Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Missles, Nukes, North Korea...oh my!!!

Almost 24 hours after North Korea started launching its missile tests I've gathered some thoughts together on this big ol' mess.

What to do with Kim Jong-il? Is he a Napoleonic brandy swilling nutter? Is he a misunderstood, yet merely annoying neighbor? Is he a loose cannon and threat to world security? or Is he a leader who is, at least, somewhat sane? I do have my theories, but I'm nowhere near arrogant enough to claim I have the solution when experts on diplomacy and security clearly have not a clue.

It really baffles me to think two professors, one at Harvard and one at Stanford, were calling for the Bush administration to launch a preemptive strike on the North Korean missile site. This would be an act of war. Considering North Korea has a military estimated at 1.1 million and the States is already involved in two wars, unless both Carter and Perry have secret armies set aside to tackle this, diplomacy might be the better option. I don't think anyone would disagree that these North Korean missile tests are just all around aggravating, bothersome, disturbing, exasperating, frustrating, galling, irksome, irritating, maddening...(fill in more synonyms for "annoying" here), but waging tactical assaults on North Korea would have definitely been a bad idea.

There are so many issues swirling around North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – DPRK) and the Bush administration. I really feel that the Bush administration’s approach to diplomacy is rudimentary at best and a nightmare at worst. It seems that their approach to diplomacy is ordering countries to do what we say and taking a go it alone approach when blocked or questioned by other sovereign nations. That strikes me less as diplomacy as more like bullying. There just seems to be a clear lack of a problem solving approach to diplomacy and more of a "my way or the highway" approach. However, as the “highway” in international politics usually leads to bad results like sanctions and possibly war, maybe diplomacy might be best.

However, the States isn't the only player in this scenario.

China is dragging its feet it seems with the goal of continued economic expansion and, it seems, a fixation on keeping North Korea as a bargaining chip for on the Taiwan issue (which they should know is non-negotiable, plus I think Taiwan might have a thing or two to say about their own destiny). As North Korea’s biggest trade partner and provider of the majority of its food and energy, China has more influence than any other nation on North Korea.

Japan’s hands are tied due to its history of aggression in the region and the post World War II revision of its constitution, Article 9, which allows only a defensive military and not an offensive military.

Russia has been busy focusing on developing its economy and engaging the West and essentially neglecting the East.

South Korea also has been focusing on its economy. Hoping that harmony would prevail rather than brinksmanship, South Korea engages North Korea with carrots, the Kaesong Industrial Region, rather than sticks, sanctions.*

Clearly, the Bush administration has been dealing with oversights of ignorance which have been clear since the dreaded Axis of Evil reference in Bush's 2002 State of the Union address. It has consistently misinterpreted, wrongly assessed and ineptly handled international crises pretty much from its start. It seems that diplomacy consists of telling sovereign nations what they must or must not do which essentially puts them in the child role. However, what we're finding is those darn kids don't like to be called names and definitely don’t want to be told what to do.

Don't get me wrong, I am not blaming the Bush administration for the missile launches. Direct responsibility lands squarely on North Korea, but, as we have seen North Korea has all sorts of excuses as to why it, speaking of childish, behaves like a petulant child in international society. However, it just seems like there are no diplomats or true problem solvers that know how to work with people in the current administration. Instead of bringing people together, it has set on a mission it seems, to set up an environment where crises are more likely rather than less likely to occur. Doesn't everyone know not to run around calling people names?

So what to do with North Korea? Although that would be a great idea, we can’t roll back time and start over again. While it might sound awfully simplistic and naïve, maybe we could try diplomacy that truly tries to understand the other side(s) and seek solutions without name calling and grandstanding with the goal of negotiations that work.

* - carrots and sticks rewards and punishments used as a means to get the desired behavior you want

*Kim Jong-il spoof pic shamelessly lifted from this link:

And, here is a link to an article in the New York Times written by David E. Sanger about the current North Korean standoff: Few Good Choices in North Korean Standoff

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