TCS Daily

Do You Have a Better Idea?

By Gregory Scoblete - February 16, 2007 12:00 AM

Conservatives frequently complain that when it comes to Iraq, all the Democrats want to do is to criticize without offering any useful suggestions.

Yet now that the Bush administration has reached a tentative agreement with North Korea, it's conservatives who are complaining without offering any useful suggestions. The Washington Post reported that the complaints have come from both within the administration, in the form of deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams, and without, from former UN Ambassador John Bolton and editorials in The National Review and the Wall Street Journal.

The sum total of the criticism amounts to this: the U.S. got a raw deal.

To which one must reply - in relation to what?

Conservative critics are almost certainly correct when they complain that the current agreement will not disarm the North. I've written before that it's extraordinarily unlikely that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) will disarm through a negotiated framework.

But that only gets you so far. It's quite easy to point out all the manifest flaws in any parchment agreement with the duplicitous regime of Kim Jong Il. It is quite another thing to propose a workable alternative. If the current deal stinks, where is the better solution?

The truth is, there isn't one.

If you need proof, just trace the arc of the Bush administration's North Korea policy. Did they consent to the so-called Six Party Agreement because they're really crypto-Clintonistas just waiting for the chance to give the store away to a beguiling dictator? Or did the difficult realities and narrow options of the North Korean standoff finally prevail?

The Bush administration took office deeply skeptical of President Clinton's North Korean diplomacy. As early as March 2001, President Bush was publicly questioning whether the North Koreans were living up to their previous agreements. The following year, in October, the administration would present the North Koreans with evidence of a clandestine uranium enrichment program in violation of the 1994 Agreed Framework's pledge for a "nuclear free" Korean Peninsula. The North responded by booting International Atomic Energy inspectors from its facilities and restarting its plutonium enrichment.

The administration was then faced with a choice, the same one, in fact, that it still faces. It could do nothing, insisting that all prior agreements be met before negotiations resumed, and allow the North to build-out its nuclear stockpile and long-range missile arsenal. It could attempt to impede or even reverse their progress through a negotiated settlement. Or they could attempt more coercive measures to unseat Kim Jong Il.

The administration settled on regional diplomacy, in the form of the Six Party talks with the North's neighbors. This approach contained two essential recognitions. The first was that nuclear weapons and the North Korean regime have become indelibly intertwined. Nukes keep the DPRK alive. They deter a U.S. attack and provide it with a convenient means to blackmail its neighbors. Any policy designed to completely disarm the regime must grapple with this symbiotic relationship.

As NRO's James Robbins, who was dismissive of this week's deal, correctly observed "the only way substantive and permanent change will come to the Korean peninsula is with the end of Kim Jong Il's regime. Any agreement we reach with Pyongyang only serves to push that date further into the future."

That's true, but that's also the nub of the problem. Which brings us to the second insight implicit in the Six Party talks: there is simply no way to "end" the Kim Jong Il regime without the active cooperation of China and South Korea. These two nations are not only most responsible for the regime's continued survival but they are the most vulnerable to its reprisals and the consequences of its collapse.

For the Six Party gambit to work, the United States had to convince China and South Korea that a nuclear North Korea was more of a danger to them than a destabilized one.

The administration has thus far failed to make that case. From the perspective of China and South Korea the current standoff, however uneasy, has been manageable. If they were to ratchet up the economic pressure on the North, as some want, Kim Jong Il might lash out with his considerable conventional arsenal. Even if the DPRK were to implode with a whimper and not a bang, both China and South Korea fear the consequences of a leaderless North Korea. There could be a sudden and massive wave of refugees cascading into both countries. Considering how politically explosive the much slower influx of Mexicans has been in the U.S., this is not a concern to be scoffed at.

They are also concerned about the North's massive army, which presumably would be instrumental in ushering Kim Jong Il out of the door. What becomes of them? What becomes of the North's nuclear arsenal?

