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September 13, 2004

Comments

Thank you for writing this.

I have written a lot about human rights and and immigrants' rights and torture and the war on terror. But in my opinion this is the single most important issue facing us, and Bush's failure to take it more seriously is what makes me feel genuinely scared about him being re-elected.

The one thing I would add is Pakistan. Bush has been going around bragging about dismantling Khan's network in his stump speech. If you know anything about these issues, it's absurd. All the warning signs were there for years--contacts between Al Qaeda and Pakistani nuclear scientists, etc.--and we didn't do much about them, then we let Khan off with a slap on the wrist. We did not even ask to question him, and we let Pakistan get away with their "shocked, shocked" song and dance. We need to work with Musharraf, but it was ridiculous. This was probably be a quid pro quo for their help finding Bin Laden, which may or may have been affected by electoral politics.

If I weren't in the throes of the clerkship hiring process (#Q@$&@%(Y@*(%*(#%*@(%&@%&*%(&*@*(@%&*@%&*(@ most stressful thing ever....There, that felt better) I would try writing something more detailed about Pakistan.

Kerry would be much better on this--he has hired one of the leading people sounding the alarm, Graham Allison, and seems to be doing exactly what Allison tells him. One thing no Democratic politician has figured out how to do is to talk about these issues in a concrete, non-wonky way so that the public knows and cares. I also find this hard to understand. It's not like you can't come up with some vivid imagery...

Katherine -- you're absolutely right, of course. (I was trying to keep the length less horrifying than it might have been.) Steve Clemons has a great post about this here. Highlight:

"The fact is that American intelligence had known for years that Khan was engaged in these activities. Why was nothing said? I happen to know that the intelligence community was well informed about Khan, well before the public revelations, through two instances.

The first came via a retired Indian general on a fellowship at the U.S. Institute of Peace. This general was unusual for his honest and somewhat critical self critique of India's national security policies at that time and was more positive about Pakistan's direction than I would have expected.

But he was quite forthcoming, concerned, and knowledgeable about Khan and the proliferation of nuclear weapons technology. I passed this information on to government friends and was informed that the government was well aware of Khan's activities.

The second occasion involved an email exchange with a friend then working in the Office of International Security Affairs in the Pentagon, which Peter Rodman now heads but which used to be Soft Power purveyor Joseph Nye's perch. After a meeting where this unnamed individual spoke about the roster of national security threats facing the United States, and in which Pakistan went unmentioned, I posed the question of whether or not Pakistan's proliferation activities -- privately known by many sources but still not officially acknowledged -- worried this person and the Pentagon.

The individual responded that the direction of my question was right and that in his mind "there was no more dangerous place in the world today, threatening American interests, than Pakistan."


The problem dealing with Kahn is that he is considered one of the greatest heros in the history of Pakistan for allowing them to threaten India with nuclear weapons. He has the stature of a George Washington or Ben Franklin. It would be like asking someone to 'deal with' Rosa Parks while negotiating with the NAACP. Or having a country that had to deal with Republicans ask us to put Reagan in jail.

I also think you are gravely misreading "and would not guarantee compliance with the treaty." This is a complaint about the fact that verification and enforcement are never linked in these treaties. The problem is that inspections and verifications and enforcement have always been separate issues in nuclear proliferation treaties. Non-proliferation treaties are not enforced. Inspections go on and on and on until we have North Korea. A number of the diplomatic problems of dealing with North Korea are a direct consequence of the international communities awful trust in the NPT. 'Enforcement' was never allowed against North Korea, and as a result the NPT was useless--less than useless, it was actively harmful because it allowed people to pretend they were working on the issue when in fact they were allowing North Korea more time to build nuclear weapons. You don't bother with a complicated inspection regime when the international community has made crystal clear that they won't do anything when treaties are violated. See also Iran and the wonderful diplomatic miracles of the EU.

As for unilateral talks with North Korea instead of multilateral talks, isn't it obvious that there will be no successful negotiations without China's pressure? Willingness to engage in sham unilateral talks is a waste of time and energy that would be better spent bringing China into the situation.

I agree with you on Russian nukes, but one of the problems is that Russia doesn't want to let us sweep in and take control of its last claim at world power status. If Russia were interested, it could move faster. It doesn't want to, and we have limited options to force it to.

Sebastian: what I think we should have done about Khan was simply to pressure the Pakistanis, quietly, to shut down his network. This would, I think, have been worth an awful lot, and I could see all sorts of quid pro quo arrangements that I would have fully supported.

What Bush did was not to try to link verification and enforcement; he just pulled the plug on any verification procedures, period. He did the same thing on the Biological Weapons Convention. Saying "X does not work without Y" is not a good reason for giving up on X without trying to link X and Y.

