Thursday, January 18, 2007

Foreign Policy Developments: North Korea, Iran and China

I once worked for a man who was fairly good at solving problems and in fact he got a lot of accolades for solving the problems. The catch? Most of the problems were ones he had created in the first place. Be very careful in coming days or months if the Bush Administration starts claiming successes that are not entirely deserved.

The fundamental problem of the last six years is that Bush broke the foreign policy that our nation had been using for some sixty years. During those sixty years, we had Republican and Democratic presidents but, despite their differences, there was enough continuity in our foreign policy that it wasn't difficult for other nations to have a basic idea of what to expect from us. There were breakdowns from time to time but there were usually procedures in place for quickly dealing with the breakdowns. There were exceptions but they were manageable exceptions. Nevertheless, Bush decided on a very different course. However, the radical foreign policy changes of the Bush Administration did not produce the results Bush and Cheney expected. Iraq is clearly the proof of that. A number of other things went wrong. And North Korea and Iran started gambling that a nuclear program might get us to back off (and why not? We left Pakistan untouched despite its troublesome role in the proliferation of nuclear programs and the funding of the Taliban).

There are several strange news stories tonight. Here's the story on North Korea from The Boston Globe:
North Korea said on Friday that it had reached a "certain agreement" with the United States in talks earlier this week in Berlin, praising the rare direct dialogue between the U.S. envoy Christopher Hill and the North's Kim Kye-gwan ended three days of unprecedented discussions on Thursday in the German capital. But neither side in Berlin suggested there had been any breakthrough on the communist state's nuclear weapons program.

"The talks took place from January 16 to 18 in a positive and sincere atmosphere and a certain agreement was reached there," the North's Foreign Ministry spokesman was quoted as saying by official KCNA news agency. He did not elaborate.

"We paid attention to the direct dialogue held by the DPRK and the U.S. in a bid to settle knotty problems in resolving the nuclear issue," he said, using the acronym for the North's official name.

But Hill, arriving in South Korea to brief officials in Seoul, appeared puzzled by the reference to a deal.

"I'm sorry, I'm not really sure what he's referring to," Hill told reporters, but added: "We had very useful discussions."

Keep in mind that the Bush Administration broke off the deal that was worked out during the Clinton Administration. Also keep in mind that the North Korean missile tests last summer and the recent nuclear tests did not appear to go all that well.

Now here's a story in The New York Times about developments in Iran:
Iran’s outspoken president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, appears to be under pressure from the highest authorities in Iran to end his involvement in its nuclear program, a sign that his political capital is declining as his country comes under increasing international pressure.

Just one month after the United Nations Security Council imposed sanctions on Iran to curb its nuclear program, two hard-line newspapers, including one owned by the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called on the president to stay out of all matters nuclear.

In the hazy world of Iranian politics, such a public rebuke was seen as a sign that the supreme leader — who has final say on all matters of state — might no longer support the president as the public face of defiance to the West.

It is the first sign that Mr. Ahmadinejad has lost any degree of Ayatollah Khamenei’s confidence, a potentially damaging development for a president who has rallied his nation and defined his administration by declaring nuclear power Iran’s “inalienable right.”

There are signs (not proof) that Iran's nuclear program is not as developed as some in the Bush Administration have been claiming. Another development related to Iran is that we might have had a deal with Iran four years ago. Here's the story in The Denver Post:
An Iranian offer to help the United States stabilize Iraq and end its military support for Hezbollah and Hamas was rejected by Vice President Dick Cheney in 2003, a former top State Department official told the British Broadcasting Corp.

The U.S. State Department was open to the offer, which came in an unsigned letter sent shortly after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Lawrence Wilkerson, former Secretary of State Colin Powell's chief of staff, told the BBC in a program that aired Wednesday night. But Wilkerson said Cheney vetoed the deal.

"We thought it was a very propitious moment" to strike a deal, Wilkerson said. "But as soon as it got to the White House, and as soon as it got to the vice president's office, the old mantra of 'We don't talk to evil' ... reasserted itself."

It's my understanding that Iran made another offer to improve relations a year earlier before the famous axis of evil nonsense but the Bush Administration passed on that as well.

And finally, the Chinese seem to be reminding the United States that we should not take our military might too much for granted. Here's that story from The Boston Globe:
The United States, Australia and Canada have voiced concerns to China over the first known satellite-killing test in space in more than 20 years, the White House said on Thursday.

"The U.S. believes China's development and testing of such weapons is inconsistent with the spirit of cooperation that both countries aspire to in the civil space area," National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said. "We and other countries have expressed our concern regarding this action to the Chinese."

The Bush Administration has broken several treaties in the last six years, including arms treaties and has talked openly about the possible use of nuclear weapons as bunker busters and even as tactical weapons. The Chinese are important trade partners but perhaps the test is a reminder that the United States is not the only country in the world that can change the military equation. Even the Russians, with their new status as an oil nation, are not inclined to listen as closely to the United States as they once did.

It's long past time for Bush to hire a more realistic foreign policy team and to sit down with a number of nations to reformulate the global situation and return to a healthier foreign policy dynamic. We've had far too much hubris and arrogance out of Washington for the last six years. We need less posturing by the White House and more serious dialogue.

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Anonymous gary said...

I wouldn't disagree with any of your points, but I would add that we also need a SERIOUS overhaul of the United Nations as well. This is supposed to be the global forum for addressing global issues, but the state of the world tells me that it has not succeeded, at least to the point of resolving the more important issues like the Middle East, Sudan, nuclear proliferation, and such. So far even the most modest reforms do not appear forthcoming. We may have reached the point were it's best to just start over. How about an institution that's 100% transparent, founded in the principle of democracy, and less vulnerable to the whim of dictators. What about this:



1:22 PM  

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