So China and South Korea have looked these options in the eye and concluded that they are worse than living uncomfortably adjacent a nuclear North Korea. The question for the U.S. is what to do about that. Absent a blatant and serious provocation, the U.S. cannot simply overrule them and declare war on the North (thus putting South Korea's civilian population at risk) and we have just about exhausted, from our end, sanctions and embargoes.

Two administrations with dramatically different temperaments have now faced these options and concluded that some form of negotiated settlement is the least worst option available. Yes, the regime is untrustworthy and will break any accord it consents to. But if inspectors can be reinserted into the country, it will be difficult for the North to rapidly expand and improve upon its existing arsenal. If we cannot hope to stop or reverse the North's nuclear acquisition, we can at least impede it.

But what about Libya? Critics have positioned the North Korean deal in relation to the more favorable one we secured with Libya - which disarmed before receiving their carrots. Yet the two circumstances are in no way analogous. Libya's WMD program was not central to its survival in the way that the North Korean nuclear program is to the DPRK. The North had already demonstrated what it would do when presented with a demand to disarm first - increase its nuclear stockpile. There were also no powers like China or South Korea that would intercede on Libya's behalf and reward the country's defiance.

There is, though, plenty of room to question U.S. policy with regards to the nuclear standoff. For one, why is the United States still defending South Korea? The country has a GDP of $1.1 trillion with a strong, growing economy. Their army, fed by conscription, is quite large and capable. The country possesses the technical acumen to develop its own nuclear deterrent in short order. The same goes for Japan.

The logic of our deployment at the 38th parallel collapsed when the Berlin Wall fell. The North Koreans are no longer the menacing tip of a Communist spear threatening to engulf Asia but a "hermit kingdom" - dangerous, but isolated. The ideological battle that compelled the United States to defend South Korea is over - and we won.

Adjusting to this reality by withdrawing U.S. bases and defense commitments won't compel Kim Jong Il to lay down with the lambs, but it would transfer ownership of the problem to those nations most invested in the outcome.



George Bush's learning curve
Congratulations. After only six years of issuing threats and diddling around while the DPRK built their little bomb, the US has finally decided, again, on the Agreed Framework. This is real progress.

Condi, on television, was priceless. On presiding over her first foreign policy victory ever, she was positively creaming, with little squeals of glee. I think I saw a canary feather at the corner of her mouth.

Oh well-- it's a victory for common sense, and I shouldn't deny them their day in the sun. All too soon they'll have the chance to screw something else up.

2 items - Is a bad deal better than no deal? - Is this a bad deal?
I don't agree with the author's starting premise that a bad deal is better than no deal.

The question is whether this deal is better than us continuing trying to contain NK AND to "convince China and South Korea that a nuclear North Korea was more of a danger to them than a destabilized one" (as the author rightly notes).

Further possible measures to make it more China and SK problem would be to start withdrawing our troops from the 38th parallel (as the author noted) AND to help Japan go nuclear. A nuclear Japan is definitely something that China and SK do not want.

Given that, I think this deal is worth a shot. To me there is very little downside. Since the deal is incremental, if NK does not allow us to verify each step, then the deal is finished.

A final note. I also think that the 1994 Clinton deal was worth a shot at the time. I do not blame Clinton for entering into the deal as this deal showed (again) how untrustworthy NK is. However, Clinton could have done more to acknowledge earlier that NK was not keeping its end of the deal.

ps - Clinton never should have involved Carter the Appeaser in the negotiations.

Yes, I have a better idea.
Keep the previous regime of sanctions and frozen assets going.

Sanctions fail largely for one reason: Some parties fail to abide by them. In the case of Iraq, much of Europe and Asia continued to trade with Iraq, or at least to engage in large-scale corruption through the UN's Oil-for-Kickbacks Program. The sanctions were unable to achieve their goals because of all of the aid the Iraqis recieved from these other nations. With these sanctions, we managed to get the DPRK's main trading partners, China and Russia, to sign on with us. Because they agreed to the sanctions, the DPRK was genuinely facing trouble and had to scramble back to the negotiating table.

