06/29/2004: Thought for the Day:
This week, after 20 months of doing nothing about North Korea's drive to build nuclear weapons, President Bush finally put a proposal—a set of incentives for disarmament—on the negotiating table. The remarkable thing is, the deal is practically identical to the accord that President Clinton signed with Pyongyang in 1994—an accord that Bush condemned and scuttled from the moment he took over the White House....
It's good that Bush has at last realized that diplomacy is the only way to solve the crisis. But he's come a bit late to this epiphany. North Korea has greatly strengthened its hand in the interim. Two years ago, its 8,000 fuel rods were padlocked under international inspection. Now, they've been reprocessed into bomb-grade plutonium.
Had Bush made the offer back when he first had the chance, Kim Jong-il probably would have taken it. Kim may take it still; his closest allies, the Chinese, are urging him to. But if he behaves the way he usually behaves—the way any cunningly rational leader in his position would behave—he will up the ante, ask for more, and walk away with a shrug if Bush declines. And he knows that there's not much Bush can do about it.
Bush has stunningly mishandled this confrontation. He has allowed North Korea—the most rickety spoke on his "axis of evil," a dangerous regime by any measure—to reach the crest of becoming a nuclear power. He has dismissed numerous opportunities to nip this disaster in the bud. And now he comes up with an old formula that evades the recent shift in the balance.
In short, by his own careless arrogance, the president of the world's most powerful nation has allowed himself to be outmaneuvered by the very model of a modern tinhorn dictator.
--Fred Kaplan, in Slate, 6/25/04
Len on 06.29.04 @ 07:20 AM CST