March 06, 2003

We Have No Policy

The Committee on Economic Development is really scared of the deficit. Joshua Micah Marshall is really scared of North Korea--and even more scared because his judgment is that it is clear that the Bush administration has no North Korea policy at all:


Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall: Question number two tonight in the president's news conference was on the North Korea crisis. The answer was depressing. And the message was clear: we have no policy. The president wants help from the Chinese, South Koreans, Russians, Japanese, etc. etc. etc. Can anybody help? Does anyone have a policy we can borrow? Does anyone have another question? Next question.

Here's the quote of the day from today's Nelson Report ...

It would be difficult to exaggerate the growing mixture of anger, despair, disgust, and fear actuating the foreign policy community in Washington as the attack on Iraq moves closer, and the North Korea crisis festers with no coherent U.S. policy. We get the phone calls and e-mails from all over this Administration, Capitol Hill, the think tanks, and even fellow scribblers. We've never seen anything like it, and we've been here since 1966.

This is a bad situation, getting worse. And the unavoidable truth is that we don't have a policy and because of that we're letting it hang.

Posted by DeLong at March 6, 2003 08:53 PM | TrackBack

Comments

As I watched the part of the news conference when Bush discussed North Korea I started to get an anxious feeling. Something like sitting in a room with a toddler that is playing with a loaded gun. One misstatement and I was going to take one between the eyes!

I remember the conservatives complaining about the deal Clinton struck with North Korea as caving in to blackmail. I know conservatives would say anything to bash Clinton, but would somebody please tell me that our policy is not simply based on ABC - Anything But Clinton. Clinton negotiated so Bush can't? Somebody?

Posted by: Dan on March 6, 2003 09:43 PM

Now imagine how you would feel if, in addition, you happened to be living in Northeast Asia.

Posted by: Amused Reader on March 6, 2003 10:28 PM

Your right wingers make me grateful for ours over here (Australia). They're just normal, whereas yours - Regan and now Bush (jr) are of a different hue altogether. Quite genuinely radical with a depth of cynicism and preparedness to hold others to ransom that is not found in many other places. Margaret Thatcher for instance did not run down the budget to dangerous levels of profligacy. That seems par for the course for your guys. And on it goes.

Best of luck - we all really need it right now.

Posted by: Nigel Hawthorne on March 6, 2003 10:52 PM

Given the Bush administration's (non) policy on Iraq, how do I know if I am with them or against them?

Posted by: Amused Reader on March 7, 2003 01:16 AM

Shrub scares me, he truly does. He acts as if he has no clue what he is doing. The only thing that he surely knows is what he wants, but like the blind man that is dropped off in the middle of a city that he has never visited, he has no clue how to get where wants to go. Instead, Shrub is flailing his walking stick wildly in the hope that that he will annoy enough people that they will simply do his bidding.

Republicans love to claim how they 'know' international policy/politics, but have gone blindly into so many international battles that they have destroyed almost all trust that has been garnered over the last century by walking blindly into situations where they have absolutely no roadmap on how to navigate through it.

Pundits love to claim that television will bring the downfall of America, Bush has surpassed in two years what 60 years of television couldn't even claimed to have dreamed of!

Posted by: scared on March 7, 2003 02:31 AM

Well, what, pray tell, should Bush be doing?

The reason not to negotiate another payoff to the North Koreans is that they didn't honor the last payoff . . . . they stopped on the plutonium program, but accelerated the uranium enrichment program and now have enough enriched uranium for a couple of nuclear weapons (as yet untested). It's most definitely NOT a Clinton thing - it's just that blackmail was tried once and it didn't work then, so why expect the North Koreans to be any more honorable this time?

Without help from China, the only option the U.S. has is a bombing strike to destroy the Yongbyon plutonium processing plant the way that Israel did with Iraq's Osirak facility in the early 1980s. And that's an incredibly risky option because North Korea might reply by launching an all-out artillery attack on Seoul.

On the other hand, the Chinese are responsible for "nuclearizing" Pakistan - as a counterweight to a nuclear India - so they may not have the proper attitude towards non-proliferation, anyway.

But as you criticize the Bush policy on North Korea, please offer up potential strategies YOU think a better President would be following - it's only fair.

Posted by: Anarchus on March 7, 2003 05:38 AM

May I suggest this article from March 2001 to see how far we have come in such a short time. From tensions at an all-time low to tensions at an all-time high in 3 short years. It is clear that what the Clinton administration diplomacy was far more successful, so the US should go back to the Clinton strategy (fat chance of Dubya ever agreeing to that).

