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Why North Korea is the Wrong Focus

| 91 Comments | 2 TrackBacks

As fate would have it, I was sitting in a local Italian restaurant with Marc Armed "Liberal" Danziger when the call came in at around 8:30pm California time. Kim Jong-Il, the star of "Team America: World Police" and also incidentally the ruler of North Korea, had set off a nuke. Later research at home turns up the 4.2 quake near Chongjin, an area that doesn't have much of anything in the way of seismic activity history. That isn't a 100% lock as a nuke test... but I'd put it around 90%. Especially given that a Hiroshima size nuke in a chamber 100-150 ft. cubed would be expected to produce about this size quake.

So the day has likely come, as it inevitably had to. And with it comes the question: "Now what?"

And my first answer is: Forget North Korea. No proposal involving their government, from idiotic talk of sanctions (what, we're going to cut Kim out of the movie remake?) to even dumber and more craven responses around "rewards" (read: appeasement and a license to keep cheating) is worth even 10 seconds of your time. Search and boarding activities for ships from North Korea may be helpful, and preparations for that have been underway for a while, but ultimately this doesn't solve the problem and raises risks whenever used.

If you want to fix the problem, you have to see and understand the lever.

The truth is that North Korea is an irrelevant bit player in this whole drama. The real player here is China. They have helped North Korea at every step, and North Korea's regime cannot survive at all without their ongoing food and fuel aid. Kim Jong-Il's nuclear plans may be slightly inconvenient to the Chinese - just not not inconvenient enough to derail a strategy that still promises net plusses to those pursuing it within China's dictatorship.

Recall Winds' comprehensive look at the forces within and around China, its geo-political goals and imperatives, and its military options. Korea is a potent potential competitor that has historically had some rivalry with the Chinese, and South Korea is part of the chain of countries that helps to box China and prevent unimpeded access to the sea lanes on which it is so dependent for resources. With its highly developed economy, it's also an investment rival for projects in Russia, and thus complicates Chinese efforts to secure Siberia's resources as a land-based alternative.

Hence the two-faced strategy China is pursuing. One that uses North Korea as their deniable "cut out," and works in conjunction with South Korean political elements to irritate the US and build pressure to push them out of Korea. Once that is achieved in whole or in part, or South Korea concludes for other reasons that the US security guarantee cannot be relied upon to the extent required, South Korea can be "Finlandized" by making China its key security guarantor. Of course, this will happen in return for the same kind of quiet veto power and political interference the USSR exercized in Finland during the Cold War.

That's a very big strategic carrot to dangle in front of fellow members of China's ruling dictatorship. This approach is also bolstered on the flip side by a Chinese aversion to seeing a wave of starving North Korean refugees from what may be the most evil regime in human history wash over Manchuria. Hence, both advantage and fear work to keep Chinese support in place, while shaping South Korea toward a strategic Chinese double-win in which they also pick up the pieces in any northern collapse. The current South Korean government's "sunshine policy" which preaches "one Korea," plays down issues with the North and will not confront it, and demonizes the USA at a grassroots level is perfect on all counts from a Chinese perspective. North Korea's threat will not go away, of course, but friction with the USA, paralysis that keeps their North Korean client safe from retaliation, and positioning Korea psychologically to be responsible for the North later (but not, for instance, for starving North Korean refugees now)... all are exactly what China's doctor ordered from a geo-political perspective.

That will not change. Not until - and unless - the potential advantage is seen to be outweighed by very immediate consequences, and the fear of regime collapse in North Korea is replaced by a greater fear. Since China's is also an absolutist dictatorship, the consequences and greater fear must be far greater in order to trigger the kind of to-the-death (and here we mean the real deaths or equivalent of people and families, not just political careers) internal political battles required to remove the architects and proponents of the current strategy. Who cannot back away from it normally, both for fear of their lives and positions in such a system and for more culture-specific reasons around "face."

In other words, China won't move unless its current strategy is seen to cost them, big-time.

The biggest cost, and the only one that will be real to them in any sense, is to have Kim Jong-Il's nuclear detonation result in parallel nuclear proliferation among the nearby states China wishes to dominate/ bully. That would be a foreign policy disaster for the Chinese, and would cause the current architects of China's North Korea policy to be buried along with their policy. Which, as we noted earlier, is the only kind of policy education that works in a system like theirs.

So... if this turns out to be a nuclear test, ignore North Korea. Sanctions et. al are a total waste of time. Target China indirectly, with consequences it can easily understand as horribly bad from their perspective but which appear to be perfectly reasonable responses to North Korea.

In other words, make it clear to the Chinese via back-channel diplomacy that anything Taiwan chooses to do re: acquiring nuclear technology is no longer of any interest to the USA until Kim's regime is gone - and that the Taiwanese are being briefed to that effect (the US had stopped a Taiwanese nuclear effort by threatening a cutoff of all military aid). Be clear also, and make public statements that "other states in the region" now have a viable reason to respond in kind. One could also drop hints about and then refuse to deny to the Chinese that back-channel discussions have begun with South Korea and Japan that involve America offering them a set number of working nuclear weapons from US stocks as a counterweight. They can also be told more directly via diplomatic channels that the USA will also support either or both countries if they choose to pursue their own programs, meanwhile floating diplomatic "trial balloons" re: a system that gives these countries their own deterrents as a better option, because it does not produce the capacity for further manufacture and so is "less destabilizing to the region."

How China chooses to fix the North Korea problem after that and thus stop all of these intiatives is, of course, up to them. Welcome to the big leagues, and have a nice day.

Nothing short of that kind of response is going to change anything.

----
POST SCRIPTUM:

I'll add here, since we're inevitably going to hear the Democrats and their media allies lionizing the Clinton approach, that what we're seeing here is directly Clinton's fault. By signing an agreement that everyone knew would be cheated on by North Korea as a substitute for taking action, he, personally, left any successor no viable options and made this day a 100% certainty.

And that day is a 100% certainty, whether or not this particular event is borne out as a nuke. The only question now is when, and that was true the day after Clinton/Carter's "peace in our time (subtext: and war in someone else's)" agreement was signed. That transparently phony agreement, and not his negligence in pursuing al-Qaeda, has always been the #1 screw-up of Clinton's Presidency. It may yet surpass his #2 screw-up in terms of the American lives it costs before all is said and done.

If the GOP has 2 brain cells left, they'll hit that point with everything they have. Which means, of course, even odds at best.

UPDATES:

  • Funny aside: see this YouTube political ad, which references the NK situation in a truly hilarious way. We need more political ads like this in the USA, it would liven up the proceedings.

2 TrackBacks

Tracked: October 9, 2006 3:41 PM
Crossing the Rubicon from Caerdroia
Excerpt: In detonating a nuclear weapon in an underground test, North Korea has provided a clarifying event. While there seems to be a lot of discussion about who is to blame (focusing on Clinton v Bush or N. Korea v China v S. Korea v Japan), the reality is th...
Tracked: October 10, 2006 1:59 PM
Excerpt: ... for the most part Katzman's piece appears to be a good analysis of the situation(s) involving the Korea(s) and the importance of China in solving present and future difficulties there.

91 Comments

China Confidential likes to keep mentioning that North Korea and China are as close as "lips and teeth".

Which isn't exactly true - but they certainly aren't independent entities, either.

China must be made to realize in the here and now that its cutout strategy has real costs. Nothing else whatsoever will work.

Also: There has to be a perceptible brink, and there has to be ambiguity. There has to be serious doubt in the minds of a significant portion of the PRC power structure that they can deal with whatever the US, Japan, Australia and Taiwan (deniably) cook up and execute. The PLA has to feel that rocking the boat needs to stop now, if only to keep the fat cat generals' retirement nest eggs intact.

