Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Bush's Last Chance - Is the president finally ready to talk to Pyongyang? Let's hope so. By Fred Kaplan

Bush's Last Chance - Is the president finally ready to talk to Pyongyang? Let's hope so. By Fred Kaplan: "So, what should President Bush do? Stay on his high horse, refuse to negotiate (or, as he once put it, to 'reward bad behavior'), and watch one of the world's loosest cannons go nuclear? Or acknowledge the risks, get ready to be annoyed, and sit down at the table? There's still time, maybe one last time, to make a choice."

It is perfectly obvious, after even a few minutes of thought, that the U.S. should offer economic aid and security guarantees to North Korea in return for curtailing their nuclear program. There really is no other good option, and that a large part of the Republican Party, including Bush and McCain, as well as nutcases like Bolton, will not face up to it, reveals them to be hopeless incompetents.

Bush has, as far as I can tell, even spent even a few minutes in actual thought. Certainly, not about a matter of government policy. And, I doubt he will make an exception in this case.

Maybe his good luck will hold. I doubt very much that U.S. intelligence has any good assessment of real Korean capabilities. And, I don't know enough about the difficulties of building a bomb to know if they can really do it. The North Koreans do not have a depth of technical capability; this is not Russia, with vast resources and, poor as Russia is, with mathematicians playing chess on every street corner. North Korea is a country of 22 million, living in poverty so severe that a signficant part of the population is on the verge of starvation. They do have the ability to build ballistic missiles in small numbers; whether they could really build any significant numbers of bombs has to be considered dubious. The danger to the U.S. and the world is that they might, in economic desperation, put together a nuclear bomb or a "dirty" bomb, and sell it. The U.S. needs to have sufficient intelligence capability in the region to detect such an export and intercept it. Are we building such a capability? I doubt it very much.

And, the U.S. needs North Korea to accept economic aid of a kind, which will jump start the country's economic development. Any opening to the world is going to be subversive to regime. We should want to aid them, because aiding them undermines them, if done in the right way. Will we be that smart? Are you kidding?

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