Thursday, March 24, 2005


Ken Lieberthal offers some sensible analysis and advice.
Regime change could produce a period of chaos. Millions of people would be likely to take to the roads seeking food and other assistance, with huge numbers desperate to cross the Chinese and South Korean borders. Forces from China, the US and South Korea could soon be drawn in to choke off those flows, seek to establish relief operations, and try to nail down the location and control of North Korea's stockpiles of nuclear weapons and/or weapons-grade plutonium.
Some lessons:
First, the Bush administration should seriously re-think regime change as a desired outcome.

Second, regime change in North Korea could lead to direct involvement of US, Chinese and South Korean military forces on what is now North Korean territory.

Given this possibility, the three militaries should hold quiet talks among operational commanders to reduce the chances of future distrust and miscommunication
All of this is, of course, prudent and sensible advice. If Iraq has taught us anything, it is that toppling an oppressive dictator doesn't automatically lead to peace and stability. My only qualm about such conclusions is that they seem to consign the North Korean people to what in all likelihood will be additional years if not decades of suffering. Yes, realists have to calculate the costs of any course of action. But all of the gloomy scenarios about the dangers of regime collapse carry with them the unspoken implication that as long as they don't have a direct impact on our lives, the North Korean people can go on suffering privation and oppression. After all, that's better than the unpredictable dangers of regime change, right?

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