If nothing else I

January 18, 2003 10:18 a.m.

If nothing else, I give Charles Krauthammer credit for candor. He’s willing to admit that in a matter of mere weeks the administration has jettisoned all its bellicose puffery toward North Korea and embraced a policy which is at least as accomodationist as that pursued by the previous administration. That, you’ll remember would be the feckless, appeasing, undisciplined Clinton administration that the new crew pillories and slanders at every opportunity.

Krauthammer of course sees this as terrible. I and others see it merely as a confirmation that playing 1930s-dress-up is much easier in the conference room at AEI than it is on the actual international stage. One only wishes the Cheney-ites in the administration had realized this before they started shooting their mouths off.

As I say, most conservative commentators refuse to recognize what is obvious to everyone with their eyes open — that the Bush administration is now looking for a deal pretty much just like the one the Clintonites were working on. Failing that, some administration supporters insist that this whole embarrassing spectacle is actually part of some grand master-plan. (This would be one of those classic diplomatic masterstrokes in which you put forth a maximalist position, cave shamelessly, have a lifeline thrown to you by second- and third-tier powers, and then emerge in a miraculously strengthened position.)

Meanwhile, in-coming South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun today says that “some high-level U.S. officials last month discussed the possibility of attacking North Korea because of its nuclear activities, but later decided to seek a peaceful solution.” (That’s the AP’s paraphrase.) If nothing else, he’s advertising the inconstancy and uncertainty of US policy.

P.S. I’m now reading Don Oberdorfer’s excellent and newly-revised The Two Koreas: A Contemporary History. If you want a solid primer on what we’re dealing with on the Korean Peninsula, by all means order a copy.

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