Bill’s Excellent Adventure
I’ve refrained from rapid reaction to the controversy over Bill Clinton’s trip to North Korea to secure the release of two American journalists because I’ve been torn between competing maxims. I agree with the critics who say rewarding despots who have seized American citizens is bad precedent, incentivizing illegal behavior. Yet, Bob Manning is right, too: our leaders have no good alternative to talking with our adversaries.
Dave Schuler and I discussed the topic at some length toward the end of last night’s edition of OTB Radio and I’ve written an extensive essay on the matter at New Atlanticist entitled “Bill Clinton’s North Korea Gambit.”
The short version is that:
- We don’t know what, if anything we gave in exchange for the hostages, making it difficult to assess the deal
- Bill Clinton was clearly just a high profile courier in this mission, there to take pictures and bring back the hostages according to a pre-arranged deal
- While I’m not terribly hopeful it will bear fruit, this opens a window to improved bilateral relations