Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Axis of not so evil: The New North Korea.

It looks like U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, our chief weapons negotiator with North Korea, has worked out a deal to get the Hermit Kingdom to disarm. Hill conducted secret face-to-face meetings with his North Korean counterpart Kim Kye-gwan in Berlin last December and this is the result of those talks. Of course, this deal is basically the same thing the Clinton administration came up with back in 1994, then called the "agreed framework." W. could have avoided North Korea throwing the IAEA inspectors out and making enough plutonium to make up to six bombs --and actually testing one -- if he hadn’t been so hell bent on not doing anything Clinton did. But, that's all in the past, what's the point of looking back, right?

The NYT reports that under this new (old) deal, North Korea agrees "to freeze its production of plutonium at its nuclear facility in Yongbyon, and to allow international inspectors to monitor and verify its compliance. In return, the United States, China, South Korea and Russia agreed to provide about $400 million in food and fuel aid." [IHT]

So, what's with this sudden desire to talk to our enemies all about? I thought W. & Co. had a firm policy of not dealing with countries they didn't like. And couldn't this new approach be construed as "rewarding bad behavior?" [Dick Cheney must be spinning in his coffin. Just wait until the sun goes down, there's going to be hell to pay!] Up until now Condi Rice has always said North Korea/Iran/Syria knew what they need to do and that's what passed for "diplomacy." Now, she's let Chris Hill out there actually talking to evil doers.

According to "officials" in the administration, this surprising change of course has Condi's fingerprints all over it. The theory goes that now that the leading warmongers like Rummy and John Bolton are gone she's got more sway with the president. Of course, this theory presupposes that she's ever had any interest in diplomacy in the first place, which I doubt. I wouldn't break out the Champaign quite yet and claim that Condi has regained her "realist bent" as Trudy Rubin writes in today's Inquirer.

North Korea is on the "Axis of Evil" list to begin with because of Rice. According to former Bush speech writer Michael Gerson, it was her suggestion to add Iran and North Korea to the list as a way of not tipping their hand on the plans for the Iraq invasion. [Newsweek] We have to keep in mind that she's as responsible for Iraq as anyone. And who could forget her tickling the ivories in Kuala Lumpur as Beirut burned last summer? That was a fine example of her diplomatic skills.

I don't think the administration has turned a new leaf, I think they're just desperate to have some sort of breakthrough diplomatically just to relieve some of pressure they're getting from Congress. 'See, we made a deal with North Korea, so can we bomb Iran now?'

Rummy may be gone, but Cheney is still there and he's only got tool in his tool box: The big stick. So why would he have signed off on this deal? It's so unlike him. The theory goes that he's expecting the North Koreans to renege, which really isn't such a long shot. They'll just keep asking for more and more money and threatening to start up their plutonium factory again if they don't get it and that will be that.

Darth can then argue that Rice's approach just hasn't worked; it didn't work in Iran and it didn't work in North Korea. He'll have the green light to say: "In the immortal words of the Great Communicator: 'The bombing begins in five minutes!'"


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