Posted by: Unrelated Disney on March 7, 2003 05:51 AM

Drat, the hyperlink didn't come through. Here it is: http://www.nautilus.org/fora/security/0102E_Taylor.html Not that I think this article is particularly great - I just randomly picked an article that assessed our diplomatic situation with North Korea at the start of the Dubya administration.

Posted by: Unrelated Disney on March 7, 2003 06:03 AM

Unrelated Disney: The nautilus article was fine as far as it went, but the author was unaware at the time that while the North Koreans had stopped work on the nuclear reactor at Yongbyon, they had in fact accelerated their uranium enrichment program (to make a nuclear weapons requires either plutonium or highly enriched uranium).

In that light, it appears the prior policy of engagement and payment resulted in a slowing of the North Korean program, but it also bought them time to produce enough enriched uranium for one or two nuclear weapons. Should that be considered a successful policy? It's hard to say.

Posted by: Anarchus on March 7, 2003 06:30 AM

"I know conservatives would say anything to bash Clinton, but would somebody please tell me that our policy is not simply based on ABC - Anything But Clinton. Clinton negotiated so Bush can't? Somebody?"

- Posted by Dan at March 6, 2003 09:43 PM


Of course it's not, Dan. That would be far too simplistic. It's actually "Clinton is responsible for everything bad that's happening now, and will be until good things start happening. Then, and only then, will Bush be responsible."

Posted by: Barry on March 7, 2003 06:30 AM

It seems to me that North Korea is quite obviously trying to blackmail the United States. The uranium enrichment program was bad, and clearly was a violation of the 1994 agreement, but is not nearly as bad as a full blown plutonium program.

In any case, we have two options, we can give North Korea something to make them stop (what they want) or we can compel them to stop through force. I don't think South Korea is on board for stopping North Korea using force. I don't think the Bush administration is on board for that, either.

That means we have to negotiate with North Korea until we strike a deal that both we and they can live with. That's how diplomacy works. Our strategy right now (doing nothing, also known as treating it as a regional issue), is the worst possible solution. If we think it's tough to get an outcome that's favorable to us now, what kind of outcome can we expect when North Korea has enough nuclear weapons to obliterate South Korea and Japan, and starts making extras that they can sell to other countries that we really don't want to see with nuclear arms.

Less than a month ago, Donald Rumsfeld said to Congress that North Korea is the world's leading weapons proliferator. That sounds like more than a regional problem to me.

Posted by: Rafe on March 7, 2003 07:01 AM

>>From tensions at an all-time low to tensions at an all-time high in 3 short years<<

There is a strong possibility that North Korea would have restarted its plutonium reactors even if the Clinton policies had been continued, and even if the U.S. had been nice and friendly toward South Korea and North Korea. The "Agreed Framework" was an attempt to buy time, and it succeeded for a while. But it was not a solution.

A large chunk of what is now going on that is bad in the Korean peninsula may not be the fault of the total incompetence of the George W. Bush Administration.

Posted by: Brad DeLong on March 7, 2003 07:24 AM

From what I can understand, the Bush Administration policy concerning North Korea is reasonably if not remarkably clear: this is not just America's problem or even mostly its problem. Therefore the U.S. will not try to resolve it by itself, but only when other countries - who are as implicated as much, if not more - do something.

That is, this is first and foremost South Korea's problem. Secondly it is Japan's. And thirdly it is China's. America comes, at best, in fourth place.

South Korea is no longer a vital interest of the United States. The U.S. can buy its cars and televisions and memory chips elsewhere. While it would be preferable to have South Korea democratic, nothing - meaning, whether other countries in the region become or stay democratic - turns on this. If the South Koreans don't want to resist North Korea's aggressiveness - expecting the U.S. to do the heavy lifting while it watches and criticizes - the U.S. will withdraw its troops asap. N.K. is S.K.'s problem, if anyone's on this planet.

N.K. is Japan's problem because N.K. has the missiles now to reach Tokyo.

N.K. is China's problem, because if N.K. is allowed to keep nuclear weapons, Japan will go nuclear. And then maybe Taiwan decides to join the party. And then there's always the possibility that the two Koreas unite with the bomb, and this re-united nation is not a great friend of China's.

So if it's their problem, why should the U.S. rush to solve it?

I don't know whether this policy is right or not - in the sense whether it will work. But it does make a certain amount of sense. Let's judge Bush when the results are in.

