A lot has been made over the issue of the US "backing down" over North Korea. Yet at the same time, it’s looking like an end to this crisis could be in sight. The North Koreans want our assurance that we have no hostile intentions towards North Korea. It’s clear that we don’t, as there’s no conceivable reason why the US would mount an attack on North Korea unless there was a very pressing justification to. If North Korea already has nuclear weapons, and they more than likely have for some time, a military option is virtually unthinkable anyway.
Nor is this a sudden dropping of the Bush Doctrine. The real worry is the spread of nuclear weapons. If Pyongyang starts selling nuclear technology, then there’s a serious worry. However, if we can find an amenable solution towards keeping North Korea’s nuclear weapons in North Korea, proliferation isn’t a concern. The Bush Doctrine says that we will use military force to prevent the spread of WMD technology, which is fine. However, it would be foolish to attempt such tactics on a nation that already has nuclear weapons as North Korea does. This highlights the need for such a doctrine as it shows how limited one’s options become once nuclear weapons are introduced into a region.
Even if this is a strategic retreat in some ways from previous Administration policy, it’s a pragmatic one. If the North Koreans want to pursue a diplomatic solution, the US would be idiotic to turn them down. We’ve let them wriggle a little, and now it’s time to start seeing if we can’t defuse this crisis. It’s nice to be perfectly ideologically consistent, but international relations rarely if ever allow such considerations. After all, it’s the left that argues that will cannot afford to alienate other nations, and major regional powers are pushing for US/DPRK talks.
Negotiating with North Korea may not be entirely consistent with the ideologies of previous decisions, but one simply cannot be bound by ideology in making decisions. If diplomatic negotiations can prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction, then that’s the tool that needs to be used. There are times for taking the hard line with another country, but when you have a country where desperation could lead to a nuclear exchange and the deaths of thousands of US troops, you have to be willing to show a little flexibility.