Friday, February 28, 2003

LIBERAL MEDIA? NOT EXACTLY. This acccount of media coverage of anti-war and anti-anti-war protests in North Carolina claims the media focused too much on the much smaller of the two, and has pictures to prove it.

Thursday, February 27, 2003

I don’t usually go in for this kind of stuff, but I couldn’t resist. Listened to Democracy Now on the road to work this morning. Amy Goodman interviewed Robert Fisk (from whom the ‘blogging term “Fisking” gets its infamous name) and Chris Hedges, a New York Times reporter and author of a book: War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning. They both, naturally, oppose a U.S.-led war on Iraq. So do I. However, their rhetoric and arguments make me wonder why.

After listening to a clip of George Bush’s AEI speech of yesterday evening, Fisk lashed out in righteous dudgeon about how he is sick and tired of Bush and company invoking Winston Churchill. Bush’s statement is as follows:
After all, the United Nations was created, as Winston Churchill said, to "make sure that the force of right will, in the ultimate issue, be protected by the right of force.")
Fisk objects because, of course, “Mr. Bush is not Winston Churchill.” More generally, he is sick and tired of present-day leaders “Trotting out the bloody second world war over and over again.” This is because “Hitler died in a bunker in 1945 and the Second World War is over.” He went on to decry the
“little people; Saddam, Bush, Blair, little men strutting like pathetic Shakespearean actors on the world stage trying to urge us all on to war without any personal experience.”

To his credit he quickly noted that perhaps Saddam Hussein does have some war experience after all. But soon afterwards he returned to the issue of the relative small stature of Bush, Blair, and Hussein referring to

“these little men, these pygmies.”

I was startled by Fisk’s use of the term “pygmy.” This does not seem terribly PC or sensitive to the peoples who used to be known in the Western world by this appellation (for an interesting explication of actual pygmies and their history and position in Africa, see Jared Diamond’s fascinating Guns, Germs, and Steel).

But more interesting to me as a Korea watcher is the fact that President Bush has routinely been taken to task for his labeling North Korean leader Kim Jong-il a pygmy. (more criticism here, and here). Apparently if Bush uses the term “pygmy”, it is a sign of his simple-mindedness, his aggressive cowboy mentality, and his lack of understanding and/or respect for others. But when Fisk uses the term it is merely a vivid description.

Even more interestingly, in the same segment in which Fisk declares his disgust with using examples or rhetoric from the Second World War, he does the same thing himself. In order to illustrate how terrible war is, he invoked the Battle of Seelow Heights, a battle between German and Soviet forces along the Elbe River in April 1945 (Fisk mistakenly says February 1945), noting that 30,000 soldiers died in a matter of days and that we’re still digging up the bodies at “a rate of 1,000 a day.” Leaving aside the fact that if we're digging them up at a rate of 1,000 a day we would be done in a month, why would someone who is sick and tired of people in “your country” (e.g. Americans) “trotting out the bloody second world war over and over again” do the same thing within minutes? Does he even think at all about what he is saying? Does he assume that no one really listens? Does he care?

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

CAMPAIGN VS. RULE: As soon as President Roh Moo-hyun took office he announced that the government's ongoing anti-corruption campaign can afford to slow down a bit. Sensible and prudent? Of course. Disappointing? Only if you expect political officials to behave the same way as candidates do.


I think it is interesting that only one of these experts deemed it significant that the missile was launched hours before the inauguration of Roh Moo-hyun. Personally, it boggles my mind not to consider the timing, but then again, I'm not a South Korean expert.

What's a superpower to do? Despair not, America. Fortunately, there happens to be an approach to countering Pyongyang's proliferation threat that is ideal for timid and querulous posses: a campaign of coordinated and sustained economic pressure, tailored to punish Kim's regime for its nuclear violations.

Here's the idea: Washington lobbies the northeast Asian neighborhood to curtail or terminate foreign aid to Kim's regime. It also organizes a consortium to interrupt North Korea's illicit revenues from counterfeiting, drug trafficking and missile sales. And it keeps up the pressure until Kim shows, and shreds, his nuclear homework—or until we get a new and improved Dear Leadership in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (dprk).

