Best Drupal HostingBest Joomla HostingBest Wordpress Hosting
WORLD POLICY ON AIR

World Policy Journal is proud to share our weekly podcast, World Policy On Air, featuring former Newsweek On Air host David Alpern with timely insights from global affairs analyst Michael Moran of Transformative.io, risk and geostrategy consultants. Click here to subscribe on iTunes!

THE LATEST

AddToAny
Share/Save

Peter Kang: North Korea’s Missile Launch—Is Obama Repeating Bush’s Failed Policy?

The legacy of policy missteps on Pyongyang is long and tortured. Behind all the disturbing failures of President Bush’s North Korea policy—including the inability to prevent North Korea’s nuclear test in 2006 and the removal of Pyongyang from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism in 2008—run two themes that President Obama would do well to avoid. Bush turned to engagement policy based on the false expectation that North Korea would eventually give up its nuclear program and weapons, when, in fact, Pyongyang was using negotiations as a deception strategy to gain time to pursue its nuclear ambitions. In the meantime, it extracted economic gains and other benefits, such as a peace treaty, to make the dictatorship more secure. Second, despite his occasional use of tough verbiage, Bush was never able to translate his words into effective action due to fear of the North’s constant threats of war. Whenever Bush tried to exert serious (non-military) pressure, Pyongyang blocked it by invoking military brinkmanship, often calling Bush’s attempt a “declaration of war.” Each time Bush retreated, Washington encouraged the North to repeat the same scare tactics. These two strategies—a diplomatic delaying game and military brinkmanship—have been the backbone of North Korea’s success in manipulating and weakening the U.S. government’s efforts. In what promises to be the first major test of the Obama administration, Pyongyang is gearing up for the test launch of a long-range rocket scheduled to go off sometime between April 4 and April 8. Although Pyongyang claims it is a communications satellite, both U.S. and South Korean intelligence sources believe it to be a disguised test launch of the Taepodong-2 ballistic missile that could potentially reach Alaska, Hawaii, and the west coast of the United States. The action, if successful, would be a crucial milestone for North Korea’s military advancement and substantially raise its offensive capability, its proliferation potential, and its leverage for future dealings with adversaries. The United States is very anxious to avert this provocative action, as are South Korea and Japan. But President Obama has said very little about North Korea, in relation to the missile launch or anything else. In fact, other top officials in the administration have not been of much help either. Secretary of State Clinton initially described the North’s missile test as “unhelpful.” She later said the rocket launch would “violate the UN Security Council resolution 1718,” but failed to specify how the North will be penalized if it violates the decree. Asked what the United States might do if the missile launch takes place, she said, “I don’t want to talk about the hypothetical. We are still working to try to dissuade the North Koreans.” The Obama administration’s special envoy for North Korea, Stephen Bosworth, has used equally hollow turns of phrase: “We hope North Korea refrains from the provocation of firing a missile, and...if that [launch] does happen, then obviously we'll have to...decide how to respond.” Only belatedly, in late March, after the rocket was mounted on the launch pad, did representatives of the United States, South Korea, and Japan get together to issue a warning about bringing the matter to the UN Security Council. Yet they refrained from mentioning any strong, specific penalties. Pyongyang, of course, quickly reacted by warning that a UN action to punish North Korea will be regarded as a “blatant hostile act.” Further, they warned, should Washington bring the matter to the Security Council it will cause the Six-Party Talks to break down, critically hurting the process of denuclearization. A pro-Pyongyang newspaper in Japan hinted that North Korea might resort to a second nuclear test in response to a UN sanction. Meanwhile, the U.S. and Japanese defense departments have been talking about plans to shoot down the missile. But, when there’s still time to issue a stiff warning in order to block the missile launch, planning such an attack—however defensive in nature—is more likely to provoke and encourage North Korea to carry out the test. (Fortunately, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has backed away in recent interviews from U.S. plans to shoot down the North Korean missile.) The stakes are high: a missile launch would highlight Washington’s weakness. The Obama administration seems unwilling to exert strong pressure on Pyongyang against the launch because of its desire to continue the nuclear talks (with the lingering expectation that negotiation might succeed somehow) and perhaps also due to fear of violent reactions from the North Korean regime. These are the exactly same reasons that informed the failed policies of the Bush era. In the long run, Obama’s approach, which emphasizes more engagement with, and acceptance of, Pyongyang than the policies pursued by Bush, is likely to grant even more precious time to the North. In the end, the Obama administration may be writing the final chapter of America’s failed North Korea policy by bringing about a devastating U.S. surrender: abandoning the denuclearization effort, accepting the monstrous tyranny as a member of the world nuclear club, and opening the gateway for the North to take over the South.

