Blame Clinton?

The Agonist takes issue with the Bush Administration blaming Clinton for the current mess in North Korea. To an extent, I’m sympathetic with that criticism. While Clinton was asleep on the wheel in terms of foreign policy to a large extent, I’d take any argument that something more would have been done by Bush with a large grain of salt. It’s likely that we’d still be in this mess unless Bush Sr. suddenly would have employed the same anti-proliferation doctrine that his son had. Prior to September 11, no one – not even those in the intelligence community – could have ever really known the depth and horror of the threats brewing on the horizon. Hindsight is always 20/20, and it is simply not constructive to worry about events that transpired nine years ago.

Still, the issue I take with the kind of policy that was implemented in 1994 is that it was a carrot-and-stick plan with absolutely no sticks attached. There’s a very good chance that the North Koreans were hard at work on nuclear weapons well before this year. There’s precious little evidence that we ever even bothered to have any accountability to verify that they were following the terms of the 1994 aggreement at all.

It’s as Reagan once said: "trust, but verify". Without that critical step of verification, the DPRK played the United States for fools. It’s clear that they now think that they can get the same concessions they got from Clinton with the same basic lack of accountability.

Contrary to some critics, I don’t think the Bush Administration will play ball quite the same way. While some say that the offer of fuel oil is a conciliation, I see it as the carrot. What’s not yet public knowledge is what the stick will be. If we’re going to do this right, we need to be very clear about what our demands are and how we will ensure that they are carried out without exception. If we’re willing to follow through this time around, we can avoid making this bad situation even worse than it already is.

2 thoughts on “Blame Clinton?

  1. The insoections were the stick. GWB allowed the carrot of oil to go to Nrth Korea while waiving the requirement of inspections all the while certifying that it was in the security interests of the United States to do so. See here.

    It seems that Clinton set up a “trust but verify” structure and GWB ignored it. Sean-Paul disgust is fully justified.

  2. Pingback: The Agonist

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.