Tag: axis of evil

The Eight Year Itch

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.


Fish out of water?

The figure at right is borrowed from a U.S. government website of Dennis A Wolf, a statistician with Oak Ridge National Lab. This particular image relates to a short article: “Assessing Fish Susceptibility to Predation.

As anyone can clearly see, fish exposed “to a startling stimulus” do not flop. Rather, they exhibit “the characteristic C-shape (see figure)… behavioral response.” They start swimming in a completely different direction.

Perhaps foreign policy observers should apply this knowledge when analyzing the Bush administration’s latest policies towards the axis of evil:

This morning, the Washington Post features this headline: “U.S., Iraq Agree To ‘Time Horizon’“:

President Bush and Iraq’s prime minister have agreed to set a “time horizon” for the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq as part of a long-term security accord they are trying to negotiate by the end of the month, White House officials said yesterday.

The decision, reached during a videoconference Thursday between Bush and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, marks the culmination of a gradual but significant shift for the president, who has adamantly fought — and even ridiculed — efforts by congressional Democrats to impose what he described as artificial timetables for withdrawing U.S. forces.

Today’s Los Angeles Times has an op-ed by Graham Allison about the latest U.S. policy towards Iran: “Bush’s U-turn toward common sense.” The subheading explains Allison’s argument: “Talks with Iran signify that the administration has finally abandoned a failed part of its foreign policy.” Professor Allison:

Anyone with doubts about the extent of the shift in the U.S. approach to Iran should look no further than the howls from the architect of the first-term non-engagement policy toward North Korea and Iran, John Bolton. The administration is guilty of yet another “U-turn,” he argues now, which is “further evidence of the administration’s complete intellectual collapse.” Most reasonable people, however, will applaud this flip-flop toward reality.

In his op-ed, Allison mentions the recent, um, shift, in U.S. policy toward North Korea. The June 27 AP headline in the International Herald Tribune was fairly subtle: “Bush administration lifts North Korea sanctions.” The article’s text identified the dramatic policy reversal, complete with obligatory quote from John Bolton:

President Bush stepped into the Rose Garden to announce plans to remove North Korea from the U.S. terrorism blacklist and ease sanctions against a country he once branded as part of his “axis of evil.”

…”It’s shameful,” said John Bolton, Bush’s former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. “This represents the final collapse of Bush’s foreign policy.”

I guess Bolton doesn’t recognize the need for the “characteristic C-shape behavioral response” to a “startling stimulus.”


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