NK will be lucky to last another six months.

The effects of this test are more important for Iran and unstoppable nuclear proliferation.

I haven't seen any evidence that North Korea developed nuclear weapons during Clinton's time in office.

This isn't 9/11, this is almost six years into the Bush administration...good luck trying to blamne Clinton once again for yet another Republican screw up.

I don't see why China would care if yet another nation on their borders gets nukes...they already have nuclear-armed Russia, N. Korea, India and Pakistan as neighbors...

oops, I meant 18 months, though NK might not last six even with Chinese help - another famine is in progress. One Japanese newspaper said the NK military is three foodless days awawy from mutiny. Japanese newspapers also report that NK refugees in China say the NK people welcome a war with the U.S. as that would mean liberation from their gangster regime.

Joe:

If we choose to realistically challenge their great wall then what they'll do is employ the "empty fortress" in some fashion. Not sure what form that will take, but they'll make some show of disarmament and offer that as a carrot to "encourage" the surrounding regimes to forego arming. Something like that, anyway. They'll pretend they don't care.

The Japanese currently have one of the largest surface fleets in the world and produce fighter planes the equal of those in the US. They quietly surpassed China in conventional military capability some years ago, although not in terms of manpower. Within two years they could have the second-largest nuclear arsenal on earth, including intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Yep, that's a pretty big headache for the Chinese, without even considering the Taiwanese and S. Koreans. But Bush might have to be rude to someone, so it may not fly.

Hehe Tom,

"Japanese newspapers also report that NK refugees in China say the NK people welcome a war with the U.S. as that would mean liberation from their gangster regime."

I was just wondering what Ahmed Chalabi has been up to since he finished looting the Iraqi Oil Ministry...

If you guys are interested at all in hearing the other side, there's quite a good analysis of the Clinton vs Bush approaches to North Korea in Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo.

This is a time when Clinton was getting half or three-quarters of a loaf, while Bush talked tough and folded when called. I disagree with Joe's claim that Clinton was setting up successors for failure. He made serious progress on a tough problem, even though he didn't solve it all the way.

I keep hearing that song -- "I just so ronery"

Exactly so, Joe. Turn the tables, wrap it up, put a bow on it, and ask the Chinese what they plan to do about it.

I think Japan should go nuclear no matter what the outcome -- NK has made that a no-brainer. The Taiwan issue is more touchy and should be carefully managed.

I don't blame Presidents Clinton or Bush, and anyone who does is not worth listening to. Not every problem is a result of US partisan politics. While Clinton's policy of appeasement was probably worthless, there is likely nothing acceptable he could have done that would have stopped this from occurring. Like it or not, the only acceptable way of dealing with N. Korea is through China, and the responsiblity (aside from that of N. Koreas government) rests with it, as N. Korea is its client. I think Joe's right as to policy: best we can do is increase pressure on China's government. I'm not sure how to best apply such pressure, but it seems to me that the more N. Korean refugees that cross the border into China, the better.

My Godness! Its population is so hungry that they have taken the next step on extortion to the Western World.

Should the U.S retreat from occupied South Korea, monkyboy?

Now seriously, NK had already the capability of killing a lot of people simply shelling Seoul. This move is just that, another step in the same strategy, hoping to have a big impact on the Western public opinion.

The U.S soil is not directly concerned as long as NK two stage missiles aren't improved. Even then, such a long shot in order to reach the U.S Western coast or even Alaska, would probably exhibit a big CEP, which might make them unefective carrying small nuclear warheads.

In addition, U.S. anti missile program seems to make progress faster than NK's nuclear and missile ones, which may prove Kim Jong-Il efforts futile in the long term.

Maybe that is the reason he has decided to test a nuclear device now.

Monkyboy,

A renewed interest in missile defense coincided with the election of President George W. Bush in 2000.

Oh! So Bush has fully carried out his duties as president, as it did his father!

The most concerned about this test, I think, it is Japan. There a NK one stage missile loaded with a, let's say, 20 KT device could really hit hard...

...of course, if a US Navy or Kaigun improved AEGIS ship does not intercept it with this amazing piece of technology.

Blaming Bill Clinton is idiotic. You have no better suggestion for what he could have done then than you have for what Bush could do now. And hinting that we should have gone to war seven or eight years ago, a war which the South Koreans would have vetoed, is dishonest.

George W. Bush has been in office for six years. Six years. During which time we've gone from zero NK nukes to some undefined number and that, naturally, is not the fault of the people in power, or even the people who were in power before 1994, no, by amazing coincidence, 100% of the blame can be localized to the years 1994-2000.

Huh. What a surprise.

Civil war and partition in Iraq, an Iranian program that advances, tested nukes in NK, Pakistan caving to the Taliban, and yes, ladies and gentlemen, it's all Bill Clinton's fault.

You know what? If this was the year 2106, and we'd had 100 straight years of Republican rule, and we were dealing with invading Martians, you'd still be blaming Bill Clinton. You cannot face the truth. You simply cannot face the truth.

This is ridiculous. It's widely acknowledged in the geo-political community that if Clinton hadn't given into the North Korean bribe/blackmail, the regime would have collapsed during his administration. It was Clinton that propped Kim Il-Jung's collapsing regime up, got them through the tough times, and gave them enough capital to successfully pursue its nuclear program. No US aid, then no nuclear weapon. No US aid, very likely the country would have come tumbling down already. It was to avoid a North Korean collapse and the possible ugly consequences that Clinton gave into the bribe and made North Korea someone else's problem.

All of this was talked about at length long before Bush was even the Republican nominee. As I said in 2000, whoever ends up winning the election, I feel sorry for him because he's got a huge mess to clean up.

The only thing Bush could have done to stop this after taking office in 2000 was to nuke NK. That may be the only option he leaves his successor, but at least from day one in office he stopped the whole bribery and treated the NK problem as something he had to deal with.

And for the record...

"Civil war and partition in Iraq..." No, that's the first Bush's fault. Clinton and the second Bush have had to deal - or not deal - with the consequences.

"an Iranian program that advances..." No, that's Jimmy Carter's fault.

"tested nukes in NK..." A combination of Truman - for setting up the situation - and Clinton for furthering thier ambitions by giving into blackmail.

"Pakistan caving to the Taliban" No, that's squarely the fault of GWB - though what he could do about it without nukes I'm not sure.

"and yes, ladies and gentlemen, it's all Bill Clinton's fault."

You are an idiot. That's definately not Bill Clinton's fault.

I think you're on the right track here, Joe. I don't think China really controls the DPRK, but I do think they have been using them as a game piece to further their own interests.

I'll write more about this later today, but essentially I think China has been giving the DPRK the wink here in order to increase its own importance in the US sphere. The more dangerous the DPRK becomes, the more we need China's help. When they are dangerous enough that we need China's help on the DPRK more than we need anything else in the region, China can ask what it will in return for that help.

I think we are forgetting the obvious counter-weight in the region is Japan, who for the most part, has a nuclear arsenal sitting and ready to use. All it needs to do is assemble the parts.

China has just as much to fear from a Nuclear Japan, with whom it has a long and sordid past, than it does fom a North Korean collapse, or a Nuclear Tiawan.

#14:
Widely acknowledged by butt. We've been predicting the imminent collapse of Cuba, Iran, North Korea and others for decades. Baloney. That's magical thinking. They were never about to collapse because China doesn't want them to collapse and as long as China wants them intact, guess what? They'll remain intact as a regime.

