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The word on North Korea

Hendrik Hertzberg's prose is pretty — and the fact that Bush and his speechwriters threw North Korea into their "Axis of Evil" just for rhetorical effect is a rather damning indictment of Bush's allegience to politics over policy, if you ask me — but when it comes to North Korea, Josh Marshall's got the goods.

Which is interesting, because Hertzberg's columns in the New Yorker often impress me for all their flourishes and their cuts and yet leave me wishing he left the facts — often sufficiently damning in their own right — better positioned to speak for themselves. The essays are brilliant, but they're political creatures just as much as the policies they attack. Marshall, on the other hand, seems to be something else; he actually seems to be about the real questions, and not the canned (albeit flawless, in Hertzberg's case) answers. And his comments are all the more effective for it.

Addendum: A certain Canadian ex-pat now in South Korea also offers this insightful take on the situation, and an excellent overview as well.

January 9, 2003 2:07 AM

Comments (and TrackBacks)

I'll take the bait...

"...how the Bush administration solved the vexing problem of preventing the NKs from becoming a nuclear power by announcing that they already are a nuclear power and it's probably something we can live with. "
Oh, that's right, NKorea just recently became a nuclear power. Not. NKorea has been nuclear well before the current admin took power.

"Oh! Oh! Oh! You mean Bush KNEW they had nukes, that Clinton briefed them, and then Bush pretended they didn't know? !!!SCANDAL!!!"
I guess you never played poker.

"...among Republicans on Capitol Hill there is increasingly serious talk of pulling out the 37,000 troops which the US has garrisoned along the DMZ.."
Yup, that's right, there is indeed talk -- but not "serious" talk. Henry Hyde is by no means Mr.Internationally Savvy. The guy's smart, but not experienced. Good ol' "let's get the 'Fornicator' outta the WHouse" Henry is a big-time new comer to the sub-committee, never mind the intelligence it gets.

I'm very, very comfortable letting this "serious talk" go where it might. If anyone wants to wager on if/when our troops are withdrawn, lemme know, cause you've got money with my name on it. And that's truly "serious."

This dude goes on to say that the Bush Collective is considering withdrawal of our troops? Oh, really? Could it just possibly be that this is a shot-over-the-bow of the SKoreans? reminding them just how dependant they are upon America, never mind all the money our troops inject into their still centralised economy?

"And there's more," he writes. Awesome, his simplistic foreign policy analysis continues...

"Today there was a late-breaking announcement that the administration will negotiate, but never compromise."
Is there a problem? Oh, yeah, we're Americans and we're supposed to be driven by principles alone, never considering reality. Simplistically, he implies there's no middle road between the European "always compromise your values" and the Orthodox American "never compromise your values" methodology of policy creation. Why, in this guy's world, you'd think Henry Kissinger never existed. Rest assured, foriegn policy formulation in contemporary American govenment isn't so elementary, and hasn't been since well before WWII. Geesh.

Could it be that the current situation was purposefully percipitated in order to break a cycle of neogiation, terms, abrogation, and then blackmail? Could it be the administration actually has the mental fortitude to think more than one step ahead?

Or, as he would like us to accept, the Bush administration has no concept of planning?
Sometimes political allegiance and expectations hampers otherwise intelligent individuals.

.rob

Posted by rob adams on January 9, 2003 1:14 PM

Could it be that the current situation was purposefully percipitated in order to break a cycle of neogiation, terms, abrogation, and then blackmail? Could it be the administration actually has the mental fortitude to think more than one step ahead?

Or, as he would like us to accept, the Bush administration has no concept of planning?
Sometimes political allegiance and expectations hampers otherwise intelligent individuals.

Rob, you've got to chill. [Apologies for this. - M] If Josh Marshall is hampered by some sort of political allegiance, it's less than apparent, at least from having read his site for a while. He supports a military exercise to remove Saddam, and has been quite candid about several of the Democrats' various failings, for example.

And as for the idea that the Bush administration's turnaround "was purposefully percipitated", well, sure, it could be. But do we have any reason to think so? They're patently contradicting statements they were making only a week ago. What advantage is there to looking like bullies who tried to force North Korea to do what they wanted, and then cried for mercy when North Korea said no?

The point isn't that the administration should refuse to compromise its values -- clearly, it's coming around to doing the right thing (given that it has no alternative) now, and negotiating with North Korea. The point is, before, why did they state, publicly and repeatedly, that they would never negotiate? If the Bush administration had the foresight you credit them for, they would have realized they would have to negotiate with North Korea eventually, no? And yet they worked hard to say that they'd never negotiate because it would be a concession of weakness on their part.

Not only does this make the U.S. look bad, it hurts the process, puts us in a far weaker position from which to (finally) negotiate, and quite possibly escalates the conflict beyond the level it ever would have reached otherwise. Why would the Bush administration have wanted that?

(I should add -- I'm not trying to say anything beyond, It seems pretty clear that mistakes were made. Maybe they're defensible, but that they're mistakes seems pretty clear to me.)

Posted by M on January 9, 2003 2:00 PM


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