Friday, October 05, 2007

The NoKo Hammer Rises

There's an old foreign affairs analogy about the strategic manuevering of aggressive dictatorships being akin to the act of hammering a nail into a wall. In order successfully accomplish this act, one does not put the hammer head on the nail head and push the nail downward, unless you're overpoweringly strong or the wall is pathetically weak; instead, one uses the hammer to hit the nail, which advances it slightly, then withdraws the hammer and brings it down again, repeating the process until the nail is securely in the wall.

The parallel is not difficult to discern: rogue regimes like North Korea push confrontation with the West as far as benefits them, then back off, to the embarrassingly naive relief of their foes, who are only too happy to lavish them with economic, financial, and even indirect military assistance for their "compliance" with Western "demands." We then stop paying attention, the bad guys proceed on to arming themselves for the next confrontation, which always takes us by surprise, and the singularly vicious cycle continues until the occasion is sufficiently opportune for the dictator to actually strike.

This week, Kim jong-Il's hammer continued to rise, ensuring that the next blow will be heavier and more deadly:
As hundreds of thousands of North Koreans cheered and waved pink paper flowers, leaders of the two Koreas shook hands at the start of a summit that is expected to inject large amounts of money from the booming capitalist South into the struggling Stalinist North.

The reclusive North Korean leader Kim Jung Il, dressed in the gray military-style jumpsuit he wears to meet the world's television cameras, looked dour as he walked with the smiling South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun.

They met on a red carpet in front of a performing arts hall in the North Korean capital Pyongyang, where substantive talks in the three-day summit are expected to start on Wednesday.

The atmospherics of this summit, only the second such meeting in the more than half a century since the North and South fought an all-out war, seemed rather cooler than in the first summit in 2000.
The Admiral, who buys into this diplononsense far more than I do, notes all the goodies the NoKos will get from forcing the West to blink once again:
Seoul expects to make some economic deals on this trip that will benefit both countries. They want to create a free-trade zone with Pyongyang, a move that would only benefit the DPRK financially. However, Kim has to worry about the liberating effects of free trade, which relies on at least some capitalist structure. The South will want to compete on an equal basis, which will mean less slave labor. The increased contacts between the two nations will also create a much larger sense of injustice among Kim's restive population - and it could lead to a huge exodus if the DMZ gets dismantled.

Kim wants a reunification, but on his terms. Roh, weak at home and his party almost certain to lose big in the next elections, wants normalized relations.
Kim's terms for reunification are the same ones his father set forth fifty-seven years ago: unconditional surrender. Meanwhile, President Roh is desperately seeking his Neville Chamberlain "peace in our time" photo op. This does not bode well for anything resembling hard-headed negotiations on the SoKo's part, but more likely a concession-fest that will give Kim more than even he may have dreamed, without any of the "risks" Ed cites that Kim would never tolerate in the first place - and quite obviously has no need to.

Our "dear leader" on the political conservative channel of Blog Talk Radio continues to whistle past the graveyard of North Korean nukes as well, hailing the following decidedly mixed bag story:
North Korea agreed to provide a "complete and correct declaration" of its nuclear programs and will disable its facilities at its main reactor complex by December 31 under an agreement reached by North Korea and five other countries released Wednesday.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei said as part of the agreement, the U.S. will take the lead in seeing that the facilities are disabled and will fund those initial activities. ...

North Korea is required to disable its sole functioning reactor at Yongbyon in exchange for economic aid and political concessions under a February deal reached through the six-party talks. In July, the North closed Yongbyon, as well as other facilities, ahead of their disablement.

Once there is a six-party agreement, Hill said on Tuesday in New York, the U.S. expects the process of disabling the reactor to get under way "in a matter of weeks." The U.S. wants the dismantling process so thorough that a nuclear facility could not be made operational for at least twelve months.
Once again, several huge pieces are missing from this supposed "breakthrough":

1) The verification process is, at best, incomplete, which means that while we're shutting down Yongbyon, which was at the end of its useful life anyway, they will almost certainly be using the fresh influx of resources we lavish upon them and the know-how they gained courtesy of Bill Clinton's 1995 concessions to build its successor somewhere else without our knowledge.

2) There's no agreement on the fissile materials the NoKos have left over from their nuclear warhead production to date, even exactly how much they possess, and what they have (i.e. the installation in Syria that the Israelis took out), are, or plan to do with it.

3) Kim is still in power and will remain that way. That is the only strategic outcome of his supposed "capitulation". All the gains we've made through the six-party talks have been short-term and tactical in nature; our ultimate strategic objective (or at least it had better be) - the fall of the Kim regime and its replacement by a democratic ROK-like successor - remains out of reach. And it realistically cannot be attained via direct bilateral negotiations (as the Democrats naturally urge) or indirect multilateral talks as the Bush Administration has pursued, both because the Russians and ChiComms have a vested interest in perpetuating the Kim regime as a strategic distraction for the U.S., Japan, and South Korea, and that no dictator is going to negotiate himself out of power.

The correct strategy for bringing about the liberation of North Korea is, ironically, the one Michael Ledeen incorrectly urges for the mullahgarchy in Iran: withhold any and all material assistance and let the NoKos slowly strangle while encouraging their people to rise up and overthrow the little pot-bellied, gargoyled pig. With no hope of conning his heretofore gullible enemies into yet another bailout, and lacking any possibility of surviving a "going out in a blaze of glory" attack on the ROK, Japan, and the US, Kim's options would be slim and none. And, unlike the Islamists, and being the good communist he is, I tend to think Kim would prefer pampered exile to fiery death.

But that's not what we've done. We've let Kim keep his hammer, and he's certain to bring it down again. And just as was the case twelve years ago, the only question is when, and how hard.