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  xFriday, January 10, 2003

oh, swell


The Washington Post: North Korea Quits Nuclear Arms Treaty, World Urges Caution as N. Korea Raises World War III Fears

It's a given that North Korea's moves are all part of the great diplomatic chess game, and that the North's withdrawal from a treaty it'd already admitted violating is largely symbolic, but these things do matter. What's most distressing is that they give no indication that US policy is achieving the aims of American national interests, but rather the contrary. Our goal should be a cooling off, not an escalation, of rhetoric.

In fact, throughout this crisis situation, there's been a conspicuous failure of Bush Administration policy to achieve American goals on the Korean peninsula. For starters, it may well be that Bush's "Axis of Evil" speech and stated support for preemption made an already-paranoid North Korean government even more fearful and prompted this confrontation. There's also this disquieting analysis indicating that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il may be more confrontational than his late father and less likely to compromise for fear of appearing weak before Korea's powerful generals.

We absolutely must pursue a foreign policy congruent with American goals. Haughty insistence that North Korea make concessions before negotiations begin is foolhardy in light of the fact that negotiations are what we want. This policy is doomed to failure, and the possible outcomes are a choice between bad or worse: Either Korea refuses to comply, and no negotiations occur, denying America one of its objectives, or Korea refuses to comply and negotiations occur anyway, thus weakening the US hand.

I'd love to hear evidence or argument suggesting that the Bush Administration's stance toward North Korea is the result of some clever strategy--or indeed, any coherent policy at all. Of course, such an argument would have to be weighed against ample evidence to the contrary. Sadly, all indications point toward policy--such as it is--being crafted by the White House political establishment with an eye toward selling the administration's policies (*cough*Iraq*cough*), not achieving American objectives.

One last thing...I've heard hawks saying argue that the Korean situation only proves that we need to confront Saddam militarily now, while he hasn't yet developed nukes. That argument stinks on ice, as it implies that we're only strong in the face of weaker nations, and pussycats against foes packing a greater threat (in short, the classic traits of a bully). Policy based on such a concept, rather than ensuring security, leads inevitably to destabilization, as it motivates hostile nations to develop nukes as an anti-interventionist trump card. Great going, guys.

(Update: I've combined this formerly two-section post into one.)





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