So, as I understand it, North Korea hacked Sony Pictures because of the new movie called the Interview. This movie looks very, very stupid with Seth Rogen who specializes in movies that suck IQ points out of your head. Sony has decided not to release the picture. Sony is basically buckling to threats from North Korea. George Clooney has it right, “The truth is, it’s all new territory and nobody knows how to handle it. I don’t think anyone was prepared for it. So now we’ll be prepared for it, hopefully. Everybody was doing their jobs, but somehow, we have allowed North Korea to dictate content, and that is just insane.”
Obama announced that we would change our policy toward Cuba. The purpose of sanctions was to force the collapse of the Castro government. After 50 years, the Castro government still stands. Would another 50 years of sanctions do the trick? I doubt it. Yep, I know that many in the GOP are outraged. Is anyone surprised? Unfortunately, to normalize relations with Cuba, both houses of Congress will have to approve this measure. This is highly unlikely to happen. Maybe Cuban Americans can pressure Congress into action?
“If all we achieved over the last nine years was to come into your home each night and help you make a difficult day a little better — man, what a waste,” Colbert said, but offered this: “Nation I want you to know, if i had to do it all again, if I could do it with you, I would do it the same.” The Colbert Report reminds me of the David Letterman Show when it first started. The Letterman Show was described as the world’s biggest inside joke. For those who got the joke, Letterman was funny as hell. Those who didn’t were lost. The same with Colbert. There were jokes on so many levels. Basically, you have Stephen Colbert playing an ultra-conservative talk show host. He constantly pointed out the stupid craziness of Fox News and other conservatives thru this character. His interview with Lynn Westmoreland (R-Georgia) was classic. Westmoreland was pushing to have the 10 Commandments placed on/in court houses. Stephen asked if there was anywhere more appropriate for the commandments to be posted. Westmoreland responded nope. Of course, the right answer would be in a church or temple. The combination of Colbert’s seriousness and Westmoreland’s cluelessness was priceless. Making liberal points while playing a conservative news anchor: how novel. I’ll miss the Colbert Report.
I would like to think that this blog is about highlighting a few things that I think are important. I hope that this blog is fun and intelligent. Every now and then I see a story that I just have to highlight. So, 85-year-old Merrill Newman is being held in North Korea. Now, this guy isn’t one of those thrill-seekers who went wandering into North Korea because he wanted to test the system. This is a tourist. He went to North Korea with a sponsored tour. Now, he is detained.
I really don’t have a great impression of North Korea. I think of it as a petty dictatorship. For over 60 years, North Korea has held the world hostage to get what it wants on the threat of building a nuclear bomb. So, what would a stupid laughable dictatorship want with an 85-year-old veteran? Oh, this is pettiness at its height. So, Mr. Newman is a Korean War veteran and they are holding him for crimes against North Korea. Now, let’s be honest. I have no idea if Mr. Newman cleaned bedpans or tortured North Korean soldiers. It just seems that holding an 85-year-old man is simply wrong. If you really have some evidence of crimes, then produce it. Instead of real evidence, the North Koreans have this 85-year-old man reading a stupid apology and signing a ridiculous apology in broken English.
I know that there are some veterans who have this need to go back to the country where they fought as young men. North Korea isn’t the fields of France or Vietnam, which are both friendly with the US. North Korea is country that failed states still make fun of. North Korea is a joke of a country. This is the country that allowed somewhere between 250,000 and 3 million of its own citizens to die in the great famine of 1994-1998. As many as 10% of the population died in that disaster. At its most basic a nation needs to provide for its people. It needs to keep them safe from things like famine. North Korea failed.
We can only hope that we can encourage China to pressure North Korea into doing the right thing by Mr. Newman who has been held against his will for over a month now.
A few years ago, I wrote this post on North Korea. I was trying to understand what was going on in North Korea and how our response was causing a negative or positive feedback. Because North Korea has strategically jumped back into the limelight, I thought was worth reviewing what I knew or at least what I thought I knew about North Korea. It looks like I hit the nail on the head.
I highly recommend that you read yesterday’s post on North Korea. I looked at North Korea’s history of nuclear interest dating back to late 1950s and early 1960s.
To use a football metaphor, I’m not going to tell you that the Clinton administration had taken a football (North Korea’s nuclear issues) down to the two-yard line and all the Bush administration had to do was to carry the ball over the goal line. President George Bush, Vice President Cheney and Secretary Colin Powell needed to do much more than that. In retrospect, Bush was ill-prepared for North Korea. I have no idea how much he was briefed. I have no idea if alternative viewpoints (outside of the neoconservative line of thinking) were presented to the president. (Here’s a North Korean timeline.)
In my opinion, foreign policy is like three-dimensional chess. There are lots of moving pieces. You need to be very smart and very prepared in order to anticipate your opponent’s move. In foreign policy you are playing multiple opponents at the same time.
As far as I know, there were no high-level discussions about how to approach the North Koreans when President Bush announced to the South Korean president that he was unclear if North Korea was holding up their end of the bargain (the Agreed Framework). He basically stated that North Koreans were liars and cheats and could not be trusted. “We’re not certain as to whether or not they’re keeping all the terms of all agreements.” (NYT) While such a provocative statement would not get a second look in downtown Baltimore, in the world of diplomacy it was a slap in the face. The big question is, if the United States were to break off discussions with North Korea, which was a basic tenet of the “Agreed Framework,” then what? What leverage did we have against a country that is already isolated? Was it possible that we could squeeze China or Russia in order to use their leverage against North Korea? None of this had been discussed prior to Bush’s statement. At least, not to the best of my knowledge. This all happened in early March of 2001. By September of 2001, we were focused on Afghanistan and some in the Bush administration had already begun to focus on Iraq. Continue reading The United States and North Korea — part two (the Bush years)→