The obstacles to moving faster on Russian loose nukes are manifold. But not all of them have to do with Russian obstinacy. As I said, the Bush administration has just not made this a priority, and I cannot understand (a) why not, and (b) why, in view of this fact, he and Cheney go on and on about how the Democrats would return us to "pre-9/11 ways of thinking". Unless, of course, they think that the only issue where it matters that 9/11 change one's view is Iraq, which would be so profoundly wrong that I wouldn't know where to begin.

Hilzoy, superb,long post and I will read it again. But my recollection is that one of the first budgetary moves of the Bush Administration was to cut funding for the decommissioning of Russia's nuclear stockpile. Did they carry through? I have no cite. If so, any speculation on the motivation for this, umm, move?

This was back in my fact-finding Bush-hating days, rather than today when, as Sean Hannity once said in another context, I'm running out of time to refute all the facts.

Welcome back to Katherine, whom I hereby nominate to head up all Cabinet positions in my Administration.

hilzoy, do you believe the nuclear proliferation situation is worse than it was in say, December 2000? Other than just with the passage of time that it. What specific Clinton policies should have been continued and what has replaced them? What specific Clinton policies should have been discontinued and were continued? What other policies should have been put in place and haven't been?

John -- thanks. Bush did propose serious cuts in Nunn-Lugar in his first budget. Between his submission of the budget and Congress' enacting it, 9/11 happened, and Congress put the money back in.

Dave: I'm not sure what to include in "the passage of time", so I'm not sure how to answer. About loose nukes: personally, I could never see why securing Russia's nuclear materials wasn't a top priority as soon as the Iron Curtain fell. The Clinton administration worked on it, but (to my mind) not nearly fast enough. The Bush administration has proceeded more or less as the Clinton administration did (a few new bits here, a few decreased funding levels there.) What makes this altogether different, to me, is that the Bush administration has done this after 9/11, and thus after the seriousness and immediacy of the problem should have become obvious to everyone. So basically: on this score Bush has done what Clinton did, but he kept doing it after 9/11, which is, to my mind, inexplicable.

About North Korea: here the Bush administration has pursued a quite different policy from the Clinton administration. (I can sense an argument with Sebastian about to happen...) Clinton had put in place the 'Agreed Framework', which basically said: we will give you fuel, and build two reactors that don't make plutonium or use heavily enriched uranium, in exchange for which you, North Korea, will stop producing plutonium and submit to inspections. One might ask whether it's a good idea to make deals like this. One way to see it is as rewarding North Korea's previous bad behavior. Another is to see it as a way of getting us and North Korea away from the brink of war, where we were at the time. Our options with respect to North Korea have always been limited by the fact that military action against them could result in, for instance, the destruction of Seoul, and by the fact that South Korea really does not want to see North Korea collapse next door. It's not really clear to me what good option we had other than trying to negotiate. Anyways, we did.

There were problems with the implementation of this agreement. We delayed our side a bit; they, for their part, started enriching uranium, most people seem to think in the last few years of the '90s. (Enriching uranium was not banned under the agreed framework, but it is as obvious a violation of the spirit of the agreement as one could wish for.) We seem not to have known about this when Bush took office, and a few months later announced that he was going to reassess the whole issue, which took everyone (including Colin Powell) by surprise, and offended both the South and North Koreans. Then very little happened until we confronted North Korea with the evidence of its enrichment program, and they confessed.

The abrupt announcement that we were going to rethink the Agreed Framework was a policy that (as best I can tell) the Clinton administration would not have undertaken. Moreover, if I had to guess, they would not have done what Bush then proceeded to do, which was to respond to the North Koreans' offer to scrap their nuclear weapons programs in exchange for security guarantees not by talking to them but by insisting on their scrapping it before any talks could take place. I mean: would it not have been worth so much as exploring the idea of guaranteeing that we would not undertake military action against us so long as they (a) didn't attack any other country or its ships etc., and (b) halted all nuclear weapons development programs, uranium and plutonium and any other they might think of, and (c) agreed to submit to an intrusive inspection regime of our choosing, and (d) insert your favorite condition here? Personally, I don't think so, nor do I understand what it is that the Bush administration finds so threatening about negotiations (as opposed to actually agreeing to anything.)

Anyways, we rebuffed this offer, and then, as I said, spent ages disagreeing about whether any talks we might hold should be bilateral or multilateral, and now are holding talks that have yet to achieve anything, and seem not to be designed to achieve anything. This is not a continuation of Clinton's policies, and it seems unlikely, to me, that it's what Clinton would have done under the circumstances. One could argue about whether this is a good or a bad thing, but I can't imagine what plausible outcome of Clinton's policy could be worse than what has happened under this one.

