McCain Blames Clinton For North Korea genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Playing rock paper scissors

One thing is for certain about John McCain...he learned his lesson in the 2000 presidential primary that you either join the GOP establishment or find yourself the object of its scorched earth approach to king-making and king-breaking. In a further sign that McCain is willing to play ball to win the 2008 GOP presidential nomination, he launched an attack on the Clinton administration and the Democrats...blaming the alleged North Korean nuclear test on a failed "carrots and sticks" strategy. I don't blame McCain for his long held position that North Korea cannot be trusted to negotiate in good faith, but I find it fully disingenuous for McCain to ignore the past six years of President Bush's failed foreign policy. The following excerpts are from the Reuters article detailing McCain's remarks.

While Democrats are criticizing Republican President George W. Bush for a failure of international diplomacy after North Korea reported testing a nuclear device, McCain found fault with the actions of Bush's predecessor.

"I would remind Senator (Hillary) Clinton and other critics of the Bush administration policies that the framework agreement of the Clinton administration was a failure," McCain said in a statement, referring to a 1994 deal under which North Korea agreed to halt work on a plutonium-based nuclear facility, partly in exchange for free fuel oil deliveries.

"The Koreans received millions of dollars in energy assistance ... and what did the Koreans do? They secretly enriched uranium," McCain said.

"We had a carrots-and-no-sticks policy that only encouraged bad behavior. When one carrot didn't work, we offered another."

McCain called on the U.N. Security Council to impose sanctions on North Korea, including financial and military sanctions and the right to inspect all cargo entering and leaving North Korea.

The truth of the matter is that this President called three nations the axis of evil...Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. Of the three, President Bush elected to attack the one least likely to present a threat to the United States and the one with the least developed nuclear capacity. I understand that many are willing to give the President the benefit of the doubt on the intelligence used to justify the Iraq invasion...but there is little doubt that at a minimum, Bush and his fellow neocons ignored the ample reservations that were offered by numerous intelligence experts.

If McCain wants to offer a critique of the North Korean dilemma, then his remarks ought to encompass the six years during which the Bush administration's approach was to refuse to negotiate with the North Korean regime. If his argument is that we have failed to include sticks with our carrots during the Clinton years, then one must also acknowledge that North Korea has used the past six years to obtain their own very effective sticks. I'm at a loss to understand the benefits we've gained from the Bush administration's approach of repeatedly warning North Korea to cease their nuclear ambitions or face the consequences.

As I view the current efforts to impose sanctions on North Korea, all that has changed in six years is that they have more sticks with which to negotiate and we have less. The fact that they have a nuclear capacity seems to give them more with which to negotiate. At the same time, it seems safe to conclude that the U.S. isn't going to elect a military resolution...so what have we gained? From my perspective, it is simply going to be more difficult to pressure North Korea to abandon their nuclear program. If that is operating from a position of strength, then I need a lesson in logic.

Tony Snow also chimed in on the Clinton administration's handling of the North Korean situation.

At the White House, spokesman Tony Snow on Tuesday also referred to the Clinton White House's North Korea policy as "a primarily carrots-oriented approach."

"Now you've got carrots and sticks," Snow said of the Bush tactics. "The sticks would be economic pressure on the government of North Korea."

OK Tony let me see if I can follow your logic...they've got nuclear weapons and we're going to put economic pressure on them. I'm afraid this stick we now have doesn't sound all that impressive at the moment. Perhaps you have a point if we were playing rock, paper, scissors...but I'm not sure how economic sanctions will trump their nuclear capability. Maybe Tony Snow, Senator McCain, and the Bush administration need a briefing on understanding the relative values of a stick and a toothpick? I have this nagging suspicion that North Korea thinks that they have improved their side of the equation during the last six years.

Daniel DiRito | October 10, 2006 | 3:09 PM
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