Friday, February 25, 2005


Bill Clinton visited Seoul recently to celebrate the Korean-language version of his memoir, My Life. In a speech, Clinton made all the usual appropriate comments:
``I still support a non-nuclear Korean peninsula, I still believe there can be a peaceful resolution of the Korean crisis,'' Clinton said, according to a pool report. ``I hope that China and all friends of the Korean people will make it succeed.''

Also attending and speaking at a dinner was former ROK President Kim Dae Jung who, among other things, made the following statement:
``If only President Clinton had had one more year, the issue of nuclear weapons would have been resolved,'' Kim Dae-jung said.
In my humble opinion, this is historical revisionism of the most blatant kind. And it is revisionism that ignores several salient facts:

1) The DPRK began its clandestine HEU program in the last years of the Clinton Administration. This was known by intelligence officials at the time who briefed the incoming Bush Administration about the program. This is hardly a sign that the DPRK was on the verge of agreeing to a deal to eliminate all of its nuclear weapons programs. Some have attempted to argue that the HEU program was either a) not as developed as the Bush team has claimed or b) actually intended for the peaceful purpose of creating an indigenous source of nuclear fuel for the light-water reactors that KEDO was supposed to be building for North Korea. Even if one grants either or both of these propositions, the fact remains that the program was secret and the DPRK reaction to Bush's accusations concerning the program was not full disclosure and explanation but further obfuscation.

2) According to Clinton's own account of events, in the last days of his administration he was faced with the choice of focusing on either the Palestinian-Israel issue or on North Korea. He chose the former and, as the story goes, ran out of time and couldn't solve the North Korea problem before he left office. Well, as we all now know, Clinton's efforts in the middle east were not terribly successful (due more to Arafat's recalcitrance than to any failure on Clinton's part). Given that failure, which would have been more likely if Clinton had been granted another year: continuing to seek a solution to the still unsolved Palestinian-Israel issue or turning attention to North Korea?

3) If memory serves, Clinton and Albright both claim to have been on the brink of an agreement concerning North Korean ballistic missiles, not nukes. A missile agreement would have been nice but that is not the same as a comprehensive agreement securing the verifiable elimination of all North Korean nuclear programs.

4) Also, if memory serves, the sense that an agreement on missiles was even possible was based almost entirely on an off-hand remark Kim Jong Il was supposed to have made to a visiting Russian diplomat. Hardly grounds for concluding that a deal was imminent.

5) The Albright visit to P'yongyang was successfully spun in North Korea as the latest in a string of American capitulations and a willingness of the United States to abase itself before the glory of Kim Jong Il. Recall the huge pageant put on for Albright and co. in which the Secy of State was recorded dutifully applauding a football stadium card depiction of a Taepodong missile.

Bush's hard-line approach toward North Korea may not have moved the parties involved closer to a deal. But to assume that all it would have taken was a few more months of golden-tongued Bill to change North Korea is a bit of a stretch. It expresses at the same time a naivete about North Korea and a hubris about America.

Just my two bits.

with an extra sunshine bribe or three and another year of no one paying attention to the nork buildup, iraq, and al qaeda, there might have been more than 3,000 killed on 9/11/2001...

and there might have been a lot worse to look forward to...
Just one more example of Clinton attempting to rewrite his presidency in the wake of the war on terror and Bush's sweeping changes in US domestic and foreign policy. Slick Willie does it again.

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I think you mean "former" not "latter" on number 2.

Otherwise, I agree with you.

One of the odder unexplored coincidences of the last few years was the Bush Administration's delay of revealing the NK nuke information to congress until after the overbroad authorization of overcommittment of forces to Iraq...
Thanks for the correction Jonathan.
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