Posted by: Andrew Boucher on March 7, 2003 07:42 AM

Prof. Delong is not a credible evaluator of the Bush Administration, in that his previous attacks on the Bush family have very nearly wandered into the realm or irrationality (the origins of the name Jeb, anyone?) that was previously occupied by the Clinton haters who used to plink pumpkins with air pistols, in order to investigate Vince Foster's suicide. I realize that criticism of the host can be considered bad form, and cause for banishment, but these remarks are sincerely meant to be free of ad hominem content, and merely an honest assessment of what the host has enagaged in when discussing the Bush Administration. That there is much to criticize in this Administration goes without saying; it is the case with all Administrations, and frank or even harsh criticism is a critical task. However, when one begins to take leave of rationality, perhaps due to one's enthusiatic membership in a major political party, then one's credibility suffers in regards to all criticism.

As to the Bush Administration and North Korea, any person not enamored with crystal balls or studying the entrails of freshly slaughtered chickens, or again, not carrying water for a major political party, must say that there simply is not enough information with which to assess the matter, and there likely will not be for some time. This is extremely frustrating, but when one is dealing with the most sensitive intelligence issues, and the most quiet back-channel diplomatic communication, such as with an essential major power like China, it becomes quite difficult to assess exactly what is happening. To state with any degree of confidence as to what degree of competence is being currently employed with regards to North Korea is simply fatuous, or yet more predictable political posturing. It is sometimes very difficult for intelligent people to simply admit that they don't have enough knowledge to provide a useful assessment, but often the words "I don't know" provide the foundation of wisdom.

Posted by: Will Allen on March 7, 2003 07:57 AM

I thought the new NoKo policy was clear: pre-emption. We've got bombers going to Guam, and we're refusing to be blackmailed.

The Clinton policy was to pay off NoKo so they wouldn't build bombs. We paid them and they built bombs anyway. I think it was good to have tried, because it might have worked, and it did slow their program. I'd also have no problem paying them off again, as long as they don't keep breaking the agreements to demand more money. If we're gonna buy them, they need to stay bought.

By refusing to pay more bribes, we leave NoKo two options: proliferate wildly and sell the bombs to get the cash we are unwilling to pay, or war. They cannot just keep building bombs without selling them, because it will cost too much to maintain the nuclear program.

The next question Bush has to be ready for is "What will you do when the North Koreans try to sell a bomb to somebody we don't like?"

Sadly, I expect his answer will involve regime change.

Posted by: Ethan on March 7, 2003 07:58 AM

It's true that foreign policy issues lend themselves to facile and misguided critiques. But the friends I trust on these issues have been groaning about the Bush administration's handling of North Korea at least since the "axis of evil" speech. I'm afraid the Nelson Report has it right (which is not to say that the Bush administration has caused all the problems with North Korea -- obviously not).

Also, how are we not to roll our eyes when our president warns of the danger that North Korea might sell nuclear weapons to dictators? Maybe that was a passing slip of the tongue.

Posted by: Mark Lindeman on March 7, 2003 08:46 AM

Ignorance is Power! War is Peace!

Variations:
Nuclear Weapon Building is Diplomacy! Disarmement is Deception! Secrecy is Democracy! Democracy is Unpatriotic!

So, if we follow Will Allen. Just shut up and trust your Dear Leader you uninformed, deluded, so-called citizen. If you think it's not going properly, think twice: it means that either you don't know enough -for the good Nation!- or that you haven't processed the information the proper way.

What am I going to be called this time by the oh-so-non-partisan and oh-so-balanced-and-objective posters like Will Allen?

"That there is much to criticize in this Administration goes without saying; it is the case with all Administrations [...]"

:-D

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on March 7, 2003 08:49 AM

For the 2004 campaign, how about:

"It's the diplomacy stupid".

Posted by: fberthol on March 7, 2003 08:57 AM

What Anarchus says about the North Korean's uranium program (that they accelerated it after signing the deal with us in the early 1990s) is, as near as I can figure out, wrong.

The news reports I've seen said they stopped the program for several years, and then restarted it in 1999 or so after receiving crucial technology from Pakistan.

The more dangerous program, involving plutonium, was stopped until recently.

Posted by: Mucho Maas on March 7, 2003 09:01 AM

The NK's cheated the 1994 treaty by enriching uranium. However there is no making nukes without using the plutonium reactors at Yongbyon and the Yongbyon facility can't be used without our knowledge - in other words, they can't cheat to the point of making the weapons. Paying off NK to shut down the reactors, in order to buy more time until the implosion of the failed state is bad. Letting them make nukes out of pride that we will not deal with cheaters is worse.

