We Can’t Negotiate With North Korea

At Bloomberg View Leonid Bershidsky explains why negotiating with North Korea is impossible:

Mansky’s negotiations were with rather senior officials in the North Korean propaganda machine but perhaps things can go better if the supreme leader himself is involved in talks? Mansky doesn’t think so. “Paradoxically,” he says, “the man at the top doesn’t make decisions, either, because he’s dependent on the dictatorship he has created.” As Mansky tells it, the Kim dictatorship must maintain the cult that was created to sustain it, absurd rules and all; it’s a two-way street of mutual reinforcement. The Communist regime under which Mansky and I both grew up sort of worked like that, too — but North Korea has created a “perfect, flawless” version of the game,

[…]

Mansky looked for signs of the trademark late Soviet irony, the doublethink that allowed our parents, and for some time also us, to survive in an absurd system. He didn’t find any. That left him convinced that the indoctrination of North Koreans was absolute. While they realized the regime’s propaganda was fake, their belief in the necessity of that fakery was absolute.

It’s been tried. It didn’t work. It can’t work. Read the whole thing.

The only real prospect for dealing with North Korea short of risking a nuclear World War III resides in changing China’s incentives to the degree that they’re willing to shut North Korea’s nuclear weapons development program down. That will take determination of a sort that we haven’t shown in decades.

5 comments… add one
  • Gustopher

    You’re not considering all the options.

    There’s also the option of embracing them — normalize relations, open up trade, stop the military operations on their border. De-escalate tensions on the peninsula, and then work to undermine the dictatorship by showing the people a better way.

    There’s also the option of buying out the dictators. The international structure doesn’t give horrible dictators a decent retirement — they end up being prosecuted by their people, thrown to the mobs, or dragged off to The Hague. It locks them into a path of desperately trying to hang on and limits their options to ones we don’t like.

    Isolating countries hasn’t worked in the past. Not with Cuba, not with Iraq, not with Iran. The military options suck. We need to be more open to options that aren’t the tough guy options.

  • There’s also the option of embracing them — normalize relations, open up trade, stop the military operations on their border. De-escalate tensions on the peninsula, and then work to undermine the dictatorship by showing the people a better way.

    You might want to study up on North Korea a bit. The only way to de-escalate tensions on the peninsula would be for South Korea to turn itself over to Kim.

  • Gustopher

    North Korea has been, in their actions if not in their words, a rational actor in all of this — I see very little reason to believe this will change.

    We are incentivizing the worst possible actions though.

    The toppling of Saddam Hussein and Col. Gaddafi have shown the dictators of the world that the only way to be safe from US attack is to get nuclear weapons. If you give up your ambitions, you are a sitting duck, and so, the louder the US gets, the more North Korea pushes forward.

    Crushing economic sanctions give them an incentive to sell nuclear technology. If we care about nuclear proliferation, it’s a bad policy.

    North Korea has been very consistent about what they want — a peace treaty to end the war, an end to military training operations on their border, no sanctions, and to be treated like an equal. Less famine might be in there as well. We can offer up some of that, and see if that changes behavior.

    Yes, this will be called appeasement. Appeasement got a really crappy reputation after Hitler. Before then, it was often used, and generally worked well. It didn’t work well with Hitler because he wanted more and more.

    Their words are for their domestic propaganda — and it’s crazy sh-t.

    The options are to continue running headlong into a major war that will leave hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people dead, or to try something else. Something else seems like a better idea.

  • North Korea has been very consistent about what they want — a peace treaty to end the war,

    Why, yes, they have. A Korean peninsula united under the rule of the Kim dynasty.

  • Guarneri

    Give me an effing break, Gustopher. They want the peninsula reunited. Period, full stop.

    WTF, man.

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