In this Washington Post op-ed piece, Sandy Berger and Robert Gallucci, who helped formulate our failed policy towards North Korea, try to fill the void of advice that Rocket Man referred to when commenting about today’s Washington Post report on North Korea. Unfortunately, the Berger-Gallucci piece ends up illustrating why so few of the Administration’s critics are willing to offer advice. The two former Clinton aides start with the proposition that our initial task is to close “the serious gap” with South Korea that they say has opened and widened in the past two years. To do this, we are told that we must bow to the South Korean desire to “engage with the North to resolve the confrontation.” At the same time, of course, we “cannot reward the North for comtemptuous behavior,” including violation of the Agreed Framework that Gallucci negotiated. Thus, we must insist on all sorts of North Korean concessions, including disarmament, an inspections regime, etc. But Berger and Gallucci do not explain why we should expect the North Koreans to yield to our exacting demands, particularly when we must take the conciliatory tone that the South Koreans insist upon. Nor do they explain why the North should engage in any behavior other than the “contemptuous” kind towards a great power that fails to respond forcefully to such behavior.
The Berger/Gallucci piece reminds me of something that happened in the winter of 1968, when I was a freshman at Dartmouth. Republican presidential hopeful George Romney was campaigning in New Hampshire. He was under attack for flip-flopping on the war in Vietnam, especially after he claimed that the Johnson Administration had “brainwashed” him on the subject. In his speech at Dartmouth, Romney admitted that he did not have all of the answers about Vietnam, but claimed that our actions should be guided by several key principles. One principle was that we must make it clear to the world that we will not “cut and run” from Vietnam no matter what. Another principle was that we should make it clear to the South Vietnamese that they must engage in needed reforms if they expect our continued support. Sensing a possible contradiction between these principles, I tried without success to be recognized during the question and answer session following Romney’s speech. Later, in the reception line, I asked Romney, “how can you convince the South Vietnamese to undertake reforms they oppose if you make it clear that we will not abandon Vietnam under any circumstances.” Romney looked me in the eye and simply said, “you can’t.” That’s also the answer to the question, how can you force the North Koreans to disarm if your approach to the confrontation is governed by South Korea’s desire to be conciliatory towards the North.
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