Brad Lena responds-
Earlier this week we posted a guest piece by Brad Lena- Unilateral Magnanimity- that generated a spirited round of comments and more than a few e-mails to the author. Brad responds with this post:
Let me begin by thanking all those who took the time to offer their thoughts and engage in spirited commentary. As one can imagine, reactions to my audacious post “Unilateral Magnanimity” have ranged from Brad Lena is the world’s biggest idiot, to those who were intrigued by my tactical suggestion. My response is directed at no particular individual. I must remark, however, that some of the comments exhibited an obtuseness on steroids.
It should be noted by those, especially those suffering from congenital literalism, that not all geopolitical tactics are undertaken with its face value as the sole or even the true objective. In fact, the objective may be to initiate a reaction or series of reactions that will have ramifications at a later date and are advantageous to the initiating government. Not wishing to take unfair advantage of Dr. D’s kind invitation to post on his blog by writing too lengthy of a piece, this underlying motivation was only implied in my original post.
There are some set assumptions underlying my suggested tactic. One is that Kim Jong-Il may be the most predictable player in this scenario. You can probably set your watch by what this guy will do. There will be no on the road to Damascus conversion and he will suddenly make nice. Such delusions were a distinguishing feature of the Clinton State Department. As much as I would like to see the suffering of the North Korean people ameliorated, I doubt it will not come at the hands of US magnanimity.
If Kim Jong-Il’s cooperation is discounted from the beginning, what then is the objective? The focus of the tactic is really the nations of Asia, the UN, NGO’s and post-cold war dynamics. From many quarters comes the assertion that the aforementioned transnational organizations are to adjudicate, mitigate, and regulate international relations. These organizations claim the moral high ground on many issues while routinely criticizing the US for many of its actions especially in an age of unilateral and preemptive military action. If the proposed tactic was initiated and accompanied by US demands that these organizations press North Korea to accommodate a humanitarian gesture it sets the stage for a spectacular failure. And that is an important fact; for this initiative will receive significant media attention as in the whole world is watching. The situation is now this, the humanitarian approach has failed, North Korea refuses to join other communist nations of Asia in a rapprochement with global politics and economics, it still has nuclear weapons and the UN, transnational organizations and the NGO’s are demonstrably impotent and/or inept.
What of Asia? So far they have been getting by on the cheap. South Korea, Japan and now China and India have formidable economies, an insatiable US consumer demand for their goods and services and access to the West’s financial systems. With North Korea now intransigent on all fronts, pressure to act will undoubtedly build. Kim Jong-Il has the potential to upset the trajectory of Asian affluence and influence. The Asian goal is to constrain American influence and military presence in their sphere. North Korea threatens that as well, adding impetus to the need for their action. If Asia fails to act, that too is a useful piece of information for the US.
Some comments considered the tactic an act of appeasement. Appeasement is an admission of weakness. A massive nuclear force targeting North Korea, a dozen or so aircraft carrier battle groups, pre-positioned nuclear submarines, a ground and air force presence in Japan and S. Korea and a military budget second to none, precludes the tactic as an act of appeasement. In fact, it is a provocation using a passive act. A nation that can, at will, either destroy you or provide your people with material goods that are markedly beyond the ability of your governing philosophy to supply is an act of mockery.
Other commentators thought my statement that Kim Jong –Il was ill prepared to confront unilateral magnanimity, silly as he has withstood economic, political, technological isolation and will continue to do so as long as China, his main benefactor, wishes it. My point was that he indeed has plenty of experience in this sort of resistance. He lacks, however, experience, policies and propaganda in resisting the world community badgering him to accept magnanimity for his people. Others thought he would simply steal the goods. He’s welcome to do it with the whole world watching or at least our pin point satellite reconnaissance watching.
Some thought the whole exercise misconceived. Misconceived compared to what? A foreign policy and State Department that trusted Kim Jong-Il to live up to his treaty promises? Or, how about selling cutting edge technology with ready military applications to his main benefactor China? And that’s just the “A” list of misconceived policies. At least unilateral magnanimity is neither delusional nor detrimental. A by-product of the rejection by North Korea is the ensuing debate over who gets the spurned goods. There are places on earth that endure unimaginable suffering that are ignored because they lack destabilizing weapons and/or their resources are meager or difficult to exploit. And so they suffer. Perhaps the world’s attention on them for at least a little while will be helpful.
In employing unilateral magnanimity, even as a doomed policy, the US has engineered a number of useful reevaluations of the extant geopolitical order with relatively little effort or risk to existing geopolitical arrangements. This is a good thing as we already have two “new arrangement” programs underway in Afghanistan and Iraq. A dozen or so super-freighters parked off the coast in international waters makes for a bully pulpit of that is hard to ignore. Everybody in this scenario looks bad except the US. We’ve implored a tyrant to join the rest of Asia in building a prosperous future, shown compassion for his people, demanded transnational organizations be held accountable and enforce their mandate and put pressure on Asia to effectively act in its own interest.
Those put off by my preposterous and idiotic suggestion in the original post would probably go apoplectic over my suggestion to carpet bomb Cuba with pictures of the insides of grocery stores that state “This is how Cubans shop in free societies. How’s shopping under Fidel?” At any rate, they can rest easy, as there’s always the old stand bys; Foreign Affairs Quarterly, Security Council resolutions, economic sanctions, new treaties and of course, war.