hard heads soft hearts

a scratch pad for half-formed thoughts by a liberal political junkie who's nobody special. ''Hard Heads, Soft Hearts'' is the title of a book by Princeton economist Alan Blinder, and tends to be a favorite motto of neoliberals, especially liberal economists.

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Friday, November 12, 2004
comment on winds of change:

Three of the most important national security issues in this election are 1) Handling Iraq, going forward 2) Iran 3) North Korea.

Handling Iraq, I am sure Kerry would be superior. I mean, how could he not? He will be more trusted by the Iraqi people for not having nefarious designs, and he will be more competent, securing ammo dumps and nuclear plants and the like. He will do a better job at creating jobs for Iraqis by not having so much corruption in the contracting process, and by hiring US officials in Iraq, who sort of, you know, know what they're doing, and speak Arabic, rather than friends and family. Hw will be more willing to hold real elections (the elections in January are too convoluted, with people voting in a complicated way for slates of political parties, rather than directly for people), and deal with legitimate Iraqi leaders trusted by the Iraqi people. He will do a better job.

Handling North Korea, I am sure Kerry will do a better job. The administration's argument "bilateral bad, multilateral good" is nonsensical bullshit, a fig leaf to conceal the fact that they haven't had a North Korea policy for four years, other than sticking their heads in the sand. Kerry's answer on North Korea in the debate is a model of clarity and common sense.

Iran, I am not absolutely sure about. It's a tough situation, but I believe that an attempted preventive strike against Iran's nuclear facilities would be a serious mistake, as would have been an attempted strike against Cuba in 63 or against Russia in the 50's. The situation is different now than in Osirak. That was only a few years after the third war of Arab aggression against Israel, against someone who had clearly proved his aggressive intentions in an unambigous way, at a time when the Arab/Muslim world was deeply divided against itself. Now an attempted preventive strike would isolate the US&Israel and unite everybody else (including the Iranian people and mullahs), instead of isolating the terrorists and uniting everybody else. If a preventive strike is off the table, what are the options? Joe might be reassured by Bush's firm statement "Iran will not develop nuclear weapons", but Bush said the same thing about North Korea, and showed himself to be a paper tiger. I trust Kerry's judgement, and more importantly, Kerry's willingness to face unpleasant facts and to deal with the situation in a prompt and immediate manner, and seek reasoned solutions, instead of sticking his head in the sand and repeating comforting platitudes.

Alright, last harangue. I think the choice could not be clearer, but vote for whoever the hell you want. . .


I'd be interested in hearing a more detailed argument for you re: exactly what makes Kerry's North Korea policy "a model of clarity and common sense" and why you believe it would work, taking into account the nature of North Korea's regime. . .


Well, here is the Kerry answer I was talking about:

With respect to North Korea, the real story: We had inspectors and television cameras in the nuclear reactor in North Korea. Secretary Bill Perry negotiated that under President Clinton. And we knew where the fuel rods were. And we knew the limits on their nuclear power.

Colin Powell, our secretary of state, announced one day that we were going to continue the dialog of working with the North Koreans. The president reversed it publicly while the president of South Korea was here.

And the president of South Korea went back to South Korea bewildered and embarrassed because it went against his policy. And for two years, this administration didn't talk at all to North Korea.

While they didn't talk at all, the fuel rods came out, the inspectors were kicked out, the television cameras were kicked out. And today, there are four to seven nuclear weapons in the hands of North Korea.

That happened on this president's watch. . . [I want both multilateral and bilateral talks]. I want bilateral talks which put all of the issues, from the armistice of 1952, the economic issues, the human rights issues, the artillery disposal issues, the DMZ issues and the nuclear issues on the table. . .

There are two different routes to a bomb: plutonium and enriched uranium. It is the assertion of the Clinton administration & Josh Marshall that the plutonium program was far more significant & important, and more potentially threatening, than the enriched uranium program. The Clinton administration apparently knew about the the North Koreans covert uranium enrichment program, and briefed the Bush administration about it, and were planning with South Korea to confront the North Koreans about it and shut it down, as the North Koreans had already shut down their plutonium program, in concert with all the other issues at hand. Clinton once said somewhere that "I thought I was handing them a big win on North Korea" and Colin Powell apparently agreed. The Bush administration did nothing for 18 months. Then, they publicly disclosed the existence of the covert uranium enrichment program, and said the North Koreans were dishonorable and therefore that there was no point negotiating with them. At some point after that, the North Koreans kicked out the inspectors and tv cameras monitoring the plutonium program, brought out the plutonium rods from hibernation, and started, we presume, pursuing both the plutonium and enriched uranium programs to the best of their ability. (Kerry asserts that there are now 4 to 7 North Korean bombs. I personally doubt that's true, but they probably have something). At some further point the Bush administration modified its policy from "There is no point negotiating with the North Koreans" to "There is no point negotiating with the North Koreans bilaterally", but somehow multilateral negotiations are a different matter entirely, and are going to produce the manna from heaven.

In any case, the key part of Kerry's answer for me was the the long-term human rights of the North Korean people would be an issue in any negotiations with Kim-Jog-Il. It is hard, but by no means impossible, to monitor whether the North Koreans are making any progress in covertly trying to develop weapons on the sly; it is much more straight-forward to see whether the North Koreans are keeping their word on any human-rights "concessions" that they have agreed to. If we can win some real, even if small, freedoms for the North Korean masses at the negotiating table, in exchange for economic aid, we will have laid the groundwork for gradually changing the regime into something less evil and awful. The alternative is to try to foment a Ceaucescu-like revolt of the masses against Kim Jong-Il, probably by starving the regime into submission. Is that what you're advocating?

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