Dohiyi Mir
    In Which NTodd Says His Peace

Sunday, September 14, 2003
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What To Do About N. Korea

Michael O'Hanlon at the Brookings Institution has this to say:

The current situation is at an impasse...a new idea is needed. The Bush administration's proposal, which demands broad concessions from North Korea, especially on the nuclear weapons front, without offering any concrete incentives in return and which resists bilateral negotiations with Pyongyang, is probably not that new idea. It stands little chance of convincing Pyongyang to change course. Coercion is unlikely to bring about North Korea's collapse or to convince Pyongyang to change its policy quickly enough to prevent a major nuclear crisis in Northeast Asia. Furthermore, this approach elicits little support from key U.S. security partners in the region. South Korea under the Roh government certainly prefers diplomatic engagement over coercion, and although Japan has recently become tougher by stopping North Korean shipping and considering tighter economic sanctions, it still wants to avoid a military crisis that risks war on the Korean peninsula.

Aiming for a larger bargain in which more is offered to North Korea but more is also demanded in return risks little except a bit of money. On the upside, it has the potential to break the current impasse in Northeast Asia, just as broad visions or road maps have guided other recent peace negotiations in the Balkans and the Middle East (with many obvious limitations and setbacks, but some real successes to date as well). The grand bargain approach can benefit both sides. The United States and its allies can reduce the DPRK threat across the board and begin to turn that police state away from a policy of reflexive confrontation and blackmail, while North Korea can gain greater levels of assistance over time and perhaps can begin to reform its economy in the way China did...

This jibes with other things I've been reading and what I've been saying on this blog: we need to constructively engage the North Koreans and stop trying to coerce them to drop their nuke program. Clearly the DPRK's possession of nuclear weapons is a bad thing, but again we must look at root causes of the crisis and see how we can help, rather than threaten. North Korea would likely be more willing to work with us in a cooperative environment.

This doesn't mean just "being nice", but altering our heavy-handed, bellicose approach could break the logjam and lead to greater longterm results. That won't be easy, especially for an administration that views concessions and compromise to be signs of weakness and retreat. However, it's not a bad thing to change paths when you're implementing failed policy.

I hate to boil this down to a pop reference, but I'm reminded of the standoff scene at the end of Reservoir Dogs. Everybody's got their guns pointed at each other, and they all end up dead. This script could use a rewrite.


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A non-violent, counter-dominant, left-liberal, possibly charismatic, quasi anarcho-libertarian Quaker's take on politics, volleyball, and other esoterica.

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