Some of the most sensible things said so far about the Korea situation and 1994 agreement are to be found in former Assistant Secretary of State Jamie Rubin’s comments this morning on CNN (transcript to come later) and Colin Powell’s comments to the Wall Street Journal in this morning’s paper. The 1994 agreement was a stopgap, an agreement meant to address the immediate threat posed by North Korea’s plutonium production facilities. It accomplished that and was followed by subsequent negotiations on ballistic missiles, nuclear weapons and other issues. (Conservatives, hawks, and yahoos who criticize the 1994 agreement or call it appeasement do so by comparing it to their imagined resolution of the 1994 crisis — one brought about by force and/or their indomitable will and uncompromising moral clarity. The failure of that approach today is but one indication of its almost inevitable result back then.) The bright idea of the hawks, led by Dick Cheney, was to abandon that process or any effort to improve on the 1994 accords (Powell’s approach) in favor of isolating the North Koreans into either submission or implosion (what Fareed Zakaria recently called “a policy of cheap rhetoric and cheap shots.”) Powell and company are now trying to walk that policy back and replace it with one brought about by a mix of threats and inducements, which will build on and improve the 1994 Agreed Framework. If we’re lucky we’ll get the standard story: mess created by the Cheney and company, cleaned up by Powell, with the upshot of the detour being a lot of (hopefully remediable) collateral damage to our alliances and standing in the world.
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