Jimmy Carter has an op-ed in today’s New York Times, in which he lays out his objectives for "engaging North Korea." In describing his actions in bringing about the 1994 agreement, in which the United States essentially paid the North Koreans not to build nuclear weapons, he paints a false dichotomy. In Carter’s world, there were two options: placate the dictator and ply him with cash (we’ll call this diplomacy), or face all-out-war. There seem to be a lot of possible steps in between, including notably cutting off funds through sanctions, rather than giving North Korea more money to develop its military capabilities.
Faced with the abysmal failure of his policies, Carter once again paints the false dichotomy: we can have peace talks or all-out-war. If North Korea forgoes any nuclear weapon program and enters into good faith talks with South Korea, then Carter thinks that America should move toward normal relations with North Korea. In other words, without saying how it is that we are to verify that North Korea no longer has a nuclear weapons program, Carter suggests that if Kim Jong Il makes a few more potentially empty gestures, we should send him more money. No one wants to rush into a war with North Korea, especially now that they have benefited from years of U.S. funding to build their military and nuclear resources. But there are options other than bribing North Korea to play nice on the peninsula. To begin with, we need genuine inspection of the nuclear capabilities, and not the equivalent of Carter’s inspection of the alleged Cuban biological weapons facilities (paraphrase: Mr. Castro told me nothing is here, and I don’t see anything here). Carter avoided suggesting inspection because it is unlikely that Kim Jong Il would give inspectors unfettered access, and he knows that that would be a deal breaker for both sides. Better to gloss over this point, and make an unalloyed pitch for equivocation. With due respect to the WSJ’s Best of the Web, Jimmy Carter won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.