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Friday, August 01, 2003

Nick Kristof On North Korea

Mr. Kristof opines on the situation with North Korea in "Grab The Nettle".

We're so used to the administration's hyping the Iraq threat that it's stunning to see officials playing down the North Korean crisis.

"If you wanted a case of imminent threat and danger, according to the principles enunciated in the National Security Strategy document, then North Korea is much more of a threat than Iraq ever was in the last few years," noted Jonathan Pollack, chairman of the strategic research department of the Naval War College.

First, an aside: is this Mr. Pollack any relation to the "Threatening Storm" Ken Pollack, and what are Thanksgiving dinners like at their house? I wonder about the dinner question with Bruce and Wendy Wasserstein, BTW.

Back to the task at hand. President Bush touched on the very point Mr. Kristof is making in his 2003 SOTU:

...today the North Korean regime is using its nuclear program to incite fear and seek concessions. America and the world will not be blackmailed.

President Bush then moves on to Iraq:

Our nation and the world must learn the lessons of the Korean Peninsula and not allow an even greater threat to rise up in Iraq. A brutal dictator, with a history of reckless aggression, with ties to terrorism, with great potential wealth, will not be permitted to dominate a vital region and threaten the United States.

Any questions? We cannot let Iraq acquire the weapons North Korea has already acquired, and become the threat in the future that North Korea is today.

We then have some bipartisan blame-allocation:

In fairness, the North Korea mess is not President Bush's fault, nor, for that matter, President Bill Clinton's fault. It's Kim Jong Il's fault.

Don't blame the victim! And, his conclusion:

...To its credit, after initially botching the crisis, the administration has dropped its initial refusal to talk with the North until it gives up its nuclear programs. But Mr. Bush still hasn't grasped the nettle and accepted the need to engage North Korea and negotiate a new package deal.

A new deal is a lousy option, and perhaps no longer attainable. But as a growing number of people in the administration realize, it's worth trying — if only to strengthen our position if negotiations fail. Otherwise, we're slipping again into the Clinton administration's approach of largely doing nothing and hoping for North Korea to collapse on its own.

That was a failure of the Clinton years. It's even more foolish now that the North appears to be moving aggressively to become the world's first nuclear Wal-Mart.

UPDATE: Dr. Drezner explains all, with lots of links.

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