Victor Cha: Let’s Reward Terrorism!

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.

4 Comments

  1. Gore could reiterate the president’s message of peace and convey the administration’s willingness to engage, thereby averting further nuclear brinkmanship by Pyongyang.

    This means NK’s brinkmanship is a product of Pyongyang’s perception of a hostile US attitude toward it. I wouldn’t have thought I’d hear something like that from Cha. This kind of stuff comes out of the apologist camp…..

    There are plenty of reasons to understand that this is wrongheaded. I’ll just offer the 2002 West Sea Battle: A regime that sends military gunboats to shoot up SK military gunboats because it is jealous of the amount of good publicity the South was getting for hosting the World Cup — isn’t the kind that acts out just because it thinks we don’t like it.




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  2. This is slightly off topic, but since it’s mentioned in this post, I thought I’d ask about it. What do you think of the US giving millions of dollars to Pyongyang for their “support” in finding the remains of US servicemen (and women?) who died during the Korean War?

    I’m not presuming to know the answer, as I myself could go either way on this and I imagine you could, too.




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  3. I sympathize with the families of the missing, but I don’t think it’s worth the cost of potentially arming NK to kill more of our soldiers, or North Koreans.




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  4. That’s largely how I feel, but since I’m not in the military, I’m hesitant to suggest such a policy that would affect families of servicemen past and perhaps the morale of servicemen present.




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