The Clinton administration managed to stall NK's nuke plans. Not great, not an enduring success obviously, but a hell of a lot better than what we have now. The Bushies came in determined to be tougher. They refused to talk directly, they blustered, they said their chin-jutting and chest-thumping would turn the trick, and now we have this.

Six years of Bush policy and we've got a nuclear North Korea. You can spin that till you drill yourself into the ground and it won't change the facts. North Korea became a nuclear power on George W. Bush's watch. Six years of tough talk and now a North Korean nuke.

Far be it from me than to defend Bill Clinton but this development is the culmination of 60 years of North Korean aggression. Has George Bush been partially responsible for things getting this far? Sure. But so has Bill Clinton, G. H. W. Bush and every president back to Truman.

Aside from the sideswipe at Clinton, I think Joe's right on the money: the bean under the spoon is China and, unless we're willing to negotiate seriously with China, there's nothing whatever we can do about North Korea spreading nuclear weapons to every Tom, Dick, and Osama.

m. takhallus

Six years of Bush policy and we've got a nuclear North Korea. You can spin that till you drill yourself into the ground and it won't change the facts. North Korea became a nuclear power on George W. Bush's watch. Six years of tough talk and now a North Korean nuke.

Great job North Koreans, to developed a bomb and all the facilities needed in just six years!

The Clinton administration managed to stall NK's nuke plans.

... to postpone NK's nuclear plans, underpining Kim Jong-Il regime, and assuming his demands, that is, giving in to his extortion.

Not great, not an enduring success obviously, but a hell of a lot better than what we have now.

ho ho ho ho, I disagree. It was indeed a great success... for Clinton, and h*** to the next President!

North Korea became a nuclear power on George W. Bush's watch

So what? The USSR became nuclear during Truman term, (BTW, when did it openly India and Pakistan?) and stop being a danger under Bush term, just after Tough Guy Reagan left office.

Six years of tough talk and now a North Korean nuke.

Six years of trying to extort us. Why should the Western World give in to extortion of any Stalinist apprentice, Muslim warlord, Jordanian criminal or Latin American demagogue? Is it the only strategy the Left has in the Agenda? Giving up? Making them stronger? And then what? Hope for a new Republican like Reagan or Bush as President?

My Godness!

takhallus,
Non-serious comments like that only reinforce the idea that Democrats have no security policy proposals.

How quickly we forget, takhallus and monkyboy. This is the direct outcome of Clinton/Albright handing Kim two light water reactors in exchange for unverifiable promises not to enrich uranium. A brilliant success!

Bush sustained crushing criticism for pursuing a tough unilateral policy on many fronts. So here, he got multilateral and used diplomatic means alongside neighboring partners. The problem is we have to recognize there are some intractable problems that simply can't be dealt with that way, whether it's Iran or N.Korea, much as the American view of the universe would deny it.

So, what is to be done? We seem to lack any credible options, whether military, economic or political, but I'm sure suddenly everyone will become a Korea expert and start rolling out the theories.

Dave:

But what do we have to negotiate with China? What do we give them that makes them accept the idea of a collapsed North Korea on their border? Let alone a collapsed, nuclear-armed North Korea?

And what do we threaten them with? What's our stick? A nuclear Taiwan? A nuclear South Korea? Sorry, that's not going to happen. That's heading for a whole new cold war and there's a big difference between China circa 2006 and USSR circa 1948. The USSR didn't make all our clothes and home electronics. The USSR wasn't holding our paper. The USSR didn't have a billion potential Wal-Mart shoppers and Starbucks latte drinkers.

The Chinese have done the math on this. They are evidently willing to accept a nuclear NK. And they don't think we'll pull the trigger on a full scale Sino-American crisis. I think they're right.

I suspect the bottom line is that Kim beat us. We sanction and he sells his toys to Iran. So we'll pay the extortion and then some. Because paying him off is easier and cheaper than confronting China.

But what do we have to negotiate with China?
So long as we're unwilling to sacrifice we have nothing to offer China or threaten them with and that, as the Chinese know quite well, is where things stand now.

If we're willing to sacrifice, there are plenty of things to do. The simplest thing: scorn.

Beard #9:
This is a time when Clinton was getting half or three-quarters of a loaf, while Bush talked tough and folded when called. I disagree with Joe's claim that Clinton was setting up successors for failure. He made serious progress on a tough problem, even though he didn't solve it all the way.

How do you negotiate with someone when you can only expect them to break the agreement going in? Clinton's policy is a perfect example of Zeno's paradox. How close he got is irrelevant. In my opinion we've always had but one card to play, but fortunately it's an ace in the hole.

I agree China should handle North Korea now.

They should also be handling Afghanistan, another country on their border.

Iran, too.

It would be nice to think Pax Americana could be brought to a close without...troubles, but it doesn't look that way.

Time for America to become a regional power...first up:

Repair our relations with S. America.

Bush has screwed that up more than N. Korea, Afghanistan and Iraq combined.

"But what do we have to negotiate with China? What do we give them that makes them accept the idea of a collapsed North Korea on their border? Let alone a collapsed, nuclear-armed North Korea?

And what do we threaten them with? What's our stick? A nuclear Taiwan? A nuclear South Korea? Sorry, that's not going to happen. That's heading for a whole new cold war and there's a big difference between China circa 2006 and USSR circa 1948. The USSR didn't make all our clothes and home electronics. The USSR wasn't holding our paper. The USSR didn't have a billion potential Wal-Mart shoppers and Starbucks latte drinkers.

The Chinese have done the math on this. They are evidently willing to accept a nuclear NK. And they don't think we'll pull the trigger on a full scale Sino-American crisis. I think they're right.

I suspect the bottom line is that Kim beat us. We sanction and he sells his toys to Iran. So we'll pay the extortion and then some. Because paying him off is easier and cheaper than confronting China."

Therein lies the disaster of the Dems. US = "weak and stupid, deserves to lose" and no other nation is a player.

Japan WILL get Nukes, beef up their navy, air force, and army. THAT's something we have leverage over and can threaten the Chinese with.

China further NEEDS US trade, without their urbanization (hundreds of millions of farmers streaming into cities for jobs) turns into one gigantic Taiping Rebellion Part TWO, (the original cost between 30-50 million lives with muzzle-loading muskets 1851-1864). China could be replaced (not easily but replaced) by highly automated Japan as the consumer electronics workshop of Asia. Australia getting nukes, Indonesia getting them, Vietman getting them all makes China unhappy since they can no longer bully them.

Or we could simply nuke out Lil Kim's nuke plants and say "so what?" to China, if they want our money to keep internal stability and avoid another revolution they'll answer "nevermind."

Action beats reaction every time. Bruce Lee knew it.

Dave:

Have you seen any evidence that we're willing to make serious sacrifices? After 9-11 we were told to go shopping and spend our tax cuts.

I think the truth is we never had a good move available to us in NK. War was off the table. (Unless someone can figure out how to relocate Seoul.) So we hoped China would step up, and we hoped Kim would drop dead, and we bluffed with a lot of tough talk.

The sad fact is that if we were going to fold we should have folded earlier. The extortion would have been cheaper to pay before the test than it will be now. Which brings us back to Bill Clinton who had the good sense to pay the extortion, as opposed to the Bush administration which will now pay a much higher price.

And I realize that remark will bring forth much huffing and puffing from some of the commentors here, but you known what boys? We huffed and puffed for 6 years. Kind of doubt more of it will work any better.

Well yes, paying off an extortionist is always a good idea. Much better than huffing and puffing.

Of course, paying off one extortionist most times leads to others. And democracies are notorious for their ability to tax their citizens to pay off foreign powers that are blackmailing them. It's such a great campaign slogan -- vote for me, and I'll pay off more extortionists than the last guy! Or maybe -- vote for my party, not only do we take money from you to redistribute wealth, but we also send your money to the cruelest dictators in the world! It's all in your best interest, you see.

