Benign-Neglect Diplomacy

President Bush announced today that he was lifting certain trade sanctions against North Korea in exchange for its delivery of a report on its nuclear weapons program. In addition, according to The Post and other reports, North Korea is expected demolish the cooling tower at its Yongbyon nuclear plant -- while being taped by U.S. television networks -- and take other concrete steps towards ending its nuclear weapons program and suspected efforts to sell those weapons abroad.

It's hard to find words to describe the significance of this diplomatic breakthrough -- and the irony that one of the Bush administration's greatest foreign policy successes would come via diplomacy, and not force. Since the Agreed Framework broke down in 2003, relations with North Korea have run hot and cold. For much of this time, the six-party talks appeared unlikely to produce any meaningful results, particularly as North Korea continued weapons testing, weapons exporting and other recalcitrant behavior.

What I'm hearing through the grapevine is that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan required so much attention from senior decision makers that it allowed career diplomats and junior political appointees to do their work in East Asia. In essence, the six-party talks needed less attention to work well, so that diplomats and national leaders could get down to business without all of the posturing that goes along with highly public diplomacy. This may or may not be true, but it's an interesting view of how diplomacy can work. I look forward to learning the full story.

By Phillip Carter |  June 26, 2008; 10:21 AM ET  | Category:  Foreign Policy
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Clinton gave North Korea the impression in the 1990s that he would bomb their facilities if they didn't enter the Framework and seal the plutonium.

So why did Bush allow the plutonium to be unsealed, cameras dismantled, international inspectors kicked out, and nukes to be built and sold to god know where, in a span of 7 years?

Simply cleaning up his own mess doesn't make Bush a success story, in my book. Heck, even the light-water reactors were built from the cement foundation upward under Bush's watch.

Posted by: Too little, too late. | June 26, 2008 11:45 AM

Well, it's good to see that it didn't take long for the "I refuse to give George Bush credit for ANYTHING" crowd to show up.

Grow up, already.

Bill Clinton had absolutely no teeth with North Korea, which pretty much explains why they ignored everything they "agreed to" with him.

George Bush, for all his faults -- and yes there are many -- understood that playing nice with North Korea is not an option.

The current liberal hero, candidate and Mr. "I Want To Meet With and Be Nice to Everyone" should learn something from this.

Posted by: ep | June 26, 2008 1:06 PM

what is wrong with you ep?i have been reading the post for a while and you are pretty negative about everying that it borders to whinning like a baby .The whole point of the article was Diplomacy does work and for somebody who put north korea as one of the axis of evil and negotiated with them then obamas view about diplomacy is not incorrect.

Posted by: neutral | June 26, 2008 2:11 PM

is anyone else
wondering why we are giving candy and smiles to the people who still have enriched uranium weaponry?

and is it true bush and the senior crew wasn't paying attention is how anything actually went well?

maybe we should give those who got it done without force and before killing and disabled more vets - honorary purple hearts fro that and risking the ire of bush and cheney gang?

Posted by: dc matthews | June 26, 2008 2:48 PM

Point I have yet seen made: this makes Bush look more reasonable when he decided to strike Iran.

Posted by: John Dillinger | June 26, 2008 2:55 PM

So maybe Obama has it right,work things out diplomatically.

Posted by: groetzinger | June 26, 2008 3:47 PM


Easy there, little feller.

The only reason why North Korea nuclearized is because Bush was the "nice guy." Speaking loudly with a small stick might fool a wishful thinker like you into perceiving strength, but it didn't fool North Korea.

I mean for God's sake, Bush can't even get North Korea to admit it ever pursued uranium. Meanwhile North Korea built plutonium nukes to Bush's face.

Again I don't think you realize your awful ignorance. You think Bush had "teeth" 6 years ago when he said "no to blackmail" after North Korea requested talks to get removed from terror list. Well guess what chickenbutt, North Korea wanted plutonium nukes MUCH MORE than getting off the terror list or normalizing relations,........durrrr.

