It’s odd, though, how my mind can’t let go of what’s gone down the New York Times memory hole — alarmist warnings about North Korean nukes, peddled with the meme that George W. Bush transformed a contained North Korea into a grave national security threat. I still remember Nick Kristof warning us of a nuclear 9/11 if the Bush Administration failed to appease North Korea with aid, in the same way that worked so brilliantly for Roh Moo Hyun. The alarmism was indeed justified then and now, but the Times never let consistency get in the way of manipulating it in the service of a specific policy goal. With all of the other alarms firmly in the “on” position, the Times hissed at our last president for confronting the North Koreans about their cheating on Agreed Framework I by assembling the uranium enrichment program it didn’t really have … until it had had it all along:
[S]ome Western intelligence agencies suspect that it has already been pursuing a covert uranium-based nuclear program in parallel to its known plutonium-based program. New nuclear tests would use up some of North Korea’s fissile material, but give it more information to improve its technology, as would new missile tests. [N.Y. Times Choe Sang-Hun]
So where the hell is David Albright now? Absent, I suppose, due to temporary inconvenience. Alarmism is hardly helpful when the Times’s man in the White House has no idea what to do about the leaner, meaner Kim Jong Il. Albright’s doctrinaire atheism about North Korea’s uranium program needs an interlude for rebranding after too many discrediting revelations.
By making public threats, the North used a familiar tactic to raise the stakes in its standoff with Washington. Analysts say the country needs outside aid to feed its own people and outside enemies to justify its harsh rule. Since the collapse of the Soviet bloc, when North Korea lost most of its trade partners and aid providers, the impoverished country has used threats as a survival tactic. (When the United States and South Korea provide the North with aid, the government internally tells its people that the “enemies come groveling with tributes.)
Remain calm, comrades! Do not be alarmed by their threats, which only conceal their needy weakness!
The North’s first nuclear test in 2006 was considered something of a failure by the United States and South Korea. And a North Korean ballistic missile launched in 2006 blew up 40 seconds after blastoff and, contrary to North Korean claims, another rocket launched in early April failed to put a satellite into orbit, American officials said.
Alrighty then. Back to sleep. Pretend it’s 1992 all over again.
It’s an uncanny thing to observe: just as the White House is at a loss for what to do about North Korea, the phase on everyone’s lips is now “malign neglect,” and as one, the Obama’s wholly-owned media subsidiaries — really, a fourth branch of our government — pivot to the narrative that North Korea’s nuclear program can safely be ignored until North Korea decides that the time is right for Agreed Framework III. Yes, at least some of Obama’s people deserve credit for recognizing the futility of the appeasement policy inherited from the Bush Administration (and implicitly, from the Clinton Administration before it) but the recognition that one policy has failed is no substitute for recognizing that another might succeed, or recognizing that some coherent policy is still essential even when it’s contrary to the administration’s instincts. Never mind the direct threat from North Korea’s WMD programs. The indirect proliferation threat is both clear and present, it can’t be ignored away, and Agreed Framework III won’t address it any more effectively than its predecessor agreements did.
Let’s be clear about this: Obama’s “malign neglect” wouldn’t be a plan, it would be the absence of a plan dressed in academic gibberish and foisted on us as one. Only in a time when the press serve the state so slavishly could our government get away with pollyannish nonsense like this.