His blithe dismissal of South Korean and Chinese reluctance to get on board such a program is, to me, a bit naive
The weakest links in my pressure program are, admittedly, the Chinese and South Korean governments, two of the North's biggest benefactors. But incoming President Roh's new administration might not be able to continue funding the North's protection racket even if he wants to. Outgoing President Kim Dae Jung is leaving office in disgrace over recently revealed secret payments to Kim Jong Il to secure the "historic" Pyongyang summit of 2000. Furthermore, South Korea's legislature, which has to sign off on the national budget, is in the hands of an opposition party bitterly opposed to such subsidies.

And what about China? Forget the country's tired "lips to teeth" blather about its affinity for old dprk allies—North Korean nukes are a foreign-policy nightmare for Beijing, a trip wire that could ultimately leave China encircled by nuclear neighbors (including Taiwan) and U.S.-assisted missile defense shields. During the North Korean nuclear crisis of the early 1990s, Beijing slashed its food shipments to North Korea by two-thirds (and probably triggered the subsequent dprk famine). Beijing has been more publicly critical of Pyongyang during this current nuclear drama—and Sino-American relations are distinctly warmer since 9/11 than they were during the Clinton era. All in all, coaxing Uncle Zemin or Uncle Jintao to reduce China's allowance for Kim hardly looks like a diplomatic mission impossible.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell ended a four-day Asia trip today having made little public progress in his efforts to rally support for U.S. strategy on North Korea and Iraq.

Powell reported that he sowed goodwill and smoothed out some discord in the relationship with the new South Korean president, Roh Moo Hyun. But he failed to win any visible pledges of support in South Korea, China or Japan for Washington's moves toward an invasion of Iraq or its hard line against North Korea's nuclear program.

Am I the only one that notes something of an irony here? In the case of Iraq, critics claim that the U.S. is being unilateral yet when the U.S. calls for a multilateral solution to the North Korean nuclear issue, no one seems interested and everyone insists instead that the problem should be resolved by the U.S. and North Korea alone. Of course part of the reason for China and the ROK to be reluctant to engage in multilateral diplomacy is their sense that the American mind is already made up and that the pursuit of multilateral solutions is merely window dressing for predetermined American policies.

U.S. TO RESUME FOOD AID TO NORTH KOREA But in somewhat reduced fashion.
Richard A. Boucher, the State Department spokesman, said that the United States will deliver at least 40,000 metric tons of food to North Korea in 2003, and was prepared to increase that amount by another 60,000 tons.

In 2002 the United States' contribution to the World Food Program, the United Nations food aid organization, was 157,000 metric tons, more than half of the program's total.

State Department officials said the reduction in aid this year was mainly the result of two factors: the World Food program has reduced its request for North Korea, while demands for American food in other regions, particularly Africa, have risen sharply.

A sign of a potential thaw? Perhaps, but the U.S. steadfastly refuses bilateral talks with the DPRK and maintains its embargo of heavy fuel oil.

ROH MOO-HYUN IS INAUGURATED. He promises, among other things, the following:
Today, he introduced a new name to the policy of peaceful engagement with North Korea known as sunshine policy under his predecessor and political mentor, Kim Dae Jung. Mr. Roh said his approach would be called the "peace and prosperity policy." This approach, he said, would seek to "build mutual trust and uphold reciprocity," and to ensure that "South Korea and North Korea are the two main actors in inter-Korean relations."

This language hints at the economic community Mr. Roh has said he wants to build with North Korea, even as Washington seeks to isolate the country, and seems to echo the candidate's complaints that the United States has too often been out in front of South Korea in determining policy toward the North. The speech also included repeated references to refocusing relations on the immediate region, and strengthened ties with China and Japan.
"Peace and prosperity policy": who can oppose that? The DPRK's launch of a missile on the same day may be an indication that North Korea may have other ideas. The American unwillingness to talk with North Korea is certainly an indication that the United States has stark policy differences with President Roh.

