Sunday, December 29, 2002

The Romans, therefore, foreseeing evils while they were yet far off, always provided against them, and never suffered them to take their course for the sake of avoiding war; since they knew that war is not so to be avoided, but is only postponed to the advantage of the other side.

-- From Machiavelli's "The Prince"

According to this CNN report, North Korea has violated the agreement ending the Korean war by bringing light machine guns into the demilitarized zone. I believe our current course of trying to restrain North Korea by threats - or verbal statements and demands of any sort - is a failure. We must accept that they are either extremely desperate or extremely reckless. None of our alternatives for dealing with this situation is palatable.

One alterternative, which will understandably outrage many, is to give in, to subsidize the failed economy of the North Koreans in exchange for new verifiable protocols to prevent the development and sale of weapons of mass destruction. Of course their word is crap, we believe nothing not verified. Even so, this is outrageous. Can all the other nations developing such weapons get a similar deal? Should some not doing so start? The only glimmer of hope for this approach is that it worked with the Soviet Union. Through decades of grain sales they worked to spread communism, making only cosmetic concessions in exchange for aid. The leaders did not jeprodize their positions through war - nor through democratic reform. But somewhere during the process the pretense that the United States was the real enemy faltered. The only other thing to be said for this insane course of action is - look at the alternative.

The South Koreans have just elected a liberal government that wants to work more closely with the North. Do we tell them, "Sorry guys, we're pretty sure the North is preparing for war and giving them more time will only benefit them. Either you do this our way or we bring all our troops home so they don't suffer the consequences of a better prepared enemy?"

Some might actually like the latter course at first, but the most likely consequence is a second Korean war.

How about going on as we are now, trying to contain them? Assume for the moment they are rational in the same way Saddam seems to be - clever in a thuggish way at maintaining power at any price. If the aid we are giving them now is sufficient to keep them in power and prevent internal revolution, they probably won't start a war. Otherwise they almost certainly will.

I really would like to hear some better options here.

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