Posted by: Dan on March 7, 2003 09:17 AM

Oh. Was it Bill Clinton who got us into this mess or Brad DeLong? Probably BradLong. Just when I had begun to think every nutty present policy was produced by Bill Clinton, I find it was really our Professor who is responsible.

Professor DeLong just complaining about policy nuttiness,and all will be well again.

Posted by: jd on March 7, 2003 10:50 AM

Ethan said:
>The next question Bush has to be ready for is "What will you do when the North Koreans try to sell a bomb to somebody we don't like?"
I expect the answer is interdiction of the weapons (at least for the short and medium term). It doesn't make much difference if they sell nukes to China. Short of regime change, they won't sell nukes to SK. So any deliveries have to go overseas.
Note, they could sell nukes *through* China, but that would not really be any different than China selling nukes.

Ethan also said:
>Sadly, I expect his answer will involve regime change.
I think if NK tries to sell nukes, and we catch them, regime change is an potential response, and if we catch them *again*, it becomes a very likely response.
I also suspect that "regime change" is already part of the Bush plan, to the extent that they think it likely the NK regime will collapse, and the after-effects will present a simple solution (We'll support reconstruction through international organizations, trade, and some US aid, assuming the successor regime abides by the Nuclear NPT.)


Dan said:
>Letting them make nukes out of pride that we will not deal with cheaters is worse.
That may be, but in calculating the costs and benefits, we need to include the cost of other cheaters encouranged by our letting NK "get away" with it (or similarly, the other potential cheaters deterred because we wouldn't give in to NK).

Posted by: Tom on March 7, 2003 10:58 AM

**There is a strong possibility that North Korea would have restarted its plutonium reactors even if the Clinton policies had been continued, and even if the U.S. had been nice and friendly toward South Korea and North Korea. The "Agreed Framework" was an attempt to buy time, and it succeeded for a while. But it was not a solution. A large chunk of what is now going on that is bad in the Korean peninsula may not be the fault of the total incompetence of the George W. Bush Administration.**

In my view, Professor DeLong, all that NK is looking for in a non-agression pact. As long as they sensed that, absent such pact, they were safe, they were willing to play it nice. But as soon as they realized that the Bush administration had them in their sight for regime change, they decided to blackmail the US for such a pact by stiring as much regional tension as possible.

When the US ignored them they took steps to be soon in a position to sell nuclear weapons to anyone willing to pay. And they know we know they're credible weapon dealers. Whether they'll get to their end is open to question. But one thing is sure, they won't be threatened because they managed to get the nuclear weapon in time, and within two years their babies could end up in ennemy hands, terrorists included if they wanted to.

The error of the Bush administration is to confuse "moral clarity" with effective diplomacy. The only way you can get NK to relinquish its nuclear program at this point is to sign a non-aggression treaty with them.

There is a similarity with the war on Iraq. The Bush administration has very early on closed its non-military options by sending a very expensive number of troops to the Gulf too early, to the point where a victorious retreat has become infeasible.

Similarly, in NK, they should not have heated the rhetoric without reason, to find themselves in a situation where it would be dishonoring to negociate with NK after having said so many times they don't want to reward brinkmanship...

Remember how they also called, upon taking office, China a "strategic ennemy". I am SOOOO glad this gaffe did not degenerate... Also, isn't Russia's stance on the war on Iraq partly a retribution for humiliating Putin by refusing to actually destroy nuclear warheads when the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty was unilateraly abondonned by the Bush administration?

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on March 7, 2003 11:24 AM

There seems an awful lot of assurance among posters about how we got where we are, how things will go, what needs to be done, and what North Korea wants. How come? I have the vague impression that North Korea has the most secretive government in the world, that its relations with both its close neighbors and the wider world are on a very different footing from those known anywhere else, that its leader is less afflicted by reality than just about any other leader in the world. Under such circumstances, we may not know much about what they want. Sure, the NYT will try to sound authoritative -- can't very well admit to being clueless if you work for the NYT -- but I am not confident that any of us who are informed of North Korea's motive and goals mostly through the press are all that well prepared to assess the situation. The answer is a missile? So if we don't know where those two nuclear devices are or that we can destroy them, do we really want to stir up this hornets nest?