Making payoffs to dictators NEVER works. In fact, we have a word for it: Appeasement. The President and Secretary of State could not be more wrong on this issue. We should not even begin to engage in talks until KJI agrees to get rid of his nukes, and allow inspections. Until then, no cash, no energy, no food. See how long Kim Jong-Il lasts when he can't get his Cognac and porno.

I tend towards Jefferson: "Millions for defense, and not one cent for tribute." If we pay a bribe once, we will have to do it again. Iran is asking for a similar deal now, should we talk with the chief terrorist nation and our real enemy in Iraq because it is cheaper than a war? The truth is that this strategy is only cheaper in the short term, in the long term, it will be infinitely more expensive in terms of national security and national standing in the world. Learn the lessons of Saddam Hussein and Adolf Hitler, do not accept this nonesense.

we should do as the DPRK does, death by a thousand little blows
send over a stealth bomber every month or so and drop EMP weapons on their electrical system, put them (ALL of them) in the dark in winter. mine their harbors by submarine.
knock down the rail bridges to china & russia mysteriously, NEVER let on that we are doing it.
Let him wonder if the chinese are doing it.
Lie to the rest of the world. deny deny deny. Learn SOMETHING from the liberals.

If it is done one little thing at a time, they will make sabre rattles but thats all.
Lil kim might have the hammer when it comes to holding seoul hostage but moving on SK means Lil Kims death and he knows it. He doesn't have a reloadable option, he has a suicide bomb strapped to his little a$$. If we let him think we are simply trying to make his life miserable instead of trying to take him over, he will NOT attack SK. He wants to live to drunken porn another day.

In truth hammering his electrical system would make him hoard the remaining jiuce for himself and slow his manufacturing abilities, it would leave his officer corp in the cold for months at a time, thus raising the possibility of a coup to the level where it's really likely to happen.

All the while we should be withdrawing our troops from Korea, since their "youths" want us to leave really badly it seems.

The USA needs to learn to use subterfuge as well as the other countries do, because we do not, we ALWAYS get the raw deal. ALWAYS, and it's getting old.

The last time NK made a deal with the US, they accepted all of the carrots offered, then went right ahead with their nuclear program.
The result was, they were better off, and the world was worse off, than if no deal had been made.

Why are we to believe that this time, NK will keep their word?

Why is this our problem?
I wish some foreign policy wonk out there would explain to me why the heck we have 40,000-plus troops in Korea. The South Koreans don't want us there. They've made that clear again and again. I say the time is long over-due for them and the Japanese to ante up and begin defending themselves. They certainly can afford to take care of their own neighborhood. The Chinese helped create the Northern monster and now should have to control it. Perhaps I'm just too dense, but for the life of me, I just don't get what it is we're doing there. Those troops could be better used in Afghanistan or Iraq. So, someone please explain.

So, beanie, you would have preferred that Bush ignore the fact that N. Korea was cheating on the last accord? Nice. No consequences to bad behavior. That works in your world, beanie?

What Bush did was let those bad boys know that cheating would have consequences. He also showd them that the world would impose at least some sanctions on them for their bad behavior. Now, they get another chance to try again. Just maintaining the status quo would have rewarded bad behavior. The North is worse off for it, ecomically, and maybe now will at least try to hide their cheating better, which, as the author asserts, will slow t them down. Better than nothing, and better than the situation when Bush got in office (and don't argue that the North has a bomb now, and didn't then--their cheating would still have led to a bomb, if only a little bit later).


A really good question...
Rush Limbaugh had a great idea: The Excrement List.

Any foriegn nation that starts bad-mouthing the USA or attacking us or our interests gets put on the list, and will not recieve any aid or assistance from us until we have seen a few years of good, pro-American behavior from them.

