Monday, January 13, 2003

Josh Marshall, once again, has a salient rundown of the foreign policy failure that is the Korean crisis...er...situation: 1) The Clinton administration became aware of the uranium enrichment program in 1999. 2) The Clinton administration briefed the incoming Bush administration on this matter in January 2001. 3) The Bush administration sat on this information for two years. In the meantime, making all sorts of bellicose noise about NK being part of the axis of evil and being lead by a "pygmy".
Some critics claim that what I have been arguing in these virtual pages is that the Bush administration simply shouldn't have called the North Koreans out on their uranium-enrichment program. This has never been my argument. What I am saying is, first, that the administration has spent the last two years pursuing a confused, provocative, and counterproductive policy which played a significant role in fomenting this crisis and, possibly, complicating a potential solution. Secondly, one has to question the timing of seeking a showdown over the North Koreans' uranium-enrichment program just as the US is girding itself for a major regional war on the other side of the globe. If we had just found out about it, then perhaps it's pressing enough to bring it up right now even though it complicates the Iraq situation and threatens to leave us awkwardly overextended. Perhaps. But if the administration had been sitting on the information for almost two years, what possible rationale could there be for choosing this moment to blow the whistle? What other explanation beside incompetence?
I can't think of any. If there is one, it behooves the Bushies to come up with it. Trying to blame the Clinton administration for their failures simply won't cut it anymore.

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