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Belmont Club

Unproven

November 21st, 2010 - 3:12 pm

We’ve seen this behavior before. In each of the past three major nuclear-related crises in 1994, 2002, and 2006, North Korea has raised the stakes with provocative actions. Each time, U.S.-led diplomacy, backed by sanctions, has led to agreements involving food aid, fuel, and offers of normalized relations in exchange for verifiable constraints on Pyongyang’s nuclear program.

This new surprise is nothing more than the same. “As he has done with his policy toward Iran, Obama must reject the false ideology that dialogue with adversaries is a reward for bad behavior.” What’s needed are more victuals for Pyongyang’s table.

Most importantly, such talks are needed not only to clarify the costs of further defiance, but also to highlight the benefits of cooperation. The United States must outline, again and in detail, the security assurances, trade benefits, and energy support that the U.S. and other regional allies would be prepared to provide if North Korea once again halted its nuclear and missile programs, ended its proliferation behavior, and dismantled its nuclear complex.

The New York Times is less certain the situation can be handled so easily this time.  It admits that the North Korean provocation is a serious challenge to the president’s attempt to build peace. “Whether the calculated revelation is a negotiating ploy by North Korea or a signal that it plans to accelerate its weapons program even as it goes through a perilous leadership change, it creates a new challenge for President Obama at a moment when his program for gradual, global nuclear disarmament appears imperiled at home and abroad. The administration hurriedly began to brief allies and lawmakers on Friday and Saturday — and braced for an international debate over the repercussions.”

One side in that international debate should ask whether Obama’s strategy of engagement, as presently constituted, has failed miserably. The NATO decision to pull the anti-missile defense blanket over itself is a tacit admission that diplomacy does not always work and must be supplemented by missile defense and deterrence, which relieved of the need to watch Russia can focus on keeping North Korea in its box. But maybe those assumptions will prove false as well.  Rep. Hoekstra says that President Obama has a history of rushing things through and getting them spectacularly wrong.

President Obama should have learned by now that when his administration rushes to force something through Congress, it does not work out well in the end. The president rushed to close Gitmo and he failed. He rushed to conduct civilian trials of Gitmo detainees, and the Ghailani ruling left him with another failure. He rushed through a stimulus, and while it succeeded in boosting America’s debt, it failed to create jobs or decrease the nearly 10 percent unemployment rate. He rushed health care, and the negative consequences of that rush job are still reverberating through the system.

There is no reason that the START treaty needs to be crammed through at the end of this Congress given serious concerns that have been raised about verification and how the treaty was negotiated. Political expediency is no reason for the president to force this issue now, especially when the decision could impact our national security.

No reason to rush, but if the past is any indication, the president will probably rush forward anyway. As Joe Biden said, “I think what it is, is he’s so brilliant. He is an intellectual.”

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