I believe the appropriate "huffing and puffing" remark is: Harrumphh!

It's Clinton's fault! Zombie-like, but all too predictable. Looking for a link from Reynolds, or some lesser crackpot, are we?

As if NK didn't kick the inspectors out and process the plutonium into bombs during Bush's now almost six year watch.

As if Kim didn't teach and Iran learn the lesson of the "Axis of Evil." Have no real WMD: get invaded. Have real WMD: don't get invaded.

Interpreting historical events is iffy.

I don't blame Clinton and I don't blame Bush. The world is complex and no one person or one nation has the power or foresight to dictate the course of future events.

Confronting such threats requires pain and sacrifice and has repercussions. If the US acts alone, other nations see the US as more of a threat than the rogue nation. If the US tries to gather international support, then the competing agendas of the international players prevent effective action.

Delaying proliferation while trying to transform the worst regimes is probably all the US can do. In the long run, increasing technological capabilities and lowered costs mean proliferation is inevitable. Nuclear-armed international criminal gangs could be more dangerous than terrorists.

New technology for extracting uranium from seawater.

New technology to make the purification of U235 easier and cheaper.

Joe, I agree with you. China is the real destablizing force in the region. Your analysis is right on.

In a sense, all nations that have been feeding Kim's regime are responsible for what has now transpired. But it's the familiar dilemma: Leftist regime starves its people, world community responds with humanitarian aid to keep millions from dying, leftist regime exploits aid to keep itself in power.

But Clinton reinforced the outrageous lie that these regimes pursue nuclear power because they need energy, by giving Kim oil and (egad!) light-water nuclear reactors. Why, God, why?

Since Kerry proposed the same program for Iran (give them nuclear technology, then hide in the bushes and see what happens) I can only conclude that Democrats believe dangerous anti-American regimes exist only because the United States doesn't hand out enough free stuff.

If only we could get Saint Bill himself to repeat some of this silliness, we could make some great t-shirts out of it.

Which brings us back to Bill Clinton who had the good sense to pay the extortion, as opposed to the Bush administration which will now pay a much higher price.

That rumbling sound you hear is the founding fathers rolling over in their graves. I suppose it never occurred to you that any subsequent Presidents are generally forced to pay a higher price because one weak one previously caved? Or are you under the impression that perpetually paying extortion money is a winning proposition, and such extortion will never go up in price?

And this doesn't just apply to Clinton and NK, either. The current situation with Iran is a result of Carter's initial weakness; OIF was required because of Bush I's weakness; and so on and so forth. (I'm tempted to reach back to 1945 and the Yalta conference, dust off Patton's immediate post-war position on the Soviet Union, and start laying blame for the Cold War; but I'll leave that little jaunt for another time.) I don't know where you got the idea that paying bribes in an attempt to kick the can down the road to the next Administration is shrewd geo-political maneuvering, but your contention is at odds with a couple thousand years' worth of international politics, history, and warfare.

I suppose you'll write this off as "huffing and puffing"; well, that's fine, I already wrote your post off as suicidal lunacy (from a national foreign policy POV). Fools are doomed to repeat history, etc etc. I'm sure the Kerry '08 campaign would love to hear your ideas for a platform of "Vote for me, I'll pay the extortion (and tax the rich to pay it)!"

NK is the PRCs' puppy. [A thin one at that] Although the 'big board' moves to immediately arm China's maritime competitors are subtle, there has to be a risk of a shipping-container-bomb getting out in the short term, not necessarily enroute to the US,although that would be the most likely destination given possibliity of islamic finance.

Fall 2014. Pres. Hillary Clinton admits the Iraq and Afghan Wars are complete failures as Islamists overwhelm Baghdad and Kabul.

Winds of Change authors excuse her immediately, of course. After all, the situation she inherited from Dubya, fully six years earlier made failure totally inevitable.

Right. Who wants what I've been smoking?

Pres. Bush claimed he had a better plan for North Korea. He would break of all contact and engage in a lot of what at my elementary school we called tough talk baloney. Bush must have thought that Osama, Kim, and Moqtada al-Sadr would fold like Lieberman Democrats, surrendering in return for 15 minutes of "Good, doggie" compliments on Fox. Whatever their evils, though, they proved to be made of sterner stuff. The Bush Administration has nothing, absolutely nothing to show for its North Korea policy, except the continued devotion of fools who delight at listening to tough talk baloney, no matter how empty it is.

Good analysis. You got it right. The real villain is China. Unfortunately in the media China is portrayed as a responsible actor in this drama. North Korea survives because of China only. Ultimate responsibility for all proliferation done by North Korea rests with China.

Andrew: you're running into a classic 'dilemma'. The Democrat line and the Republican line actually are no different, even though they sound different. Both tried to work realpolitik to make things go our way. The Democrat idea was to be nice, the Republican idea was to be tough. But it was really the same thing with a different foot position.

In neither case, Clinton nor Bush, was there really change in policy substantial enough to do what was needed to acheive the goal. Zeno's paradox; we'll get the arrow closer to the target. Who cares? We want the arrow IN the target.

The real problem you guys are having (the Liberal set here) is that you are arguing, more or less, that Bush didn't do it. You're implying that the democrats would; but I would argue, based on the facts, that if either of us stand on the party position on this, we are basically saying we'd get the arrow closer. Demos say Bill got the arrow closer, Repubs say Bush got the arrow closer. Almost only counts in Horse-shoes and Hand Grenades.

I don't think the cards in the deck of Realpolitik are exhausted here yet; but since NorK is being fed and manipulated by China, and China is in very few ways dependent on the NorKs, we ought to try to put pressure on China. Now, since China is a big player, putting direct pressure on China is probably unfeasible. We have a lot of mutual connections that would be very unpopular at the very least, to sever.

In this tack, perceiving that China may very well be using NorK to keep the other Asian nations to its east under its thumb (or hopes to) we should try our best to counter this. Ideally, North Korea ought not to be a hermit stalinist kingdom, and hopefully be a sister state to, if not part of South Korea. A government cannot give humanitarian aid to a corrupt nation; to do so it must deal with its peer, the corrupt government. Only private institutions have any hope of help. If the nation rejects them, then its people have become forfeit, God help their souls.

I think we need to, for the duration that KJI is dic-tater, forget (sadly) about the lives of his people.

Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I would propose a duel. Humiliate KJI in front of the whole nation. Maybe even kill the summbich.

China will never 'deal' with NorK, except to use them as a pawn against the other nations nearby. I think they have a particular liking for aiming at Japan.

Anyway, a good strategy may be to aid the nations nearby in building up their arms. Nukes are nice. The key is, we need to do what we perceive China thinks that we will not, or can not do. Otherwise we can only assume that we are playing into their hand, more or less.

To assume otherwise is to attribute a level of incompetence to China's strategy; of course, we may also be able to determine what they don't know, and in such a way play into their hand knowing what they think will happen, only to pull our trump at the right time.

Firstly, what the libs fail to realize is the catastrophe that is about to befall Chinese diplomacy. They were too clever by half. All that it has bought them is the resurrection of the one force in the world they did not want to see plow the waves of the Pacific again: the Nihon Kaigun.

The Democratic talking point was that this was a failure of the Bushhitler regime. Hardly-Kim's atomic program reached back to his father's regime. Atomic programs take that long to get going, and probably existed throughout the nineties. It was just hidden so as not to embarrass the Americans. The Chinese wanted it that way. Then KIm got out of hand in 1998 with his missile launches.