How about this. On the assumption that the North Koreans are best able to tell us what they want, let's sit down and talk to them. Bribery isn't too good for Turkey (or Mexico, or Uganda), but one disappointment makes bribery off limits for North Korea. It worked for a while. Maybe we just need to get better at bribery.

Posted by: K Harris on March 7, 2003 11:59 AM

My South Korean friends are upset at Bush. The Korean situation has always been on edge. NK has done bizarre things like kidnap Japanese citizens, infiltrate SK, etc. Since the end of the Korean conflict in the 50s, NK has built a formidable offensive capability that could level Seoul in a few hours. Add in the paranoia and secrecy of NK and it is a volatile mix. Clinton almost attacked them in 94 until Jimmy Carter worked out the sticky negotiating points.

The NK situation is like a hostage situation and SK wants it handled in that manner. In a hostage crisis, if you go in with guns blazing, hostages die. An attack on NK would probably result in the destruction of Seoul. Thus the sunshine policy to keep NK proliferation to a minimum while at the same time trying to build trust and bring NK into an interdependent economic relationship with its neighbors that over time could reduce the paranoia. This is a strategy that could have worked but it cannot be accomplished overnite. Such a strategy requires decades of commitment to a policy and move it forward incrementally. A good example was the cold war. The policy was relatively unchanged for decades and was finally successful.

What harm is it to negotiate with NK? Maybe throw them a crumb like a non-aggression pact in exchange for non-proliferation. We don't really want to fight another war in NK anyway. It doesn't seem so much to give.

DeLong is correct about southern governors becoming presidents. They make a lot of mistakes in the first year because they are required to make decisions on issues with little knowledge. Neither Rice nor Powell is a Korea or China expert. Bush probably did not get the best advice on NK. Bush blew it by dissing the SK president in 2001 and has set back diplomacy with NK by a decade or more. If Bush attacks Iraq, then the NK policy of building nukes will be vindicated. Isn't that the rationale for the US to have so many nukes, not to use them as first strike, but to retailiate if attacked? President Clinton thinks that if NK is pressured, they will sell nukes to interested parties in order to obtain currency. They produce little else and desperate straits lead to desperate measures.

We clearly need to get the sunshine process back on track. The question is how do we get there from here?

Posted by: bakho on March 7, 2003 12:26 PM

Well, when Jean-Philippe isn't employing the ad hominem as a favored form of rhetoric, he usually erects straw-men, as is the case here (care to claim again that Guantanamo is an example of Stalinist gulag-keeping, Jean-Philippe?). Since I clearly said that criticizing any political leader is a needed activity, your pointless attribution to me that I favor people simply "shutting up", is yet another occasion in which yammering is substituted for thought. The point is that in order to declare that an entity is totally incompetent, one must be privy to nearly all that has transpired to bring about the curent state of affairs, and also be enough of a soothsayer to accurately predict the outcome. Prof. Delong is neither, so his attribution amounts to yet another attempt on his part to carry the ball for his political faction. Some of Prof. Delong's previous rhetoric along thse lines has been sufficiently irrational to call into question his credibility on anything having to do with the Bush Administration.

How would I characterize the Bush Administration's North Korea policy? I really don't have enough information at this time to offer a definitive opinion. You see, in the adult world, Jean Philippe, the reality is that one cannot competently pass what amounts to historical judgement in a real-time basis. In will be years before definitive judgement can be passed on the Clinton Administration's foreign policy, much less the current one. The best we can do is to offer qualified opinions, while remaining cognizant of the fact there will be much more data with which to offer more substantive evaluations at a later date. The North Korea situtation was bound to be an extraordinarily dangerous problem no matter what policies were adopted, and it is a common fallacy to idulge that the United Sates is master of events, able to control outcomes. Lincoln once famously admitted he had been controlled by events, rather than the other way around, and this is true of all Presidents. If people understood the degree to which muddling through is the standard operating procedure of all administrations, they would be far less quick to idolize or demonize them.

Posted by: Will Allen on March 7, 2003 12:29 PM

The idea that we can't opine or simply state "I don't know" and leave it at that is utterly ridiculous.

All decisions in the real world must be made with imcomplete or imperfect information. It is perfectly legitimate to judge the Bush administration based on what we know today. If more information develops we can come up with new conclusions.

