October 01, 2004

Why Oh Why Are We Ruled by This Liar?

Fred Kaplan catches a Bush lie that I missed. Far from being opposed to two-power talks in Korea, the other participants in the six-power talks want us to do so:

Kerry Takes Round 1 - The challenger dominates the foreign-policy debate. By Fred Kaplan: North Korea: Kerry killed on this one. While Bush went to war against Saddam Hussein on the false belief that he might be developing a "weapons of mass destruction-related program," North Korea—another spoke on the "axis of evil"—started to develop real nuclear weapons. When Bush took office, 8,000 fuel rods were locked in a storage pond under continuous monitoring of international inspectors. As Kerry correctly noted, Colin Powell said publicly he'd continue on course—and President Bush publicly admonished him. Within months, the North Koreans kicked out the inspectors, unlocked and carted away the fuel rods, and reprocessed them into weapons-grade plutonium—in the course of which Bush did nothing. Kerry called for opening bilateral talks with North Korea to solve the problem.

President Bush said such talks would be a "big mistake." If we sat down one-on-one, he said, North Korea would walk out of the six-power talks, which also involve Japan, South Korea, Russia, and China. Bilaterals will accomplish nothing. Kerry replied that just because Bush says they'll accomplish nothing doesn't mean they will.

Point for Kerry. But it would have been a more solid point had Kerry noted that all the other participants in those six-power talks want the United States to have bilateral talks with North Korea.

Posted by DeLong at October 1, 2004 09:49 AM | TrackBack
Comments

Yes, Kerry could have twisted the knife in. Hell, I wanted him to say that geography alone insured China's, South Korea's and Japan's continued interest, and Bush's assertions were just dangeroulsly uninformed or disingenuous. But I think republican spinners were already primed for that and Kerry wisely left if for surrogates to flesh out. Rudy G's "Kerry lectured, Bush spoke" spin fell flat precisely because Kerry showed he knew the details better than Bush but did not go on and on about it.

Posted by: 2fair at October 1, 2004 10:31 AM

Yes, Kerry could have twisted the knife in. Hell, I wanted him to say that geography alone insured China's, South Korea's and Japan's continued interest, and Bush's assertions were just dangeroulsly uninformed or disingenuous. But I think republican spinners were already primed for that and Kerry wisely left if for surrogates to flesh out. Rudy G's "Kerry lectured, Bush spoke" spin fell flat precisely because Kerry showed he knew the details better than Bush but did not go on and on about it.

Posted by: 2fair at October 1, 2004 10:37 AM

Bush's point could have been loosely interpreted to mean that if we were to bilaterally engaged North Korea, the other interested parties would lose their motivation to continue the six-party talks. (As I remember, they began those talks reluctantly.) While Bush's method seems to have been a collossal failure, he has succeeded in at least appearing to make the North Korea problem into a multilateral issue and forced other nations to take some responsibility.

I think Kerry needed to be clearer on the benefits of bilateral talks while still explaining what would motivate China to continue to shoulder some responsibility, or else why we should shoulder the responsibility all ourselves (which was apparently working under Clinton).

Posted by: Scott Teresi at October 1, 2004 10:40 AM

Bush's point could have been loosely interpreted to mean that if we were to bilaterally engaged North Korea, the other interested parties would lose their motivation to continue the six-party talks. (As I remember, they began those talks reluctantly.) While Bush's method seems to have been a collossal failure, he has succeeded in at least appearing to make the North Korea problem into a multilateral issue and forced other nations to take some responsibility.

I think Kerry needed to be clearer on the benefits of bilateral talks while still explaining what would motivate China to continue to shoulder some responsibility, or else why we should shoulder the responsibility all ourselves (which was apparently working under Clinton).

Posted by: Scott Teresi at October 1, 2004 10:49 AM

Working under Clinton? Wasn't it bilateral talks with North Korea that led to their agreement not to make nukes, if we paid them big bucks? Well, we paid them big bucks, and they used those bucks to make nukes.

I'm sure Kim Jong Il would love to sign another deal like that!

Posted by: Ron at October 1, 2004 12:11 PM

It was politically astute of Kerry not to make Kaplan's more solid point. Had he done so, it might have appeared he was bowing to the will of other nations.

Posted by: Kerryier at October 1, 2004 12:45 PM

Bush was so full of excuses last night. Korea was just another example.

Posted by: Nemesis at October 1, 2004 12:45 PM

Bush was so full of excuses last night. Korea was just another example.

Posted by: Nemesis at October 1, 2004 12:45 PM

It was politically astute of Kerry not to make Kaplan's more solid point. Had he done so, it might have appeared he was bowing to the will of other nations.

