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
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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Dave Schuler says:

    Is rodney okay? I didn’t know you were running the caption contests now!

  2. Dave Schuler says:

    Re: your ACUS article

    Looks like my intuition was on target.

  3. James Joyner says:

    Yup. The Chronicle editorial you pointed me to had the same reaction I did: “C’mon.” But the CNN story seems to firm it up with good detail.

  4. William d'Inger says:

    Is rodney okay? I didn’t know you were running the caption contests now!

    Bill and Il without the Hill, will the facts come tumbling after?

    I think it may be a very long time before we learn the whole story. Hopefully, Obama is wiser than he appears on the surface.

  5. John Burgess says:

    I was just thinking how great it would have been had Bill been shooting the bird with one of those hands between his legs.

  6. Dave Schuler says:

    I was just thinking how great it would have been had Bill been shooting the bird with one of those hands between his legs.

    I’m sure it crossed his mind. It’s certainly what I would have wanted to do.

  7. William d'Inger says:

    I’m sure it crossed his mind. It’s certainly what I would have wanted to do.

    Bill is becoming quite adept at playing the senior statesman role. Just a few years ago, people would have been wondering if he had dropped trout on the long plane ride home.

  8. Fog says:

    From the editorial page of the Tallahassee Democrat:

    When Bill Clinton wants to bring two women home, not even North Korea can stop him.

    Woof!

  9. Franklin says:

    I don’t think I’ve seen any pictures where Bill is smiling, but some have Kim with a big grin.

  10. Drew says:

    James –

    Dot points 1 and 2 are fine. But 3? Please.

  11. James Joyner says:

    Dot points 1 and 2 are fine. But 3? Please.

    I explain more fully in the essay.

  12. hln says:

    Big photo op for the dude in pajamas. It was good of Bill Clinton to play along when two young women’s future was in balance.

    As a matter of fact, in my estimation, it’s probably the best thing he’s ever done.

  13. Brian Knapp says:

    For the record, James, great post title.