South Korea, which is filled with jackarses who have been attacking us for years deserves a spot on this list. So does most of Europe and the Middle East.

There is no reason to park our troops in South Korea, other than as a base to watch Russia and China. We have Japan for that, although I have to question our involvement there as well...

Giving this lunatic food and energy is only going to prolong his reign. After all, the vast majority of the aid will go to the armed forces. Furthermore, speed is essential. How long will it be before the nuclear and missile experience he has collected is shared with Iran , amongst other global nutcases?

Forcing a coup is the best way to get rid of the crazy little punk.

As a side note, I understand that we have a bomb that disperses fillaments that will short out phone and electrical wires. It might be a little bit more effective against an electrical/phone grid as primitive as the one in the DPRK. They may still be using vacuum tubes...

A 21st Century Neocon's Rebuttal To Roy
U.S. foreign policy with regard to North Korea has been essentially unchanged for over 50 years. Both Republican and Democrat administrations dealt with North Korea in about the same way. Getting cooperation from the North Korean dictatorship has always been either difficult or impossible. The current nuclear situation in North Korea exists, and the U.S. government could not prevent it.

so few on ANY public forum seem to understand tactics OR strategy
Even right-wingers that have their hearts in the right place dont seem to understand basic tactics or advanced strategy. They all seem fixated on communicating moral stances as if that means ANYTHING to immoral players.

The left is even worse, they are SO narsisistic that everything is about communicating their feelings to the rest of the world as if anyone outside of thier particular bubble gives a $hit.

Damned self-adsorbed people can't seems to remove themselves from the play and formulate a logical response to outside agression.

Of course most people in the west are un-aware Lil Kims agression has already reached USA shores in the form of a missle that landed in Alaska 2 years ago, a serious piece of hidden news.

There is more hidden news about Kim that should be all over the MSM since its sensational.

About 2 months before he attempted his last launches, he stole several entire trains from the chinese. Sent their crews home without their rides. REALLY pissed HU of China off.
This is only a small thing compared to what happened next. About 3 weeks after the train incident Kim got wind of a Chinses plot to get information from his officers. the Chinese had been paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to Kims generals & colonals to inform them of events inside DPRK, Kim got put to gether $300,000 and sent agents into CHina to buy the list of his bribed officers from a Chinese officer, he had ALL of his officers on the list killed that day. This wasn't enough, he sent james bond type agents into China to a Chinese military base right over the border to kidnap hte Chinese general in charge of the bribery opperation, they failed to get him or kill him BUT they DID kill a number of Chinese in the base in their escape which they made good over the border. Hu is REALLY pissed over this one.

Not one #@$%@$^ word in the news. Had to get this from stratfore. Whole list of stuff going on that you cant count on hearing from ANY public source, got to go private intell.

Especialy since our troops there give them childish expectations
Same as the EU's, the 50 year protection of big Uncle Sam has made the culture of korea childishly naive.

They need to pay the bills and worry how their elections are going to effect THEIR lives and foriegn policy instead of worring about OUR elections effecting their foriegn policy.

Responsability for their own fates would breed better allies, on both continants.

Oh lordy, they've got a bomb
"So, beanie, you would have preferred that Bush ignore the fact that N. Korea was cheating on the last accord? Nice. No consequences to bad behavior. That works in your world, beanie?"

You really ought to work on your attitude, Hob. That one's not very constructive.

Ronald Reagan made the obvious point: "Trust, but verify". Any problem we may have had with the last agreement was not in having made an agreement, but just in not doing a very good job of inspecting. You'd have to be a damn fool, dealing with people like these, not to do a decent inspection.

But it's only reasonable that if a poor nation needs an energy program and what they have is nuclear, if they agree to shut down the nuclear they're going to need something else. So why not give them some heating oil? We're rich, they're poor, it works for me.

