John Kerry: Clueless About North Korea

History will deservedly remember John Kerry as a failed poseur, a man too self-important and detestable to unseat George W. Bush in 2004, and one of my least favorite American politicians of all time.  We are still burdened with Kerry as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in which capacity he spirited the incompetent and congenital liar Christopher Hill to confirmation as the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq.  In that capacity, Kerry seems to have learned much from the nominee’s tactic of token outrage and false promises:

Mr. KERRY. Let me say that every one of us shares the outrage at the type of government and the way in which the people of North Korea are oppressed. I commend the Senator from Kansas for calling the country’s attention and the world’s attention and the Senate’s at this moment to it. We will have a hearing on May 6. It will be a comprehensive hearing on North Korea. It will involve all of the issues with respect to North Korea. We welcome that. That is an appropriate role for us.  [Congressional Record, April 21, 2009]

Since Kerry made that promise, May 6th has come and gone, and not only did this hearing not take place, Kerry’s committee still has no hearing for North Korea on its schedule.  As North Korea continues to torture and murder hundreds of thousands of people, holds two American reporters hostage, defies resolutions the U.N. can’t and won’t enforce, and raises its threats against the world, Kerry can find no time to discuss North Korea’s terrorism and provocations.  I can only speculate as to which of the following topics is in more immediate need of congressional oversight:

These are perfectly worthy matters for the Committee’s attention, if the Committee’s purpose is to muse and pose about matters that may be important but aren’t urgent, or that it’s not terribly well suited to influence.  None would seem to have the same urgency as North Korea, which appears to be preparing yet another nuclear test, and none is a greater humanitarian crisis.  Is there any aspect of U.S. foreign policy where the diplomatic strategy has failed so suddenly and dramatically, and where congressional oversight is so desperately needed, as North Korea?

To an extent, of course, it’s understandable that Kerry doesn’t want to hold a hearing on a topic about which he probably has no idea what to do.  The John Kerry North Korea policy is indistinguishable from the demonstrably failed George W. Bush policy, and is only distinguishable by insignificant details and ex-post facto critiques.  Ultimately, it has never been more specific than “talk to them,” and in practice it has never been more serious than “find out what they want today and give it to them.”  It rests on a refusal to confont North Korea’s atrocities, its inflexible attachment to its nuclear weapons, or its appetite for terror and extortion.  If it’s possible to place human nature in a centrifuge and enrich the evil from it, North Korea may be the perfect experiment that results.  It’s an equally perfect experiment in the incapacity of international institutions, the entire Democratic Party, and a significant percentage of the Republican Party to offer a serious response to it, even as North Korea’s inclination and capacity to murder continue to grow.

Perhaps Senator Kerry now espouses the philosophy that outrage against atrocities must be subordinated to the national interest.  If so, Kerry has changed much since the days when he propelled himself to national prominence by raising outrage against his former comrades.  And yet the question remains:  whom should we ask to be the first American — or the last North Korean — to die for John Kerry’s mistake?