Ambassador John Bolton has a great column in today's Wall Street Journal. Trick or treat time for Bush on the North Korean Nuclear weapons program, it seems. Or not, sounds like we blew it and it's almost too late.
Bolton's new book lays out in great detail how bad and ineffective our North Korean policy has been, how the NORKs got all nuked up and how we let it happen. Carrots and all. At this point one has to wonder if it's the inability to give up on bad policy or just plain fookin stupidity that will cost lives at some point. Big time. We can see it now with the NORKs nuking up Syria.
It's time we took a Boltonian approach to foreign policy. BTW, he will be appearing on my show, Atlas on the Air, November 5th (his book hits the stores November 6th.) We will, of course, discuss that book and its explosive revelations. You gotta love him for keeping America in the loop.
The column is PAID subscribers only so I am running it :)
For President Bush, I can only hope he re-reads his first term speeches on North Korea.
BUSH'S NORTH KOREA MELTDOWN John Bolton, Wall Street Journal (hat tip Ed Lasky)
Facts about Israel's Sept. 6 raid on a suspected nuclear facility in Syria continue to emerge -- albeit still incompletely, especially regarding the involvement of the Democratic People's Republic of (North) Korea. Important questions remain, such as whether its personnel were present when the attack occurred, and whether they had been working to clone the Yongbyon nuclear facility in the Syrian desert since the North Korean commitment in February (the latest in a long series) to give up its nuclear programs.
Seemingly unperturbed, however, the Bush administration apparently believes North Korea is serious this time, unlike all the others. The concessions continue to flow in essentially only one direction, crossing repeated "red lines" Washington had drawn.
These include: (1) the humiliating U.S. collapse on North Korea's access to international financial markets; (2) accepting a mere "freeze" of Yongbyon (misleadingly called "disablement" by the administration) rather than real dismantlement; (3) failing to ensure enforcement of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1718's sanctions, imposed after Pyongyang's nuclear test; and (4) the State Department's palpable hunger to remove North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism and the Trading With the Enemy Act's prohibitions, and re-establish full diplomatic relations.
The Bush administration's most serious concession is forthcoming, in which the U.S. will accept, with little or no concrete verification, Pyongyang's imminent declaration that it actually has very little nuclear activity other than what we have long known about at Yongbyon.
Even critics from the left now worry that State is conceding far more than it should. Jack Pritchard, the special envoy for negotiations with North Korea who resigned during Secretary of State Colin Powell's tenure because our policy was too unyielding, said recently that North Korean officials think "they can ask for and get what they want from the Bush administration because [it] is so eager to demonstrate a diplomatic achievement." Mr. Pritchard concluded, "The North Koreans are rubbing their hands together with glee."
Our current Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, and other partisans of the six-party talks respond to all internal administration complaints or criticisms by asking, "What is your alternative? What would you have us do otherwise, risk war on the Peninsula?" Herewith, some responses:
First, it is simply inapposite to judge every tactical decision -- to accede or stand firm on this or that subsidiary point -- by forecasting the complete demise of the entire six-party process if North Korean sensibilities are ruffled by occasionally saying "no." Indeed, showing tactical toughness can frequently enhance the long-term prospects for success, not reduce them. Sadly, however, toughness at the tactical or strategic level is no longer the hallmark of our North Korea policy. Weakness is the watchword.
Second, before it is too late, President Bush has to draw a deep line in the sand on verification. The State Department has yet to say anything publicly about how verification will be accomplished, especially on the North's uranium-enrichment efforts, giving rise to the suspicion that our negotiators don't really have a clue what they mean. The idea of North Korea for years engaged in cloning Yongbyon in Syria (or anywhere else -- Burma, for instance) should be a fire bell in the night. President Reagan's mantra of "trust but verify" in the Cold War days didn't offend anyone, and if it offends Kim Jong Il, that should tell us something. If anything, however, with North Korea, President Bush should reverse Reagan's order: Let's see real verification, and leave trust until later.
Third, consider the severely negative effect these repeated concessions have on our relations with Japan and South Korea. President Bush used to stress that this was a "six-party" process, but now all of the action is bilateral. The State Department's lust to remove North Korea from the terrorism list is having a profoundly negative impact on our treaty ally, Japan, the nation most directly threatened by Pyongyang's nuclear capability. Thomas Schieffer, the Bush administration's ambassador to Japan, reportedly complained recently to the president that he was "cut out of the process." State should explain why it trusts North Korea more than our ambassador to Tokyo, and why we ignore Tokyo's concerns over North Korea's kidnappings of Japanese citizens.
South Korea is facing a critical presidential election in December. The last thing Washington should do is pursue concessionary policies that might enhance the prospects for a new president who follows the same appeasement line as incumbent President Roh Moo-hyun. If South Korea can discard Mr. Roh's rose-colored glasses, our overall prospects will improve considerably, but our unquestioning embrace of North Korea could have exactly the wrong impact in the South's volatile politics.
Fourth, and most importantly, the right response to the North Korean threat is to apply pressure steadily and consistently, rather than hastily releasing it. After its nuclear test, Pyongyang faced growing pressure from the cumulative impact of Chinese anger, U.N. Security Council sanctions, ongoing implementation of the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), and the U.S. Treasury's continuing financial squeeze.
There was a plan, of sorts, and it was producing some evidence of success. Instead of squeezing harder, such as by encouraging refugee flows out of the North, the administration did a U-turn. It let a desperate North Korea up off the mat, provided tangible economic support for this appallingly authoritarian regime, allowed Kim Jong Il to relegitimize himself, and undercut the PSI world-wide.
The icing on Kim's cake is that for years -- before, during and after the 2005 and 2007 "agreements" -- North Korea was happily violating its commitments. Instead of focusing China on solving the problem of the regime it has propped up for so long, we absolved China, sidelined Japan, inserted ourselves and started life-support for the administrators of the world's largest prison camp.
This will perpetuate the North Korean problem, not solve it. Any by perpetuating Kim Jong Il's regime, and its continuing threat, it is actually the State Department's policy that poses the greater risk to international peace and security. This is true not only for Pyongyang, but for other would-be proliferators watching our ongoing failure to stop North Korea.
The debate within the Bush administration is not yet over, although time is short before irreparable harm is done. Growing restiveness in Congress among Republicans and Democrats may increasingly become a factor. For President Bush, I can only hope he re-reads his first term speeches on North Korea.