Friday, December 27, 2002

# Posted 6:44 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HAWK IN DOVE'S CLOTHING: Conservatives are supposed to have patience. But since Bill Safire thinks that South Koreans aren't giving the US the respect is deserves, he wants us to bring back home the 37,000 troops we have protecting the South from its evil twin in the North. As Safire puts it, "because the U.S. is not an imperialist power, it does not belong where a democratic nation decides America is unwanted."

Ooh, how clever. Ooh, how ironic. Using anti-imperialism and democratic principle to justify a thinly disguised threat to abandon the South if it doesn't give in to American demands. But as a former Nixon speechwriter and veteran of the Cold War, Safire should be the first to know that democratic allies will always have to weather the rhetorical storms set off by electoral politics. He complains that President-elect Roh wants "a repeat of Clinton's fruitless 1994 cave-in." Well, nothing would force the South to cave in faster than an American retreat that leaves it exposed to Northern blackmail.

The South did not vote to expel the United States. Rather, it lashed out at what it perceived as American high-handedness. While we may not be imperialists, we should be smart enough to recognize that South Korea's dependence on the United States makes it highly sensitive to all perceived sleights. Given time, it will recognize the danger of compromising with the North.

Having patience, however, is not the same as giving up with out as fight, as the editors of the NYT recommend. They say Bush should sit down to negotiate before the North pledges to give up its weapons. But that accomplishes nothing.

What Safire gets right is that we have to put pressure on China to confront Kim Jong Il. But how do we influence China? One way, is to have Japan do what it can. Well aware that North Korean missiles can devastate its cities, the Japanese are desperate for both a peaceful solution and American support. It also seems that the US has the support of the UN, since IAEA chief Mohammed ElBaradei has strongly condemned North Korean behavior.

Now, I admit that this all beginning to sound like the sort of mulitlateral strategy that was so controversial when applied to Iraq. But the President knows we can't risk the lives of tens of thousands of South Korean and Japanese citizens unless a North Korean attack is imminent. So for the moment, we'll have to swallow our pride and send in the diplomats.

UPDATE: The diplomats are being been sent.
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