« Well Knock Me Over With A Feather! | Main | You Know Better »

October 09, 2006

And Now We Wait For Godzilla

On the North Korea nuclear test, there's not a whole lot to say. Expect the usual suspects to rattle their sabers, but the truth is, sabers are relatively useless when their target has atomic technology. Obviously, Bush's strategy on North Korea was a total failure, just as it has been on Iran, just as it has been on Iraq. Of the three Axis of Evil countries, 1) is now a killing ground for our troops and a potential proxy state for 2) who elected a wildly-anti-American president and is playing brinksmanship en route to enrichment while 3) has just gone nuclear. Some strategy. The question now is how we handle a nuclear North Korea and whether the Bush administration will listen to their inner realists and realize that they can't do anything but seek an accommodation.

Update: Brad Plumer has more.

October 9, 2006 | Permalink

Comments

Obviously, Bush's strategy on North Korea was a total failure

He had a strategy?

Posted by: litbrit | Oct 9, 2006 12:38:16 PM

"Bush's strategy on North Korea was a total failure, "
And Clinton's was a success?
Just how would you stop North Korea from developing, excluding giving him nuclear weapons, nuclear weapons?

North Korea violated the 1994 agreement the day it was signed. They had no intention whatsoever of respecting that agreement.
Why do you ignore that fact?

Posted by: Terry | Oct 9, 2006 12:57:07 PM

what a string of stunning failures.
we are all passengers on a runaway train.

Posted by: jacqueline | Oct 9, 2006 1:06:43 PM

Is "Terry" just C.T. with a different IP? 'Cause this person's got the same kind of belligerent, staccato style and is also completely fact-free.

Anyway, as far as the points raised in the post, there is nothing that isn't already being done to North Korea that can be done. Most likely, North Korea will be able to wring out some more concessions from the USA and our allies while doing everything they want to do anyway.

The Clinton-Kim Dae Jung era is the only time that North Korea gave up significant concessions to outside powers. They had a heavy nuclear reactor that was shut down; this was verified. North Korea started to allow many more visitors, more aid to flow directly to the citizens, and more trade with South Korea, China and Japan. They even started to allow more family reunions for people who were separated by the Korean War.

Save for the special economic zone along the border with China, all progress has reversed. North Korea restarted their heavy reactor, they stopped the reunions and greatly reduced access for not only tourists but also aid groups who were helping to feed and provide needed health care to North Korean citizens.

Republicans have been messing this up for a while. South Korea started building refugee camps in the mid-1990s for expected waves of people leaving North Korea. The carrot/stick pressure that Clinton/Kim were applying was creating some serious cracks in N.K.'s resolve, but then the GOP-generated "scandal" and impeachment circus was a distraction and did lower people's views of the USA - not because the President had an affair, but because the Americans were going so haywire over it. It really helped the North Korean leadership to firm up and stop sending contradictory messages.

But that's what you get when the leaders of a political party are interested only in profit and power.

Posted by: Stephen | Oct 9, 2006 1:28:43 PM

There was never any guarantee that an approach to NK, such as Clinton's, that was realistic about the inducements and pressures that we could bring to bear, would be successful. But the failure of Bush's approach, i.e., of talking smack without the slightest ability or will to follow through, was a foregone conclusion.

Posted by: kth | Oct 9, 2006 1:39:49 PM

The other question is whether this failure, like a whole string of previous national security failures, will help the Republicans at the polls. I'm afraid it probably will.

Posted by: Tom Hilton | Oct 9, 2006 1:40:49 PM

Oh, paleeeeze!

Clinton sent Carter over to bargain for food and needed supplies. Carter comes back with a worthless piece of paper and all the Democrats declare the problem solved. Of course, Kim decided to give the food to his million man army and starve the people and clandestinely continue the program.

I don't like the situation, but I'm also not stupid enough to think that Clinton solved anything. If anything, he allowed Kim to stall the world instead of confronting this problem in it's infancy. Now, the problem is much larger.

I'm just glad that Clinton or Carter are not involved now that it's time for confrontation. They just don't have the 'nads to do the heavy lifting.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Oct 9, 2006 2:54:29 PM

As a follow up, how do you think John Kennedy would have handled it? the party ain't what it used to be.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Oct 9, 2006 2:55:27 PM

North Korea violated the 1994 agreement the day it was signed. They had no intention whatsoever of respecting that agreement. Why do you ignore that fact?

Ezra, your commenters might not get it, but at least people at The Corner do.

Posted by: Adrock | Oct 9, 2006 3:18:45 PM

Fred,

Don't forget, wasn't William Jefferson Clinton screaming at the cameras that he did NOT send James Earl Carter III to North Korea?

Oh yea, then he was with it when he got the piece of paper.

Was listening to the radio today about how Mr. Clinton had plans drawn up to attack North Korea if they started building a bomb. None of the details about how his own people would not go any farther than planning (like with every other country he "had plans" for invading, in hindsight).

Yes, Korea would be nuke free if the KKKlintonistas were still in charge. ROFLMAO

Posted by: Guy Montag | Oct 9, 2006 3:41:31 PM

Bush's newbie 'strategy' for dealing with N. Korea was to hold talks hostage in a childish act that had no thought out conclusion. Between 2001 and 2003 there were virtually no talks between N. Korea and the US. Then to further inflame things, in a wildly undiplomatic and unproductive act he branded them a part of his 'axis of evil'.

Then finally in 2003 theres the proposal for 6 party talks. Which is not a bad idea completely, but has been completely ineffective. To date not a single agreement on any of the original points of contention has been reached.

