Monday, October 09, 2006

Meltdown (The Hidden Kristof)

Nicholas Kristof looks at the mess we've got going in North Korea and considers what we can do to deal with that country as well as others that we've labeled as evil in Talking with Monsters (fully available to Times Select subscribers):
If there’s one overriding lesson from North Korea’s apparent nuclear test, it’s this: We need to negotiate directly even with hostile and brutal regimes.

It’s probably too late to clean up the mess that President Bush has made on the Korean peninsula, but there is time to apply the lesson to Syria and especially Iran — where we may soon be facing a third military conflict in a Muslim country.

As former Secretary of State James Baker noted in an ABC News interview on Sunday: “I believe in talking to your enemies. ... It’s not appeasement to talk to your enemies.”


The bottom line is reflected in the plutonium obtained by North Korea. Here’s the scorecard: Amount obtained during the Clinton administration, zero; amount obtained under this administration, enough for about eight nuclear weapons. (North Korea has also tried since late in the Clinton administration to enrich uranium for a separate path to nuclear weapons, but apparently still hasn’t succeeded and perhaps never will.)

“By not having any contact, we’ve lost any way of controlling or directing the outcome,” noted James Laney, a longtime Korea specialist and former ambassador to South Korea. “As this test indicates, we’re completely out of the picture.”


So what should we do?

While proceeding with U.N. resolutions, we should also talk to North Korea directly. It’s probably too late to persuade it to give up its nuclear arsenal, but it’s plausible that it would freeze plutonium production and suspend missile and nuclear tests. Those are feasible goals that China might use its leverage to help achieve.

To show that talking with enemies doesn’t mean rolling over, we can also insist on raising human rights issues. American conservatives have led the way in protesting brutality in North Korea, but the protests simply aren’t effective. The U.S. government could add to the pressure by going public with satellite images of concentration camps and publicizing other intelligence about North Korean human rights abuses.

The challenge is larger than North Korea, though — it concerns how to stand up to all of the world’s rogue regimes. Notably, in the two where Mr. Bush has tried engagement he has enjoyed bits of success. Those are Sudan and Libya.

Even though Mr. Bush says that Sudan is engaging in genocide in Darfur, we continue (quite properly) to negotiate with Khartoum — and that helped end the war between north and south Sudan, after two million deaths. Likewise, negotiations with Libya led it to give up its W.M.D. programs.

In contrast, we eschewed most direct diplomacy with North Korea and Iraq, and the result has been disastrous. So as we lurch ahead toward a showdown with Iran, let’s remember the historical evidence: We sometimes do better talking to monsters than trying to slay them or wish them away.

Kristof isn't the only one who considers the BushCo Administration's tactics with North Korea a failure -- Josh Marshall points out that "Donald Gregg, former Ambassador to South Korea and Bush's dad's National Security Advisor while he was Vice President" does as well in this WaPo PostGlobal blog post:
Why won't the Bush administration talk bilaterally and substantively with NK, as the Brits (and eventually the US) did with Libya? Because the Bush administration sees diplomacy as something to be engaged in with another country as a reward for that country's good behavior. They seem not to see diplomacy as a tool to be used with antagonistic countries or parties, that might bring about an improvement in the behaviour of such entities, and a resolution to the issues that trouble us. Thus we do not talk to Iran, Syria, Hizballah or North Korea. We only talk to our friends -- a huge mistake.

AmericaBlog's John Aravosis also notes that Gregg is no lefty leaner:
As an aside, Donald Gregg taught a graduate class I was in at Georgetown. My favorite Donald Gregg quote from class was when he told us "Oliver North's only mistake was taking too many notes." You get the picture - not exactly a flaming liberal.


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