Yikes, that got long. Sorry ;)

You might also check out what Valerie Plame was doing when she was "outed" by the White House.

"Clinton had put in place the 'Agreed Framework', which basically said: we will give you fuel, and build two reactors that don't make plutonium or use heavily enriched uranium, in exchange for which you, North Korea, will stop producing plutonium and submit to inspections."

This is not what the Agreed Framework basically said.

"they, for their part, started enriching uranium, most people seem to think in the last few years of the '90s. (Enriching uranium was not banned under the agreed framework, but it is as obvious a violation of the spirit of the agreement as one could wish for.)"

This is incorrect too. Enriching uranium and continuing any nuclear weapons programs whatsoever was a violation of the LETTER of the agreement.

The Agreed framework specifically reiterated that North Korea was to take implement its responsibilities under the "North-South Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean peninsula" and the NPT. That encompassed far more than merely "will stop producing plutonium and submit to inspections." I also note that you specifically do not phrase it "stop producing plutonium and submit to inspections which if they are unsatisfactory will mean X. I.e. there is, as usual in agreements of this nature, no enforcement mechanism.

The Agreed Framework by its reaffirmation of the other two broken treaties (which by the way might have served as a mild hint regarding North Korean seriousness with respect to treaties hampering their nuclear programs) made any of the following serious breaches of the Agreement:

Continuing research into making nuclear weapons;
Taking steps toward obtaining nuclear weapons (uranium enrichment);
Manufacturing nuclear weapons with materials already obtained;
And, keeping any nuclear weapons already built.
The plutonium-producing reactor was not the only subject of the Agreed Framework. Even Carter wasn't that naive.

"One could argue about whether this is a good or a bad thing, but I can't imagine what plausible outcome of Clinton's policy could be worse than what has happened under this one."

Why reach for hypotheticals? We could be actively propping up one of the most ruthless and oppressive regimes in the world WHILE they built more nuclear weapons so that they could more effectively threaten us later. Which is precisely what happened.

what on earth has happened to the formatting? is it my computer?

I guess it was. Nevermind.

Sebastian: I disagree with your reading of the Agreed Framework, but I don't want to get into it, since I basically think North Korea's conduct was inexcusable, whatever one thinks of this question. (If anyone else is interested, the text is here.) We also differ on exactly how certain it is that the result of negotiations would have been our propping up North Korea while it built nuclear weapons. Personally, I think that we could have tried for some sort of agreement with serious and intrusive inspections. If we could have reached agreement on some inspection regime that we felt confident in, then we could have stopped North Korea's nuclear weapons program without propping up their regime. If not, then we would be where we are now, with the one difference that we would at least have tried to find an alternative. It's only if you think that we would somehow have been forced, by the fact of entering negotiations, to agree to a bad deal that things would have been worse.

Funny you link to the same source for the Agreed Framework that I always use.

As for NK responsibilities: "Both sides reaffirmed the importance of attaining the objectives contained in the August 12, 1994 Agreed Statement between the U.S. and the DPRK and upholding the principles of the June 11, 1993 Joint Statement of the U.S. and the DPRK to achieve peace and security on a nuclear-free Korean peninsula." Also section III 2): The DPRK will consistently take steps to implement the North-South Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. Also section IV 1):The DPRK will remain a party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and will allow
implementation of its safeguards agreement under the Treaty.

Personally, I think that we could have tried for some sort of agreement with serious and intrusive inspections. If we could have reached agreement on some inspection regime that we felt confident in, then we could have stopped North Korea's nuclear weapons program without propping up their regime. If not, then we would be where we are now, with the one difference that we would at least have tried to find an alternative. It's only if you think that we would somehow have been forced, by the fact of entering negotiations, to agree to a bad deal that things would have been worse.

I have a lot of problems with this paragraph: they all stem from the fact that North Korea really wants nuclear weapons. If you don't believe that, I can at least understand your position, but I see no reason to believe anything other than that North Korea really wants nuclear weapons.

A) I believe that North Korea would never have agreed to intrusive inspections.

B) If they agreed they wouldn't have followed through (see Agreed Framework).

C) In the fantasy world where they allowed inspections, they would have obstructed the inspectors at every turn (Just as they did under the NPT and Agreed Framework systems.)

D) That obstruction would have no international political consequences. (See enforcement of the NPT over the past 20 years with respect to North Korea).

The scary thing is that we haven't really entered into a hypothetical discussion yet, these things have all happened. And for me, the dismaying thing is that the fact of these things happening doesn't seem to disturb you. You counsel us to carry on.

