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Thursday, November 30, 2006

North Korea: Engage or Isolate?

Martin Wolf says we need discard the Bush foreign policy doctrine and start again:

Tear up the Bush doctrine, by Martin Wolf, Commentary, Financial Times: US voters have now repudiated those who sought to impose democracy by force abroad. ... George W. Bush is still president. But he is damaged political goods. That is good, because change is desperately needed.

The signal feature of this administration has not been merely its incompetence, but its rejection of the principles on which US foreign policy was built after the second world war. The administration’s strategy has been based, instead, upon four ideas: the primacy of force; the preservation of a unipolar order; the unbridled exercise of US power; and the right to initiate preventive war in the absence of immediate threats.

The response to the terrorist outrage of September 11 2001 reinforced the hold of all these principles. The notion of an indefinite and unlimited “war on terror” became the fulcrum of US foreign policy. It led to the idea of an “axis of evil” connecting Saddam Hussein’s Iraq to theocratic Iran and Kim Jong-il’s North Korea. It brought about the justified invasion of Afghanistan, but also the diversion into Iraq. Not least, the idea of the war on terror led to the indefinite imprisonment of alleged enemy combatants without judicial oversight, toleration of torture, “extraordinary rendition” of suspects, the extra-territorial prison at Guantánamo Bay and, by indirect means, the abuses at Abu Ghraib. ...

The US must now start again. It must design a foreign policy for the current age. In doing so, it should discard almost everything the Bush administration has proclaimed. ...

Here's one idea for North Korea from the comments at Martin Wolf's Economist's Forum:

Monty Graham: Martin Wolf is of course right - US foreign policy under the Presidency of George W. Bush, largely driven by the ideology of so-called “neo-conservatives”, has been one enormous fiasco, one whose repercussions are likely to reach quite a long time into the future. The urgent question of the moment is, how does one go about reversing this fiasco? ...

Let me make one modest and specific proposal for a reversal of US policy that affects one of the countries designated by Bush as part of the “Axis of Evil”; this country is North Korea. In the on-going negotiations between the US and South Korea to create a free trade agreement between the two countries, a demand by the South Korea government has been that products made in the Kaesong Industrial Complex, an “economic zone” located in North Korea but largely managed by South Korean firms, be included... To date, the US has indicated that this demand is unacceptable and ... it could be a “deal-breaker”...

But, in the long run, the demand is not unreasonable. Indeed, the process of economic reform and movement towards a market system in China ... began with Chinese experimentation with “special economic zones” during the 1980s, where these zones were not wholly unlike the Kaesong Industrial Complex. The success of the special economic zones in China emboldened a sometimes reluctant Chinese leadership to undertake widespread economic reforms in the early 1990s, reforms that directly led to the very rapid growth and development of the Chinese economy that has occurred during the past 15 years or so. There is no guarantee, of course, that the Chinese experience would be repeated in North Korea, but there is also no strong reason to believe that success at Kaesong might not embolden further economic reform in North Korea..., where the change would almost surely be for the better. Indeed, there is evidence that there is a rising generation of North Koreans (including importantly younger military officers) who seek market-driven reform as a means of improving North Korea’s economic performance. But current US policy, which is pretty much to do as much as possible to prevent North Korea from conducting any sort of commerce with the rest of the world, creates major disincentives for North Korea to undertake serious economic reform. ...

Thus, a change of attitude on the part of the US towards the status of the Kaesong Industrial Complex could prove to be a constructive first step towards a new and more fruitful policy towards North Korea. Moreover, such a step can be taken in the context of a negotiation being undertaken with South Korea and hence this step need not involve any direct interaction with North Korea itself. ...

Indeed, ...[this] might not even require that the US accede fully to the South Korean demand that products from Kaesong be covered under a Korea-US free trade agreement. Rather, the United States, ... could indicate that ... it would be willing to reconsider this issue at some time in the future subject to certain conditions being met. Such conditions might include ... that North Korea must stop its current practices of counterfeiting and circulating US currency and manufacturing for export narcotic drugs such as methamphetamine. Indeed, for the US to express even this little bit of flexibility in the free trade negotiations might send a signal to the North Koreans that there might be a better path for that nation to take than the one it is currently taking.

As noted, my proposal as outlined above is but a modest one, and a lot more than just this proposal will be needed to undo the damage that a misguided US foreign policy has created. However, as goes the Chinese proverb, the longest journey starts with a single step, and the step that I propose would be, I submit, in the right direction.

    Posted by on Thursday, November 30, 2006 at 12:32 PM in Economics, Policy, Politics | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (6)

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