For the US this is a strategic failure of the first order. The origins of the failure are ones anyone familiar with the last six years in this country will readily recognize: chest-thumping followed by failure followed by cover-up and denial. The same story as Iraq. Even the same story as Foley.... All diplomatic niceties aside, President Bush's idea was that the North Koreans would respond better to threats than Clinton's mix of carrots and sticks. Then in the winter of 2002-3, as the US was preparing to invade Iraq, the North called Bush's bluff. And the president folded. Abjectly, utterly, even hilariously if the consequences weren't so grave and vast.... The Bush-Cheney policy on North Korea was always what Fareed Zakaria once aptly called "a policy of cheap rhetoric and cheap shots." It failed. And after it failed President Bush couldn't come to grips with that failure and change course. He bounced irresolutely between the Powell and Cheney lines and basically ignored the whole problem hoping either that the problem would go away, that China would solve it for us and most of all that no one would notice. Do you notice now?
-- Josh Marshall
And it is worth noting -- in fact, it is critical to ingest -- that the President pronounces himself more certain than ever that he is right about his foreign policy approach. The same approach that brought us the unparalleled disaster in Iraq, North Korean nuclear tests, and an Iran that is seemingly determined to acquire nuclear weapons is what will continue to guide our country's behavior over the next two years if the President can continue to operate with a free hand. Only in the up-is-down world of the American media political dialogue would Republicans be deemed "strong and tough" on national security and foreign policy be considered their strong suit. It is almost impossible to have been more wrong than they have been, and to weaken this country as much as it's been weakened.
-- Glenn Greenwald
Wherever you turn with Bush, it is always difficult to imagine a worse result from any of their policies. But they always seem to surprise us and manage ever more catastrophic outcomes.... It is a simple fact that the most creative people in the world are the incompetent. They find unique ways of making life hell which are far, far beyond anything the rest of us can imagine. And so, the kind of fiascos that Joshua Micah Marshall - and you, and I - find difficult ever to imagine are a piece of cake for George W. Bush to create. If Josh really thinks this spectacular screwup on North Korea is the worst result imaginable from a Bush policy towards NoKo (or anything else), I'd like to remind him that Bush has 833 days left to generate far worse ones.** And I for one am certain that Bush and Co. can, and will.
"Why should I care about North Korea?... I get these briefings on all parts of the world," [George W.] Bush said, "and everybody is talking to me about North Korea."
"I'll tell you what, Governor," Bandar said. "One reason should make you care about North Korea."
"All right, smart alek," Bush said, "tell me."
"The 38,000 American troops right on the border." ..."If nothing else counts, this counts. One shot across the border and you lose half these people immediately. You lose 15,000 Americans in a chemical or biological or even regular attack. The United State of America is at war instantly."
"Hmmm," Bush said. "I wish those assholes would put things just point-blank to me. I get half a book telling me about the history of North Korea."
-- Then-Governor George W. Bush, as
quoted in Bob Woodward's State of Denial
We have plainly created an incentive system where every rational leader -- not crazed, Hitleresque, world-domination-seeking leaders -- but every rational leader, would assess that it is in his country's interest to acquire a nuclear capability. Of the three "axis of evil" members, the one which was, by far, the weakest militarily was the one we invaded and shattered. But with the strongest of the three, North Korea, we have proceeded very gingerly, issuing plainly empty threats and bellicose rhetoric but doing little else. The message we have sent with our foreign policy is clear -- if you are a militarily weak nation, we may invade you or bomb you at will, but if you arm yourselves or, better still, acquire nuclear capability, we will not. That has become the incentive scheme produced by having the world's only superpower announce to the world that it has the right to preemptively invade other countries.
-- Glenn Greenwald
Talking tough and then folding your cards doesn't just show weakness it invites contempt. And that is what we have here.
-- Josh Marshall
In short, we have little leverage; the North Koreans have a lot; yet Bush refuses to take the North Koreans up on their offers to trade their weapons away.... Nobody knows precisely what North Korea has. This is what makes negotiations both difficult and necessary. Bush's failure to make a deal, while the fuel rods were still locked up, constitutes one of the great diplomatic blunders of our time. It may not be too late to avert the coming disaster. The question is whether the president--whoever he might be--recognizes that a disaster is coming, decides to deal with it, and does so fairly soon. The time is already late; at some point, it will run out.
-- Fred Kaplan, May 2004 (via)
Saddam Hussein does not have a clear path to acquiring nuclear weapons. North Korea may already have them - and is on a clear path to acquiring more.... I marvel at the discipline of this Administration in sticking to its message -that Saddam is the greatest danger - regardless of world developments... North Korea will be far easier to contend with as a threatening power than as a declared nuclear power.... North Korea is a far greater danger to world peace than Iraq.
-- Howard Dean, February 17, 2003 (link via)
I will not wait on events, while dangers gather. I will not stand by, as peril draws closer and closer. The United States of America will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons.
-- George W. Bush, January 29, 2002
Heck of a job, Bushie. Heck of a job. I'm sure we're all much safer now.