* Are You Effing Kidding Me?
The Bush administration, reversing a six-year-old North Korea policy based on deep mistrust, said it will now rely on Pyongyang’s “good faith” to ensure that funds released yesterday from a Macao bank are not misused….
Mr. McCormack said the North Koreans had promised “to spend the money for the betterment of the North Korean people,” and not for the personal benefit of its officials. [Wash Times]
Stupidity with malice aforethought is its own form of vicarious evil. Now I know why Stalin was so fond of purges.
* LiNK was fasting for North Korea today. If you didn’t join them, would you consider a donation?
Pak Pong Ju, who had been prime minister since 2003, was replaced during a session of the Supreme People’s Assembly. No reason was given for the decision to hand the position to former army and navy minister Kim Yong-Il. [BBC]
What do we know about Pak, and what is the deeper significance of his dismissal? Consulting our handy Ken Gause online guide to North Korean Kremlinology, we learn that Pak’s influence over the economy had risen recently, and that he was seen as something of a reformer by North Korean standards:
Many within the North Korean leadership apparently feel that the country now stands at a crossroads where it has to decide whether to continue to compile a wartime budget or shift to a peacetime budget. Prime Minister Pak Pong Chu has pushed for limited market reforms, as well as some engagement with the outside world. To many, the military-first policy has proven an economic disaster, inhibiting the reduction of sanctions and South Korean and Chinese assistance, which are critical to the country’s survival. The military elite (or at least the harder-line elements within the high command), fearing a loss of status and the control it won from the KWP in the late 1990s, allegedly has moved to block the country’s early ventures into capitalism.
No doubt, this earned Pak some enemies. The Chosun Journal makes Pak the Ace of Clubs, so this would suggest a schism of some significance.
*The character of a leader is tested when the interests of the nation do not lie in leading us in popular directions. Here’s the WSJ on John McCain, someone with whom it has had plenty of differences:
The difference is not merely of consistency but of conviction. Mr. McCain is making clear he understands that leadership is often by nature unpopular. He has been equally clear about the consequences of U.S. withdrawal from Iraq–“chaos” and “genocide” were among the scenarios he painted for Mr. Pelley.
I see a lot of Republican and Democratic candidates trying to please the base, and by all political reason, McCain should be doing a lot more of that and a lot less to connect himself to an unpopular war. And thus, he stands out for trying to lead on the one issue where everyone else — from our hopelessly inarticulate president to the faithless politicians who sent our soldiers to war in the first place — is failing to. I suspect that
Bush’s [public] support for the war has weakened in part because voters don’t trust Bush to lead it. If McCain can promise us a more forceful and competent execution of the war, the people may give him the chance to do the most thankless job imaginable. If not, he’s shown his willingness to sacrifice his own interests for the country’s, for which he should be admired even by those who won’t vote for him.