This Washington Post article is a puff piece about Joe Biden’s North Korea strategy. The byline goes to John Hudson and Ellen Nakashima, but the credit probably belongs to the members of Team Biden who fed them the drivel.
According to the Post, Biden has found a middle way between President Obama’s “arm’s length” approach to the crisis of North Korean nukes (i.e., his neglect of the matter) and President Trump’s “all or nothing” approach. Instead of trying to strike a “grand bargain” under which North Korea abandons its nuclear program in exchange for substantial economic aid, Team Biden contemplates an “incremental” or “phased” approach whereby gradual denuclearization by North Korea is accompanied by a gradual lifting of sanctions. In other words, partial sanctions relief in exchange for partial denuclearization, resulting eventually in North Korean nuclear disarmament.
On the face of things, it looks like Biden thinks Kim Jong Un is a fool. The brutal dictator isn’t willing, all at once, to give up nukes for large amounts of aid, but can be induced to the same place in small steps, apparently without realizing it. Sure.
In reality, however, it’s the American media and electorate that Team Biden is playing. It’s feeding us catch phrases — “calibrated, practical approach to diplomacy” and “careful modulated diplomatic approach” — and staking out a phony “middle ground” between Obama and Trump. It wants to create the impression that it has a strategy for achieving denuclearization, but what it really has is a strategy to paper over a return to the Obama approach of kicking the can down the road.
The sad thing is that Team Biden hasn’t underestimated the intelligence of large swaths of the American media and electorate. His “calibrated, modulated” approach won’t alter North Korean behavior, but it will cause the problem to recede from public consciousness.