Friday, September 7, 2007

Non-Trivial Formalities

I gave George W. Bush credit a while back for a rare demonstration of diplomatic flexibility that led to a genuine breakthrough in the quest to eliminate the North Korean nuclear weapons program.

Now I think it makes sense to ask him to demonstrate a little more.

Apparently, the North Koreans are demanding, among other things, a formal peace treaty with the United States as a precondition for eliminating their nuclear weapons program. The South Korean President, Roh Moo-Hyun, believes this request should be granted.

In an exchange the New York Times called "testy", the South Korean leader publicly (and apparently unexpectedly) asked President Bush to grant this request.

The President responded with the following:

"I said it’s up to Kim Jong-il as to whether or not we’re able to sign a peace
treaty to end the Korean War. He’s got to get rid of his weapons in a verifiable
fashion. And we’re making progress toward that goal. It’s up to him.”

Now, evil is a word that is thrown around a little too readily in political debates today, but it surely applies to Kim Jong-Il. His regimes record of cruelty and depravity could compete with any other in human history.

Nevertheless, in the interest of trying to actually solve a problem (or at least improve a situation), let me take a step that some might find distasteful. Lets look at things from the North Korean leader's point of view.

He is still technically at war with a country that he surely knows has the capacity to destroy him. He's watched us invade and annihilate an Iraqi Army comparable to his own, right after we called its leader - and him - Evil (remember the Axis of Evil speech).

Kim Jong-Il clearly does not value human life (he's brainwashed and starved millions of his own people). Therefore, what seems obvious to us - that we are not going to start a second Korean War that undoubtedly would costs tens if not hundreds of thousands of South Korean lives - may not only seem possible, but perhaps even likely to him.

If you believe that hypothesis, then it makes sense that he would demand a peace treaty before abandoning the one thing that he feels gives him a true defense against American power.

Now, one may say that the treaty demand is nothing more than another delaying tactic by a sinister and hostile regime determined to become more powerful through acquiring additional nuclear weapons. Others might say that you cannot meaningfully employ reason and logic with the likes of Kim Jong Il.

Both of those statements may very well be true. what?

Neutralize Kim's excuses immediately and diminish his room to diplomatically maneuver. Back him further into a corner and give him one less thing to talk about instead of dismantling his weapons program.

A peace treaty will change NOTHING on the ground. It is a formality only - yet it is a measure that could have non-trivial positive implications for moving forward with diplomacy and nuclear disarmament.

I am NOT suggesting, nor would I support any signing ceremony that had the President of the United States standing next to this monster, much less shaking his hand. Just sign a formal statement acknowledging what the rest of the world already knows - we are not going to invade Korea.

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