote was taken. U.S. Ambassador John Bolton, ever the diplomat, quipped that this was "the contemporary equivalent of Nikita Khrushchev pounding his shoe on the desk of the General Assembly." The Russian ambassador didn't find this particularly funny and asked that the council president discourage such an "inappropriate analogy." By the end of the process, writes the Times, Russia was in a state of "seeming annoyance."

The Los Angeles Times' analysis takes a broad look at the nuclear club and concludes that "the rise of a new generation of nuclear states has led to increasing concerns that others could follow, and fueled fears that the more countries with nuclear capability, the greater the risk that fissile material will fall into terrorist hands." When combined with weaknesses in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the Security Council, and international inspection methods, this trend helps paint a sobering portrait of global nuclear security.

The LA Times isn't the only paper that runs an analysis. The WaPo stuffs a short look at a half-century of U.S.-North Korean antagonism, while the NY Times packages its lead with a nearly 3,000-word disquisition on the ever-growing nuclear family. The piece argues that, while only nine nations (including North Korea) are thought to have nuclear weapons, "as many as 40 more" might have "the technical skill to build a bomb."

The Post devotes its top local spot to Maryland's vicious gubernatorial race, in which Democrat Martin O'Malley and Republican Robert Ehrlich are pulling no punches. And in Virginia, the paper reports that Republican Sen. George Allen and Democratic opponent Jim Webb are in a "virtual tie" for Allen's seat: The scandal-prone senator enjoys 49 percent support; newcomer Webb has 47. The Times, meanwhile, takes a step back and looks at the approaching elections in somewhat grander terms: The Democrats may have "intensity" on their side, but "Republican strategists counter that they can compensate for any gap in enthusiasm with their legendary get-out-the-vote operation."

The Times' front page also has a look at how the Duke University lacrosse scandal has changed college athletics. The three indicted Duke players "have pleaded not guilty, and the court case is months away," says the paper. "But dozens of colleges and universities have systematically rewritten athletic department policies, stiffened student-athlete codes of conduct and altered coaches' contracts to hold them responsible for players' actions."

The LA Times fronts a heartbreaking feature on an Iraqi girl who, at 9 years old, had her nose and right thumb blown off—and watched her mother die—in a 2003 explosion near Baghdad. After two years of loneliness and disfigurement, she was offered the chance to come to the United States for reconstructive surgery. (The online version of the story comes complete with a 32-picture slide show of the trip, which is not especially easy to sit through.)

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