Bush decides he doesn't want peace.
March 8, 2001 7:07 AM   Subscribe

Bush decides he doesn't want peace. resident bush has made it clear to the president of south korea that he will be reversing the previous administration's policy toward north korea. so the strides of peace that have been made can easily be wiped away now. i especially like the reversal of colin powell's comments from the day before.
posted by bliss322 (34 comments total)

 
He doesn't want peace you say? Should we want peace with a regime that starves it's population while spending 50% of it's budget on the military? Shoud we want peace with a regime that doesn't support even basic humanitarian rights for it's people?

What price do the unfortunate citizens of North Korea pay for the peace you propose?
posted by revbrian at 7:15 AM on March 8, 2001


The string of explanatory paragraphs in the New York Times' coverage is chillingly, amusingly sad:
Today Mr. Bush made it clear that he had little intention of following Mr. Clinton's path. ... Mr. Bush said: "We're not certain as to whether or not they're keeping all terms of all agreements."

But the United States has only one agreement with North Korea — the 1994 accord that froze North Korea's plutonium processing at a suspected nuclear weapons plant. And at a briefing this afternoon two senior administration officials, asked about the president's statement, said there was no evidence that North Korea is violating its terms.

Later, a White House spokesman said that Mr. Bush was referring to his concern about whether the North would comply with future accords, even though he did not use the future tense. "That's how the president speaks," the official said.
posted by werty at 7:17 AM on March 8, 2001


Perhaps rather than deciding that he doesn't want peace, he feels that the course pursued by Clinton is not a route to a lasting peace, but rather little more than appeasement.
posted by obfusciatrist at 7:21 AM on March 8, 2001


Dear mister reverend, sir:

Exactly how much good has our policy of the last 50 years done for the North Korean people? If the ultimate goal is to "help" them achieve democracy, maintaining the stare-down of the last half-century is no way to go about it. Do we want peace with a country that starves its people? Yes, if it allows relief organizations to go in and help the starving, if it helps establish communication between them and us, if it helps guide North Korea toward a more democratic system.

Y'know, the Cold War is over. You can all stop hiding under your desks now.
posted by jpoulos at 7:45 AM on March 8, 2001


[. Do we want peace with a country that starves its people? Yes, if it allows relief organizations to go in and help the starving, if it helps establish communication between them and us, if it helps guide North Korea toward a more democratic system.]

I'm not advocating harming the citizens of N Korea to spite the government. I'm not advocating a stare down either. We should in no means accept the state of affairs there now though.

We should outright say, that if you will not feed your people then we won't deal with such a government. There is no reason to support such a heartless regime. We pay our farmers not to produce food in this country when people all over the world are starving. Does that make sense? Certainly the current state of affairs is intolerable. Why would you like to continue it?

posted by revbrian at 7:54 AM on March 8, 2001


It's hard for me to continue to give Bush the benefit of the doubt in judging how well he's handling foreign affairs. It's pretty damning to hear him not-so-subtly accuse N. Korea of failing their supposed agreements ("We're not certain as to whether or not they're keeping all terms of all agreements")--apparantly out of complete ignorance of the facts--only to have his staff apply damage control afterwards. The least-damaging way to construe that statement is "we don't trust you"--hardly a constructive way to build relations. Equally disturbing is the description of what was actually accomplished by the meeting: "The greatest outcome today has to be that... we have increased mutual understanding" and that Bush "was very frank and honest in sharing with me his perceptions about the nature of North Korea and the North Korean leader." Not very reassuring at all.

I should add though: the NY Times is suspiciously quick to point out details like Bush "has only visited Asia once, a trip to China a quarter-century ago." Considering how new Bush is to politics compared to career politicians like Clinton, facts like these are pretty much givens.
posted by DaShiv at 8:02 AM on March 8, 2001


Clearly, revbrian, we agree that the issue is helping the people of north korea, we just disagree on how to do that. I maintain that North Korea's isolationism has been the primary cause of its failure to provide for its people. The way to end that isolationism is not to cut off whatever budding relations we may have with them, but to nurture those relations.

The way the North Korean government treats its people is abhorrent, but smacking it on the nose the moment it pokes its head out is not the way to effect its change. Only once North Korea is an established member of the world community once again, can we address its human rights issues effectively.

Bush's burgeoning "policy" here is aimed at appeasing the old-school Reaganists in the republican party--those who feel that "playing hardball" is the way to conquer communism. It is not in any way aimed at effecting change in north korean government or helping the north korean people.