Posted by: GT on March 7, 2003 12:37 PM

Certainly, we cannot assume that sunshine policy will work, but what are the alternatives? The same game of chicken that has played out for 50 years? War now? None of these are good options. Status quo is not desireable. Sunshine has at least a chance of working. The worst that could happen would be to keep us at status quo. War now would be devastating to SK. Sunshine does not take war later off the table. The knock against sunshine is that it might encourage other countries to do the same. However, few other countries are as isolated as NK and insulated from other political pressures that could be brought to bear.

Bush administration response has been that NK is the problem of China, Japan and SK. That means that Bush is not really interested in what NK does. Just as Bush has no interest in trying to solve the Israeli Palestinian conflict, he has no interest in intervening in Korea. Whatever happens in the next 2 years will not involve the US. Bush has turned the problem over to others. SK will probably try to go the sunshine route but without US backing.

Posted by: bakho on March 7, 2003 12:43 PM

Pentagon Suspects North Korea Missile Test

- Good Grief

Posted by: dahl on March 7, 2003 12:50 PM

Notice, once again, how Will after an opening post stating that:

"Prof. Delong is not a credible evaluator of the Bush Administration, in that his previous attacks on the Bush family have very nearly wandered into the realm or irrationality (the origins of the name Jeb, anyone?) that was previously occupied by the Clinton haters who used to plink pumpkins with air pistols, in order to investigate Vince Foster's suicide."

(instead of dealing with DeLong's post in substance,) now claims that:

"Well, when Jean-Philippe isn't employing the ad hominem as a favored form of rhetoric,"

and better yet, after having writen first that:

"[I] realize that criticism of the host can be considered bad form, and cause for banishment,"

... suggesting that he is fearful of being censored by Professor DeLong (RED STRAWMAN ALERT!!!) but then goes on next to write that:

"he usually erects straw-men, as is the case here (care to claim again that Guantanamo is an example of Stalinist gulag-keeping, Jean-Philippe?)."

Oh, by the way, "Two Afghan prisoners were killed while in US custody at their base at Bagram, a military coroner has concluded":
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/2825575.stm

And I have, upon your insistance, changed my wording from gulag (I made no reference to Stalinism per se, as you are trying to suggest) to "illegal detention camps", which they are under International Law (What? What?) and even perhaps, arguably, under the US Constitution (you know that old liberal pamphlet).

Who do you think you're fooling, Will?

"Men use thought only to justify their wrong-doings, and words only to conceal their thoughts."

- Voltaire

Your calculated pseudo-sophistication, I am afraid, does not conceal well your mendaciousness.

P.S. What tops it all in general is how Clinton-bashers (and Will in his initial comment - see above) are trying to compare criticism of this Administration's policies with the Republican outrage about Clinton's BJ's, in an attempt to muzzle opposition.

The problem wasn't with criticism of Clinton policies per se, but rather in the below-the-belt nature of the attacks... (pun implied, of course.) But you know that, Will: you're just ready to use any piece of rhetoric that you think is going to strike points for the GOP that, in spite of your claims of non-partisanship, you are entirely devoted to.

P.P.S. And I cared to document this because it's a beautiful case-study in right-wing rhetorics.

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on March 7, 2003 01:39 PM

It is because the information is so very incomplete, GT, that an intellectually honest person, interested in the pursuit of truth, as opposed to being interested in carrying water for a political faction, would not be so silly as to declare complete incompetence, but would instead couch their criticism in terms of being in possession of a very incomplete set of facts. Yeah, it might not be as punchy, or score as much rhetorically, but it would be a more honest asessment of the situation. Frankly, this is why I read so little of political punditry anymore; so few commentators have any real desire to adhere to any standard of intellectual honesty. I respect Prof. Delong a great deal, and credit and thank him for making a comments section available, and being gracious enough to participate in it. I think when it comes to the Bush Administration, however, he too often resembles the Clinton-haters in delving into polemical flights of irrationality.

Posted by: Will Allen on March 7, 2003 01:40 PM

Well, Jean-Philippe, since the gulags were a by-product of Stalinism, it can be reasonably said that your use of the term of "gulag", in reference to the detention of prisoners at Guantanamo, was use of ad hominem rhetoric. That you now withdraw the term "gulag" can be taken as a concession that this was the case. Your insertion of the report of the two Afghan prisoners, ignoring the fact that the murder of prisoners has taken place in nearly every armed conflict in human history (gee, were the Allied forces at Normandy Stalinist in nature, also?), can only be viewed as yet more ad hominem rhetoric. Is this really all that you are capable of?

