Appeasement Bought Us Nothing But Trouble

When former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was on Larry King’s show, she blamed the Bush Administration for North Korea’s launching of seven missiles:

“Frankly, Larry, I think the problem here is that we are watching the failure of five years’ worth of American diplomacy,” Albright said Wednesday night. “I’m very worried about it, and I hope very much that we do have a review of our North Korean policy.”

Investors Business Daily caught Ms. Albright’s rewrite of history and outlined how it was the Clinton Administration that dropped the ball on North Korea, bringing us to the problem we have today:

• 1993: North Korea threatens to leave the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. After conducting U.N. inspections there for a year and a half, former International Atomic Energy Agency chief Hans Blix warns he can’t provide “any meaningful assurances” North Korea isn’t making nuclear weapons.

• 1994: Under the “Agreed Framework” negotiated by the Clinton administration with help of ex-President Carter, North Korea agrees to stop building nuclear weapons. In exchange, it gets billions in aid, including food, oil and modern nuclear reactors.

By 2000, according to a congressional report, North Korea would become the “largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid” in Asia. North Korea immediately starts cheating on the deal, acquiring nuclear know-how and material from Pakistan and China.

• 1998: A U.S. government report finds at least 1 million North Koreans have died of starvation as aid is used to kick-start the nuclear weapons program.

• 1998: Clinton’s military chief of staff tells Congress North Korea has no active ballistic missile program. A week later, North Korea shoots a Taepodong-1 missile over Japan and toward Alaska.

• 1999: Clinton eases sanctions against North Korea. U.S. signs a $5 billion deal to build two nuclear reactors. North Korea diverts aid to speed WMD program. Mass starvation reportedly continues.

• 2000: Despite continued breaches of the “agreed framework,” Albright travels to Pyongyang, where she cheerfully clinks glasses with Dear Leader Kim Jong-Il. Media hail the meeting as a diplomatic masterstroke by Clinton.

• 2002: New York Times headline: “North Korea Says It Has A Program On Nuclear Arms.”

For years, the Clinton Administration appeased Kim Jong-Il, refusing to take any action that could risk Clinton’s approval rating or injure his legacy. All the while, North Korea was building its weaponry. Now that Kim Jong-Il is test-firing missiles he acquired during the Clinton Administration, Secretary Albright criticizes with self-righteous indignation President Bush’s failed diplomacy.

Other former Clinton Administration officials have criticized Bush’s handling of North Korea. Recently Ashton Carter, Clinton’s assistant secretary of defense and William Perry, Clinton’s secretary of defense, said this in their June 22 Washington Post editorial:

Therefore, if North Korea persists in its launch preparations, the United States should immediately make clear its intention to strike and destroy the North Korean Taepodong missile before it can be launched. This could be accomplished, for example, by a cruise missile launched from a submarine carrying a high-explosive warhead. The blast would be similar to the one that killed terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq. But the effect on the Taepodong would be devastating. The multi-story, thin-skinned missile filled with high-energy fuel is itself explosive — the U.S. airstrike would puncture the missile and probably cause it to explode. The carefully engineered test bed for North Korea’s nascent nuclear missile force would be destroyed, and its attempt to retrogress to Cold War threats thwarted. There would be no damage to North Korea outside the immediate vicinity of the missile gantry.

Suddenly, when they aren’t the ones responsible for the consequences, these men are hawks on North Korea. It’s easy to demand an airstrike against a madman possibly armed with nuclear weapons when they’re on the sidelines and not subject to any of the risk.

But when they were the ones minding the store and had the chance to make the tough choices and deal with Kim Jong-Il’s defiance and missile buildup, they balked.

Random thoughts composed on an Amtrak train from DC to Baltimore
The Generals

74 Comments

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