I’ve been meaning to slam on this article in Slate about the situation in Korea, as it’s an example of the reality dysfunction present in many who object to US policy. The thrust of the article is that tensions in Korea are due to clumsy US diplomacy, rather than the belligerent actions of the psychotic regime in the North. Let’s look.
First up we have this comment:
South Korea, which has the most leverage over Pyongyang
Reality check. China has the most leverage over Pyongyang, since it’s direct Chinese material aid that keeps the regime from collapsing. China could bring it down in weeks any time it wanted. South Korea could … what? Start a war? Ooh, ooh, I know - South Korea could back off on it’s placating of the North!
The Bush administration can barely countenance the totalitarian regime and has taken a hard-line approach, while South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun believes rapprochement will open up the garrison state.
Imagine that, President Bush doesn’t like totalitarian regimes that starve their own citizens in to cannibalism. But apparently Roh Moo-Hyun is OK with that kind of thing. And certainly the efforts in this direction in the 1990’s have paid off handsomely - for the North. But the reality dysfunction goes deeper than that:
Although South Korea has urged the Bush administration to negotiate with North Korea, the United States has said repeatedly that it does not want to reward bad behavior and has stood tough (too tough in the view of some commentators, including Slate’s Fred Kaplan) with the North. But anyone who knew anything about North Korea would have predicted that it would come right back and restart its atomic program.
If we knew that, why did the US and South Korea pay off the North to not do that? What was the point?
Pyongyang has cleverly portrayed the United States as an imperial aggressor while the North is a brother to South Korea. And it’s working. Sook-Jong Lee, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution, worried that this nuclear crisis threatens to dismantle the valuable 50-year-old U.S.-South Korea alliance, citing a South Korean poll that showed citizens of the south believed the United States poses a greater threat than North Korea.
All of those South Koreans civilians and prisoners, murdered during the war - that’s brotherhood? The mass starvation of Koreans in the North - that’s brotherhood? The tens of thousands of US troops protecting the South from a massive, devasting invasion from the North - that’s imperialist aggression? Hey, if it’s the US that’s the threat, we can just pull those troops out and say “good luck with the starving refugees following the artillery!”.
any final settlement will require a huge financial commitment, because North Korea will never give up its nuclear program unless it receives both a security guarantee and massive economic aid. […] This is where South Korea comes in, picking up a big chunk of the tab.
There we go again - didn’t this same author write just a bit earlier that anyone should realize the North will just restart its nuclear program? And if that would work, why doesn’t South Korea just do it?
What’s really amazing is that not once in the entire article is the nature of the North Korean regime mentioned, as if that is completely irrelevant to the problem in Korea. The end of the article states that
The Bush administration should contemplate a grand bargain in which Pyongyang not only dismantles all nuclear weapons but also reduces the massive stores of conventional weapons aimed at the demilitarized zone. In return, the United States and its allies would offer economic aid, a non-aggression pact, and a peace treaty, finally ending the Korean War (currently only a truce is in force). Then Pyongyang could open up an office on Washington’s Embassy Row, and U.S. diplomats could drive their Fords in North Korea.
Oh yeah, of course North Korea would enthusiastically follow through on its treaty committments, unlike every other treaty it’s ever signed. I wonder if the agreement would include not kidnapping South Koreans and Japanese. Or would those people be considered part of the foreign aid?