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September 20, 2005
Gray Lady Gives Grudging Credit On North Korea

On the week where the Paper of Record hid its editorial columnists behind the $50 firewall that virtually ensures they will go unread, its editorial board also admits to victory for the Bush administration for its insistence on their policy for North Korea:

For years now, foreign policy insiders have pointed to North Korea as the ultimate nightmare, the ongoing worst-case scenario for an international crisis: a closed, hostile and paranoid dictatorship with an aggressive nuclear weapons program. Very few people could envision a successful outcome. And yet North Korea agreed this week to dismantle its nuclear weapons program, return to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, abide by the treaty's safeguards and admit international inspectors.

Diplomacy, it seems, does work after all.

The agreement signed yesterday, if faithfully carried out, is a huge win for the United States as well as a fair deal for North Korea. Its achievement became possible when Washington abandoned the confrontational tactics and name-calling associated with its former top antiproliferation official, John Bolton, and gave serious negotiation a chance. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice deserves most of the credit for that switch, which was made with exceptional skill by America's top negotiator at the talks, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill.

Diplomacy, it seems, works after all -- especially when the other side understands that the US has the will to go outside of diplomacy if necessary to secure its national interests. If the New York Times wants to pretend it doesn't understand the purpose of our actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Kim regime does not have that luxury. They understood that the Bush administration would not send Rice to Pyongyang to dance cheek to cheek with Kim, a la Madeline Albright, but to deliver an ultimatum that would result in his destruction. After testing the Bush administration several times and finding it unwilling to waver, even after a number of Bush's political opponents (such as John Kerry) fell for his tricks, Kim knows that Bush has him diplomatically isolated and left with no choice but compliance or war.

Diplomacy works, after all, but only when your enemy understands that you have not limited your options to diplomacy. The Gray Lady kids herself in thinking that John Bolton was part of the problem. Bolton provided a key part of the solution, and did so well that the Bush administration wanted to make sure Bolton could get the widest possible application in foreign policy. Going from non-proliferation specialist to UN Ambassador isn't a demotion, after all, as even the Times should be able to figure out.

The Times should be commended for giving credit where due, even grudgingly and incompletely. Unfortunately, they still don't demonstrate that they have learned anything from the results.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 20, 2005 7:24 AM

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