"It's only if you think that we would somehow have been forced, by the fact of entering negotiations, to agree to a bad deal that things would have been worse."

This might be true in a normal world where North Korea and the US could enter into negotiations, North Korea could act crazy and make ridiculous demands, the US could then walk away and then the headlines all over the world wouldn't read: "US Creates Korean Crisis".

But we don't live in that world. We live in a world where if the US participates unsuccessfully in negotiations, it gets blamed for causing the problem. That is especially true in bilateral negotiations that fail to include China. Which non-surprisingly is exactly what North Korea always demands. It is almost as if they planned it that way.

Sebastian: If the North Koreans would never have agreed to intrusive inspections, then they wouldn't. But I see no harm in testing my assumptions about them, given the stakes involved. If they wouldn't follow through, or would have obstructed the inspections, ditto. In a matter of this importance, it seems to me essential to try rather than assuming that one's assumptions about their motivations and likely future conduct are correct, especially given the bizarre conduct of Kim Jong Il, who has never seemed to me to be particularly rational or predictable.

I certainly don't think that the political consequences for the US are a good reason not to try. Why one would think that the Bush administration, in particular, would not be able to tolerate international criticism is not clear to me.

Also, back to Dave's original question: it's not at all clear to me that a Democratic administration would not have tried to e.g. take out the reactors and uranium enrichment facilities had negotiations broken down. At any rate, Clinton bombed Iraq for kicking out the inspectors, a much less serious step than those that North Korea has taken. However, we'll never know.

Seabass-

As for unilateral talks with North Korea instead of multilateral talks, isn't it obvious that there will be no successful negotiations without China's pressure?

No. It is not obvious. It is especially non-obvious if NK is, in fact, in possession of nuclear weapons and is conducting or has conducted tests of said weapons.

As for hilzoy, good post but unless you include much more about Pakistan, you're missing the boat. Did you know that Pakistan has 6,000 nuclear scientists, two of whom met with bin Laden in 2001? Did you know that some areas of Pakistan that contain nuclear installations may be under the effective control of Islamists?

Yeah.

That ought to scare the living beejesus out of you, too.

(from Graham Allison's Atlantic Monthly article, which is subscriber-only)

Thank you very much for your comprehensive response to my questions, hilzoy.

What makes this altogether different, to me, is that the Bush administration has done this after 9/11, and thus after the seriousness and immediacy of the problem should have become obvious to everyone.

I agree with this completely. Well said.

Sebastian has responded to the North Korea issue pretty well. My own opinion is that the handling of North Korea is one of the few areas (possibly the only area) in which the Bush Administration's approach has been absolutely correct. Insistence on multi-lateral talks is not only the best approach it is the only approach. There is no solution to the problem of the nuclearization of the Korean peninsula without the active participation of China. Kim Jung-Il falls whenever China wants him to. Our inability to negotiate strongly with China is a problem shared by both the Clinton and Bush Administrations and for the same reason. To negotiate you must be prepared to withhold something that your negotiating partner wants. We aren't willing to do that and the Chinese know it.

I think a thought-experiment is useful here. Imagine it's Sept 12, 2005, and yesterday, a 20 KT bomb went off in Manhatten. What would we do? It looks to me like, along with finding someone to bomb into nonexistence in retaliation (guilty or not), we'd probably become *very* serious about nuclear nonproliferation. Like, giving Iran, North Korea, etc. a few days to start allowing inspectors everywhere, with the threat of an overwhelming nuclear strike if they refused.

Is there some subset of that that would make sense to do now? I gather that we don't want a war with North Korea or Iran right now, but if they were convinced that they were going to be wiped off the face of the Earth if they didn't open up for inspections, would they really refuse them? I don't like the idea of preemptive war at all, but if you're going to do it, this is the right reason.

--John

"Also, back to Dave's original question: it's not at all clear to me that a Democratic administration would not have tried to e.g. take out the reactors and uranium enrichment facilities had negotiations broken down. At any rate, Clinton bombed Iraq for kicking out the inspectors, a much less serious step than those that North Korea has taken. However, we'll never know."

Once again you retreat to hypotheticals when the truth is already known. Clinton knew of the uranium enrichment well before the end of his administration. Evidence of continued nuclear programs was known by the CIA no later than early 1998. It known by non-classified Congressional sources no later than November 5, 1999. See pages 1-9 of this report. Since Congress does not have its own intelligence agency, it is nearly impossible that this intelligence had not come to Clinton first. I have seen other documents internal to the Clinton administration which show this, but can't track them down this morning. In any case, giving Clinton a ridiculously large benefit of the doubt--that he had never heard of the intelligence reports until they were mentioned in Congress--that gives an entire year of failing to address the problem. Shipments of oil under the Agreed Framework were not suspended, nor were they threatened to be suspended. Reports of uranium enrichment were not verified, and no attempt to force verification was made. He did not deal with North Korea in 1994, before they had nuclear weapons, nor did he deal with them in 1998, 1999, or 2000 when he knew they were building them. He left it to Bush to try to deal with a nuclear North Korea.

