NORTH KOREAN NUCLEAR DEAL: PARSING THE PUZZLE OF PYONGYANG (UPDATED)
I'll begin this post by wishing I had some better information, though the report today that the DPRK is already trying to hedge
on the recently announced breakthrough
indicates that the U.S. may have received at least as good as it gave. My second comment is that all the bloggers who are running around trying to figure out if this deal is good or bad for George W. Bush ought to be considering if it is good or bad for the United States.
Why the sudden deal ? I can only offer speculation:
First, after juggling two rogue proliferators while still engaged in Iraq, the Bush administration decided to cut a deal with whichever party was willing to" pull a Libya" so as to focus hardline attention on the remaining holdout. The essence of strategic thinking is making choices. We cannot deal with Iraq, Iran and North Korea all at once and expect the situation to improve in our favored direction. That's simply a fact and neither wishing nor bluster is going to change it.
The DPRK is a ghoulish regime and morally it is far worse than Iran. It's capacity for making mischief for American interests though is less by virtue of geography, ideology and culture. Iran on the other hand, is actively making mischief in Iraq ( though not as much as they could) and is well-placed by geography, population, religion, ideology and oil to cause far more. Added to that is Iran's intransigence in the face of EU entreaties, armed with carrots to cut a reasonable deal on nuclear tech with the IAEA followed by what is probably one of the most diplomatically inept speeches given at the UN
since Khrushchev banged his shoe.
Iran's newly elected hardline Islamist president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
probably intended this move both to solidify Iran's limited support in the Muslim world and to force the Bush administration to engage Iran as a diplomatic high priority. Well, I think he succeeded - just not in a way he intended while underscoring how little Teheran's rulers understand the United States and still less the Bush administration. Kim Jong-Il was wiser; he did not read the recent changes in American nuclear doctrine as either coincidence or bluff
or that a lack of any capacity to definitively resolve the outcome of major military attack would prevent the United States from launching one.
People were taken aback by the Six Party talks announcement because diplomacy was working - quietly, behind he scenes - as it should. Negotiations in public through loud statements indicate that no real negotiations are taking place in private. Something was offered in seriousness to bring the DPRK back to the table and China - whose President Hu held high-level talks with President Bush
- is neither prepared to pay the freight on North Korea's impending famine or back them if Pyongyang provokes a war or full-scale Japanese rearmament by testing a nuclear weapon. A deal was sealed most likely at this time between Beijing and Washington.
You don't merely play against the other player, you play against the scenario as well. And Iran may have just lost.UPDATE:Nadezhda
of Chez Nadezhda
has excellent counterarguments in the comment section, plus a post here
. Other bloggers that have intelligently posted on the North Korean nuclear deal can be found below:CKR of WhirledviewThomas P.M. BarnettCaerdroiaArms Control Wonk
- strong on Chinese angle.Coming AnarchyNKZoneAsiapunditConjectures& Refutations
- Iranian nuke programKevin DrumThe Useless Tree