And that's disgraceful.
posted by jpoulos at 8:29 AM on March 8, 2001


A major point missed. North and South Korea are still officially at war. No peace agreement has been signed between them. They simply agreed to stop shooting at one another since after a number of years of warfare both sides ended up exactly wehre they had begun: 38th parallel.
We have had no fewer than 35 thousand troops stationed in Korea since the fighting stopped. Lots of money spent for this with S. Korea only recently beginning to pick up some of the costs.
There are many folks living in South Korea who would love to see the country re-united again as one country. If this were to happen, the capitalist South would I think become more likely to prevail as an economic reality, thus ending the North's constant building of its military at the expense of its people.
And that would leave only Cuba to lead the way to a better and more prosperous world.
East and West Germany came together, to the benefit of all, esp the East, so there is a model for this unification in Korea too.

posted by Postroad at 8:29 AM on March 8, 2001


I agree with jpoulous. The best way to get the North Koreans to open up is to engage them. It seems that G Bush's strategy is to try to contain them until they collapse economically. Unfortunately, lots of people are already starving there, and the ultimate brunt of their economic collapse will be felt by the South Korea. It was hard enough for West Germany to reabsorb East Germany. It will be much harder for South Korea to reabsorb a destitute North Korea.
posted by Loudmax at 8:30 AM on March 8, 2001


Fucking hell: employ an ex-general for foreign secretary, and a defence secretary who last served when Harold Wilson was PM, and it's 1975 all over again.

Bush really has to handle the attempts of the Koreas at reconciliation with the same utter, utter delicacy as the foreign parties involved in the Northern Ireland negotiations. (Phone Clinton. Foreign affairs, at least, kept his mind off bribes and skirt.)

Kim Jong Il is erratic, yes; but there's an astonishing window of opportunity here after 50 years of freeze. There's something of a choice between the path of Czechoslovakia, and that of Yugoslavia. (Imagine negotiating with Michael Jackson, and you'll get the picture.)

And as for a government that diverts money from social programmes to the military... well, we're back in the kitchenware department.
posted by holgate at 8:35 AM on March 8, 2001


Holgate, I assume you mean the British General Michael Jackson, not the King of Pop. :-)
posted by jpoulos at 8:41 AM on March 8, 2001


Holgate, I assume you mean the British General Michael Jackson, not the King of Pop. :-)

Though both have been known to wear just one glove and touch themselves as they go 'whooo!' while doing the moonwalk.

As of right now the friendly 'lets talk' kinda approach sounds better to me, clearly the people living there need help, but I'm worried that this will do little to bring down the strict-communist regime they got working there. Also I'm not entirely sure that the N Korean govn't would be humble enough to receive 'hand-outs' from the obviously morally bankrupt mess of a nation that enslaves the workers by chaining them down by bureaucracy and all that... might look bad for them. Ofcourse I don't know much about the issue and should probably do more research... if anyone be willing to provide some links.
posted by tiaka at 9:12 AM on March 8, 2001


It seems we are talking about two separate goals here. Goal one: Peaceful relations with North Korea. Goal two: bringing down the communist government of North Korea and/or reunification with South Korea. I don't see why we can't go for goal one first and leave goal two for later. Just because they are a communist country doesn't mean we shouldn't talk to them. We should be able to resolve our differences with their government without trying to "conquer communism". I don't see that they are half the threat to us as we are to them, so it is understandable that they should be a little standoffish. This kind of gruff, strongarm approach does nothing but escalate disagreement.
posted by donkeymon at 9:39 AM on March 8, 2001


revbrice is right!
let's cut all contacts with China right now!
oh, wait......

guys, look. the truth is, North Korea doesn't have anything we want right now. let them find a viable oil deposit, however, and it is either
a) let' s work toward peace with our NK brethren
b) the atrocities have gone on long enough! Operation DMZ2001 is a go!

I am not saying it is a good or bad thing to end the process with NK, just that throwing up the " horrible, terrible government and oppressed people" argument holds no water.

to paraphrase (R) pres candidate wanna be Alan Keyes to george w bush " the reasons you just gave for opening of trade with china can be applied to cuba as well..."
president bush (paraphrase) "nuh-unh!"

we really need to concentrate on getting our president some better prepared scripts. perhaps he could get a 'choose your own presidential interview' book to help with those pesky press conferences.



posted by das_2099 at 9:42 AM on March 8, 2001


Everyone seems to agree that N Korea doesn't treat it's people well. What can the US do about it? Should we attempt to bribe them to treat their people better? Should we fund the hell out of S. Korea and hope for mass emmigration?
posted by revbrian at 10:03 AM on March 8, 2001


I think one way to go about it is to open up trade with them, give them a taste of capitalism and step back and watch the people make the right choice.
posted by owillis at 10:17 AM on March 8, 2001


Allow Kim Jong Il to buy consumer electronics over the web.

