Saturday, January 26, 2013

Pray Tell, What Will They Discuss?

This writer says threats of force won't work on North Korea and that only diplomacy can solve the problem. In a way, he is right. But not the way he believes.

Even though sanctions are a form of "stick" that the author says won't work, he has faith in diplomacy to tame North Korea:

The United States and the United Nations have little choice but to impose sanctions in response to North Korea’s actions, which clearly violate earlier sanction conditions. But it is hard to see how such sanctions can deter a determined and defiant North Korea, especially if the sanctions are not rigorously enforced. The best we can hope for is that the latest confrontation will finally bring all sides together – including both Koreas, the United States, China, Russia, and Japan – to solve this issue.

Diplomacy, not threats or sanctions – and certainly not military action – is the only viable path to resolution.

Let's get this straight. North Korea wants nuclear weapons and western aid; South Korea doesn't want North Korea to have nuclear weapons; Japan doesn't want North Korea to have nuclear weapons; and America doesn't want North Korea to have nuclear weapons.

Even Russia, which won't be a target of such nuclear missiles, doesn't want North Korea to have nuclear weapons, I'd say, since nukes are Russia's only credible defense. And North Korea crossing the threshold could trigger Japan, South Korea, and maybe Taiwan to follow suit to avoid being the only one left standing by the wall alone.

I have no idea if China doesn't want North Korea to have nuclear weapons. They sure seem to enjoy having a dangerous little pit bull to snarl at South Korea, Japan, and America. Perhaps they don't want North Korea to actually get the weapons, but the Chinese don't care enough to do anything serious to stop North Korea. Not yet, anyway.

So what is this magical diplomacy going to discuss to solve the issue and put us on a viable path to resolution?

Seriously, if you believe we have to make a real effort to address North Korea's professed fear of American attack, you have to accept that it is possible to allay North Korean fear.

And you must accept we can do something else to allay their fears after not invading or attacking North Korea for five decades.

You must accept we can do something more to reassure North Korea after reducing our Army in South Korea over the last several decades from two divisions to a single combat brigade today.

You must believe we can talk the North Koreans into security despite the fact that we've pulled our few troops back from their forward positions along the DMZ to less threatening (and less vulnerable to sudden attack from the north) positions south.

You must believe that the North Koreans aren't even reassured by our replacement of George W. Bush with the Nobel Peace Prize-winning President Obama.

North Korea wants nuclear weapons and America, Japan, and South Korea don't want that. Just how to we forge a viable path to resolution via diplomacy? It only works, as the Clinton administration accords did, by having both sides pretend North Korea has halted nuclear works. That wasn't a viable path then and it sure isn't today.

That said, I am in favor of diplomacy to help solve the problem as long as we don't shovel money north:

So let the talks drag on. I don't care. We can't let the North Koreans succeed in holding their own people hostage confident that we will care more for their welfare and so give in to save them.

In time, we will have missile defenses. In time, our Army won't be busy in Iraq. In time, even the South Koreans may start to worry about Pyongyang if the North rattles sabres to get our attention.

So when the Pillsbury Nuke Boy issues more threats, we and the Japanese should just smile and nod--and keep on talking. We have no business guaranteeing the survival of such a beastly regime as North Korea demands we do. If North Korea wants to survive, they need to start addressing our security worries.

In the end, starving people may well rise up because they'll have no fears of consequences. At worst, they will be too weak to be much of a threat to South Korea.

If we talk to offer the North Koreans hope that they don't have to resort to force to break out of their death spiral, talks can string the North Koreans along until they collapse. Now that's a viable path.