By his speech to the American Enterprise Institute last month, Jay Lefkowitz, the President’s Envoy on Human Rights in Korea since 2005, once again pointed out the uselessness of the State Department as an effective instrument in carrying out foreign policy. Experience has shown that State is an anachronistic bureaucracy, little changed since pre-World War II days, so consumed by its own vision of “reality” that it defies Presidential directives, ignores its own politically appointed leadership, and regularly conducts rogue diplomacy in accordance with its own standards.
Such has been the sad case in the on-going situation concerning human rights conditions in North Korea. The four-year-old North Korean human rights law – approved unanimously by both Congressional houses and signed immediately by the president – has been a poster child for State’s unwillingness to comply with oversight or direction. Despite such obvious non-compliance, not one of the Bush administration’s current leaders has expressed a sense of urgency, let alone outrage, over the bureaucratic intransigence and stonewalling. State has contemptuously dismissed an explicit policy directive: that all diplomatic actions related to North Korea, including nuclear development and proliferation issues, must be linked to the abhorrent human rights situation in that country.
In fact, the principal architect of the current failed policy, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian Affairs Chris Hill, as gone so far as to pressure Japan in the Six Party Talks for its temerity in insisting that the subject of kidnapped Japanese citizens be tabled at the conferences. In a recent Washington Times article, James Hackett refers to Hill as State’s “designated appeaser.” Such an odious title might discourage some but Hill seems unlikely to be persuaded to change his stripes at this late point in the game.
For years the infamous 1994 Agreed Framework, a Band-Aid policy designed by appeasement czar Jimmy Carter and embraced enthusiastically by a Clinton administration that viewed foreign affairs as a gross distraction, was viewed as a classic bait-and-switch operation. Naturally America was the accommodating victim of the con. Long time observers of North Korea and its nefarious ways were stunned to learn that in exchange for accepting North Korea’s pledge to disarm its nuclear program America and its allies, South Korea and Japan primarily, were committed to pour billions in construction, fuel oil, food and medicines, and in some cases economic investment, into the dictator’s pockets. Inspections were farcical, limited to oversight and inspection of the plutonium facility at Yongbyon and wilfully ignoring secret uranium enrichment facilities.
Subsequent to the 1994 agreement the human rights conditions in North Korea deteriorated to the degree that untold millions were starved as part of a Draconian internal control move, tens of thousands more were transported to forced labor camps, and Kim Jong Il’s normal criminal activities were permitted to continue unchallenged. For a decade America was silent while the regime brutalized its citizens, cranked out billions in counterfeit US and Japanese currency, pushed narcotics, and enthusiastically proliferated missile and nuclear technology. Few voices were raised in protest as mounting evidence of North Korean complicity with Syrian, Iraqi, and Iranian scientists and engineers in developing chemical and biological weapons was revealed.
When the Bush administration, encouraged by such stalwarts as John Bolton and James Kelly, finally challenged the North and pushed through the human rights legislation, many in the community expressed the long-denied hope that America might be on the verge of a breakthrough policy that could in all likelihood have imploded the Kim regime. Actually, that eventuality – the collapse of a regime that could exist only through terror – frightened the State bureaucrats to their core.
In the world of professional diplomacy – defined by its adherents as “realism” – nothing so threatens as potential instability. Realists worship at the altar of “stability,” and are as willing to offer human sacrifice to this false god as were the Aztecs when they tore beating hearts from their victims. The Washington Post’s Michael Gerson describes “negotiations that begin as a means become the end,” and then morph into “a kind of blind and dreamy faith in the magic of the process.”
What makes this particularly galling are promises delivered during her confirmation testimony by Condoleezza Rice – now proven vacuous – that liberty would never be subservient to stability. One doubts that ringing pledge survived the current secretary’s first elevator ride to her exalted seventh floor Foggy Bottom office.
As if to flout any adherence to the policy of linking human conditions to weapons issues, the administration dragged feet for more than a year before Jay Lefkowitz was appointed. A non-Foreign Service outsider, he was promptly trashed by serving Foreign Service Officers and all but banned from participation in meaningful policy discussions and multi-lateral talks and conferences. With Lefkowitzs sidelined, it opened a clear path for Chris Hill to drive the final stake through the law by his awful reprise of the failed 1994 Agreed Framework.
In what can only be viewed as the most callous and expedient of policy initiatives, Hill in effect created Son of Agreed Framework. With North Korea beginning to show signs of cracking under a Treasury Department initiative that froze funds in a Macao bank – funds derived by the way from sale of counterfeit US $100 bills – Hill then proceeded with alacrity to bailout the corrupt regime.
State, abetted by allies in the White House, exerted what NY Sun op-ed writer Donald Kirk describes as “intense pressure” on Treasury to remove the Macao bank from its international blacklist. Heartened by this capitulation into its hard-line negotiations approach, North Korea then convinced Hill to trust its word that in exchange for lavish support it would abandon its nuclear program. Kirk notes that North Korea “shows no sign of seriously living up to the agreement.” Not exactly breaking news for those who have given even a modicum of attention to history.
So in Hill’s elaborate, complex new agreement, North Korea agrees to put its plutonium program on hold but still insists on the secrecy of many other suspect sites and adamantly refuses to allow inspectors free access to them. Further, the enriched uranium program, the alternative eagerly grasped after suspension of plutonium research back in 1994, is not mentioned in the new agreement.
Of course the big losers in this are the peoples of North Korea and America. North Korea because its citizens can expect a continuation unabated of the terrorism its own leaders inflict upon them. Americans because now our risk to a North Korean-manufactured nuclear device delivered by Islamofascist terrorists has catapulted dramatically upward.
Kim Jong Il knows that he is insulated from attack by an America obsessed with legalities. Even if a blanket statement were made to the effect that in event of a nuclear attack upon America both Pyongyang and Teheran would be obliterated, the wily North Korean dictator knows full well that such pressure for restraint would be placed on any US president that fear of substantial retaliation is nil. Craven media and “blame America firsters” would dominate the discussion demanding absolute proof of foreign involvement and insisting that response be measured and appropriate. Anticipate universal condemnation of America by the UN and other international bodies.
So what this nefarious agreement with North Korea, touted by many including Rice cheerleader Dick Morris as a “huge diplomatic triumph,” means is that we as a country do not stand by our commitments and are willing to be duped by anyone with the guts to conduct hardball negotiations with our diplomats. It is a record that makes one wonder why any foreign peoples would be foolish enough to put their trust in America's pledge.
With the ultimate climax to an interminable election process inching forward it is highly unlikely that any of the candidates will bother to mention much about North Korea or this particular failed policy. Like most of America's enemies Kim Jong Il is openly rooting for a Democrat win, knowing full well that any pressure he may have felt over the past few years will be relieved.
While we are focused on distant Central Asian wars we can ill afford to ignore a regime fixated on producing mass weapons to sell for hard cash. Yet that is exactly the scenario we can contemplate for at least a year. It may be a year that we look back upon with regret as unrecoverable time lost.