Putting all this emotional spin on the issue-- who's being rewarded, who's being punished, etc-- to me is wrong headed and not success oriented. If you want things to work smoothly, let a good negotiator go to work on crafting win-win situations that favor all parties. And then when the deal is struck, hold up our end and insist they hold up their end. That's the way business people handle these things.

BTW that bomb they managed to build? A piece of crap. We could die laughing from weapons like that-- it's a cry for attention, nothing more.

A lesson to be learned
Not much of a rebuttal, actually. I agree with you. The DPRK has always been a testy, paranoid bunch. Maybe it's because we've always wanted to destroy them, and they're so much smaller than we are.

I think the lesson we can take away from this experience is that whenever we want to "teach them a lesson" or "get tough on them", or "show them who's boss" we don't get anywhere.

But when we treat them like rational human beings and craft a deal that has something in it for everyone, they readily sign the paper. Maybe there's a lesson in statecraft to be learned from this experience.

It's like gentling a dangerous dog. You don't get there by kicking him.

Very Interesting Info - do you have any confirming public sources at all?
Found the NK internal info you posted very interesting.

Nothing personal, but I am a little skeptical on something like this until some confirmation is found. I mean, if you are posting intell like this in a Post, then it surely must have been written about somewhere.

We don't trust them to keep their word - however deal could succeed
The probability that this deal will work (IMHO) is very low based on the past. However, to me there is little downside IF we keep to the terms as I've read about them.

Since it is incremental, if(when) NK reneges then the deal is over(suspended?) and no more "carrots" until they are in compliance again.

The deal would be another total failure IF we don't suspend the carrots immediately upon non-compliance on any terms by NK.

Forward bases a huge strategic advantage?
I'm not a military expert, but I would think that us having these forward bases in Asia, Europe, Middle East, Africa is a huge advantage to us compared to any other country.

I think that China is pouring so much money into Africa not just for the raw materials they are getting, but as an initial step to asking a few countries there for the rights to have forward bases.

Do the advantages of our forward bases over-ride the pissiness and backstabbing of SK and Old Europe? My initial thought is yes, but a reasoned arguement could convince me otherwise.

You want to talk about attitude? Reread your disgusting comments about Rice.

Disgusting comments
"You want to talk about attitude? Reread your disgusting comments about Rice."

All I said was "Condi, on television, was priceless. On presiding over her first foreign policy victory ever, she was positively creaming, with little squeals of glee. I think I saw a canary feather at the corner of her mouth."

What's wrong with that? Did you see her? It was true. She doesn't get many victories-- this one was actually her first. And she was crowing. Delicately, of course.

You and Dave have it right.
This is not a problem for the US. North Korea is NOT a threat with or without nuclear weapons. If South Korea or Japan is scared then they can build their own nuclear weapons.

The US foreign policy is costly and stupid. The US has managed to involve itself in every conflict in the world. The US citizens are getting tired of it and the US does not have the money to keep this up. A good start would be to leave Korea to the Koreans.

Yes and no
Largely it depends on what you are doing. If the U.S. wants the ability to attack or defend areas in that region, the answer is yes; they do provide an enormous stratigic advantage. Also, the navy does need some forward supply areas if you want to maintain a true "Blue Water" Naval presences throughout the world.

It was absolutely necessary in 1950; it has proved very useful in several skirmishes since. But, with present technology and with proper air and sea lift capabilities (of which we have neither by the way) four or five large, multi-service bases in strategic locations would do the trick. Japan and Guam are probably plenty in the pacific; One large base would be enough in Italy (to cover Europe and the Med) and one in North Africa and/or the Middle East would give us plenty to work from there. Combined with Naval air, these would give us plenty of quick strike capability and, combined with heavy air lift and sea lift, we could get an entire armored Corps anywhere in less than 24 hours.

Personally, I'm not really for having any foreign "forward" bases. We have Hawaii, the Alutians, Midway and Guam for Pacific needs and the Europeans can just take care of their own problems and the Med. our main problem is supplying a "Blue Water" Navy. I will bet we can find a way to do that without the big foreign bases.