So yes, Clinton WOULD have done the exact opposite...he would have invaded North Korea if they EVER tried to harness plutonium, and only then would he have been happy to talk.

1) So what did Bush accomplish again? Tell me one thing that North Korea demanded that he held his ground and refused to do.

2) Conversely, what did North Korea give up exactly, that Bush demanded they give up, that North Korea even possessed by the time Bush entered office?

Just answer one thing of either of these questions, and maybe you won't sound like a complete ignoramus.

Posted by: Too little, too late | June 26, 2008 3:49 PM

The ultimate moral of the story, re: the three in the axis of evil:
hurry up and become a nuclear power.
Those who wanted to (Iraq) and want to (Iran) were invaded and threatened with "keeping everything on the table," respectively. HOWEVER, the one member of the Axis that actually IS a nuclear threat is treated with kid gloves.

To start out with belligerency and then fall back on diplomacy when the former doesn't work makes us look weaker than if we'd tried diplomacy in the first place, I think.

Posted by: Rick | June 26, 2008 5:39 PM

Phil, surely it's not necessary to recount to you, of all people, the salutary effects of negotiating after you have established both your possession, and your willingness to employ, superior force.

Posted by: Ray | June 26, 2008 5:45 PM

Interesting to read that you "encourage users to analyze --- etc." It must be a disappointment to find that all readers seem to wish to do is reinforce their existing deeply held true (sic) beliefs?

I guess that all you can do is keep hoping.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 26, 2008 6:50 PM

This goes to show us (Americans) that not every country needs to be dealt with the same. In some cases, diplomacy will work and this is why diplomacy always needs to be the first option.
But, you can't point to this and say that this is a model on how to deal with Iran. There have been exhaustive diplomatic efforts made by the EU with Iran since 2003 and Iran has completely rejected all diplomatic efforts.
So for diplomacy to work, both sides have to be willing to be diplomatic. Some countries will and others simply will not work toward diplomatic resolutions.

Posted by: 1rap | June 26, 2008 7:26 PM

Umm - what diplomatic efforts has Iran rejected? I know they have not been particularly interested in any negotiations whose precondition was that they had to agree to stop doing nuclear research they have every right to carry out under current treaty.

Note - read the above carefully, think, and then marshall your examples.

Posted by: Butch | June 26, 2008 7:50 PM

wouldn't it be weird if north korea demolished their nuke plant water cooler for our u.s. news cameras from 5,000 miles away by using a backpack launched nuclear tipped missile fired from some anonymous guy standing in some random crowd from some random corner of some random streets in some random town in some random state in the midwest?

Posted by: BOB | June 26, 2008 8:18 PM

i think what finally happened, was that george bush realized that kim jong il is taller than he is.

george bush has ordered himself some TALLER platform shoes so that he won't be dwarfed by kim jong il, but since they are a special order, they won't be ready for a few more weeks.

george bush is just buying time with this "diplomacy".

gee. i wonder if george will still be able to do the splits on the whitehouse's 200 year old dining table while wearing those platform shoes.

he should have ordered ncaa regulation cheerleading approved platform sneakers.

"rah! rah! sis boom bah!"

Posted by: BOB | June 26, 2008 8:33 PM

The Agreed Framework didn't just "break down." It was working quite well. Then it was intentionally, unilaterally, and stupidly abrogated by George W. Bush. Now, the Agreed Framework has essentially been reinstated, things are almost back to where they were seven years ago. Almost, except that, in the interim, North Korea has become a nuclear weapons power. Nice work there, Dubya. You won't be gone soon enough.

Posted by: Steve | June 26, 2008 8:39 PM

Sometimes diplomacy works when pure politics is not involved, but rather statesmanship. Perhaps Pres. Bush was distracted by other compelling international situations, but at least he was distracted by affairs of state and not affairs of Lewinsky.

Posted by: Duffy91 | June 26, 2008 9:52 PM

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