Monday, September 19, 2005

Diplomacy progresses with North Korea

Big news this morning:

BEIJING - North Korea on Monday agreed to stop building nuclear weapons and allow international inspections in exchange for energy aid, economic cooperation and security assurances, in a first step toward disarmament after two years of six-nation talks.
No need for me to elaborate. This will be big enough that only a few hermits will miss it.

What I find interesting is how this news is being hailed in various quarters.

Captain's Quarters "...a stunning foreign-policy victory for the Bush administration."
Conservative Thinking " agreement that can be seen as a step back to the Clinton (sic) or an agreement to appease the North Korean government..."
In the Bullpen "...taking this with a big grain of salt..."
The Moderate Voice "History, after all, would urge caution and skepticism."
Joe's Dartblog "...the second major nuclear coup for the Bush Administration [the first being Libya]"
OTB "this is a rather hollow agreement...the Kim government made similar concessions a decade ago and soon abrograted. Let's see how strong the enforcement regimes are before getting too excited about this development."

&c., &c...
With a spin machine that well-focused, it is a no-lose move for the president.
That is what I would call more than a grain of salt.
If it works, it is a great diplomatic coup. If it fails, the failure was expected.
Heads, I win, tails, you lose.

My take: Diplomacy is always, always a better course of action than war. Given the predeliction of most people to favor war over diplomacy, the president's burden is heavier in peacetime than in wartime. My hope is that the president wears enough war paint already to get away with not starting another war.

I see no mention of how easily that can happen, even now. Brinksmanship, it is called. The dark side of this agreement is not that Beloved Leader might not follow through. What we don't know is what kind of counter-response may be planned should that (likely) scenario unfold.

This is what I would call a realistic response.
Whether you're exuberant or despondent about this, your reaction is probably premature, although everyone is entitled to be despondent about the fact that we may not know much else until November. As for the question that concerns me the most--whether this is really a deal with the devil on human rights--I don't know the answer to that yet. We'll just have to watch the signals coming from Washington: whether Congress appropriates the funds it authorized for the radios; whether the United States goes along with the North's demands for "development aid" instead of food; and whether Jay Lefkowitz will continue to challenge the regime's methods of internal control.

The success or failure of the agreement still has a few pieces left that depend on Washington.

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