Thanks to a new diplomatic
deal, the nuclear stand-off with North Korea will allegedly
end bloodlessly. In exchange for $400 million worth of aid
and diplomatic concessions from the West, North Korea has
promised to start disabling its nuclear facilities. This
new arrangement is being celebrated as a levelheaded, practical,
and win-win solution to the problem of the North Korean nuclear
But this deal, like all previous ones, rewards the North for
its aggression and strengthens it into a worse menace. North
Korea has become a significant threat precisely because we have
appeased it for years with boatloads of oil, food, and money.
Some 20 years ago, North Korea’s nuclear ambitions became
glaringly obvious. Ignoring this, the West pretended that this
hostile dictatorship would honor a treaty banning nuclear weapons.
To get its signature took years of Western groveling and concessions.
The North’s promises to halt its nuclear program were predictably
hollow. By 1993, after preventing required inspections of its
nuclear facilities, Pyongyang announced its intention to withdraw
from the treaty. Our response?
More “diplomacy”—in the form of the “Agreed
Framework,” brokered in 1994. For agreeing to freeze its
nuclear program, North Korea was offered two light-water nuclear
reactors (putatively for generating electricity) and, until the
reactors were operational, 500,000 metric tons of oil annually
(nearly half its annual energy consumption).The United States,
along with Japan and South Korea, paid for these lavish gifts.
During these years of apparent tranquility, our handouts and
assurances of security buoyed North Korea as it furtively completed
two reactors capable of yielding weapons-grade fuel. By 2003—when
the North actually did withdraw from the nuclear treaty—it
was clear that Pyongyang had continued secretly to develop weapons-capable
The pattern of America’s suicidal diplomacy is clear: the
North threatens us, we respond with negotiations, gifts and concessions,
and it emerges with even greater belligerence. Observe how in
October North Korea detonated a nuclear bomb—and now it
extracts further concessions from the West.
Without economic aid, technical assistance and protracted negotiations
affording it time, it is unlikely that the North—continually
on the brink of economic collapse—could have survived.
It is also unlikely that it could have built the fourth-largest
army in the world. The North is believed to have sold long-range
ballistic missiles to Iran, Yemen, Pakistan, and Syria. By some
estimates, North Korea already has the material to create eight
nuclear bombs. As it doubtless will continue engaging in clandestine
nuclear development, the North may soon be selling nuclear weapons.
What made this cycle of appeasement possible—and why do
our political and intellectual leaders insist that further “diplomacy” will
work? Because they reject moral judgment and cling to the fiction
that North Korea shares the basic goal of prosperity and peace.
This fantasy underlies the notion that the right mix of economic
aid and military concessions can persuade North Korea to give
up its nuclear program. It evades the fact that the North is
a militant dictatorship that acquires and maintains its power
by force, looting the wealth of its enslaved citizens and threatening
to do the same to its neighbors. This abstract fact, the advocates
of diplomacy believe, is dispensable; if we ignore it, then it
ceases to exist.
Notice how, in preparing the way for renewed talks, the Bush
administration ceased describing North Korea as part of an “axis
of evil”—as if this could alter its moral stature.
What the advocates of diplomacy believe, in effect, is that pouring
gasoline onto an inferno will extinguish the fire—so long
as we all agree that it will. Thus: if we agree that North Korea
is not a hostile parasite, then it isn’t; if we pretend
that this dictatorship would rather feed its people than amass
weapons, then it would; if we shower it with loot, it will stop
threatening us. But the facts of North Korea’s character
and long-range goals, like all facts, are impervious to anyone’s
wishful thinking. Years of rewarding a petty dictatorship for
its belligerent actions did not disarm it, but helped it become
a significant threat to America.
There is only one solution to the “North Korea problem”:
the United States and its allies must abandon the suicidal policy
Elan Journo is a junior fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute
(http://www.aynrand.org/) in Irvine, Calif. The Institute promotes
objectivism, the philosophy
of Ayn Rand—author of Atlas Shrugged and “The Fountainhead.” Contact
the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org.