Fast forward to 2003 and the announcement by Mr. Ronery that he had several bombs. Two years later, Rice and Rumsfeld sign an interoperability agreement between the U.S. Navy and the Combined Fleet with their Japanese counterparts. As Katzman properly pointed out, you have to forget about Li'l Kim and look at the larger picture. Bush's regional diplomacy has actually been rather successful.

Japan is the pivot around which everything depends. They're the one's with the Kaigun, a Navy that is every bit as good as the Royal Navy, but without the combat experience. Maneuvers with Pacific Fleet will give them that, plus aircraft carrier doctrine for the time that they bring back the Mobile Fleets. Further, Rice has brought along India, Australia, and Vietnam. The one weak spot appears to be the Phillippines.

Korea is the breakout point for the Chinese. Great game stuff. So far we are doing better than advertised. It would help if we put more money into naval construction, btw.

Yes, of course paying extortion leads to more extortion. (For example when Mr. Reagan sent Oliver North to kiss Iranian butt and supply missile parts.) But in this case refusing to pay extortion also led to more extortion.

You know what else has consequences? Bluffing and getting caught at it.

Sometimes there's no winning move. There wasn't this time. The best available move was to kick the can down the road and hope the NK regime collapsed. The best way to play it was to avoid a test because once that line was crossed it couldn't be uncrossed.

Now, whether or not this test was a dud, we have a definitive answer to the question: can we bluff NK? Turns out: no, we can't.

So now the whole policy comes apart. The world will see just how empty our threats were. What do you suppose the policy consequences of that will be? If NK holds a test and the UN does nothing of any consequence how do you suppose that will play with Iran?

Kicking the can down the road is not a great way to have to handle things, but it's all we had. Which is how Bill Clinton played it. Play for time, hope to catch a break. Mr. Bush eschewed that approach and tried to bluff.

Paying extortion has consequences, and having your bluff called has consequences. On balance we were better off with the first option.

What I'm suggesting, by the way, is to play off misperceptions about our culture and strategy. A big misperception about America is that she is inactive or weak or paralyzed; while in reality she's just not yet mad enough to do anything.

China, however, knows this already. China probably chuckles at Iran and NorK knowing that they will eventually feel our wrath. Sadly, this is something they are trying to play as an advantage.

section9: Interesting information that I had not heard. I too will enjoy seeing the return of the Nihon Kaigun.

If there's anyone who fights as good as we do its the Japanese.

I was under the impression that we expected the U.N. to do something (which was why we were talking tough) but in retrospect, that would assume a level of incompetence to our strategy.

All bets on our administration really taking the U.N. seriously should have been finished in my mind with our most recent ambassador.

Always fascinating to find out what game is afoot on these things.

So, This is the Republican plan so far:

1. Blame Clinton.
2. Blame China.
3. Supply Imperial Japan with nukes.

Too funny.

I would like to take this chance to also blame monkeyboy -- he probably voted for Clinton, he fails to understand China's role, and his one-dimensional sloganeering is exactly why Clinton probably kicked the can down the road.

m. takhallus -- you're arguing that there were no good moves. Perhaps so, but some moves are better than others, as section9 outlined. Diplomats seem very good at reasoning that if the problem goes away today, somebody else will have to solve it tomorrow. Many times that philosophy works. It's important to understand when it doesn't.

monkyboy,

Japan doesn't need anyone's help. They can have a nuclear device in six days and a nuclear weapon in six weeks. You have no idea how advanced they are.

You have a pattern of saying things which are completely dumb. Keep this up and you will be comic relief only.

China's role?

It was Heckuva Job Boltie who declined face-to-face talks with N. Korea and pushed for sanctions instead.

Bring it on! = N. Korea with nukes.

China had nothing to do with it.

China is ready to put on "The World's Only Superpower" cape once Bush & Co. are done soiling it, though.

Can I change that to "zero-dimensional sloganeering"?

You know Daniel,

Bush could still have a 80-90% approval rating and the Republicans could have had a lock on Congress for decades...

People were ready for mistakes.

All the Republicans had to do was learn to say:

We made a mistake, and this is what we're going to do to fix it...

Instead, they chose to blame others or simply refuse to admit their mistakes...and they'll probably get the boot because of it.

A lesson for the Democrats, I suppose.

To help focus things a bit, I offer these three pieces:

http://www.heritage.org/Research/AsiaandthePacific/wm1232.cfm

http://www.tcsdaily.com/article.aspx?id=100606C

http://www.tcsdaily.com/article.aspx?id=100606A

I suspect many of you will recognize the author of the third piece.

It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness; here's 3 candles monkeyboy.

You need them, badly.

I'll add to this discussion later, I'm busy right now doing the 'work' thing.

Monkey. I'm not trying to be dismissive, but I don't have time to play "what if" with you this evening.

Okay. That was a lie. Maybe I am trying to be dismissive. (to the group) I just don't think le garcon du monkey has much of anything that isn't regurgitated, and it seemed trite the first time I heard it. So I'm off to something more intelligent than playing this game, like picking my nose while staring out the window.

As penance, I offer this: it's not Boltie, it's not Bushie. Here's a hint, it's not anybody with an "ie" at the end of their name. If you have to add "ie" to their name, it's not them. Same rule holds for "hitler" and "nazi" and a few other overused and little understood metaphors. NK has a long history of other countries paying them off in various ways. It wasn't Clinton or Old Bush either. It was a pattern of behavior with international scope. Saying "if only Bush had done such-and-such, a) we'd love him, b) he could learn to fly, or c) life would be beautiful" is a statement of the same category as my saying "if only my grandma had wheels, she'd be a trolley" -- it's not provable, and most likely false.

But your name IS Monkey, I can see where the moniker confusion comes from. If it makes you feel any better, you can call me Danny. But I didn't make the mess in NK either. Maybe it was Karl Rove.

Section 9 #39:

Firstly, what the libs fail to realize is the catastrophe that is about to befall Chinese diplomacy. They were too clever by half. All that it has bought them is the resurrection of the one force in the world they did not want to see plow the waves of the Pacific again: the Nihon Kaigun.

Yep. For anyone really captivated by this topic try The Great Wall and the Empty Fortress by Nathan and Ross.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention... although Japan seems a fairly staunch ally I'm not entirely comfortable with the notion of Japan armed to the teeth with nukes. It's not the worst scenario I can think of, but I'm not too happy about it.

Also, someone needs to embed Fly's links in #39. They're messing up the formatting for the page.

Concur with that.

Everybody seems oddly excited at the thought of all the good guys - OUR good guys - arming up with nukes.

There was a reason behind non-proliferation in the first place, after all. Today's friends are often tomorrows enemies.

It is - without a doubt - China that has elected to play this game of chicken. It's a bad game all around... and I wonder why the Chinese - who are traditionally very far-sighted - want to play.

It doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Maybe they assumed that NorK wouldn't get this far?

When did you first hear that people should admit to their mistakes and not try to blame others for them, Danny?

Kindergarten, maybe?

I see your reaction to this lesson hasn't changed since you first heard it...

So I'm off to something more intelligent than playing this game, like picking my nose while staring out the window.

The Japanese DO NOT want to arm up with nuclear weapons. It is a tremendous burden, and won't give them the regional mojo that the restored carrier battle groups will give them. These are in the planning stages-big Nimitz class vessels but of the new CVX design that they've been following in with the Americans. The object is to let America carry the atomic burden while the IJN throws Japan's weight around and, most importantly, protects the sealane from the People's Liberation Army Navy.

Publicly, the Japanese have only admitted to building jeep carriers along the lines of the Littoral Combat Ship that we have. Privately, you can bet that the CVX is the next thing to come. Japan is a maritime trading nation that will never want to completely depend on Pacific Fleet.