You don't like Bush's approach. You advocate the very same approach which led to a nuclear North Korea in the first place.

I fail to see how that approach, which North Korea was able to finesse BEFORE they were a nuclear power, is likely to work now that they are in a much stronger position as a nuclear power.

But if you think there are reasons why the approach should work better now that North Korea has a stronger bargaining position, please explain.

John Kelsey:

What would we do? It looks to me like, along with finding someone to bomb into nonexistence in retaliation (guilty or not), we'd probably become *very* serious about nuclear nonproliferation. Like, giving Iran, North Korea, etc. a few days to start allowing inspectors everywhere, with the threat of an overwhelming nuclear strike if they refused.

Despite the fact that that's what basic U. S. defense doctrine has been for, what, 50 years, lots of Americans just don't believe that would be our response. I don't know what they're basing their conclusions on. I believe that this is one of the very basic divides on positions on the War on Terror.

Sebastian,

I won't try to put words in hilzoy's mouth, but I'll take a stab at responding. You note:

I fail to see how that approach, which North Korea was able to finesse BEFORE they were a nuclear power, is likely to work now that they are in a much stronger position as a nuclear power.

But if you think there are reasons why the approach should work better now that North Korea has a stronger bargaining position, please explain.

Three responses:

First, the world has changed since 9/11. Not everything has changed, but at least, I think, that the possiblities of what the US might do have changed (Iraq wouldn't have been possible before 9/11), and the rest of the world knows this, and has to change their decision calculus as well. This means that a negotiation (unlateral, multi, with inspections; whatever we could get) might (maybe) work now: Bush can get away with carrots and sticks that Clinton could never have. Maybe Bush can get a framework that works. Won't know until we try (see #3, below)

Two, our hand in a negotiations could have been stronger today if, as hilzoy argues in the original post, the US had put a strong push on for securing fissile material. The North Koreans, in the context of a larger and aggressive American push on this issue might have been more willing to compromise, and the other four powers involved might also have been willing to put more pressure on them. Do I know this? No, but I argue it as a possiblity that we can no longer go back to as the US moved other issues higher up the priorities scale. Maybe we see this as paying the opportunity costs for Iraq.

Third, why not attempt negotiations? Yes, the situation has changed (for the worse) in the past few years, but waiting around will not make it better (and may make it worse: why was South Korea messing about with enrichment?). What do we lose if we attempt negotiations? What do we lose if we succeed? What do we lose if we succeed (and they cheat)?

Sebastian: Of course I'm resorting to hypotheticals, since in response to Dave I was trying to figure out what one could say with confidence about what a Democratic administration might have done. I read the first 9 pages of the report you linked to; possibly I didn't read the right part, but what I took it to say was that we thought the North Koreans were trying to acquire uranium enrichment technology, which is different from saying they had started to enrich uranium. Anyways, what I tried to say was that I thought it was unclear whether or not a Democratic administration would have tried to e.g. take out North Korea's nuclear facilities in response to the steps North Korea has taken during the past four years, which are not limited to our discovery/its admission of its uranium enrichment program.

For the record, when I was answering Dave's question I was not endorsing Clinton's approach; just trying to say what I thought it was. I do, of course, endorse the general approach of trying negotiations. Nothing you have said shows why you think that this would have been a worse approach than the one Bush has followed. As things stand, North Korea has worked as hard as it can to produce nuclear weapons, and we have basically not responded at all. How can this possibly be a good thing? Moreover, how can it possibly be right to do nothing on the basis of an assumption that any available course of action would be unproductive, when the alternative is to test that assumption through serious negotiations that do not require you to agree to anything?

"As things stand, North Korea has worked as hard as it can to produce nuclear weapons, and we have basically not responded at all."

That isn't true. We cut off the oil and food aid that had been predicated on compliance with the Agreed Framework. We are no longer supporting one of the worst regimes in the world while it destroys its people AND builds nuclear weapons. Since the choices available were support it while it builds nuclear weapons or not support it while it builds nuclear weapons, the choice doesn't seem so strange. The other choice would be to bomb the plants and risk the leveling of Seoul. Since many in the US and most of the international community can't handle the relatively bloodless Iraq campaign (by any realistic standards of war or occupation) I don't think that is a real option.

