Thursday, March 04, 2004

BLOGGING MAY BE LIGHT-TO-NONEXISTENT for the near-term future. I have a large number of deadlines looming. But before I go:

Check out Neil Gaiman on "Monster Crabs" invading Europe (article on the subject here)

Listen to this 1960s yellow pages commercial and contemplate how things have changed (link courtesy of James Lileks)

As long as I'm at it, it is time to reacquaint the blogosphere with the "Ballad of Bilbo Baggins" (first noticed in this space here).


Tuesday, March 02, 2004

MEDIA BIAS? Wonkette wonders when she sees this photo of Richard Perle. One reader replies:
Reader J.N.W. has an excellent point: "That Perle photo is pretty poor evidence of a liberal media. . . . Really, that could well have been the most flattering photo they had."
I don't care too much for Perle, his particular brand of foreign policy recommendations, or the way in which he has pushed them. But I have noticed a number of times in both web and television media in which Perle is depicted in a less than flattering light. Is he simply a completely un-photogenic subject? Well, not exactly. Journalists looking for a simple, unobjectionable image of Washington's most famous neo-con might start at his AEI webpage. It took me all of ten seconds to find this and I can't imagine Perle or the AEI protesting if a journalist used it for their story. So, when I see pictures like the one Wonkette links to I have to conclude that the reporter is either biased or horribly lazy.

Monday, March 01, 2004

North Korea on Sunday said it doubted further talks would help solve the dispute over its nuclear weapons programme, following the failure of last week's six-party talks in Beijing to break the stalemate.

The comments cast doubt on Saturday's agreement by the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the US to hold a third round of talks before July and establish a permanent working group to seek a peaceful settlement to the 16 month-old crisis.

And in a similar fashion to what I've been arguing for a while now, a Russian diplomat had this to say:
Alexander Losyukov, Russia's representative at the talks, was quoted by the Itar-Tass news agency as saying he thought the nuclear issue was unlikely to be resolved this year. "There are political factors involved here," he said. "Before [November's] US election the North Korean problem is unlikely to be solved."

With Roh Moo-hyun, by contrast, it's amateur hour. One looks in vain for any overarching vision or clear strategy.
Then there's his hypocrisy, if not worse, on corruption.
But with Roh, you wonder if the guy at the wheel knows where he's going - or even if he ever learned to drive.
Foster-Carter notes that not everything is Roh's fault and that, paradoxically the Uri Party may do surprisingly well in the upcoming parliamentary elections. Besides, the alternatives aren't much better.
Hope springs eternal, even for South Korea's jaded voters. In 2002 they elected Roh Moo-hyun, hoping for a new broom that would sweep clean. A year on, he looks a frail and unfit vehicle for these laudable aims - but they're stuck with him, and the GNP stinks, so maybe they'll give him a second chance.

Let's hope he deserves it.

CONFUSING ADVICE from David Scofield. Start out with this paragraph:
So as this second round of talks wraps up, it is time for the US to take the initiative. North Korea has been allowed to play offense throughout, setting the agenda and even the timing of discussions. It's time to turn the tables. Peace and reconciliation, "more for more", "steaks and sledgehammers" - whatever it takes.
Whatever it takes to do what? Apparently, whatever it takes to unilaterally declare victory and go home:
the complete removal of US force presence on the peninsula - the United States maintains an estimated 37,000 troops in South Korea. That would be coupled with North Korea's acknowledgment of South Korea as a sovereign state - the North still does not recognize the national sovereignty of its brothers in the South. And there would be the signing of a peace treaty ending the 50-year-old ceasefire that has defined the peninsula since 1953.
And what is the appeal of this approach? It forces the Koreans and their neighbors to solve and settle their own problems:
A treaty predicated on the swift withdrawal of US troops puts the issue of North Korea and regional security where it belongs - with the region. The region's actors bear primary responsibility for success because it is they - not the US - who ultimately will reap the direct rewards of peace and stability, and it is they who shoulder the burden of possible failure and the costs of conflict and instability.
There is a pleasing logic and sense of justice to this type of proposal: most Koreans on both sides of the DMZ appear to regard the U.S. troop presence as part of the problem and want the yankees to go home. If we do so, then the Koreans will have to stew in their own juices and deal with their own problems in a way that the American presence precludes at the present. The trouble I have with this approach can be summed up in two words: nuclear weapons. The only reason in my mind why the DPRK is worthy of attention from the international community (humanitarian concerns excepted) is because of the threat of nuclear weapons proliferation. Turning tail and leaving the Korean peninsula without clearly dealing with the nuclear issue raises all sorts of red flags:
--Iran and other would-be proliferators will learn that all they need to do is dig in their heels and the Americans will eventually blink, leaving them with nuclear arms that they can use to threaten enemies or sell on the terrorist black market.
--The still cash-strapped DPRK may be tempted to sell its own nuclear weapons on the black market.
--There is a threat of regional proliferation. I don't know that it will automatically follow that if the DPRK demonstrates to the world an undeniable nuclear weapons capability that other powers in the region--Japan, the ROK, the PRC, even Taiwan--will rush to create or expand their own nuclear arsenals. But it certainly is a risk to be considered. The region's actors may bear "primary responsibility" for the security in the region but they can respond to perceived security threats left in the vacuum created by departing American troops in ways that are inimical to American interests.

It may very well be that the DPRK's nuclear capability is overstated. After Iraq, we should be doubly skeptical about American intelligence claims concerning Axis of Evil WMDs. But the risk is significant enough to warrant eschewing unilateral disarmament.

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