July 11, 2005

Clinton's Starting to Scare Me

I'd hoped that Hillary Clinton's turn to the center might hold a bit, might even bring the Democrats back to some sort of policy sanity for awhile.

Foolish me.

Writing in the Washington Post and teaming with the unpromising liberal dinosaur Carl Levin, Hillary just lost her mind over North Korea. Before I get to that, a little history.

The Clinton administration negotiated seriously with North Korea so that it would stop its progress towards nuclear weapons in violation of its treaty obligations. The product of those negotiations, the "Agreed Framework" was supposed to have kept us from the nightmare of a NE Asia nuclear race with S. Korea, Taiwan, and Japan all needing to build a bomb to deter N. Korea. The Agreed Framework failed. We had detected one of their nuclear initiatives, the plutonium one. They had been running two in parallel and their uranium program continued apace. The 1 to 2 nuclear weapons that were produced out of that uranium program are what stays our hand while Pyongyang shamelessly tramples on their NPT and Agreed Framework commitments today.

Senator Clinton praises the Agreed Framework agreement and wants us to move back to the days when we were being hoodwinked by the N. Korean government. That's bad policy no matter how you slice it.

What really got my goat was this section, blasting President Bush's insistence on multilateralism

This is about more than the stability of the Korean Peninsula and the fate of South Korea and U.S. troops stationed there, important as those things are. What is at stake is the stability of Northeast Asia and, arguably, the global economic and political order. The administration must get serious. It doesn't matter who is at the table as long as we and the North Koreans are there, and as long as both sides negotiate with seriousness and urgency. The administration must inject both into the process.

This is insulting to the other 4 parties in the 6 party talks. The PRC, S. Korea, Japan, and Russia are being written off as irrelevant powers who don't matter whether they show up or not and who have no independent beefs with N. Korea. The non-nuclear among them, S. Korea and Japan, are supposedly going to go nuclear if N. Korea doesn't pull back and disarm but their presence at negotiations is a mere asterisk, unimportant. Gratuitously insulting major regional and world powers is not a good way to maintain or improve the US' standing in the world.

Beyond that, if Hu and Kim sat down over some dim sum and kim chee and hammered out an agreement that would verifiably get rid of N. Korea's nuclear weapons and dismantle its programs, would it really bother anybody here that the US was not at the table? I wouldn't lose a moment's sleep over it and would tip my hat to the savvy PRC diplomats who could think far enough ahead to see what an increase in world stature that would mean for their country.

The US seems to be promoting a system of regional powers that keeps their areas reasonably well running with a US supplied backstop. Nigeria is being promoted for that role in Africa, for example. Iraq needed to be a US show because there are no remotely acceptable regional powers as of our decision date to invade Saddam's Iraq. In NE Asia there are plenty of contenders for the role. That's why including all of them in talks is important. We don't want to be a world policeman. We don't want to infantilize serious nations and serious governments. It's too expensive and dangerous to boot.

HT: The Dignified Rant

Posted by TMLutas at July 11, 2005 08:07 AM