With the rebirth of the Kaigun will come political maturity and independence. China will be checked, and a modest nuclear deterrent developed. But no huge arsenal. Japan under the Abe Government will plow untold billions of yen into the Kaigun, as it joins a constellation of states, the U.S., Australia, India, and Vietnam that have chosen to confront a newly confident China seeking its place in the sun.

If President Bush admitted to mistakes, do we think the Democrats would applaud him and say "Thank you for your honesty, and now let's work together. And btw, we wouldn't think of exploiting this"

Of course not.

The next day they'd use his words in their campaign ads. They'd also use them in their articles of impeachment.

Suggestions to admit mistakes are laudable, but ignore political realities.

To what do you attribute "nukes are a burden" section 9?

Nukes in fact make carrier groups irrelevant, since nuke missiles can kill masses cheaply and force payoffs, surrenders, and compliance. Japan without nukes and ballistic missiles (they already have a robust satellite launching system) is easy prey for North Korea engaged in low intensity warfare (kidnapping, counterfeiting etc) against them. Or China by proxy. Or whoever.

Face it unless North Korea gets extremely unpleasant consequences there is nothing to stop Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, Vietnam, Australia and Indonesia from all getting Nukes. And that's just in Asia. Hell BURMA will get them.

Iran, Saudi, Egypt, Libya et all will also get them. Nukes by Libya or Egypt allow them to "demand" say surrender of Sicily to Muslims (ruled by Muslims briefly) and GET IT.

Japan was happy to avoid explicit targeting by the USSR and hide under the US nuke umbrella, but that was then. This as Emilio said is now.

JFK admitted the Bay of Pigs was a mistake. Something about defeat being an orphan, as I recall. The alternative is to insult everyone in the world's intelligence with pronouncements increasingly at odds with reality. Just like Bush.

I still think that NK nukes are a response to Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan having nukes. In the same way that Israel had nukes for decades before they became "official".

See Joining the Club.

Clinton sent Japan 40 tons of reactor grade Plutonium starting in 1999. Not the best material for a bomb. However, it is useable and could produce weapons in the Hiroshima, Nagasaki range of yield.

South Korea has a fuel reprocessing plant. Taiwan does as well.

The NK nukes will not change the correlation of forces by much. Japan has rockets that actually work.

monkey,

I'm secretly hoping for Dem control of Congress in 2007. Why? Well they might actually have to solve problems. If they didn't (good odds on that) they have no chance in 2008.

BTW as long as you are into name calling might I suggest Simple or if you really want to mangle it and put us together Simian.

Which problems are those, M.?

I thought everything was going just dandy!

Jim Rockford (#57)

Iran, Saudi, Egypt, Libya et all will also get them. Nukes by Libya or Egypt allow them to "demand" say surrender of Sicily to Muslims (ruled by Muslims briefly) and GET IT

That's it. The problem for Europe is much greater than for the U.S, now having long range anti-ballistic missile capability (thank Bush). NK's movement may prompt other countries to do so, especially if extortion is sucessful.

Europe alone can only deploy four AEGIS frigattes and some Patriot batteries, trying to balance the playing field, though finally S-L-O-W moving NATO has just begun to dedicate some million bucks for studying an anti-missile shield for the continent.

America may be ready to deal with the new threats. Europe not.

In my previous post a "danger" is missing betten greater and than. My apologies.

It seems it has been a very clean nuclear test.

I am afraid NK, already a failed country, is seeking desperately to get some profit from its nuclear program after sucessful ABM tests, like last September's,
makes any further advance in its only two areas of technological development, futile.

Bravo sir. I couldn't have said it better myself. NK is chinas tool to use for their ambitions in the region. Yet another reason to boycott china.

You had to do it didn't you? You just had to add your partisan jackassery into the mix. You wrote what was an eminently sensible and coguent discussion on the NK nukes...and then you decide afterwards - wait! OmiGawd! I didn't blame Clinton! Better git that in post-haste!

It might be nice if both parties made a modicum of effort to focus on the matter at hand rather then spending their time on who's more to blame? Is it asking to much for you to focus on the fracking nukes and not on a guy who has been OUT OF OFFICE for more than 6 years?

It's Bush's Watch...I think after six years it might also start to become his responsibility.

OK, I'll see you and raise you one:

Taiwan: The Fifty-First State!

"Search and boarding activities for ships from North Korea may be helpful"

How about full-out blockade? Anything that tries to get in or out of an NK harbor gets sunk with no warning.

All of a sudden all their aid and trade needs to go through China and Russia, and anything bad they do (like sell weapons to Iran or HEU to Al-Qaeda) will implicate one of the above. How much trade does Russia have? If they're smart they'll seal up their border too and let China own this mess.

Just increase safety/security inspections on cargo from China.Don't publicize or link this to the NK problem. The resulting backups will focus the minds of the Chinese on solving the NK problem.They have to be guided to the awareness that doing your best customer a favor is good business.Pissing your best customer off is stupid!

#43 from monkyboy

Uh, Clinton sent Japan 40 tons of Plutonium starting in 1999.

So at least we know what the Democrat plan was.

Gifting nuclear weapons to Japan and South Korea would be very foolish. If said weapons were ever used the entire world, thanks to the slanted global media, would blame the US for the death of every person by those weapons. Let Japan & Co. develop their own arsenals. First step would be to remove the nuclear umbrella from those nations, otherwise we'll get the European freerider problem all over again, with South Koreans blaming the US for any deployment of nukes in defense of their country (well, they'll probably do that regardless).

Now is the time to decide whether the US wants to play the new Cold War with China in East Asia. If not, pull out now and let Japan & Friends deal with the problem as they see fit, with our moral support but not our nuclear umbrella. You'll have Great Power Europe 1910 with nukes in a very short time.

If the US wants to play, build a new Pacific Alliance Treaty Organization, re-arm Japan, declare Taiwan a protectorate like West Germany, and get ready for some serious brinksmanship and crises.

To paraphrase John F Kennedy: "It shall be the policy of this Nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from North Korea against any nation in East Asia as an attack by the People's Republic of China on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the People's Republic of China."

#61 monkey,

There is a difference between "dandy" and "as well as can be expected". Being in the realist school (I'm an aerospace engineer) perfection is not an option.

Murphy rules.

So I would like to see if the Democrats can meet their own expectations. Being a realist I don't expect it.

"Gifting nuclear weapons to Japan and South Korea would be very foolish. If said weapons were ever used the entire world, thanks to the slanted global media, would blame the US for the death of every person by those weapons. Let Japan & Co. develop their own arsenals."

Japan maintains a state of nuclear weapon readiness. The plans and machines to build the bomb are on the board already. Japan theoretically could test a bomb within 6 weeks of deciding to go ahead with a weapons program, and could reach full production from native enrichment within 6 months.

We aren't dealing with savages. Japan is as technically savvy as any country in the world. If they want a bomb, they won't need our help making one.

South Korea could probably produce a bomb in under two years.

Philip (#70)

If not, pull out now and let Japan & Friends deal with the problem as they see fit, with our moral support but not our nuclear umbrella. You'll have Great Power Europe 1910 with nukes in a very short time.

European economies in 1910 were not integrated, but isolated of each other.

Today we have in Eastern Asia all countries being dependent of someone else's economy except NK, which has to threaten others with nukes in order to feed its people.

An open war between two Asian nations not comprising NK is, therefore, unlikely to happen. It would damage all of them.

A consequence of Capitalism.