See, I don't like the knee-jerk reaction that "communist" regimes need "bringing down"; number one, North Korea was Communist in same way as Tito's Yugloslavia: essentially a demagoguery with a pragmatically useful ideology. Now that Kim Jr's in charge, there's room to tweak his ideology.

Don't you feel that Bush is doing the equivalent of interviewing potential "rogue states"?

"DO YOU HAVE WHAT IT TAKES TO BE A POST-COLD WAR ENEMY OF THE US: CALL US!

(And I meant "Feel^WHeal the Kids" Michael Jackson. He's that erratic.)
posted by holgate at 10:42 AM on March 8, 2001


If we have a stable, peaceful, North Korea, there's very little reason to go through with NMD.

(someone had to say it)
posted by norm at 11:06 AM on March 8, 2001


The real issue here is not the 'threat' North Korea poses to its Asian neighbors. Its that the regime is highly unstable and could collapse at any moment. South Korea is certainly not interested in having 22 million starving North Koreans on their doorstep. Why else do you think they have gone so far out of their way to engage a scummy dictatorship that they are technically still at war with?
posted by chinstrap at 11:09 AM on March 8, 2001


Nobody's really said so, here, but since when does the US dictate South Korean policy? If anything, we should be deferring to them. Right now South Korea has been pursuing reconciliation with more success than in half a century, largely because the north has no other choice. The example of Germany is heavy on their minds. They know that the régime cannot continue very much longer: either it will collapse inward, but more frighteningly, it might collapse outward, with disastrous results for the region. South Korea is offering a hand now, before the fall.
posted by dhartung at 11:28 AM on March 8, 2001


Why has no one said it yet? I suppose that I will...

Bush to North Korea: "All your base are belong to us."

I feel so dirty.
posted by donkeymon at 11:47 AM on March 8, 2001


/me hits donkeymon on head, severe bleeding follows.
posted by tiaka at 12:18 PM on March 8, 2001


South Korea is certainly not interested in having 22 million starving North Koreans on their doorstep. Why else do you think they have gone so far out of their way to engage a scummy dictatorship that they are technically still at war with?

Given that a fair proportion of those 22 millions are related to 7.6 million of their own citizens, I can understand a political imperative that transcends economics. (I grew up watching schools' programmes on German families divided by the Cold War.)

Anyway, here's the BBC Seoul correspondent's take on the current meeting.
posted by holgate at 2:24 PM on March 8, 2001


Hey, Revrend!

Should we want peace with a regime that starves it's population while spending 50% of it's budget on the military?

Sounds like the US to me! The US military budget in ‘99 was 52.8 percent of the budget. US spends about $200 billion more than all its “enemies” combined, while more people go hungry in the US than since ‘92. To reiterate, we spend $300b on our military — partially to defend western European countries who could easily defend themselves, though there is a derth in enemies over there — while millions of people go hungry in the world’s wealthiest nation (by GDP).

Next time you want to demonize a country for buying bombs instead of food, you won’t have look too far!

that if you will not feed your people then we won't deal
with such a government. There is no reason to support such a heartless regime.


I agree, rise up against the heartless US government! Starving its people and spending hundreds of billions of dollars on its military! HOW DARE THEY!

Brian, fight the hypocrisy at home before looking elsewhere for enemies. Thank you.

(I quoted enemies, because they pose about as much threat as I do to you. Which physically isn’t much, but ideologically I’m an atom bomb.)
posted by capt.crackpipe at 3:21 PM on March 8, 2001


Hee! Nobody brings on the apocalyptic-hail-of-flaming-links quite like the Capt.
posted by Skot at 3:35 PM on March 8, 2001


ha! best post of the day. nice capt.
posted by tiaka at 3:58 PM on March 8, 2001


It's possible I'm falling for a troll here, but that's 52.8 % of the research budget -- a tiny percentage of the total budget. The ~$300 billion that the US spends on defense is less than 20% of the federal budget.
posted by drothgery at 4:19 PM on March 8, 2001


[I agree, rise up against the heartless US government! ]

I'm glad someone cleared up your incorrect defense spending numbers already. That said - I certainly think the US government is doing a poor job managing it's priorities.

However, No american need starve. I've been on both sides of the fence and although I've certainly gone hungry, never was I in danger of starvation. As americans, we have the richest poor in the world. Go to a third world country and see what poverty is. It will make you want to smack the next yahoo who whines because he can't afford cable tv.