Tuesday, February 25, 2003



DOES THE MEDIA IGNORE OR MISUNDERSTAND RELIGION IN AMERICA? Cut on the Bias reports on some accounts that seem to point in that direction.

Monday, February 24, 2003


Granted the story isn't nearly as dramatic as the headline. Still, one wonders what's next?

IF THIS REPORT IS ACCURATE, this will prove to be a classic illustration of why I can't get too excited when politicians of any party or stripe talk about reinventing government or fiscal responsibility. The fact of the matter is, whether it is $800 million for the Grammy Foundation or whether it is a mohair subsidy, our politicians love their pork and they know that in the end they won't be held accountable for it. Disgusting.

The country was fully electrified before the crisis began in the 1990's," said Timothy Savage, who surveyed North Korea's energy needs in 2000 for the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainable Development, a California-based group. "They have appliances, radios, televisions, and in some cases refrigerators."

But because of a lack of maintenance, North Korea's hydro and fuel oil plants were working at only 30 percent of capacity, and 30 percent of production was lost as a result of leakage, the Nautilus survey found.

The survey calculated that this nation of 22 million people was limping along on 2 gigawatts of energy, less than the amount of power consumed by an American city of one million people.

Not surprisingly, this is seen as all America's fault:
"The U.S. stands between us and electricity," said Kim Dae Sung, a 35-year-old park guide, voicing a government-approved view that most of North Korea's shortcomings are the fault of the United States. Bitter that she never knows whether she will watch television after work or read by candlelight, she said, "Why do the Americans keep making problems with electricity?"

SOUTH KOREAN DOMESTIC POLITICS: Hahn Hwa-gap quits his post as chairman of President Roh Moo-hyun's Millennium Democratic Party (MDP). This is not unexpected because Hahn led a MDP party revolt against Roh's candidacy during the election campaign.

AS COLIN POWELL MAKES HIS WAY TOWARD SOUTH KOREA, Roh Moo-hyun continues to make it clear that he will not simply follow the American line on North Korea:
Mr. Roh has given strong indications that he intends to accelerate South Korea's embrace of North Korea, even as the United States looks for ways to ratchet up pressure on North Korea.

To the dismay of Washington, Mr. Roh has spoken in recent weeks of establishing an economic community with North Korea, stepping up trade, aid and investment there, ruling out economic sanctions and military strikes against the country and even of personally "guaranteeing" North Korea's security.

The president-elect said he would replace the current armistice agreement with a treaty between the Koreas in order to ensure peace on the Korean Peninsula.

"It is better to struggle than to suffer deaths in a war," Mr. Roh said in a speech to the Federation of Korean Trade Unions. "Koreans should stand together, although things will get difficult when the United States bosses us around."

Interesting times ahead! Of course conservatives in South Korea are less tha pleased:
A senior South Korean diplomat said: "It looks like Roh is prepared to throw the alliance away and make common cause with North Korea. We don't understand why he seems to trust North Korea so completely."

STILL WONDERING WHO THE NEW PRESIDENT OF THE ROK IS? Read this Washington Post article (free registration required) for an introduction that covers the usual bases.


THE VIEW FROM THE MUSLIM STREET. According to this LA Times article (free registration required), many in Iran express support for a U.S.-led effort to oust Saddam Hussein (link courtesy of Andrew Sullivan):
Some Iranians, particularly the young, say they would actually welcome a U.S. presence in Iraq because it would increase pressure on both their country's conservative Islamic regime and the fractured reformers who oppose it. The regime's efforts to portray the U.S. as the "Great Satan" have failed to sway young people, who are a clear majority of Iranians. About 70% of the country's 70 million people are younger than 30.

Young people in particular associate the U.S. with the opportunities and freedoms that Iran, with its sluggish economy and stern moral code, lacks. They believe that better relations with the U.S. would revitalize Iranian life and help the country shed its pariah status.

According to a poll conducted in September, 75% of Iranians support dialogue with the U.S., and some believe that a long-term U.S. military presence next door could accelerate the process of change in Iran.

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