Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Deja Vu All Over Again

With North Korea unwilling to return to the six-party talks, the U.S. has embarked on a policy of confrontation and saber rattling, terminating military cooperation on servicemen’s remains with the DPKR, “decapitating” the international initiative to provide North Korea with a peaceful nuke power station by removing its director, Charles Kartman, and, as reported in today’s New York Times, dispatching 15 Stealth fighters to South Korea to show Kim Jung-il:

that even though the American military is tied up in Iraq, it can reach his capital, Pyongyang, and the nuclear facilities north of it.

As the LA Times reported on May 28,

A former State Department official, who did not want to be quoted by name, said the suspension of the remains recovery program and Kartman's termination indicated a concerted effort by the administration to tighten the screws on Pyongyang."They are putting all the pieces in place to shut everything down around North Korea," he said.

The current confrontational policy against North Korea eerily recapitulates our campaign against Iraq in 2003.

Once again, the United States has labored mightily to delegitimize an unsavory regime as a pariah state and use incendiary claims about weapons of mass destruction to declare the existence of a pressing global security crisis. However, we have been unable to forge a genuine consensus concerning the nature or severity of the threat, or the proper measures to counter it. Instead of a global coalition, the Bush administration can claim the enthusiastic support of one regional ally—Japan—and the overt resistance and silent opposition of virtually all the major powers, including the dominant presence in Asia--China.

The only difference: this time we are admitting up front we’re not sure the policy will work.

From the New York Times:

But in the absence of(six-party) talks, much of the discussion inside the administration now is about instituting strong punitive measures, including interceptions of any shipments of suspected illicit goods. On Saturday, however, one official said that such an effort "just won't work if we can't get the Chinese to go along."

Even as the administration accepts a more pessimistic view of China's willingness to help, almost every option under discussion similarly relies on China.

As I argued in my May 26 post, the Bush administration has knowingly or unwittingly foreclosed its foreign policy options with its freedom crusade rhetoric.

The U.S. simply doesn’t have the credibility anymore to represent itself as an honest broker in the world of diplomacy, sovereignty, and negotiation.

All that’s left is the unilateral, unrestrained superpower “master of war” strategy that the Bush administration feels so comfortable with. But, without the capability to attract or compel Chinese support on North Korea, we are nowhere near being “master of events”.

So we are pursuing a foreign policy option that we understand ahead of time is probably futile.

Perhaps the Bush administration hopes that a hard line will produce some fruitful chaos, a “Perfect Storm” provoking some combination of crisis in North Korea and recalculation in China that will prove beneficial to U.S. interests.

But hope, as they say, is not a plan, and it is disturbing to see the United States resorting to a policy that can be best described as regional reckless endangerment without the mainstream press understanding the issues or the U.S. public having the slightest idea of what’s going on.

An effective resolution of our North Korean dilemma would probably require the repudiation of the Bush unilateral pre-emption doctrine and its authors. Failing that, we can only hope that when, we repeat the absurdities of Bush foreign policy this year, it is as farce, instead of tragedy.

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