We don't realize how much we have until we see how much others do without. I'm not defending the US government here, I'm simply saying that the N. Korean one is worse than ours.


posted by revbrian at 6:08 PM on March 8, 2001


No droth, that number is right. Sorry about linking to the wrong document. The US spent 48.6% of its 2000 budget on defense, which is close enough to half for me. The Fiscal Year 2000 Budget Report (PDF) form from the Government Accounting Office says just that. Click on section VII, SUMMARY BY AGENCY.

Droth, where did you get 20% from? Just pulling numbers out of the sky?

Do I even need to point out that the Revrend hasn’t even tried to back up his assertion about Korea’s budget in his half-hearted attempt to demonize them?

And don't call me a troll because I want a lower defense budget. Even the fun-loving libertarians over at the CATO institute want it cut by half.

Now Brian:
As americans, we have the richest poor in the world.

This is a stock response from a defensive conservative, and as such it is easily refuted.

A better yardstick than gauging the US — the richest country in the world — against all the world’s nations is to find out how well it does in the industrialized world. One need not look further than the current issue of BusinessWeek for evidence against the idea that America does what it should to alleviate the ravages of poverty.

In an article subtitled “Disturbing stats on US poverty” they found that “the U.S. was the only one among 19 wealthy nations with a double-digit poverty rate” which “was more than twice the average for the group.” They also found that the U.S. only spends 4% of all outlays to alleviate poverty, while the other countries spend between 7%-10%.

I weep for the flock.

Continuing:
I'm not defending the US government here, I'm simply saying that the N. Korean one is worse than ours.

Nice to see you ease your line. Instead of picking on easy targets like poor, totalitarian governments overseas which suffered under economic sanctions only slightly less vindicative than what Iraq is going through, you should exert that energy making your own country better. You have no power in North Korea, but you do in the US.

Remember, above all, we have food to feed everyone on the planet. But current policy mandates someone must pay for it. So the hungry, the poor, the disenfranchised — they die.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 8:47 PM on March 8, 2001


"resident Bush..."

Finally, an appropriate title for the man that I can read without wincing!
posted by rushmc at 10:37 PM on March 8, 2001


Hmm. I really think that the captain is more right than wrong here: take a look at the Center for Defense Information comparison of US military spending vs. the rest of the world. We can sneeze and blow most armies off the Risk board.

While military spending remains massive, it's only 3/17ths ($300M vs. $1.7B) of the federal budget, perhaps 1/4 of the budget less spending on debt service, a somewhat larger percentage depending on how you handle entitlements including Social Security. It's not 50% by a long shot.

The CIA World Factbook, tellingly, gives US military spending as 3.5% of the GDP. North Korea, by contrast, spends 25-35% of its GDP on the armed forces. This is insane even by the inflated standards of our own military. That funds a somewhat under-prepared military of 1 million, large by any standard. That army is not capable of sustaining a capture of the Korean peninsula; they may not even be capable of effectively pushing back the front line. They are certainly capable of sowing chaos and raining death on large parts of their neighbor before their all-but-inevitable loss.

South Korea seeks peace because they have more to fear from a destabilized North Korea. If Bush thinks that containment-to-the-point-of-collapse a la Reagan is the way to go here, the people who are within spitting distance of North Korean artillery batteries may be forgiven for having a slightly different opinion.
posted by dhartung at 11:10 PM on March 8, 2001


it's only 3/17ths ($300M vs. $1.7B)


$300b (not $300m) vs. ~$600b if you're talking about the discretionary budget — the one the gets written every year — or $300b vs. $1.7t (not $1.7b), which would be 1/6th, includes money that, in a sense, has already been spent. It would take an act of Congress to change this spending because a hell of a lot that has to do with money they aren’t shelling out to the departments, owe the States, are paying the debt or use to keep up social programs.

When people talk about spending on departments such as Defense, they’re talking about the discretionary budget. Discretionary is the one that the President has more control over, hence it’s most often referred to as “the budget.” You know, “Bush is sending his budget to Congress” and such.

The Appropriations Committee has a little tutorial.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 12:21 AM on March 9, 2001


I just realized, after posting that, why Droth and Dan and I didn't understand one another. Now I understand what we’re all talking about. So, yea, depending on how you look at it, the US spends either 50% or 20% on the defense budget.

Okay then.

Peace to the Middle East.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 12:27 AM on March 9, 2001


I hate doing that. s/M/B and s/B/T. D'oh!
posted by dhartung at 12:27 PM on March 9, 2001


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