Rep. Pete Hoekstra, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, says the United States needs to treat North Korea like the “rogue nation that it is” or risk a nuclear arms race in the region.
The Michigan legislator also says “it’s crazy” not to profile airline passengers — and vows that Congress will thwart the Obama administration’s “ill-guided mission” to try terrorist suspects in civilian courts if the president “doesn’t come to his senses” on the issue.
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Hoekstra, who was first elected in 1992, did not seek re-election this year, instead running unsuccessfully for governor. There have been reports that he might run for the Senate from the Wolverine State in 2012.
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV, Hoekstra was asked how the United States should respond to North Korea’s shelling of a South Korean island and news that the North had built a new uranium enrichment facility.
“The way we should respond to both the shelling and the disclosure about this new enrichment facility is not how we’ve responded in the past,” Hoekstra says.
“We’ve got to start treating North Korea like the rogue nation that it is,” he says. “Typically, North Korea does these things, they do it on a pretty regular basis, and then they look for cash payments, they look for food, they look for oil, and they kind of force us back to the negotiating table.
“We give them some stuff, then we find out they break every agreement and every promise they’ve made. It’s like an unending cycle.
“We need to work extra hard and aggressively with the Russians and the Chinese, because they’re the leverage point — it’s not us, it’s not South Korea, it’s not Japan — and say you’ve got to get this country under control. They are destabilizing the region, and ultimately what they may do is lead South Korea and Japan into a nuclear arms race. That’s not good for any of us.”
As to whether the United States and its allies could end up taking military action against North Korea, Hoekstra says: “I doubt it. They’re not looking for a military confrontation. They’re just flexing their muscles, trying to get us to concede some points or some economic benefits to them.”
Hoekstra criticized the Obama administration for its failure to take a “more aggressive position” on North Korea and Iran’s nuclear efforts.
“We’re going to see continued proliferation and development by these countries of their programs, but also the spread of these programs to places like Burma, to Syria, perhaps into other places in the Middle East,” he declares.
“The lack of action by Russia, China, and the United States to deal with rogue nations is going to be problematic 20, 30, 40 years down the line.”
But while the military option regarding Iran is “still on the table,” Hoekstra says: “I think it highly unlikely that it will be used. And I think it is very unlikely the Israelis will use the military option” because neither the U.S. nor Israel can be sure that a first strike would significantly damage Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Asked whether the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has gone too far by requiring full body scans or intimate pat-downs of airline passengers and should be disbanded, Hoekstra responds: “No, they shouldn’t be disbanded.
“TSA is not out to just harass the people. I find it hard being a defender of TSA, but the threat environment is very high. We’re very worried about what al-Qaida is going to do.
“But TSA could have gone through this procedure and this process in a much more graceful way. I find it hard to believe that they would have implemented a nationwide program without ever doing some kind of test marketing the program to see what the public reaction would be.
“There’s a way that we can do this so people won’t feel violated, they won’t feel that their privacy has been invaded, and at the same time make sure that air system is intact.”
Also on the issue of airport screening, Hoekstra adds: “I think clearly you need to do some type of profiling. With the number of passengers that are flying on airplanes each and every day, it’s crazy to look at them and say they’re all the same and they all pose the same risk. No, they don’t.
“We ought to use the profiling just to make the system more effective, more efficient, and we need to focus our resources at where we think the threat is going to be.”
Hoekstra has been an outspoken critic of President Barack Obama’s decision to try terror suspects in civilian courts.
Now with the acquittal of terrorist suspect Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani of all but one of the 285 charges he faced stemming from the 1998 bombings at U.S. embassies, “I think what you’re going to find is that, if the president doesn’t change this ill-guided mission of trying Guantanamo detainees in civilian courts in New York City, the next Congress will step up and they will continue to prohibit the funding of any movement of these folks into the U.S. and any trials in civilian courts of these individuals,” Hoekstra tells Newsmax.
“If the president doesn’t come to his senses on this issue, if [Attorney General] Eric Holder doesn’t recognize that these trials in civilian courts are a huge mistake, then Congress will make sure that the Obama administration doesn’t have the ability to do these trials.”
As for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s calls for Holder’s resignation, Hoekstra says that would not change anything because whomever Obama would choose to replace him would continue to carry out Obama’s policies.
“We need a change of policy, not a new face.”
Asked whether the Senate should ratify the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Russia during the lame-duck session, and what would happen if it doesn’t, Hoekstra scoffs: “Nothing happens if it doesn’t.
“This is the president shouting ‘fire!’ We’ve heard this before with the stimulus and healthcare — we need to do it right away.
“He’s saying if we don’t do this now we won’t get [Russia’s] help on North Korea. We’ve got to do it right now. No. You don’t take a treaty as important as START and rush it through lame duck. It will never get the time and attention an issue like this deserves.”
As for reports that Hoekstra is considering a run for the Senate in 2012, he says: “Sure, it’s a possibility. But right now, it’s too early for us to look at that seriously.”
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