Cutting off the support was trumpted, both in country and without, as Bush causing a diplomatic incident. The fact that North Korea broke the deal was not seen as causing the incident.

And that is an excellent shorthand explanation for why the international framework against nuclear proliferation is so broken. The US can do no right. Tyrants who are cheating can never do enough wrong to draw the ire of the international community. Excuses are always made for the cheating country, and 'more time' must always be given. As a result, we have a nuclear North Korea and soon will have a nuclear Iran. Two of the sickest regimes on the planet, and the international community not only can't be bothered to do anything useful, but they have to actively obstruct US diplomacy and action.

Sigh. I don't want to negotiate with North Korea because the only thing we can offer is support for their regime. The regime has proven time and time again that if we prop them up, they use the time available to become more dangerous so they can better threaten us on the next round.

I don't see any reason to continue that. In 1994, giving the North Korean's a last chance might have made sense if it were done with a real response to cheating in mind. I'm not going to blame Clinton for trying in 1994. But I do think there was a serious problem in failing to follow through once the cheating became evident--starting in 1996, getting worse in 1997, and well known by 1998. And remember, that wasn't even the first try. The games leading to the "North-South Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean peninsula" had already ocurred. And the wrangling over the NPT preceeded that. What would make these negotiations different? The fact that Bush has the will of the American people behind him ready to engage in war if North Korea doesn't back down?

Nothing happens unless China is willing to shut off the oil pipeline. Our diplomacy should be aimed at them.

"As things stand, North Korea has worked as hard as it can to produce nuclear weapons, and we have basically not responded at all."

Things are getting awful extreme here in many posts. I can only think it is because the election is so close.

Nothing at all you say... it's difficult to respond to that. At first I started going and linking to all the articles on the web I could find about things that the Bush administration has been trying to do, but then I figured I was wasting my time.

I mean you have to know Bush has labeled them as part of the Axis of Evil in his SOTU, you have to know we have caught them shipping Scuds, you have to know we have tried to hold multi-lateral talks... you have to know that we have even used China to help isolate them.

The list goes on and on if one cares to look at it...

Maybe, it would be more constructive and accurate if we just agreed that the Bush administration has not yet brought about the results that we would all like to see wrt NK. I will gladly acknowledge that.

Which given 4 years vs. Clinton's 8 years of policy failure wrt to NK seems atleast reasonable.

Let's remember who we are dealing with... Clinton negotiated in good faith with NK. NK did not negotiate in good faith.

Just an idea... maybe the NK policy isn't really Bush's failure... just maybe the failure is in NK's leadership who aren't negotiating in good faith. Maybe, the only way to deal with this guy is to take him out.

Is that what is being suggested?

Let's sum up... Clinton tried to negotiate in good faith... it failed.

Bush has tried to isolate them with another coalition of the willing (China, Japan and South Korea). It hasn't worked that well either. It remains to be seen whether it will actually fail.

No peice of paper is going to be worth crap with this guy... he's not going to give us full access like South Africa did. He will play the game Hussein played.

That's the real world we live in.


"I do, of course, endorse the general approach of trying negotiations. Nothing you have said shows why you think that this would have been a worse approach than the one Bush has followed."

Are you saying Bush hasn't tried negotiations. If so I just don't see how you can honestly say that... how can you deny that Bush has not tried to negotiate.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United States and North Korea will meet face to face for the first time in over six months, holding multilateral talks in Beijing next week, according to an Bush administration official.

http://www.cnn.com/2003/WORLD/asiapcf/east/04/16/nkorea.talks/index.html


Maybe, they haven't negotiated in the way that you would like them to, but the effort has clearly been made.

Relevant article by Matthew Yglesias. He's right about about everything except the idea that Alanis Morissette references are the best way to get the point across.

Y'all will be amused as the white house press corps smacks">http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2004/09/20040913.html">smacks poor scotty around.

To wit:
"Q What have you guys done to make North Korea any less of a threat? Aren't they as much of a threat now as they --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that failed bilateral approach is the wrong way to go. What we did was the President got all the other nations in the region engaged in sending a clear message to North Korea that it needs to end its -- that it needs to abandon its nuclear ambitions. All five countries in the region are sending a clear message to North Korea, and they're all saying that they want a nuclear-free -- nuclear weapons-free peninsula.

Q Scott, where is that getting you?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we're continuing to make progress through the six-party talks. Those talks are ongoing. We expect that another round of talks will be coming up. And now, for the first time, you have all those nations in the neighborhood actively engaged --

Q Right, but that's not a new concept. The point is, you don't have any tangible progress.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- in a solution -- what this President is doing is confronting all the threats we face. And there are different strategies for confronting different threats. But we are pursuing a plan that will lead to the dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear weapons program, not a freeze.

