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Friedman on North Korea
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Tom Friedman has a new editorial today on North Korea. I like Friedman, and I think he talks a lot of sense, most of the time.

His analogy works reasonably well:

The best way to understand the North Korea problem is to imagine a small neighborhood in which one of the neighbors, an unemployed loser, has placed dynamite around his house and told all the others that unless they bring him Chinese takeout food every day and pay his heating bills he will blow up his house and the neighborhood with it. The local policeman, affectionately called Uncle Sam whose own house is safely across town but who walks the beat in this neighborhood is advising the neighbors not to give in. "Very easy for you to say," the neighbors tell Uncle Sam. "But we have to live with this guy."

But his conclusions don't make much sense to me:

Their view is that when dealing with a heavily armed crazy state like North Korea which will probably never give up some kind of nuclear deterrent all you can do is steadily reduce its ability to wreak havoc. All you can do is shrink its nuclear programs in exchange for food, and expand trade and investment to alleviate some of its abject poverty so when it does collapse it does the least damage possible.

This just doesn't make any damned sense. You can't "shrink" the nuclear program in exchange for food and expand trade and investment at the same time.

The North Korean government has shown a propensity for spending large portions of its money on weaponry. Expanding trade won't help average North Koreans. The totalitarian scum that run the place will always siphon off as much money as they can, any way they can, to fund their military, at the expense of North Koreans.

Or, to extend Friedman's analogy, you don't keep bringing the take-out Chinese while buying the guy's used furniture when you know he's just going to buy more goddamn dynamite with it.

There is evidence that Iraq has resold pharmaceuticals that it bought under the oil-for-food program to neighboring countries for cash, which it can then funnel into its weapons programs. A nice end-around to sanctions.

The point is, it's extremely difficult to help a country's citizenry and punish its leadership at the same time.

So what do you do?


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