Chamberlain Watch: We Have A Winner!

I have to admit I was worried there for a little bit that conservatives would actually resist the temptation to draw a parallel between the release of the journalists from North Korea and Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler in World War II. More tomorrow, but please rest assured, all is still right in the world of conservative wingnuts. This comes from the foreign policy experts at Investor’s Business Daily.

Far from private, this has White House fingerprints all over it. As the AP noted: “State media said Clinton apologized on behalf of the women and relayed President Barack Obama’s gratitude.”

Groveling, anyone? Kim now knows the current U.S. leader can be blackmailed — if he didn’t know it before. That’s what made President Clinton so appropriate for this mission. It was from Clinton that Kim first learned this lesson.

In 1994, recall, Clinton sent former President Carter — see a pattern? — to North Korea to negotiate that country’s denuclearization. Carter returned with a deal similar in its sycophancy and cynicism to the one Neville Chamberlain brought back from Munich.

This sets the bar pretty high. Thanks, Investors Business Daily! Come down and collect your prize!

Chamberlain Watch

Neville Chamberlain is the most relatable figure in history.

Neville Chamberlain is the most relatable figure in history.

Everybody knows conservatives love to compare virtually anything to Neville Chamberlain’s ill-fated appeasement of Hitler, so I’ll be trying to keep an eye for the first conservative to relate Munich to the release of Euna Lee and and Laura Ling. It’s an obvious comparison, really — both instances included talking. As it happens, we’re not quite there yet, but we’re getting closer in this “interview” between Kathryn Jean Lopez and Dick Morris over at the The Corner.

KJL: What do you make of President Clinton’s trip to North Korea?

DM: It was wrong to do it. This trip gives North Korea the ability to act like the good guy in world public opinion by releasing people they shouldn’t have seized in the first place. Considering their record, bomb explosions, and missile tests, we should not be in the business of letting North Korea score propaganda victories.

Whether or not you might be open to the possibility that this was in fact a propaganda win for the United States — after all, the North Koreans released imprisoned journalists with only so much as a “private” visit from Bill Clinton — what exactly is Morris insinuating here? That it would better to leave American journalists in forced labor camps than to let Pyongyang “score propaganda victories?” Or maybe we should have just invaded North Korea? I don’t know.

Kim Jong, Ill

Sorry, had to get that pun off my chest. But seriously, according to reports, Kim Jong-Il was diagnosed with a fatal form of pancreatic cancer following a stroke he had in August of 2008.

SEOUL, South Korea — The North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, who suffered a stroke last August, was also found to have “life-threatening” pancreatic cancer around the same time, a South Korean cable television network reported on Monday.

The network, YTN, a cable news channel, quoted unidentified Chinese and South Korean intelligence sources for the report, which was made by YTN’s Beijing-based correspondent.
If this is true, it certainly helps explain some of North Korea’s more erratic behavior of late as various factions, most notably the military, will have been jockeying for the reigns of succession.

More Reasons Not to Attack North Korea

I promise I’m going to try and avoid simply cherrypicking Henry’s posts, but I did want to add a little bit to his insightful bit on North Korea, which focuses on some of the diplomatic fallout that would ensue from a horrifically misguided attack of North Korea. As for military reasons, people tend to forget that any military action would likely be met with the destruction of Seoul, which is within artillery range of the North Korean border.

Beyond the calamitous impact this would have on South Korea, North Korea’s eventual fall would also create a simply massive humanitarian problem. North Korea is home to a distressingly malnourished and impoverished populace, and going to war without a plan for how to address this situation would make invading Iraq look a case study in responsibility.

So, to sum things succintly, military action would harm alliances, wreak havoc on the civilian population of an ally, and commit invaders to a reconstruction effort. Terrible, terrible idea.

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Quick Thoughts on North Korea

Joe Klein and Steve Walt both have sober and rational takes on how to view the North Korean nuclear test, which has gotten a tad sensationalized in the media. Just a quick note on something Klein says here:

1. First, some perspective: the fact that North Korea has a bomb and missiles isn’t nearly as significant as the fact that it has plutonium it can sell to terrorists, who might actually use it. The plutonium should be the focus of our policy; the tests are just window-dressing.

As Klein points out later in the post, North Korea has used its nuclear program to extract food, aid, and energy from the international community in the past, and it’s a good bet this test is in a similar vein. As such, I’m really not so sure of the danger posed by North Korea selling plutonium to terrorists. As I understand it, making a nuclear weapon isn’t exactly easy, whether you have weaponized plutonium or not. Secondly, no matter how much money terrorists have to pay for plutonium, you can bet that the interntional community has more. Which is to say that Klein is probably right to suggest North Korea poses the largest threat to the U.S. as a plutonium broker, but that this scenario is pretty remote, so it’s really not worth all the histrionics that North Korean defiance usually provokes. The bottom line is that North Korea’s rather convenient villainry notwithstanding, the actual danger to U.S. interests is both relatively limited and unrealistic. Obviously, nonproliferation is a worthy goal in and of its own right, and North Korean disarmament should be pursued, but there’s not much reason to view the North Korean issue as one unique to the United States.

Red Herrings

The Boston Globe reports on a new White House official that will coordinate WMD non-proliferation efforts across myriad government agencies dealing with the threat. The position is timed with the publishing of a grim report from the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation Wednesday, but it’s worth pointing out this position existed under Bush, he just refused to staff it for fear of subjecting it to Senate approval (thanks, George! Country first!). Anyway, this is all well and good, but it strikes me as sort of missing the point.

The 160-page report…calls for Obama to make it a top priority to stop nuclear weapons programs in Iran and North Korea, using diplomacy backed by credible threat of force; to beef up international efforts to slow the spread of nuclear weapons; and to work with Pakistan to eliminate terrorist safe havens and secure nuclear and biological materials in that country.

Without getting into the problems with “diplomacy backed by a credible threat of force”, it should be noted that Iran already exercises considerable influence not because of it’s conventional military but because of the power afforded by its de facto control of much of the region’s oil supply. So long as oil remains a key catalyst of the international economy, Iran will wield substantial power, nuke or not. North Korea has the capability to produce nuclear weapons (unlike Iran at the moment), but we don’t worry too much about North Korea because it’s incredibly poor and has little strategic importance. I understand the logic, and non-proliferation is quite important, but I feel it’s important not to miss the forest for the trees.


The U.S. decides to remove North Korea from the terrorism blacklist.

The U.S. says North Korea has agreed to every nuclear inspection demand the Bush administration has sought, so the North is being dropped from a U.S. terrorism blacklist.[…]

[…]North Korea will allow atomic experts to take samples and conduct forensic tests at all of its declared nuclear facilities and undeclared sites, on mutual consent. The North will permit experts to verify it has told the truth about transfers of nuclear technology and an alleged uranium program.

This is how diplomacy works…good foreign policy recognizes that a positive-sum approach is far more productive than zero-sum, Bush Doctrine in the “you mean his worldview?” sense approach.