Q Besides talk, name one piece of progress that you've made.

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?

Q Besides talk, name one piece of progress --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we've put forward, now, a dismantlement plan in the last round of talks. We're waiting on North Korea's response to those talks."

Praktike, thank you for illustrating exactly what I'm talking about. North Korea chooses not to respond--clearly Bush's fault.

Don't be silly. It's obviously Clinton's fault. Remember, Bush is not responsible for anything he doesn't do directly, but Clinton is responsible for everything that happened under his watch.

Whoops, except the stock market. That should read 'everything bad that happened under his watch', up to and including the terribly ineffective neutering of Iraq, his inability to master North Korea, and the dastardly imperialist ending of ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia.

"Don't be silly. It's obviously Clinton's fault. Remember, Bush is not responsible for anything he doesn't do directly, but Clinton is responsible for everything that happened under his watch."

Uhh, ok. I'm not sure where that came from. So let me change it into the form of a question.

Why is it Bush's fault when North Korea fails to accept proposals?

Furthermore,

What proposals do you think are likely to be acceptable to North Korea?

Why is it Bush's fault when North Korea fails to accept proposals?

Because he's crippled his State Department's credibility and international influence, overextended our troops in Iraq to where Lil Kim knows an invasion option would mighty difficult, and had his minions pooh-pooh the diplomatic efforts of Clinton so publically that NK would naturally assume they don't believe a diplomatic solution is really what we're interested in?

Just a few ideas...

Excellent Edward. Now, why did Clinton's diplomatic effort vis-a-vis North Korea fail since he had none of those problems? Or do you count building nuclear weapons after negotiating a deal not to a policy success?

You asked why Bush failed. I offered some possible explanations. I didn't realize you were suggesting it's an impossible task.

However, a proposal that's unattractive should not be submitted at all. It IS Bush's job (Powell's actually but...) to SELL the proposal...not to just assert there's something wrong with Kim for not accepting it. If he's not interested that's because the proposal or the sales pitch was not good enough.

It's not a matter of Kim coming around to our view just because diplomacy's too difficult.

"It's not a matter of Kim coming around to our view just because diplomacy's too difficult."

No it is a matter of Kim not coming around to our view because he prefers his own. It is a matter of diplomacy not being the same as a magic wand.

It is a matter of Bush not making progress on a problem which is drastically more complex (because of the presence of nuclear weapons) than when it was Clinton's problem. I only mention Clinton because he is presumed by those on your side to have enormous diplomatic skills. He couldn't solve the problem back when it was easier.

My problem with this debate is that too many people have magical expectations of diplomacy. When your goals are incompatible and you have no leverage, diplomacy does not work. North Korea wants to build and have nuclear weapons. We don't want North Korea to build and have nuclear weapons. The goals are incompatible. The leverage we have available is threats of war, withholding aid, and getting China to apply pressure by withholding aid. You don't like #1, you criticize #2, and China is not yet willing to do #3.

My problem with this debate is that too many people have magical expectations of diplomacy. When your goals are incompatible and you have no leverage, diplomacy does not work. North Korea wants to build and have nuclear weapons. We don't want North Korea to build and have nuclear weapons. The goals are incompatible. The leverage we have available is threats of war, withholding aid, and getting China to apply pressure by withholding aid. You don't like #1, you criticize #2, and China is not yet willing to do #3.

I assume by "you" you mean "one." I've never commented on this in so much detail.

I think you underestimate diplomacy, however, but we may never agree on this.

I think that too many people have magical expectations of war (the fact that we're nearly constantly in one tells me they don't resolve that much), and if we worked anywhere near as hard (or spent as much money) on diplomacy as we do on defense, we'd have a better landscape on which to make some real comparisons there...unfortunately, we don't have that, though, so I'll respond with what I believe is going on.

NK doesn't need nukes...no one is really threatening them with extinction, and they don't seem to be planning to launch an attack. NK wants nukes. And that's most likely so they can use them as a bargaining chip for resources. Either way, they CAN be talked out or bargained out of building them. Or Kim's just mad and we're screwed.

Assuming Kim's not mad though, Bush has painted himself into a corner by calling NK part of the Axis of Evil and stating he won't "reward" them. He's handicapped himself, left no room for politically wise public compromise, and still you want to place all the blame on Kim that the negotiations aren't going well. His earlier rhetoric was a gambit he lost. Time to own up and get back to the much harder work that non-b-movie characters call reality.

