'Success' in North Korea Will Fail in the Long Run
From the February 20, 2007 Chicago Sun-Times
February 20, 2007
by John O'Sullivan
Rudyard Kipling put it well a century ago: It is always a temptation to a rich and lazy nation, To puff and look important and to say:
"Though we know we should defeat you, we have not the time to meet you.
We will therefore pay you cash to go away."
And that is called paying the Danegeld;
But we've proved it again and again,
That if once you have paid him the Danegeld
You never get rid of the Dane.
The Dane in this week's crisis is Kim Jong Il, the grand panjandrum of North Korea. Last week there was modified rapture in the chancelleries of the six great powers engaged in talking to Kim -- Japan, China, Russia, India, South Korea and the United States -- because they had negotiated a brand-new compromise with him.
This brand-new compromise is very similar, if not identical, to the bad old compromise that was agreed between Kim and the Clinton administration, broken by Kim, formally renounced by the incoming Bush administration and finally resurrected again by the whirligig of time and diplomacy and by a president and a secretary of state desperate for a diplomatic success -- any "success" -- to stock the legacy cupboard.
The essential deal is that the North Koreans should shut down their nuclear facilities and accept weapons inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency in return for normalized relations with the United States and large sums in aid and fuel from Japan, South Korea and the United States -- i.e., Danegeld.
Is it really that simple?
No. There is some uncertainty about whether the North Koreans will actually get rid of all their nuclear facilities, or merely some, especially since they cheated last time. U.S. officials have responded by claiming North Korea won't get any aid until it has met a series of "benchmarks" in dismantling the nuclear program. But will America be able to hold South Korea, which was desperate for a deal, to this condition? That must be doubtful.
Who came up with this ridiculous idea?
Ex-President Jimmy Carter. No, really. I know it sounds too good to be true, but in 1994 when President Clinton seemed prepared to take serious action against North Korea, Carter flew to Pyongyang and negotiated the first such compromise with Kim. In effect Carter substituted his own foreign policy for that of the elected president. We have been living with variations on that policy ever since. Given Carter's record, it is hardly surprising that today the North Koreans have more nuclear weapons, an advanced nuclear program, offers of money and fuel up to the kazoo, and the diplomatic world beating a path to their door.
But can Kim be trusted to keep his side of the bargain this time?
Well, it's true this deal is so good for him that he really doesn't need to cheat. Kim gets to keep his rocket programs and his chemical and biological stockpiles; he gets normalized relations with the United States, which means the removal of North Korea from the State Department's list of "terrorist nations," and he gets international respectability.
At the same time he may not be able to stop himself cheating. He knows that the U.S. government, eager to parade its sole diplomatic achievement, will be keen to turn a blind eye to any violations. So he can probably cheat with impunity. Also, Kim is a very odd duck. Only Monday, he saw a Japanese car blocking the road and ordered that all Japanese cars be seized. As a South Korea news agency reported, this order may not be carried out since the few cars on North Korean roads are almost all Japanese. Still, it's an odd order when Kim is relying on Japan to come up with subsidies agreed only last week.
So what will happen?
No one really knows, but one good bet is even if this deal "works," it will prove to be a powerful incentive to nuclear proliferation worldwide. America and its partners in the six-party talks, especially China, have told the rest of the world that one certain way to gouge aid out of the West and the United States is to start a nuclearization program for the express purpose of receiving bribes to close it down.
But surely the only alternative to this deal was war?
Remember that argument well: It is the excuse invariably offered for bad diplomacy. And it doesn't even have the merit of being true. There is a different diplomatic approach available in the North Korea Human Rights Act. It is backed by an extraordinary bipartisan group including major leaders of the Korean-American community, the Brookings Institution, the Hudson Institute, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, the Assemblies of God Church, Democratic Action, Freedom House and the Open Society Policy Center. It argues that the United States should not merely respond to Kim's agenda but should instead demand that human rights violations in North Korea (and in China) be on the negotiating table. And it requires that if (modest) concessions are to be offered to North Korea, Kim must offer an improvement in the people's rights as well as an abandonment of nuclearization.
That policy has at least a chance of alleviating the sufferings of the North Korean people; the current policy merely rewards their oppressors. As Kipling pointed out, the moral is plain:
So when you are requested to pay up or be molested,
You will find it better policy to say:
"We never pay any-one Danegeld,
No matter how trifling the cost;
For the end of that game is oppression and shame.
And the nation that plays it is lost!"
John O'Sullivan was a Senior Fellow at Hudson Institute and editor-at-large of National Review.
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