Failed Policies And Finger Pointing

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Jack Kelly, writing in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has an analysis of the past failed policies that led up to North Korea getting nuclear weapons (assuming they actually have done so, of course). His opening lines set the stage:

If Democrats went after America's enemies with the ruthlessness with which they attack Republicans, the Axis of Evil would be toast.

No sooner had North Korea completed its (botched or faked) nuclear bomb test last weekend than Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., were blaming it on "the failed policies of the Bush administration."

Kelly then proceeds to knock those charges down – hard.

Two experts told a House committee in April of 2000 that North Korea was producing enough highly radioactive material then to build a dozen bombs a year, but it is unclear when the North actually built a bomb (if yet) because our intelligence on the reclusive regime there is so poor.

Most experts think North Korea restarted its nuclear weapons program between 1997 and 1999, said Paul Kerr of the Arms Control Association. But the Congressional Research Service thinks the North began cheating in 1995.

Signs of cheating were abundant by 2000. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright flew to Pyongyang that October to put lipstick on the pig. She offered dictator Kim Jong Il a relaxation of economic sanctions if he'd limit North Korea's missile development. Kim took those carrots too, but kept building missiles.

The Bush administration called North Korea on its cheating and suspended fuel aid pending an improvement in its behavior. North Korea declared (in 2002) it had the bomb, and the United States organized the six-party talks to try to persuade it to give up its nuclear ambitions.

Like Mr. McCain, I thought the Agreed Framework was a bad idea from the get-go. But I don't blame the Clinton administration (very much) for trying. Massive bribery hadn't been tried before, and if it had worked, it certainly would have been preferable to war. And, since as far as we know, serious cheating didn't begin until 1997 or 1998, it can be argued the deal did buy us a little time.

But even though the ultimate failure of the Clinton policy of appeasement is excusable, the refusal of Democrats to acknowledge that failure is not.

There are calls to reward North Korea for its bad behavior already from many of the usual suspects. Kofi Annan urged the US to enter unilateral talks. So have many on the left. They fail to see that the policies of the Clinton administration failed completely. Or worse, they know it, but refuse to acknowledge it. Kelly is dead right here: the refusal to acknowledge the failures are inexcusable. The Democrats had better start thinking seriously how to address the real issues here instead of simply playing partisan politics. It's time to try going after the real enemies of the US, not the opposing political party.

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6 Responses to Failed Policies And Finger Pointing

  1. Bill Franklin says:

    Do you believe Jack Kelly’s column is an accurate accounting of NK events? No mention of SK’s Sunshine policy, and this quote- “Two experts told a House committee in April of 2000 that North Korea was producing enough highly radioactive material then to build a dozen bombs a year”. So called “dirty bombs,” or *nuclear* bombs?

    Gaius, since you have experience in the nuclear field, can you tell us how easy or difficult it is to convert the materials or waste from light water reactors into weapons grade material? Because up until 2002, that’s all NK had access to…heck, that’s why we gave them light water reactor technology in the 90’s, so the IAEA could seal off the weapons grade stuff.

    In Feb 2005, Jack Kelly comforted his readership that Iraq was “All but Won”: . Clearly this man has an agenda or doesn’t present all the facts.

  2. Gaius says:

    One – the fuel was not from a light water reactor. The North Korean reactor is a completely indigenous gas-cooled reactor which happens to be tailor made for plutonium production. (Based on an obsolete British design, actually). They also mine their own uranium.

    The light water reactors were never finished.

    Plutonium is actually not hard to extract. The US paid to have that spent fuel stabilized so it was available to reprocess.

    Clearly, you have an agenda and twist the facts to suit it.

  3. Bill Franklin says:

    Wait, I’m still confused, because again I’m igorant of the facts. Since you’ve been following this perhaps you can clear this up. Jack Kelly’s article said in 2000 that two experts said NK was capable of making nuclear bombs. I can’t figure out where NK got the nuclear material to do this. Was it material obtained from the obsolete British designed reactor? Because what I’ve read said that reactor and the material for it was under IAEA seal since the mid-90s.

    > Clearly, you have an agenda and twist the facts to suit it.

    If the ‘truth’ is an agenda, then yep, I have one. I’m not twisting the facts, and I never try to distort the truth to fit my view of the world. Actually I like being wrong because it always means I’m about to learn something. So please help me understand how North Korea got nuclear weapon material in 2000 as Kelly asserts.

  4. Gaius says:

    They had been reprocessing spent fuel that they had diverted from the inspection regime. They appear to have done so for quite a long time basically right under the noses of the IAEA.

  5. Bill Franklin says:

    Your explanation seems to contradict earlier concerns that “Clinton’s IAEA” was to blame, but again I haven’t been following it so I’ll go with what you’re saying. I’ve also heard that it’s technically sophisticated to enrich uranium into plutonium (ie beyond NK capability), but again I’m not expert and defer to your expertise.

  6. Gaius says:

    Actually, you’re conflating two seperate things. Uranium enrichment is technically challenging. Plutonium production is fairly easy, all it requires is nuclear fuel. Once you have that, you can make plutonium.

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