J Aguilar:

[i]European economies in 1910 were not integrated, but isolated of each other.[/i]

Incorrect. FDI flows in 1905 in Europe were higher than they were in the earl 1990s. Only in 2000 did the level of globalisation reach what it had been a hundred years before. This is not a consequence of capitalism but of free trade and globalization, which are not synonymous.

Most Europeans in 1914 made exactly the same argument you just made: that war in Europe was inconceivable because European economies were so interdependent. Nationalism trumps business any day of the week, as the Great War proved so well.

Compare and contrast to Tom Barnett, who also assesses China as the strategic essence. Being of the D persuasion (though a prophet without honor), he dutifully dishes Bush, but try to read through it. Here's the essence:
We tolerate Russia and India and China instead of embracing them as key allies, and we indulge the Japanese and Europeans, when neither has shown much inclination to grow up strategically any time soon (although I have my hopes for Abe as the next iteration in Tokyo). Bush and Co. define the new era all right. They just don't seem to recognize that a lot of players have changed sides in the meantime.
Now I think 'embracing' is a little rich in respect to China, too prone to fall into the just-pretend-it's-so wishful thinking trap. But it's certainly not out of line to suggest that a clear and respectful strategic conversation is in order.

If China is set on a traditional Great Powers sphere of influence game, then the lines are drawn, and some of the implications are outlined above. But at least some of those in power there are smart enough to note that that isn't a terrribly profitable game in this age of the world.

China does have legitimate strategic interests that align with ours at points. There is obvious mutual commercial interest, or we wouldn't have the co-dependent market embrace of the present. Our interests also align on energy security. Right now, that translates into Chinese sensitivity about sea lanes, and concern/meddling in sources of oil. But we align in both needing alternatives, ASAP, for multiple reasons. Perhaps these are sufficient synergies for an understanding, perhaps not, but not having the conversation is simply kicking the can again.

Before we start criticizing the Bush and Clinton plans on North Korea, perhaps we should be a little clearer on what those plans actually were?

No one knew how well Kim Jong Il could keep Norkland running in October, 1994, and the bet was that he couldn't. The Agreed Framework was supposed to be designed to hand the Norks the rope to hang themselves with... especially as the about-to-be-elected Republican Congress oh-so-convienently and oh-so-deniably kept funding high enough that the Norks didn't back out yet low enough that they got minimal traction.

This was a win-win plan as long as the Norks went ahead and collapsed.... but they didn't, because China saw to it that they didn't. At this point it becomes clear that, unlike us, China wasn't just waiting for Kim Il Sung to die in order to make a rearrangement of Korea possible. At this point we make it clear that we don't want China to keep this elephant on our backs, and send Japan plutonium as a broad hint that isn't received. The rope to hang themselves with has now become Danegeld, and the Norks want more.

Bush comes in and turns the screws. No negotiation at all, at first, then negotiation only in six-party talks... talks designed to force China to notice Nork antics and the fact that the Norks are eventually going to screw up Chinese strategic plans. The result now is that when the Norks tell China they are at long last going to test their nuke, China immediately turns around and tells us... and is annoyed, and willing to talk to us, when the Norks screw up (AGAIN) and do something unilateral (AGAIN).

All this -- no matter who's doing it -- is according to the best American option at the moment. The task is to resolve the Korean question with as little bloodshed or trouble as possible.

Any partisan advantage gained out of all this is nil. My only complaint on Bush's conduct is the insanity of the "Axis of Evil" speech, which has led to unnecessarily increased collusion between enemies of America... such as Iran and North Korea... while reducing our diplomatic soft power abroad. Since we couldn't stop the Nork nukes, and Iraq is a disaster, people now don't want to listen to us about Iran. Those countries could have stayed somewhat separate problems, but Bush's team had to go linking them together. That's made America's position weaker, and it is for that -- not for the timing of the nuke itself -- that I criticize Bush on this issue. Both presidents otherwise did their best in a tough situation -- this is one of the few things Bush has NOT royally screwed up, and he gets the proper kudos for that.

**********************************************

Once China recognizes that the Nork situation cannot be sustained indefinitely -- and will cost China greatly to solve unilaterally -- we can begin the five-party talks to produce the multilateral plan to take out the Norks.

Such a plan must satisfy some of everyone's strategic desires, of course: Korea not a threat to Chinese plans in Siberia, but Korea retaining independence from Chinese domination; disposition of Nork nuclear material; Russia, Japan, and the US getting security guarantees, including monitoring; etc., etc. Those negotiations will not be easy and will likely drag on for quite a while. Posturing such as Joe suggests might be possible in such circumstances -- but not before, because it is in the context of such negotiations that clear avoidance paths with rich rewards for China will appear, as well as clear brinks that would stop the emergence of the Pacific Cold War.

If we start proliferating all over the place -- even if we THREATEN to start proliferating all over the place -- without VERY tight safeguards that make it clear this is a one-time-only move, it will be a signal that proliferation is once again an acceptable move in the Great Game. I don't see what on Earth could possibly be a sufficient return on investment to justify such a move.

Finally, there is one way to eliminate the Chinese actors that have created and sustained this plan without forcing internal coup and countercoup within the Forbidden Palace. All they have to do is die of old age. In such a gerentocratic situation, "kicking the can down the street" is NOT a wasteful strategy. One of these days, the leaders of China will be men (and, hopefully, women) educated in the United States of America. Pretty much all our China policies are being kicked down the street like cans waiting for that day... the day we can talk to them, and they can talk to us, and really understand each other for who we each are.

May it come soon... before eleventy-seven other things blow up in our face, metaphyicsally, metaphorically, and quite literally.

Philip Cassini (#74)

European economies in 1910 were not integrated, but isolated of each other.

Incorrect.

Well... incorrect.

FDI flows in 1905 in Europe were higher than they were in the earl 1990s.

and what happened in 1910? Was FDI higher?

Duties in 1905 were far superior than in the early 1990's, and rising, international movement of capital was controlled by the government, which is Interventionism or Socialism, NEVER capitalism... a golden age indeed.

Most Europeans in 1914 made exactly the same argument you just made: that war in Europe was inconceivable because European economies were so interdependent. Nationalism trumps business any day of the week, as the Great War proved so well.

No, Socialism began to sever inter-European economic links before the end of the 19th century, with duties applied to imports. These movements were triggered by Bismarck in order to satisfy its Socialist Party allies and crush the German Liberals. The rest of European countries followed.

State Nationalism is a consequence of Interventionism. Nationalism did not cut the economic relations between Europeans in a week, Interventionism and Socialism did it during decades and then fostered Nationalism. As Mises pointed out:

Interventionism aims at state control of market conditions. As the sovereignty of the national state is limited to the territory sub�ject to its supremacy and has no jurisdiction outside its boundaries, it considers all kinds of international economic relations as serious obstacles to its policy. The ultimate goal of its foreign trade policy is economic self-sufficiency.[...]

German aggressive nationalism is animated by these considera�tions. For more than sixty years German nationalists have been depicting the consequences which the protectionist policies of other nations must eventually have for Germany. Germany, they pointed out, cannot live without importing food and raw materials. How will it pay for these imports when one day the nations producing these materials have succeeded in the development of their domes�tic manufactures and bar access to German exports? There is, they told themselves, only one redress: We must conquer more dwelling space, more Lebensraum.

Look, I really find quite risible and unrational those theories about both World Wars in which all those atrocities are explained just saying: Europeans were Nationalist or Europeans (more precisely Germans) were evil. Why were they Nationalist? why were they evil? It HAS to be a reason!

The answer can also be applied to Kim Jong-Il: they were looking for economic profit.

That is the reason the European Union was created and founded in three Classic Liberal principles of free trade of goods, capitals and free movement of persons: to assure the peace in Europe. They are stabilizing factors among nations, in Europe and in Eastern Asia.