Diplomacy is partly based on a reserve good faith and credit. If you squander that part of it, you have to take the necessary time to build it back up again. Or you'd better be offering something substantial (and something desired). If you're calling your opponent a tyrant in the press, you'd better have a big carrot to offer him behind the scenes.

I believe Kim will settle for what most dictators want, a facade of respectibility and cold hard cash (or resources, if you will). If we give it to him, he'll likely squander the cash and try to reconstitute his nukes programs when he's broke again, but how much does that cost versus your option #1?

"Why reach for hypotheticals? We could be actively propping up one of the most ruthless and oppressive regimes in the world WHILE they built more nuclear weapons so that they could more effectively threaten us later. Which is precisely what happened."

I agree. We must all work as hard as we can to turn out of power the listless and blind regime in power in the U. S. that has allowed this.

welcome back Mr. Farber!!! lovely...just lovely.

"The leverage we have available is threats of war, withholding aid, and getting China to apply pressure by withholding aid."

How would this list have differed in 1998?

"You don't like #1, you criticize #2, and China is not yet willing to do #3."

How would these responses have differed in 1998? #1 would have been even less likely, given the hippy dominance of the pre-9/11 world and all that and #3 would have faced an even more totalitarian and intractable China. #2 has already proven ineffective. Why would it have worked then?

In the meantime, Bush has neutered our ability to engage in #1 by playing inverse dominoes in Messopotamia, if the reputations are accurate Bush/Powell is totally incapable of maneuvering something like #3 (and certainly hasn't managed anything like it yet), and #2 is still ineffective.

So while the gap between best-possible and worst-possible effort in this matter seems pretty narrow, I think it's safe to say Bush is snugly against the latter margin, having apparently dealt away all the leverage Clinton left him with (Unofficial Carry Water for the Big Dog Day is not yet over) with nothing to show for it.

Blue: you are of course right that Bush has had talks. I meant the emphasis to be on "tried", as in "seriously tried", but that's not what I wrote, and you're right to call me on it.

However, I do think that using the proposal that one's negotiating partner give up everything of importance as a precondition for talks indicates a certain lack of seriousness about one's effort, as do some of the other things I cited in the original post.

I never said that the current crisis was not North Korea's fault. What I was talking about was the distinct question whether Bush responded well; I take it that while he is obviously not responsible for what Kim Jong Il does, he is responsible for what he and his administration do.

"However, I do think that using the proposal that one's negotiating partner give up everything of importance as a precondition for talks indicates a certain lack of seriousness about one's effort"

Can you show me that this is what the administration is trying to accomplish? Make them give up everything of importance. We haven't even demanded his resignation, yet. Bush asked Hussein to step down in order to avoid war. I don't think we have really gotten to the point of him giving up everything of importance.

But let's assume that your statement is accurate, it could just as well indicate the opposite of your conclusion.

It could easily be interpreted that we are so damned serious about some issues that we aren't even willing to talk unless you shape up.

Uhmmm... I've seen my Mom use that tactic with my Dad. I can attest to its effectiveness and seriousness.

However, if we back up a bit from the extreme statement "giving up everything of importance" to Bush "has defined the most important issues as non-negotiable" this would really emphasize our seriousness with the issues at hand.

It truly depends on what the issues of importance are... not how important they are to your adversary. If NK holds a particular issue that is non-negotiable and that would defeat our end objective what good is the negotiation. Talking for the sake of talking sounds counter productive to me.

To me you are suggesting that we give up the one aspect of the negotiations that would have the biggest impact... multi-lateral negotiations. (I may be reading too much into your comments.) If we can't have that, then we don't have jack. If we can't get China's support in multi-lateral talks, then we've got nothing anyway. We can send all the inspectors in the world to NK, but if his neighbors don't isolate him also, then we have only wasted our time.

Hence, there is nothing to talk about... only action to take.


Sorry, Blue: this must just be my day for not being clear. I was referring to something I mentioned in the original post: namely, the Bush administration's insistence (for several months) that North Korea had to completely dismantle its nuclear program as a precondition for talks. Not as a result we were aiming to achieve in those talks, but as a precondition for talking at all.

"I was referring to something I mentioned in the original post: namely, the Bush administration's insistence (for several months) that North Korea had to completely dismantle its nuclear program as a precondition for talks."

Sounds like a tactic to me... not a lack of seriousness.

"I was referring to something I mentioned in the original post: namely, the Bush administration's insistence (for several months) that North Korea had to completely dismantle its nuclear program as a precondition for talks. Not as a result we were aiming to achieve in those talks, but as a precondition for talking at all."

That is a direct response to the fact the North Korea claims that it cannot be a party to negotiations until we have signed a non-agression pact.

It is meta-negotiation.

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