If Victor Cha has ever persuaded me of anything, it’s of the paradox that some of the most highly educated and academically intelligent people never learn. Cha, one of the architects of the Bush Administration’s magnificently unsuccessful opening to Kim Jong Il’s North Korea, draws on that disqualification to advise us who should bring Laura Ling and Euna Lee home, and how.
Having participated in a mission to bring home the remains of American servicemen killed in the Korean War, I know that such humanitarian efforts afford opportunities to move the larger diplomatic situation forward. Some say that Obama’s last message to North Korea was lost in the noise of Pyongyang’s missile test and the punitive response of the United Nations. Now that there is a momentary lull in the noise, Gore could reiterate the president’s message of peace and convey the administration’s willingness to engage, thereby averting further nuclear brinkmanship by Pyongyang. [Washington Post]
Surely Mr. Cha cannot be suggesting that the offer of valuable “incentives” should coincide with a demand to release two unjustly imprisoned journalists.
Some will argue that we should not respond to North Korean extortion tactics. In principle, we should not. But the administration cannot stand by and watch these innocent women be thrown into the living hell of North Korean labor camps. Securing their safe passage home is the most important thing. And gaining a glimpse into the emerging leadership in North Korea would be useful.
Ransom by any other name ….
Whatever the circumstances of Laura Ling and Euna Lee’s detention, it grows clearer by the day that North Korea is holding them for political, rather than legal, reasons, as well as for other forms of compensation that too many Americans are publicly suggesting we should offer, as if to further incentivize the captivity of our fellow citizens (and in the case of one U.S. resident, captivity ended in murder).
What a novel idea — using the occasion of a thug’s unjust imprisonment of two of our citizens to invite them to submit a list of demands. How could that possibly go wrong? It never occurs to Cha to disguise the linkage between the hostage-taking and the ransom, or to suggest how Gore’s appeals to Kim Jong Il’s tender mercies should be backed by any consequence, pressure, or sanction.
You’d think that Victor Cha would have learned something from the last eight years. On the other hand, Cha does manage to mention “the living hell of North Korean labor camps,” which is more than he said about the subject when he was in a position to make that a priority of U.S. policy.