Sunday, July 24, 2005

Bush the Atheist?

Nick Kristof has a fascinating article today about North Korea. It's sensible, clear, and contains good advice - but only if you read it backwards.

Kristof's second half of the op-ed suggests a number of ways that the US could help change the North Korean regime, including negotiating directly with Pyongyang, letting NK in to the Asian Development Bank, etc. These are all excellent suggestions - and the US isn't doing a single one of them. The US, you might remember, is currently run by conservative Christians in the executive and legislative branches. Therefore, you can see how Kristof arrives at the obvious conclusion (interestingly, propounded in the first half of the article): it's all liberal's fault.
"The biggest scandal in progressive politics," Tony Blair told The New Yorker this year, "is that you do not have people with placards out in the street on North Korea. I mean, that is a disgusting regime. The people are kept in a form of slavery, 23 million of them, and no one protests!"

Actually, some people do protest. Conservative Christians have aggressively taken up the cause of North Korean human rights in the last few years, and the movement is gathering steam. A U.S.-government-financed conference on North Korean human rights convened in Washington last week, and President Bush is expected shortly to appoint Jay Lefkowitz to the new position of special envoy for North Korean human rights.
Ah, yes, Conservatives have had such amazing success in North Korea. Let's go through Kristof's list:
Our first step should be to talk directly to North Koreans, even invite senior officials to the United States. Many conservatives would accept direct talks, as long as the agenda included human rights (on the model of the Helsinki accords).
Bush has refused any direct negotiations with Pyongyang. Bush is the most powerful conservative Christian in the world. Yet somehow, these two facts mean that Progressives are wimps. Or something.
Second, we should welcome North Korea's economic integration with the rest of the world. For example, we should stop blocking Pyongyang's entry into the Asian Development Bank and encourage visits to North Korea by overweight American bankers. In a country where much of the population is hungry, our most effective propaganda is our paunchiness.
I'm certain the Bush administration is willing to help open North Korea to outside contact. After all, look at how rational America's policy on Cuba has been. Oh, wait.
Third, we should continue feeding starving North Koreans, while also pushing for increased monitoring. The food is delivered through the U.N. World Food Program in sacks that say, in Korean as well as English, that the food is from America. Nobody has done more to bring about change in North Korea than the World Food Program, which now has 45 foreigners traveling around the country.
Okay, so this is the list of priorities for Kristof's plan to save North Korea - 2 things the Bush administration either won't do, or will only do grudgingly, and one thing we're already doing - feeding the North with food aid. You might think this might be a problem for the people who, you know, actually run the country. But you and I aren't nearly as smart as Kristof. He knows who the real culprits are - liberals. Or who knows, maybe Bush has stopped being a Conservative Christian while I was out.

Hell, it wouldn't be the Sunday New York Times without a gratuitous snipe at the Left.

In other North Korean news, Pyongyang is proposing a permanent peace treaty to replace the armistice the South refused to sign in 1953.
North Korea has called for a peace treaty with the US, ahead of the resumption of talks aimed at ending the stand-off over its nuclear weapons.

Pyongyang said in a statement that a full treaty replacing the armistice signed at the end of the Korean War in 1953 was needed to resolve the crisis....

In a statement issued on Friday, North Korea's foreign ministry said: "Replacing the cease-fire mechanism by a peace mechanism on the Korean Peninsula would lead to putting an end to the US hostile policy" towards the North.

It added that a peace treaty would "automatically result in the denuclearisation of the peninsula".
Of course, the North is still going to demand an assurance that the US won't attack, which Washington won't give - Republicans or no, the US's foreign policy is to never, except in the most dire circumstances, make any concessions to limit its freedom of action. So the US is faced with an interesting choice - either continue it's present course and risk the incineration of North Asia, or actually step back a bit from it's imperial policies and secure some peace and security. I know what choice I'd have them make.

In other news, I'll be heading to my family's cottage for the next few days, so no blogging until Wednesday night or Thursday morning. Have a lovely time, y'all. I'll be back.

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