"The rope to hang themselves with has now become Danegeld, and the Norks want more."

The problem with that assessment is that the 'right' 'hawkish' side always said that it was nothing more than 'Danegeld'. In fact, its better to call it something more blunt, like extortion payments or bribes. The fact is, Clinton paid of the Nork's to keep them from causing trouble, not because he thought that it would cause them to collapse.

And its widely recognized that it was Clinton's bribe money that got NK through the hardest times. Would China have ponied up the money if we hadn't? Maybe, maybe not, but don't pretend that it was China that kept the NK regime afloat. We did.

"My only complaint on Bush's conduct is the insanity of the "Axis of Evil" speech, which has led to unnecessarily increased collusion between enemies of America... such as Iran and North Korea..."

Hogwash. North Korea and Iran were colluding long before both of them got list in the 'Axis of Evil' speech. You are confusing cause and effect.

Now the comment about 'soft power' is a little less easy to dismiss, and I'll only say that sometimes you have to use something stronger than careful diplomatic language. Sometimes you have to tell the truth.

"May it come soon... before eleventy-seven other things blow up in our face, metaphyicsally, metaphorically, and quite literally."

Amen.

I concur with you that kicking the can down the street is likely to pay off in the end as far as China goes. I just hope you realize that the same analysis doesn't apply to North Korea or Iran.

Let's look at the big picture for a moment, shall we?
All the partisan bickering here is just depressing as hell. You're all so provincial and you have the memories of goldfish. This didn't begin when KJI pulled out of the non-proliferation treaty under GWB's watch, and it didn't begin with Clinton's deal (one misconception that I see run rampant is that we built them a light-water reactor... We never did. Promised one, yes, but never followed through. The idea was that the regime would collapse because of the 90's famine before we ever followed through on our end. Stupid plan if you ask me).
This began in 1945. Here's a simple historical fact: Never in the history of the human race have we ever kept any technology from being used, and spread, globally. It's not possible to contain this kind of technology, unless you halt advancement in every related field... Computers get more powerful and cheaper, materials engineers get more clever, and so on. On top of that, information itself becomes easier to spread and proliferate with the globalizing economy and more advanced communications. The logical outcome of this historical process is that eventually, anybody who wants a weapon of mass destruction will obtain one cheaply. I understand trying to stop proliferation, what else can we do? But ultimately I just think that it's like the story of the Dutch boy.
Why do you think Oppenheimer made that famous quote when he witnessed the world's first nuclear implosion? He gave the world a lethal education, and he knew it.
Let me preempt anyone who will say that I'm just being doom and gloom and I have no answers: you're absolutely right. I just hope I'm dead and gone before it all falls apart.
Now, just tell me why I'm wrong. I'd love to be convinced.

Hi Joe,
I'm compiling the largest roundup in the Blogosphere on the North Korean Nuclear test and I added your comments/link to the post: Link

I also responded to your comments there, with my main thought being NK's actions would likely encourage Japan, SK, and Taiwan to go nuclear and that would mitigate China's expansionist designs in East Asia - so I disagreed with you on China's manipulation of events.

A short break for a lighter note... this on-target YouTube ad made me laugh my ass off. The GOP deserves to lose just for having refused to run it - and given us all the satisfaction of seeing Kim Jong-Il dunk that basketball. Though Bin Laden telling Albright that she missed a spot washing the wall was also pretty damn funny.

More ads like this, from both parties, would actually improve political debate. And yes, that's a sad statement, but it's also true.

OK, back to the serious stuff.

It might give the US more leverage in the area if they were not a trillion dollars in debt to China, for consumer goods that are mostly not needed and Western countries including the US are perfectly capable of making.

It might sound like tinfoil territory, but it looks to me as if Wal-Mart is one of the architects of this crisis.

YouTube killed it. Perhaps we can get together on a boycott of YouTube and Google? They've become about as unabashedly illiberal as it's possible to get, without strapping on an explosive belt themselves.

My mistake. YouTube just flagged it as "inappropriate" so that you have to log in to see it.

"The fact is, Clinton paid of the Nork's to keep them from causing trouble, not because he thought that it would cause them to collapse.

And its widely recognized that it was Clinton's bribe money that got NK through the hardest times."

...the hope being, again, that the hush money would keep them quiet long enough for their own internal problems to cause their collapse without being enough to let them straighten themselves out. And I repeat: they miscalculated and it didn't work.

I don't see how the 'hawk' policy worked any better, though, so this is not exactly a decisive argument. If we'd sat back and done nothing, Seoul would lie in ruins as the death-spasm of the Nork regime took it out. Maybe a 100% chance of a ruined Seoul is better than a 5% chance of a ruined Honolulu, but I doubt anyone else would agree with us on that point.

Meanwhile, the Danegeld continued to be paid no matter what we did. When we stopped paying Danegeld, the South Koreans began the 'sunshine policy' that amounted to the same thing. Only now is it dawning on them that Danegeld was not a good idea -- we at least knew that from the start. (The enthusiasm for the 'sunshine policy' was scary... hopefully that's all over now.)

As for your 'Hogwash' comment, you convienently ignored the adjective 'increased'. Iran and the Norks were indeed already working together, but by calling attention to it, we accelerated its ripening. What good did that do? If the point was to get allies to recognize the dangers and help stomp out the fires, the strategy backfired: allies became more divided while enemies became more unified. This to me is not a successful outcome, but YMMV.

Pointing out that Iraq, Iran, and North Korea were trouble spots that needed dealing with was a great idea. But calling them an "Axis of Evil" -- and doing so publicly -- only made things worse. (Especially when Saddam won't collude with the Ayatollahs unless they both find themselves in the fifth trench of the Eighth Circle.)

Can-kicking will indeed no longer work with the Norks, and we need to inform China of same. Can-kicking may or may not work with Iran, but signs are now moving toward "not". Can-kicking certainly WILL work with China, unless they collapse and something more nasty than the old guard Commies come to power.

Let me just point out that today's transparency of global communications makes comments like 'Axis of Evil' into an inherent dilemma for any high official. You can mince words in talking about the enemy, e.g., 'terror' instead of 'Islamofascist' (or your favorite substitute), and then be accused of insufficiently informing and rallying the populace for what lies ahead. Or you can just spit out the bald words - 'Axis of Evil' - and be accused of making the trouble you should be avoiding. Damned if you do, damned if you don't, no matter your party. Welcome to public communications and public diplomacy in the Internet age.

Which of the inherent errors you take offense over probably reveals more of your own biases than it does of the underlying facts.

I admit that few are as contemptuous of Clinton as I am, but even I have to admit that the agreement with North Korea was foist upon him by arguably the worst ex-President this nation has ever had, Jimmy Carter. It seems clear that Jimmy Carter was played by the North Koreans and then Carter proceeded to screw the Clinton administration by publically announcing an agreement that they had not authorized.

Clinton was really in no position at the time to reject his own emissary - although in hindsight he should have.

Its just irritating that the reality of just how bad Jimmy Carter has undermined the interests of the United States over the last 30 years goes ignored.

Not that I like defending Clinton (and there is no defense of Carter), but remember Clinton wanted to bomb N. Korea and the S. Korean President went ape. Was the alternative Clinton found acceptable, probably not, but he was constrained by a S. Korea that didn't want to do anything to rock the boat; and indeed had rediculous ideas of a 'Sunshine' policy with N. Korea.

Bush should propose a 10% import tax on Chinese goods, until N. Korea disarms.

And a tight blockade of all shipping, other than food and medicine.

[Hey Roger - guess what! You're banned!

A.L.]

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