Saturday, June 28, 2008

Appeasement in North Korea

When President Bush addressed members of the Knesset on May 15, he compared those that seek a diplomatic tact to foreign policy to Neville Chamberlain and Nazi appeasers.

Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: "Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided." We have an obligation to call this what it is -- the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.

Yet, a little more than a month later, Bush stood outside the White House to announce his administration's success in appeasing the third member of the 'Axis of Evil' regarding its nuclear ambitions.

First, I'm issuing a proclamation that lifts the provisions of the Trading with the Enemy Act with respect to North Korea.

And secondly, I am notifying Congress of my intent to rescind North Korea's designation as a state sponsor of terror in 45 days. The next 45 days will be an important period for North Korea to show its seriousness of its cooperation. We will work through the six-party talks to develop a comprehensive and rigorous verification protocol. And during this period, the United States will carefully observe North Korea's actions -- and act accordingly.

Only a political system in which party affiliation trumps logical consistency could such an agreement be met with any reaction other than indignation at the glaring hypocrisy. In addition to portraying the Democrats asking for discussions with Iran prior to bombing the Islamic republic as appeasers, Republicans have made a career of mocking the Clinton administration's negotiations with the very same North Korea in the mid-90s. Colin Powell was once forced to apologize for suggesting that the Clinton negotiations were a good start, although unsuccessful. One would be hard-pressed to find many differences between those two negotiations, but Stephen Hadley did his best to dissemble.

This has been a pretty ongoing process. Let me say a little bit about the -- this is the '94 framework agreement under the prior administration. I would say that was a good-faith effort to deal with this problem, and -- but it went awry. And unbeknownst to that administration, while they were moving forward under the framework agreement to deal with North Korea's plutonium program we discovered North Korea was pursuing a uranium enrichment program, which is one of two paths to get the nuclear material you need for a bomb, either through the plutonium path, uranium enrichment.

He continues to detail some of the differences between the negotiations, but in doing so admits that the efforts to negotiate were a good effort despite the fact that "the North Koreans did not want them to succeed." Such a statement, of course, is prefaced on the idea that this time around, the North Koreans have abandoned all attempts to obfuscate the true level of its cooperation, something any trace of cynicism would not allow.

The only safety net the Bush administration has given itself is the 45 days between now and Korea's removal from the state sponsor list, but one assumes that the sham republic could stay straight for a month and a half, regardless of its true intentions.

Even the recent declarations by North Korea, the impetus to the moves, fall well short of 'forthright' and 'open.' Besides coming six months after the December 31 deadline established last October, the declaration still fails to acknowledge Pyongyang's uranium enrichment program. This program was the same program that Hadley pointed to as part of the breakdown of the Clinton-era agreements, which should at least instill some caution regarding the most recent developments.

Regardless of the outcome, the looming question still remains. Namely, how can a President decry diplomacy in no uncertain terms in May and then blissfully detail the outcome of his own diplomacy in June? If his central suggestion in Israel was that agreements are often made disingenuously by one party, then there is nothing about his own concessions which suggest that same criterion does not apply, especially given the same party--North Korea--has shown a propensity for backing out of previous deals, deals which Bush's own administration has decried as failed diplomacy and "the false comfort of appeasement." The only difference I can discern? The 'R' next to the name.

Of course, not all administration officials were pleased with the developments, especially Diplomat-in-Chief Dick Cheney, a point which may have more import than a first glance would indicate. On Thursday's Countdown, former NSC staffer Hillary Mann Leverett floated the idea that apart from the concessions with North Korea, the Bush administration may have to make some within its own ranks.

Internally, inside the U.S. government, my concern is, that the—for lack of a better word, hard-liners epitomized, I think, by Vice President Cheney, they don‘t ever give away nothing, something for nothing.

I think in terms of their agreeing with this deal on North Korea today, we could very well see and my concern is, that we could very well see a more militaristic push on dealing with the Iranians.

In other words, despite pushing the North Korea deal as the successful end to diplomacy over militarism, the Bush administration will still pursue, possibly with even more force, a militaristic angle to Iran in a quid pro quo for its own officials. It can be safely assumed, I think, that this level of logical inconsistency will be met with limp credulity, as most hypocritical elements of American politics are.

There are stark differences, though, the most glaring of which being that North Korea actually possesses nuclear weapons capability while Iran does not. While the IAEA has expressed concern over the forthrightness of the Iranian regime, it has given no indication that it believes the Iranians are pursuing weaponization, despite claims to the contrary by surrogates and spokesman such as Sean Hannity, who apparently is privy to classified information no one else is. The most recent NIE released by the State Department declared that Iran hasn't been pursuing such a program for years, but such troubling realities can never be allowed to stand in the way of a good war.


Proof President Bush Has a Sense of Irony, June 7
Israel Engages in Appeasement, May 21

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