Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Nicholas Eberstadt and North Korea Regime Change

Reading the NK Zone, a group blog that provides a lot of interesting information on North Korea, a post directed me to a "must read" transcript of remarks by Nicholas Eberstadt. Eberstadt is the hardest of hard core North Korea regime changers at the American Enterprise Institute. In his speech, he's trying to get South Korea to drink the regime change elixir (or Kool-Aid) indirectly, with some moral arm twisting about how the ROK has to set up a program to patriate North Korean refugees who fled to China.

I commented as follows:

As you counseled, I read “every word” of Nick Eberstadt’s talk and came away sorely disappointed.

I’ll be upfront. I opppose the Bush administration program of “regime change” as a tool of foreign policy, which makes me a deluded appeaser in Eberstadt’s book.

Eberstadt is an unwavering advocate of regime change. When he encourages South Korea to welcome and resettle North Korean refugees who have fled to China, he is clearly (to me, at least) hoping to create an overwhelming flood of refugees that will hollow out and destabilize the North Korean regime.

His article devoid of specifics as to why the Chinese would want to create an EZ Pass lane to South Korea for the refugees, thereby contributing to the destruction of the DPRK, which China regards as a reassuring buffer against the US military presence in North Asia.

All he says is:

If Seoul adopts an activist stance and insists upon the law—including its own laws—many of the problems encountered with China today may solve themselves.

Does anybody seriously believe this?

If North Korean refugees become an international political issue, it’s more likely that China would seek to remove the problem by militarizing its border with North Korea more than it already has, to make sure no more refugees get in. Not exactly a victory for freedom or the North Korean people.

Eberstadt hits the Judeo-Christian trifecta by unctuous references to the Jewish diaspora, sins of omission and commission (Catholicism), and “the bread of righteousness” (Protestantism).

This is not an attempt to underline the moral imperative of helping the North Korean people. It is all of a piece with the efforts since 1995 of Michael Horowitz to recast the struggle for human rights (a traditionally liberal concern) as a battle against religious persecution, and make regime change a religious imperative and political rallying point for the Christian right in U.S. domestic politics.

Instead of enlarging the world consensus in favor of active support of human rights in North Korea, evangelizing the issue of human rights in North Korea links it to the Bush doctrine of regime change—which has turned US diplomacy in North Asia into a litany of futility and at the same time stalls any increase in humanitarian engagement that might contribute to the well-being of the North Korean people.

So put me down as somebody who read the Eberstadt article—and found it shallow, hypocritical, and mendacious.

Perhaps what’s needed instead is some debate as to whether a militant pursuit of regime change, regardless of its near term probability or long term consequences, is preferable as a means of promoting the welfare of the North Korean people to a policy of engagement whose objective of regime modification might include regime change as one of its possible results—but not as its sole aim.

It’s a debate I hope to see at NKZone.


joshua said...

Have that debate on NKZone? Why, how daring of you. Tell me, is NKZone still blocked in China? Care to up the ante and have it on Maybe then I'll explain some of the reasons why it's time for regime change in China, too. That exercise loses much of its meaning when you and I are debating the fate of a billion enslaved souls without them being able to participate.

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