Filed under: Foreign Policy, News, Politics | Tags: Asia, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Homeland Security, President Bush, Terrorism
Iraq, Iran, North Korea, al Qaeda — Bill Clinton was a popular president precisely because he did nothing serious to address the gathering threats of the world.
He thought regime change in Iraq so essential that he made it the official policy of the United States — and then did nothing. Al Qaeda attacked US interests, including the first attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, on average at least every two years throughout the Clinton presidency and Osama Bin Laden declared war on the United States.
Yet despite Sandy Berger’s best attempts to destroy the evidence, we now know the Clinton administration never took al Qaeda seriously and passed on several opportunities to kill or take custody of Osama bin Laden for fear of paying a political price (much like the one President Bush is paying now).
It’s easy to be popular when you don’t rock any boats.
As the historical record shows, some of the most unpopular presidents in our nation’s history — Abraham Lincoln, Harry Truman, Ronald Reagan for example — have also turned out to be among the greatest. No matter which direction you lead, you will always ruffle the feathers of those who want to go in the other direction.
But as the Clinton presidency has proven, ignoring the world’s dangers does not make them go away — it only allows them to gather strength and become more dangerous.
Unfortunately, Bill Clinton’s presidency also shows the danger of addressing the world’s dangers with feckless, toothless policy.
Clinton’s “Agreed Framework” with North Korea was just such a feckless, toothless policy. Under the bi-lateral agreement, North Korea would agree to stop enrichment of uranium, while the US would provide billions in oil and humanitarian aid and would convert NK’s weapons-capable graphite moderated reactors to light-water reactors (not capable of plutonium production.)
We now know the agreement was a complete farce, and that Pyongyang kept right on working on their nuclear weapons program under the Clinton administration’s nose.
Clinton made the agreement directly with Pyongyang, with no involvement or additional pressure from North Korea’s neighbors. His agreement also required no verification that North Korea was meeting its obligations.
Democrats have insisted ever since that President Bush follow in the footsteps of Clinton’s failed policy and negotiate with Kim Jong Il one on one.
But President Bush knew that the way forward was not to repeat Clinton’s failures. He has insisted from the beginning that North Korea’s neighbors, particularly China, participate in multi-nation talks and add their formidable influence to the mix. Bush knew that North Korea’s neighbors, particularly China (on which Pyongyang is most dependent), were essential to forcing an agreement that would stick and that could be verified.
Now President Bush has achieved just such an accord:
North Korean Nuclear Accord Reached
North Korea will disable key nuclear facilities by the end of the year and start disclosing details of its nuclear programs under a six-nation agreement released today in China. The deal appears to have been aided by a “side understanding” between Washington and Pyongyang that could accelerate the removal of North Korea from a U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.
The United States also appeared willing to accept, initially, more limited action than it originally sought to disable three key nuclear facilities at Yongbyon, with the understanding that additional work to incapacitate the facilities would occur later. In exchange, North Korea is expected to disclose the extent of its weapons-grade plutonium, including how much was used in a nuclear test last year.
According to the text of the document, released by China’s official Xinhua news agency, North Korea agreed to disable the 5 megawatt experimental reactor at Yongbyon, a fuel reprocessing plant, and a nuclear fuel rod facility by Dec. 31. The work will be paid for and overseen by the U.S. [read more]
It doesn’t accomplish everything, but it’s a major step, its verifiable and it’s certainly more meaningful than all of Madeline Albright’s dancing with Korean children and champagne sipping with Kim Il Sung and Clinton’s empty self-congratulations put together.