Jonathan Power: To Help Afghan War, Talk to India

Today Pakistan is probably the most dangerous country in the world. But it is India, not Afghanistan and Al Qaeda, that now bears much of the responsibility for this and arguably is the country that holds the key to the beginnings of a solution. More the pity that President Barack Obama backed straight down when India protested at the mandate he wanted for his sharpshooting diplomat, Richard Holbrooke­—including India, as well as Pakistan and Afghanistan. So Holbrooke is reduced to dealing with only two sides of the triangle of madness. Of course, it is an over simplification to finger India first. It ignores history, not least the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, which left behind a raging civil war in Afghanistan, enabling the rise of the dogmatic Taliban, who in turn gave a home to Osama bin Laden. In 1986 I visited Peshawar, capital of the North-West Frontier Province in northern Pakistan, at the eastern end of the Khyber pass. The town, even then, was full of armed encampments in its outer suburbs settled by Pashtun chiefs who had escaped from the Afghanistan war with their people, building huge, well-defended compounds to house the refugees from their kin group. It was clear then that the hospitality Pakistan felt it had to extend to the displaced Pashtuns would cause trouble up ahead. Two million such refugees bred violence and extremism.

Jonathan Power: Undermining Afghanistan's Opium Trade

Quite right: the Obama administration is gearing up to pressure the Europeans to put more boots on the ground in Afghanistan. Quite right: the Europeans don't want to engage in a war of attrition—à la the Russians in Afghanistan in the 1980s or as the United States did in Vietnam a decade and a half before. There's nothing worse than having to pull out with your tail between your legs and confront the electorate for the needless deaths of thousands of your brave and young.

The answer to this paradox is that the Europeans, using their nous as well as their military might, should confront the issue of the Afghanistan poppy crop—a crop that provides 90 percent of the heroin sold in Europe and is the source of funding for over 80 percent of Taliban activity.

This brings me to a memorable conversation I had in Islamabad with President/General Pervez Musharraf two years ago (published in Prospect magazine in March 2007). He suggested that the West should introduce a common agricultural policy for Afghan's poppies. In other words, to do as both the EU and the United States do with some other agricultural crops: buy it up with government money. “Buying the crop is an idea one could explore,” said Musharraf. “Pakistan doesn’t have the money for it. We would need help from the United States or the UN. But we could buy up the whole crop and destroy it. In that way the poor growers would not suffer.”

FALL FUNDRAISER

 

Around WPI

Jihad in Sub-Saharan Africa 

This paper, “Jihad in Sub-Saharan Africa: Challenging the Narratives of the War on Terror,” examines the history of Islamic movements in Africa's Sahel region to contextualize current conflicts.

World Economic Roundtable with Vicente Fox 

In this World Economic Roundtable, former Mexican President Vicente Fox discusses his current quest to make his country a hub for technology. 

Intern at World Policy


Want to join our team? Looking for an experience at one of the most highly sought-after internships for ambitious students? Application details here.

 

Al Gore presides over Arctic Roundtable 

As the United States prepares to assume chairmanship of the Arctic Council in 2015, this inaugural convening of the Arctic Deeply Roundtables launches a vital conversation for our times. 

SPONSORED

When the Senate Worked for Us:
New book offers untold stories of how activist staffers countered corporate lobbies in the U.S.


Are the U.S. and China on a collision course?
Get the facts from Amitai Etzioni in “Avoiding War with China.”


MA in International Policy and Development
Middlebury Institute (Monterey, CA): Put theory into practice through client-based coursework. Apply by Nov. 30.

WEEKLY NEWSLETTER

To learn about the latest in media, programming, and fellowship, subscribe to the World Policy Weekly Newsletter and read through our archives.

World Policy on Facebook

FOLLOW US