Chatterbox is drowning in entries for his latest reader challenge, which was to find a new “rogue state” to replace North Korea as the U.S. justification for abrogating the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. To be sure, it remains unclear whether the new accord between the two Koreas presages a true shift by North Korea away from Stalinism and nuclear saber-rattling. Nonetheless, a story by Roberto Suro and Thomas E. Ricks in the June 18 Washington Post points out that a Pentagon-appointed panel on the proposed missile-defense shield doesn’t believe the United States can get the shield working by 2005–the year when Kim Jong Il will supposedly be able to vaporize Pismo Beach. In other words, even if the North Korean leader turns out not to be the avuncular peacemaker portrayed this week in the press, playing up North Korea as U.S. justification for a Star Wars-type missile defense may henceforth seem like promising to lock up the chicken coop after ushering in the fox. We definitely need a new rogue state!
Chatterbox promised special consideration for any entry justifying the reclassification of France as a “rogue state.”Gregg Fanselauhad the pithiest:
It’s a member of the E.U. (and thus a rival to the U.S.) while outside of NATO (and thus a rival to the U.S.); besides, France has the nukes already.
Eugene Finerman served up a somewhat brutal anthropological rationale:
Procopius, the sixth-century historian, described the Franks as “the most treacherous people in the world.” Keep in mind that Procopius was a Byzantine, so he wouldn’t have been easily shocked. The Franks were notorious for the military tactic of attacking their allies. This strategem remains the cornerstone of French foreign policy.
And Jose A. Venzor Jr. volunteered a cultural rationale: Celine Dion (“though, strictly speaking, she’s Canadian”). More than one Chatterbox reader urged that rather than classify France a “rogue state,” we classify it a “rouge state.”
In the spirit of Jose Venzor’s Celine Dion crack, several readers tried to persuade Chatterbox that the United States’ true enemy is Canada. But since the movies Canadian Bacon and South Park have already rendered “blame Canada” jokes old hat, Chatterbox discarded these entries.
More than one reader nominated Fiji, whose recent political turmoil was summarized by Slate’sJeremy Derfner in this “Explainer” column. “[Rebel leader] George Speight is definitely around the bend,” observed Scott I. Batterman:
And he could obtain nuclear weapons and missile technology from India, in exchange for the release of Indo-Fijian hostages. Or he could acquire them from destitute Russian scientists looking for a warmer place than Iran or North Korea to spend their sunset years.
There were also multiple nominations for Liechtenstein. Here’s Jeff O’Brien:
It has no army, air force, navy, or even postal service of its own. However, the United States shouldn’t fail to consider that 1) Liechtenstein is the only country in the world to be protected by almighty Switzerland, and 2) in addition to having a world-class defense, maintaining no army allows Liechtenstein to free up valuable resources that can be used to threaten weaker nations or perhaps even to outpace the United States in the race for an anti-nuclear missile defense shield.
There were also a few nominations for the United States itself. Here’s Babette Grunow:
The United States is known for supporting terrorists (CANF, death squads in Central America and Colombia, the former Mujahedeen of Afghanistan, to name a few); maintaining weapons of mass destruction (nuclear and biological weapons); attacking other countries unprovoked (Panama, Grenada, Iraq, Yugoslavia, Sudan, Afghanistan); committing war crimes (targeting civilians, a radio station and an embassy in Yugoslavia and targeting civilian bomb shelters, hospitals and killing surrendering troops in Iraq and the Persian Gulf area during Desert Storm); using trade embargoes as weapons (against Cuba and Iraq); the only country to have used a nuclear weapon on a civilian population–twice. The United States refuses to be bound by international treaties or by actions of the World Court.
In this same Pogo spirit, readers nominated 19 individual states within the United States. These were: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon (!), Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, and Washington state. Chatterbox is relieved to note that nobody nominated Washington, D.C., where Chatterbox lives, though possibly someone would if D.C. ever achieved statehood. Of these entries, Chatterbox was most beguiled by New Mexico (a multiple nominee). In a similar vein, Harry Walsh writes:
Only seven miles offshore of the civilized world there is a small island. It is seething with unrest and political dissention. The voices for secession are loud and boisterous. Although the island is seven miles from the civilized world, the waterway dividing it from the land of savages is sometimes no more than a mile wide and the population of the island often threaten to align with the savages. At a mere seven miles from Manhattan and a few polluted yards from the savages of New Jersey, we need to take the threat quite seriously.
He is writing, of course, of Staten Island. This introduces a new category–places that aspire to be nation-states. John McManus nominated The People’s Independent Republic of Scotland. David Seldin wrote that the rogue-nation shortage might be “a worthwhile argument for putting Palestinian statehood on a fast track.” There were a couple of nominations for Sealand, which Wired describes as an island the size of a basketball court six miles off the coast of England that is “about to become the first Internet data haven.” (Apparently a British court recognized Sealand as an independent nation in 1968.) Arthur Stock had the cheek to nominate Microsoft Corp. (“a rogue bent on world domination, known to have violated United States norms and laws of behavior, unrepentant for past malfeasance, and able to plausibly threaten to destroy the infrastructure of the United States”), while Martin Zacks nominated Microsoft’s rival, America Online:
With its market capitalization of $125 billion, it exceeds the 1998 estimated GNP of North Korea. Its subscriber base of 23 million is almost exactly the population of North Korea. And its upcoming acquisition of Time Warner will pose a threat at least equal to anything that could be launched from the Korean peninsula.
In the end, Chatterbox selected three contest winners. They are:
Second runner-up: Peru. Here is someone whose e-mail identifies him as “Phill_Sher”:
First of all, Peru is in the Western hemisphere; so, they are clearly “ours”. We won’t hear any of these wimpy arguments about lacking “national self interest” as we’ve heard about Bosnia, et al.
Secondly, also clearly, their democracy isn’t up to snuff, as the recent pseudo-election proves. Our standards and principles must be maintained. And, our State Department has already whined about that, so the public is prepared for our declaration of Peru’s rogue status.
Thirdly, although on paper we could easily defeat Peru in a fair fight, they have extensive jungles. So, the specter of Vietnam would certainly be raised and we would never actually take any action against Peru. This is a long-term commitment. We won’t have to revisit this troublesome topic, again and again and again.
Fourth, many other South American states would defend Peru on the basis of either anti-American imperialism, or, if you prefer, a rejection of continued American interference in a South American countries’ internal affairs.
First runner-up: Belgium. Here is Wade White:
Think about it–it has aggressive, expansionistic plans: people, that is Europeans, talk about the European Union when they say positive things about it, but when they complain they talk about “Brussels.” Maybe they know something we don’t. It has a history of bad activity–think about the Congo, the religious wars of the 16th century, their invasion of Britain in the first century B.C. that forced Caesar to cross the Channel, etc. … It is also fabulously wealthy, perhaps even, on a per-capita level, wealthier than we are. Not only does this bring the necessary envy into the mix (it’s really hard to hate a country if you don’t admire it just a little), it means it can actually afford nuclear weapons without having to starve its population. As a NATO ally, it doesn’t even really have to steal the technology; if they asked someone, us, the British, the French would probably give it to them.
And the winner is: Djibouti. A hearty congratulations to Michael Davies:
It’s got a catchy name that lends itself to headline puns (“U.S. BOMBS SHAKE DJIBOUTI”), it borders famed loony bin Somalia, and one could plausibly claim that it harbors terrorists or nukes left over from communism in South Yemen, which is just 30-some miles away across the Bab el Mandeb strait. Plus, it was a colony of … guess who … the French!