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Nicholas Kristof discovers today that the Right actually gets it right regarding North Korean tyranny and says so in the New York Times. Unfortunately, the advice he gives the Left to address the problem gets it all wrong.
Kristof starts out by scolding the Left for ignoring the problem altogether:
Liberals took the lead in championing human rights abroad in the 1970's, while conservatives mocked the idea. But these days liberals should be embarrassed that it's the Christian Right that is taking the lead in spotlighting repression in North Korea. ...
"The biggest scandal in progressive politics," Tony Blair told The New Yorker this year, "is that you do not have people with placards out in the street on North Korea. I mean, that is a disgusting regime. The people are kept in a form of slavery, 23 million of them, and no one protests!"
Actually, some people do protest. Conservative Christians have aggressively taken up the cause of North Korean human rights in the last few years, and the movement is gathering steam. A U.S.-government-financed conference on North Korean human rights convened in Washington last week, and President Bush is expected shortly to appoint Jay Lefkowitz to the new position of special envoy for North Korean human rights.
He then ignores decades of results from appeasement strategies by advising massive American investment in the North Korean economy:
So can anything be done to help North Koreans? Yes, if liberals stop ceding the issue to conservative Christians. Ultimately, the solution to the nuclear standoff is the same as the solution to human rights abuses: dragging North Korea into the family of nations, as we did with Maoist China and Communist Vietnam. ...
[W]e should welcome North Korea's economic integration with the rest of the world. For example, we should stop blocking Pyongyang's entry into the Asian Development Bank and encourage visits to North Korea by overweight American bankers. In a country where much of the population is hungry, our most effective propaganda is our paunchiness. ...
[W]e should continue feeding starving North Koreans, while also pushing for increased monitoring. The food is delivered through the U.N. World Food Program in sacks that say, in Korean as well as English, that the food is from America. Nobody has done more to bring about change in North Korea than the World Food Program, which now has 45 foreigners traveling around the country.
In other words, we should prop up the Kim regime by removing the political pressures caused by his oppressive policies. People starving en masse because Kim reroutes all of his resources to his military? No problem, Dear Leader: we'll feed them instead, but we'll mark the food Made in USA. Can't find anyone to invest in your nationalized economy? We'll guarantee the investments with government money so that our taxpayers foot the bill when you confiscate their assets. Gee, and we hope that in thirty years, you can have progressed in human rights -- to the level of Viet Nam and China.
Nothing sums up the earnest but clueless liberal approach to foreign affairs better than that.
After watching how this approach worked in Africa (and Iraq) over the past forty years, where the West spent hundreds of billions in aid, one would presume that lessons had been learned by the liberals who ran the programs. All this does is make despots very rich while prolonging the starvation cycles that their own politics cause. The solution may involve aid and investment, but only as a fulcrum to force and follow political reform. Even Bob Geldof learned that, and it only took him twenty years to figure it out.
Kristof sells the Left short, I believe. Perhaps the Left has learned this lesson. They just don't want to get North Korea to reform itself. The sheen of communism makes Kim, along with Castro in Cuba, something of a guiding light to their fringe. Addressing the desperate situation of the North Korean people requires them to acknowledge Kim's oppression and brutality. They'd much rather protest the United States and George Bush; there's less cognitive dissonance in it for them.Sphere It View blog reactions
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