Posted by: Kerryier at October 1, 2004 01:07 PM

Ron: "Wasn't it bilateral talks with North Korea that led to their agreement not to make nukes, if we paid them big bucks? Well, we paid them big bucks, and they used those bucks to make nukes."

Uh, Ron? Unless I'm mistaken, we agreed not to pay "big bucks" to North Korea, but rather to provide assistance in building two electricity-generating nuclear power plants so that they wouldn't do so themselves, thus leaving us in control of the type of plant (ie non-breeder reactors) as well as the spent fuel.

The North Koreans later fessed up, saying they had some prohibited activities going on which they were willing to give up, much like Khadafi did recently in Libya. Rather than take them up on the offer, Bush slammed the door, very publically added them to the list of evil states, and proceeded to "pre-emptively" invade the first country on that short list.

How the hell did he expect them to respond? Now instead of some low-grade research, monitored-and-secured fuel, and a willingness to work with us, they've got real-live nukes and a back-to-the-wall attitude. We're back to square one, negotiating again, only from a far weaker and acrimonious position. That worked well, didn't it?


(Oh, and BTW, unless I'm greatly mistaken, we never did finish those electric power plants we said we'd help them with.)

Posted by: pdq at October 1, 2004 01:57 PM

pdq is right, and further, we did not send the oil we promised as an interim measure, because the Republicans in Congress wanted to stick it to Clinton.

Posted by: masaccio at October 1, 2004 04:05 PM

You post that Bush is a liar...but then just disagree with his opinion? He would be a liar possibly if China, Japan, Russia, and South Korea all said "Yah, it's ok, have bilateral talks," but you didn't have anything close to that. You called him a liar and the proceeded to give us a history lesson. Very nice.

Posted by: Nathan at October 1, 2004 04:16 PM

I'm with Nathan - just what did Bush say that was a lie?

My impression has been that each of the nations in the Korean neighborhood would prefer that the US play the bad cop, so that they can stay of N Korea's crosshairs and benefit from playing intermediary between the Evil US and the Seriously Misunderstood N Koreans.

So yes, I bet the other nations would have no objections to free-riding on our security efforts while providing the North Koreans a shoulder to cry on. If Bush said something different (no evidence of that has been offered, but I can find a transcript), chalk it up to happy diplo-babble. But a lie?

In other news, Fred Kaplan reports that the other barnyard animals would prefer to see the Little Red Hen do all the work, while they dress for dinner.

Posted by: TM at October 1, 2004 04:44 PM

A pure political opportunist might have scored on Bush there, but Kerry is planning to be the president of the United States. He will have to deal with the leaders of those countries in what is sure to be one of the most difficult diplomatic challenges of his presidency. He was wise not to put words in their mouths or characterize their positions before even starting.

Posted by: s_bethy at October 1, 2004 09:05 PM

Well, setting aside China and our allies, what would stop North Korea from simply boycotting the Six Nations talks after the US agrees to bilateral talks?

Or they could stage a de facto boycott - show up at the bargaining table and put their fingers in their ears and hum (like I did when Kerry spoke last night...)

North Korea almost certainly prefers a "divide and conquer" negotiating strategy - they would rather have five sets of bilateral talks than face a unified "other side".

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A42562-2004Jun15.html

If Kaplan's opinion on this differs from Bush's, well, fine. But what is the "lie"?

Posted by: TM at October 2, 2004 04:38 AM

You've got to be kidding -- or else you and Mr. Kaplan have got to be trying pretty hard not to get this one. China et al. would be thrilled if the U.S. opened up bilateral talks with N.K. That's precisely the point -- not that they'd walk off in a huff, but that they'd slip off the hook. They could make a great show of meetings and do absolutely nothing to move the process forward, while blaming any and every set back on whatever was happening on the bi-lateral track.

The only reason the Chinese are at the table at all is because the U.S. forced them to step up to bat by refusing to engage bilaterally. Why on earth would anyone recommend taking back that ball, when China could quite possibly take care of the whole thing by simply twisting some nozzles?

Sheesh, you'd think the crowd that thrives on shrill calls for mo' betta diplomacy, might actually be able recognize it when they see it. On the other hand, I suppose anyone who lobs the word "liar" with such self-gratifying abandon is not exactly in a position to make a diplomatic call one way or the other.

Posted by: JM Hanes at October 3, 2004 12:46 AM

I'd like to hear one answer. Regardless of your opinion of the merits of bilateral vs. multilateral talks with North Korea, I see no factual basis for the assertion that President Bush lied on this matter.

Unless you can make a case for Bush having intentionally deceived people in the debate about bilateral talks, you should retract that accusation.

Posted by: Gedanken at October 3, 2004 09:19 AM