The Duck of Minerva

The Eight Year Itch


20 July 2008

Eight years later, and we’re back to the same spot with North Korea.

Lets review:

After a nuclear crisis that nearly results in war, the Clinton Administration reaches a nuclear deal with North Korea. After up and down implementation, North Korea lashes out with an ICBM test. Negotiations eventually resume, resulting in a more robust deal and further cooperation by North Korea. Things go so well that Secretary of State Madeline Albright visits North Korea at the end of the administration.

The Bush Administration enters office determined to take a different line on North Korea. Bush famously says he “loathes” Kim Jong Il, and includes the DPRK in the Axis of Evil. North Korea, frustrated with the lack of progress in its attempts to win / extort concessions from the US, presses ahead with both its missile and bomb programs, provocatively testing both. After the nuclear test, negotiations resume, resulting in an agreement to disarm and the high-profile destruction of a cooling tower at the Yongbyong reactor site. And now, the Secretary of State is again meeting the North Koreans.

Yes, an overly-simplified history. But still, one is left to wonder what, if any, good came of the past 8 years, as it sure looks we’re right back where we started, playing the same game again, hoping that somehow this time will be different. You wonder what might have been if we had just stayed the course after the first visit.