KOREAN WAR DEUX
Former President Jimmy Carter writes in today’s USA Today that we are very close to another Korean War and says we must do what we can to avoid it. He acknowledges that the Korean regime is borderline insane
North Korea is an isolated country, poverty stricken, paranoid, apparently self-sacrificial and amazingly persistent in international confrontations, as is now being demonstrated. It is a cultural and almost sacred commitment for its leaders not to back down, even in the face of international condemnation and the most severe political and economic pressure.
A previous example of this stubbornness occurred in 1968, when North Korea captured the USS Pueblo, a Navy intelligence-gathering ship. Despite the best efforts of President Lyndon Johnson to marshal international support and to prevail with economic punishment and military threats, President Kim il Sung never deviated from his basic demands, which included an embarrassing public apology from the United States for “spying” on his country. After 11 months, President Johnson accepted all the demands, and the crew was released.
Notwithstanding their abysmal economic failures and the resulting hardships of their people, North Korean leaders have never deviated from a commitment to military strength.
but nonetheless thinks we should placate them:
There was another crisis in 1994, when Kim il Sung expelled International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors and threatened to begin reprocessing 8,000 spent fuel rods from a nuclear power plant. The U.S. government refused to talk to North Korean leaders, and made plans for economic sanctions and a military attack. As the crisis escalated, The Carter Center was finally given reluctant permission from President Clinton for me to visit Pyongyang. A satisfactory agreement was concluded and later confirmed by both governments, with participation by South Korea, Japan and others. But neither side honored all the commitments.
In fact, North Korea honored none of their commitments, as anyone with an IQ above room temperature and any sense of history would have expected.
Carter believes that President Bush’s labeling the regime as part of the Axis of Evil helped create this present crisis and that we should try to fix things:
There are other issues, but the basic North Korean demand is a firm non-aggression commitment from the United States, which U.S. officials continue to reject. The U.S. insists first on a complete end to the North Koreans’ nuclear program, which they have refused to accept. If neither side will yield or compromise, then an eventual military confrontation seems likely. The United States can prevail, but with terrible human casualties in both North and South Korea.
There must be verifiable assurances that prevent North Korea from becoming a threatening nuclear power, with a firm commitment that the U.S. will not attack a peaceful North Korea. This is a time for sustained and flexible diplomacy between our two governments, to give peace and economic progress a chance within a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.
Having acknowledged that the North Koreans are totally unwilling to compromise, period, one has to wonder about this prescription. Presumably, all of the “compromising” would have to be done by the U.S. Why would we foreswear the use of force when the other side continues to build a nuclear arsenal and make threatening statements and moves?
Update (1351): I don’t mean to imply above that I think Carter has a below-room temp IQ. He’s obviously extraordinarily intelligent. Unfortunately, I think his amazingly optimistic outlook on international politics clouds his judgment. He honestly believes that simply being nice to people like Kim Jong Il and Fidel Castro will make the world a better place. I wish it were so but find almost all evidence pointing in the other direction.