We end a long day by picking some of the lowest-hanging fruit on the political tree. This is quite an exchange, beginning with Whoopi Goldberg’s brief history of U.S.-NorK relations since the Clinton era. She reaches semi-coherence by remembering that there was a diplomatic lull with North Korea during the Clinton era but things go off the rails after that. It’s true that Kim Jong Il walked away from his deal with Clinton early in Bush’s presidency, but Bush ended up making some diplomatic strides with Pyongyang in 2007 when six-party talks produced a deal to let international inspectors monitor North Korea’s nuclear facility at Yongbyon. That deal began to unravel very late in Bush’s second term due to disagreements over verification, but it held until April 2009 — three months into the Obama administration, when Kim tore it up and kicked out the inspectors. Kim Jong Un succeeded his father in late 2011 and has seemed completely committed to nuclearization.
Why? Because he pays attention to how the United States treats tyrants who lack a nuclear insurance policy.
In recent talks, when Americans have asked whether any combination of economic and diplomatic benefits, or security guarantees, could induce Pyongyang to give up nuclear weapons, the answer has been no. North Koreans invariably mention the former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi. In 2003, when Qaddafi agreed to surrender his nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, Bush promised others who might do the same that they would have an “open path to better relations with the United States.” Eight years later, the U.S. and nato helped to overthrow Qaddafi, who was captured, humiliated, and killed by rebels. At the time, North Korea said that Qaddafi’s fall was “a grave lesson” that persuading other nations to give up weapons was “an invasion tactic.”
It wasn’t Bush who ordered that invasion of Libya in 2011, as you may recall and Whoopi may not. Whoopi’s theory is that Trump is antagonizing Kim into being more provocative with missile tests, but like I noted in an earlier post, Trump was surprisingly conciliatory towards North Korea earlier this year. He made a point of saying he’d be “honored” to meet with Kim under the right conditions. If the NorKs are hellbent on developing a nuclear deterrent, the reason has much more to do with the Qaddafi example than with personal pique at Trump.
It’s Behar who’s the grand idiot, though, chiming in after Goldberg wraps up that you never heard about any of this nasty nuclear business with North Korea during the tranquil golden age of the Obama era. That’s an overstatement but true, at least, in the sense that O had many other pots on the stove that he was more interested in tending than the North Korea problem. He promised to ramp up in Afghanistan; he led the effort to depose Qaddafi; he got sidetracked with Russia and Ukraine; he dawdled on Syria; he bounced back and forth on democracy in Egypt; and he had drone operations going in various countries. He also had a policy of “strategic patience” towards North Korea, remember, in which he refused to engage diplomatically until NK put denuclearization on the table, a condition unlikely to ever be met by that point. And then, after the election, during his first meeting with Trump, he dropped the North Korean stalemate in the new president’s lap by warning him that it was likely to be the biggest foreign policy problem he’d face.
Imagine an enemy state spending eight years developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching the United States on Obama’s watch and then turning around and congratulating Obama on the low profile this threat had during his presidency. You’re watching “The View” on ABC.