Still, I do understand the reason we have so many all over the place. The problem is we can't use them for mounting attacks unless the country they are in agrees. That crap has got to stop. We must have unrestricted use or we may as well not have the base. (Turkey during the Iraq invasion ring a bell?) The reason is to keep us from losing too much if a base is attacked (especially if it is nuked) and to be able to maintain a presences in the region even if one or two bases are lost.

The idea is sound, even in a post cold war era. But reducing the number of bases we have would save a lot of money and reduce or military committment around the world. We certainly need to give our military situation a good hard look and probably make, at least some, changes.

sticking to the terms
You argue that since we have the option of stopping the "carrots" when NK is in non-compliance, there is no problem with this deal.

Two problems with that position.
1) We have to detect when the NK's are in non-compliance.
2) We have to muster the political will to stop the "carrots".

Just look at the previous agreement. The idiot left and their accomplices in the MSM were in full war mode when Bush cut of the NK's because of their non-compliance. A leader with less backbone, (I'm not saying that Bush has a lot of backbone, just that he has more than many recent presidents) would cave in and actually increase the "carrots" in an effort to bribe the NK's into getting back in compliance.

no, not public, only private

There you go, the report you're looking for will be available once you register for the free stuff.

After a trip through private intel, you will be thinking less of the print media.

No Subject
The Norks wanted 2-party talks with the US because we were the most likely suckers.
We really needed to refuse any talks with Nork, pass the baton to South Korea and dropped off the recipe for nukes in Japan as we pulled back to our Pacific bases. Spend the Korea money on a couple more battle groups.
In 94 I begged for the reactors to be built in the South with just the wires going North, but then Kim fluttered his lashes at Albright and Bam!

Better idea in dealing with Kimmie
North Korea is the PRC's little mad dog. They use Kimmie and Co to keep the pot simmering on the Korean Peninsula. Well, Kimmie and Co have been some nasty little businesses, including counterfeiting, drug smuggling, selling missiles and components to some nasty regimes, and trying to develop nuclear weapons for blackmail and respect. These behaviors have got the attention of the US, SKor, and especially Japan. Contrary to the way other Communist regimes fell in the last two decades, North Korea survived---with the enabling aid from South Korea and the US. Every time Kimmie gets in a bind, he rattles his weapons and now South Korea enables his behavior. In the meantime, Kimmie has subjected his people to mass starvation and extreme hardship, as he uses his resources to keep the Army First. So here is what I propose:

1. Do not respond to his threats.
2. Forget the 6-party catering events, they are just talk.
3. Make a deal with Kimmie: He and his cads and camp followers get safe passage to Paris, France, where they can live out their lives in exile and self indulgence.
4. Put North Korea in the equivalent of Chapter 11 under a trustee composed of US, SKor, and China. Japan can work in the background, so China and SKor don't wig out (historical bad vibes, ya know...).
5. Take care of the humanitarian situation right away.
6. Assess and dismantle the nuke and missile infrastructure.
7. Work out the politics as a hobby for the next 1000 years.

If the Chinese and the SKors don't want to work with us, but want to prop up the regime, hey have a ball. They can foot the bill and give Kimmie all the aid that they want. Let it become their problem. South Korean govt has not been honest with the US in its double dealings with the North Koreans.

Yes, I do have a better deal
The better deal is for America to get the hell out of every corner of the world and make sure that America ceases in becoming its own outhouse. If another nation has defacto invaded America where its language is now equal to English while America's horrendous war machinery is out all over the globe, please, anybody tell me if America is not a real outhouse right now? Not to mention other stupidities America is involved in to make it stinkier by the day. I have no question in my mind that if the Founding Fathers were to rise to would have even harsher words than mine! They gave their very life to get rid of the British, while America enjoys this invasion.

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