Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Diplomacy Works?

North Korea has endorsed an agreement to dismantle all of its nuclear facilities by the end of the year, according to a joint six-nation statement released by China in Beijing today, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.[1]

In what will surely be hailed as a coup by all wing-nuts and their pundits, the North Koreans have agreed to dismantle their nuclear facilities in exchange for aid and a non-aggression pact with the US. While only the dismantling of the nuclear facilities is being touted, make no mistake there will be more concessions forthcoming as this deal goes forward.

So let’s work backwards from this momentous occasion to see if there are lessons to be learned. This will be difficult for an administration that has shown repeatedly that it shares the lack of intellectual curiosity of its leader. This is after all an administration that is led by a man who said if given the chance to change anything in the past, he would change nothing, because he has made no mistakes. I hardly think the “Pope Defense” works well for the leader of the free world, but here we go. I think it is important to trace the steps for this resolution, because with this administration hot on the tail of a confrontation with Iran maybe this will fuel cooler heads in the government and help to defuse the Iranian buildup to war.

After years of ignoring the regime in Korea, it was decided to begin to hold talks with North Korea and 5 other nations. While North Korea had demanded separate talks with just the US the multi-nation talks allowed more behind the scene negotiations and created a more objective playing field since pressure from the other nations could be exerted not only on North Korea, but also on an intransigent US.

The principle broker for the talks was China for various reasons. The Chinese held sway with the North Koreans and are the chief power in the region. Although the talks had stalled and both sides played cat and mouse, it was the steady and consistent negotiations that finally carried the day. Cynics might suggest that with the war in Iraq going poorly and with the end of the “Bush Era” rapidly approaching, the President was desperate for some sort of diplomatic victory to hang on his mantle. Regardless to me of what the motivations were, it is a victory for all of us who pursue peaceful resolutions to international crises.

Hopefully this will add some momentum to the negotiations currently being held by the EU and Iran. The thing we must not allow to happen is the wing-nuts suggesting that it was their cowboy get tough rhetoric or their militaristic threats that was instrumental in the deal. Therefore their suggestion will be we need to keep the pressure on Iran with the same tactics, tactics that were ineffective in the case of North Korea; in fact if anything they had an adverse effect. Also, ignoring the fact that the reason the reactor was restarted in the first place was because when he came into office, Bush reneged on the deal that Clinton had brokered. This deal involved energy subsidies and an effort to work on bilateral differences. But because this would have interfered with the “Axis of Evil” speech, Mr. Bush chose to placate the Neo-Cons and ignore the previously agreed to deal. Negotiated settlements had no place in the new President’s worldview; America must project its military power across the world.

There are two ways to lead; one is by respect and the other is through fear and intimidation. This administration chose the latter and we will soon be left with its aftermath. Diplomacy is difficult and time consuming; it does not bring headlines and medals. There is no “shock and awe” to negotiations, no mission accomplished banners to fly under. However, what it does do is save lives and national treasure. It builds respect and projects a positive image to the world. Of course, after 9/11, we weren’t interested in any of those trivial things. Our nose had been bloodied and someone had to answer for it, regardless if they had any involvement.

The thing that history has taught us is that there are rarely unqualified victories or defeats, most conflicts are ended by diplomacy. The problem is that most people have the stomach for war, but not the stomach for diplomacy and peaceful resolution to differences. I don’t know why that is, but I do know that given the chance; diplomacy works.

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/04/world/asia/04diplo.html?_r=1&hp=&adxnnl=1&oref=slogin&adxnnlx=1191424563-T0CsmPsNZUZqKv3lXLTm5A

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