Also, I did address Prof. Delong's comment in detail, in regards to his attribution of complete incompetence. That you dishonestly say otherwise is yet another indication of your unwillingness to have a dialogue free from half-truths, ad hominem rhetoric, the erection of straw-men, and other tiresome tactics, and yes, one's track record of rationality in discussing a topic, in this case the Bush Administration, is germane to how much credence further criticism should be afforded. Credibility, once squandered, is hard to regain. Finally, you literally have no idea as to the frequency with which I have voted for GOP candidates, so your insertion of this irrelevant point can only be taken as yet one more ridiculous attempt at rhetoric. Tell ya' what Jean Philippe, until that time you decide to refrain from engaging in dishonest rhetoric, I'll refrain from conversing with you.

Posted by: WIll Allen on March 7, 2003 02:07 PM

**That you *now* withdraw the term "gulag" can be taken as a concession that this was the case.** (emphasis added)

You know I withdrew this term, upon your insistance, well ago in another thread (the same in which I originally used the term in as a matter of fact). You are lying through your teeths to discredit me:

http://www.j-bradford-delong.net/movable_type/archives/001505.html

And since you posted on that thread thereafer, I can safely assume that you read my "retraction", right? (You don't want me to dig through every single word you have written here, do you?)

**Tell ya' what Jean Philippe, until that time you decide to refrain from engaging in dishonest rhetoric, I'll refrain from conversing with you.**

Sounds great to me : I don't like to converse with liers but will you be able to abstain from smearing me (or anyone else who disturbs you in this forum - host included - for that matter)? Let me give you the benefit of the doubt...

End of story as far as I am concerned. Apoligizes to the un-concerned.

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on March 7, 2003 02:49 PM

I'll rephrase: That you withdrew the term "gulag" after being called on for your ad hominem rhetoric, is taken as concession that you did in fact employ ad hominem rhetoric, thus it is not a lie to state that you do employ ad hominem rhetoric. Perhaps your insertion of the two Afghan prisoners can be better chracterized as an instance of the employment of a non-sequitur, since I have never made any claim as to perfection in regards to the behavior of American armed forces. In any case, I can happily refrain from any further interaction with such ridiculous methods of interaction.

Posted by: Will Allen on March 7, 2003 03:20 PM

Don't the rightwingers have homes to go to? Don't they have friends somewhere? Why do they hang out here? This is often an interesting site to visit.

Expletives deleted.

Back to the anger-management class.

Posted by: zizka on March 7, 2003 05:17 PM

"...when the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty was unilateraly abondonned by the Bush administration?"

In a thread on North Korea no less! Well, I guess most Americans would say at this point, Thank God for unilateral abandoning. With North Korea currently or soon to have missiles capable of reaching the West Coast of the U.S., the missile shield is looking more and more like a case of the Bush Administration being right (in one small area, anyway). Maybe it won't work - but the North Koreans can't be sure it won't work - so one can hope it to succeed in deterring them.

Posted by: Andrew Boucher on March 7, 2003 06:58 PM

I wasn't making any statement about the desirability of getting out unilateraly or not of the ABT, but of the way it was done rudely vis-a-vis Putin... I am getting very tired. It's not being abused that is my goal in participating in this forum, after all...

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on March 7, 2003 07:43 PM

I wasn't making any statement about the desirability of getting out unilateraly or not of the ABT, but of the way it was done rudely vis-a-vis Putin... I am getting very tired. It's not being abused that is my goal in participating in this forum, after all...

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on March 7, 2003 07:43 PM

P.S. But then I realize that this is exactly what Will and co. want me to feel, and I feel a surge of energy... :-D (and sorry for the double-posting.)

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on March 7, 2003 07:54 PM

Hang in there Jean Philippe! You are correct after all. I don't think many people buy the argument "we know nothing so we can't criticize". That would make for a pretty feable democracy.

Posted by: Dan on March 7, 2003 09:35 PM

Jean-Philippe: I think the problem is, like DT (although obviously your politics are very different), (1) your rhetoric runs away sometimes; and (2) yes the positions don't seem to be very balanced.

I make a comment about the ABT - which seems reasonable (but maybe I'm wrong) - and you start complaining about "being abused", and then imagining that "this is exactly what Will and co. want me to feel." I can't speak about Will and co. (not being a part of anyone's company), but I don't want to feel you are abused. Sincerely. I just don't agree with you.

Your reply - that it is a question of politeness vis-a-vis Putin - is fair enough, but again I don't think it works. The U.S. thought it was in its vital interests to begin work on a missile shield; they needed to renounce the ABT to do so. What "polite" way could the U.S. have gone about it?

