Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Bland, blander, blandest

CFR has compiled a brief rundown of where the presidential candidates from both parties stand on North Korea.

There are few positions that stand out: for the most part Democrats repeat the charge from 2004 that President Bush is to blame for refusing to engage directly with North Korea in bilateral talks, Republicans generally holding back from criticizing the six-party forum even while criticizing the agreement it produced. (And yet it seems that Chris Hill has chucked the "no direct talks" policy out the window, so why even bother discussing the merits of one forum versus the other? The US is doing both, now.) Overall, there seems to be little sense of how North Korea fits in the East Asian puzzle, Joseph Biden aside.

One can conclude two things from this: either the crop of presidential candidates is extraordinarily weak as far as Asia is concerned or the ability of the US to induce or coerce North Korea to surrender its nukes is at low ebb (or both). Thankfully there is a good crop of Asia hands — who will hopefully make up for the glaring deficiencies of the candidates — waiting to move into office once this administration finally whimpers to a close.


Christopher said...

I don't see why anyone would be too concerned with what the candidates say about North Korea. Any realistic options for dealing with the situation are impossible to easily explain to American voters. Most Americans (and most voters) have very little awareness of North Korea other than a vague impression that it's a "bad" country (most would be shocked to find out how many troops are still stationed in Korea). So the candidates are just going to say "we need to be tougher" or "we need to engage" depending on what sort of voter they're trying to appeal to.

Whatever the candidates might say now, it won't have much to do with what they'd actually do as president. They (that is, the ones with a serious chance at getting elected) know the voters are much more concerned about other things and will avoid limiting their options.

Japan Observer said...

I can't say I disagree with you, necessarily, but CFR wasn't just culling remarks from speeches. It was drawing from sources in which, hypothetically, the candidates could speak in greater detail about what is to be done.

And yes, little of what they say matters now will matter in terms of policy, but I guess — and now I'm being idealistic — it would be nice for a candidate to have some understanding of the constraints on US action and some vision of a way forward beyond the "get tough"/"engage" dichotomy.

But you're right.