NYT: UN Bad, Bilateralism Good

Proving that consistency doesn’t matter unless it’s going against Bush, Captain Ed has a great take-down of the latest NYT editorial on North Korea. Quoth the Times:

The United Nations Security Council certainly should register international condemnation of last week’s North Korean missile launches. But if any serious progress is going to be made on this and the related North Korean nuclear issue, it will not be through Security Council resolutions or sanctions.

There are only three countries with any real leverage — the United States, China and South Korea — and none are doing all they could to nudge North Korea onto a less provocative course. Until they do, Security Council resolutions will remain a largely symbolic sideshow.

So wait, I thought the only arbiter of legitimacy on the international stage was the United Nations? Wasn’t that the whole argument on the war in Iraq? So why is it that the UN was somehow effective in containing Saddam, but not Kim Jung Il? Why was it absolutely unconscionable that Bush would engage in bilateralism over Iraq, but it’s necessary to do so for North Korea?

Then again, when all you need to do is reflexively oppose the Bush Administration, consistency isn’t a requirement.

Bush administration should drop its reflexive opposition to direct talks. But before scheduling a meeting, Washington should call on North Korea to reinstate its moratorium on long-range missile tests and keep it in place for at least one year while talks on a permanent ban proceed.

Those direct talks should also include discussions on North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs. Nearly a year ago, North Korea agreed in principle to give these up as part of an agreement with the United States, China, Russia, Japan and South Korea. Crucial details were never worked out because North Korea left the talks over unrelated banking sanctions the Bush administration announced last fall. Washington has refused to conduct direct negotiations on the banking sanctions.

Those banking sanctions have to do with the North Koreans counterfeiting over a billion dollars in $100 bills than using the money to fund terrorism. There’s no way that the US can allow that to continue, and lifting those sanctions would hurt the US economy and embolden Kim Jung Il.

The US gains nothing from bilateral talks, other than giving the North Koreans a chance to bluster around and blame the US for their inevitable failure. If there’s one thing that we know of the Kim Jung Il regime, it’s that he is not a rational actor. The North Koreans have no intention of giving up their nuclear program, and short of instigating a devastating war on the Korean peninsula, we have almost no options other than sanctions. The North Korea crisis effects China, Russia, South Korea, and Japan far more than it does us – especially given that our anti-ballistic missile technology has performed better than the DPRK’s long-range missile program.

Our priorities should be to apply what diplomatic pressure we can, but to isolate the DPRK military and economically. Short of war, an option that is completely untenable, nothing will prevent the North Koreans from continuing on their current course. Isolating them and ensuring that they can’t proliferate weapons or get the resources necessary to build stockpiles remains our only valid option. Diplomacy is futile, preemption is too dangerous, and doing nothing is naive. This is a case in which the only valid option is containment and the hope that this malignant regime collapses on its own.

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