Posted by: Andrew Boucher on March 7, 2003 11:06 PM

'South Korea is no longer a vital interest of the United States. The U.S. can buy its cars and televisions and memory chips elsewhere. While it would be preferable to have South Korea democratic, nothing - meaning, whether other countries in the region become or stay democratic - turns on this. If the South Koreans don't want to resist North Korea's aggressiveness - expecting the U.S. to do the heavy lifting while it watches and criticizes - the U.S. will withdraw its troops asap. N.K. is S.K.'s problem, if anyone's on this planet.'

SK: "Why won't you negotiate? Isn't it better than getting us all killed?"
US: "No. We think it's so annoying that you disagree with us on NK policy, and we're so bad at understanding the definition of 'national security' that we're just going to let you all die. Serves you right for disagreeing with us.'

(time passes)

US: "Where's my nose?"

Posted by: Jason McCullough on March 8, 2003 02:02 AM

Jason: Point taken. No problem with negotiations; and no problem with diplomatic recognition of N.K. or a non-aggression treaty (with aggression appropriately defined to include selling nuclear weapons or missile technology to third parties). I do have a problem with the U.S. offering them financial aid - because that would seem to be S.K.'s job (if S.K. wants to reward bad behaviour, that's its business - but leave the U.S. out of it).

The only leverage that N.K. has over the U.S. is its troops. If those troops were withdrawn, then the leverage disappears. N.K. has already said that, in this nuclear dispute, it will not target the South Koreans. Maybe we should take it at its word - and assume that with the Americans not there, N.K. wouldn't attack S.K. should the U.S. be forced to bomb N.K.'s nuclear weapon facilities. So with our troops not there, the U.S. is safer; S.K. is safer. It sounds like a no-brainer, no?

At a gut level, if a nation is calling on the U.S. to risk the lives of 40000 American soldiers, then yes the U.S. has the right to expect something - and indeed a great deal - in return. S.K.has an economy - what? - 30 to 40 times bigger than N.K. Surely it can now take care of its own defense if it wants. If it prefers not to and merge with N.K. on whatever terms, well then that's S.K's business.

Posted by: Andrew Boucher on March 8, 2003 03:35 AM

That's a reasonable argument, Andrew, but no one in the administration is making it. If Kristof is to belief, they're just kind of ambling towards airstrikes.

Posted by: Jason McCullough on March 8, 2003 11:53 AM

And the annihilation of Seoul.

Posted by: John Isbell on March 8, 2003 12:19 PM

BTW, for our slower viewers: the North Koreans have pointedly said they have no interest in multilateral talks. It's Bush they want to talk to. He's the asshole who called their leader a pygmy, said he loathed him, and put him in the axis of evil. Funny, you might think their lunatic dictator took it personally. It all looks a little too much like an LA street fight for me. God, bring a diplomat back to the White House.

Posted by: John Isbell on March 8, 2003 12:24 PM

"I respect Prof. Delong a great deal, and credit and thank him for making a comments section available, and being gracious enough to participate in it. I think when it comes to the Bush Administration, however, he too often resembles the Clinton-haters in delving into polemical flights of irrationality."

Amen. I have nothing else to add.

Posted by: David Thomson on March 9, 2003 03:57 AM

“BTW, for our slower viewers: the North Koreans have pointedly said they have no interest in multilateral talks.”

There is no such thing as “the North Koreans” deciding foreign policy. Only one person makes these--and all other major decisions in that country---it’s dictator, Kim Jong II. This irascible and childishly immature madman pulls all the strings. Try imagining a thirteen year old hot tempered kid running everything. America is caught in an untenable Catch 22 position and it is very fair to blame Bill Clinton for some of this mess. The silly people around the former President thought too highly of diplomatic maneuvering. Unfortunately, such tactics are of little value when dealing with someone looking for any excuse to betray the agreement. Clinton should have placed far more emphasis on verification. Would that have solved everything? Nope, there are simply no easy answers when dealing with a nut ball like Kim Jong II. To be fair, Clinton could have done a perfect job, and it wouldn’t have made a significant difference. Will this situation likely worsen? Almost certainly. North Korea is economically and socially imploding. Sooner or later, Kim Jong II won’t have enough money to support his whores and expensive toys. That’s when the excrement will really hit the fan.

Posted by: David Thomson on March 9, 2003 04:26 AM
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