Regardless of who was sent to N.Korea carter, benedict arnold, or a little green martian; Clinton's administration managed to make positive progress in controlling and monitoring N.Koreas nuclear progress. (as noted in comments b4 me) Bush not only stalled this progress but completely reversed it to the present point when we have a confirmed nuclear test.

So wheres all this bravado from the bush administration now? Since having a nuclear armed N.Korea is 'unacceptable' and 'we will not allow it' what is the proposal for solving this situation. The silence from his planners and policy makers is deafening.

Posted by: david b | Oct 9, 2006 4:31:49 PM

You know, I think I'm going to continue to believe the people who were on the ground in North Korea delivering a transport plane's worth of medicine plus several plane's worth of grain, several times, during the 1990s. They set up clinics and food stations and administered medicine and fed civilians directly.

I think I will also continue to believe my wife's former colleagues (from when she worked for a mission organization) who live on the China side of the border with North Korea, managing a church-owned (through a couple of shell corporations) factory that employs North Koreans. I suspect that they have better information than some of the commenters on this thread, especially since they have relationships not only with the workers, but with the North Korean Consulate in their zone and with the Chinese government officials who administer it.

Plus, when we were in South Korea, an alumnus of our school was appointed to Kim Dae Jung's cabinet, and he gave some pretty good insights into the matter of North Korea. Of course, that was mediated to me through the university president and was the word of a government official, but it's still better info than the crap one can hear or read from right-wing disinformation organizations.

The point, Fred, Montag and Terry, is that you simply don't know what you are talking about. You don't have good information, you don't have good sources, you don't have a clue what is going on over there nor what has been going on over there. My information is far from complete, but it is much better than yours because it is factual, not political. All of the Americans involved in these programs are Republicans; Clinton's handling of North Korea was the only thing they liked about him.

Posted by: Stephen | Oct 9, 2006 4:37:36 PM

The point, Fred, Montag and Terry, is that you simply don't know what you are talking about.

I gathered that from Guy Montag's use of the quasi-Dadaist epithet 'KKKlintonista'...but it is helpful to verify it using more knowledgeable sources.

Posted by: Tom Hilton | Oct 9, 2006 5:37:34 PM

I certainly agree with Ezra and others that a military action against North Korea is not appropriate. Unless we had good information that they were going to sell weapons to a third party, it wouldn't be worth it.

However, I disagree quite strongly with the reason that it isn't a useful strategy. It has nothing to do with whether or not NK has nukes, but the simple fact that NK conventional artillery could pretty much level Seoul before we could silence it. That is a bigger price than most of us are willing to pay.

The solution to the North Korean problem has always been China. That is why multilateral talks, rather than bi-lateral talks are so important. The most the bi-lateral talks will ever achieve with NK is kicking the ball down the field a bit, until they come back asking for more. China on the other hand has the power to force real change.

China doesn't want to do this of course, they are perfectly happy with us kicking the ball down the field, so the focus of our diplomatic efforts has been to convince China to play ball. The almost certain means of doing this is the threat of a nuclear armed Japan, and I would guess that this nuclear test makes that threat quite realistic now.

As such, I expect signifigant Chinese action toward North Korea to happen quite soon.

Posted by: Dave Justus | Oct 9, 2006 5:44:39 PM

The solution to the North Korean problem has always been China. That is why multilateral talks, rather than bi-lateral talks are so important. The most the bi-lateral talks will ever achieve with NK is kicking the ball down the field a bit, until they come back asking for more. China on the other hand has the power to force real change.

Agreed, Dave. NK was whining about bi-lateral talks and all of the libs just couldn't understand why the state department really didn't want that. They used it as another disingenuous polticial attack on the administraion.

Good job, Dave.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Oct 9, 2006 6:49:42 PM

NK was whining about bi-lateral talks and all of the libs just couldn't understand why the state department really didn't want that. They used it as another disingenuous polticial attack on the administraion.

This is a complete misrepresentation of what the administration's critics have been saying.

Dave had a good post, but the whole "bilateral talks" thing is a straw man. What people have been saying is that the USA needs to talk to North Korea. Bush has refused bilateral talks, three-, four-, five- and six-way talks. He's refused them all. There is no critic of this adminstration who doesn't want China, Japan, South Korea and even Russia involved in talks with North Korea.

Your hackery truly knows no bounds, Fred. Would you be willing to claim that had someone previously mentioned six-way talks and criticized Bush about them, you would not now be deriding the "libs" for wanting to just follow the lead of other countries?

Bush has been played for a complete fool by the North Koreans. Over and over again Bush has "refused" to engage in any talks with them, only to later back down in the face of pressure from the other countries in the region. Talks go well for a while, and then Bush once again orders the Americans away from the talks over some stupid, trumped-up reason that leaves our allies in these talks scratching their heads.

Of course, Bush has been using North Korea as a way to bump up his poll numbers for a few years now. Every time they get a little low and the terror-alert system has been overused for a bit, he gets on TV, yells "Gooba-gooba North Korea!!" and yanks our diplomats away for six months.

Posted by: Stephen | Oct 9, 2006 8:09:16 PM

What stephen is saying is that there can never be a legitimate dangerous terror issue. Every case can be answered with a conspiracy theory about how Bush trumps up the situation for his personal political gain.

The great thing about conspiracy theories is they require no evidence. Handy, eh?

Posted by: Fred Jones | Oct 9, 2006 10:25:42 PM

What can we do? Impose sanctions, that's what. And remind North Korea of what our longstanding policy is towards any nation that uses nuclear weapons against us and an ally.

As for accomodations, I'm perfectly willing to consider any deal that doesn't involve us paying them off or selling out South Korea.

Posted by: Adam Herman | Oct 13, 2006 4:49:15 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.