Jeffrey LewisKerr on Sanger on Kerry on S2R

Paul Kerr, at the Arms Control Association, notes that David Sanger’s NYT article today on the debate “is pretty good, but he really got this part wrong:

Mr. Kerry argued repeatedly that North Korea posed a far greater threat than Iraq to the United States, but that Mr. Bush had failed to face up to that fact because of his single-minded pursuit of Saddam Hussein. Mr. Bush got off to the wrong start by failing to listen to his secretary of state in 2001, he argued, “and for two years, this administration didn/’t talk at all to North Korea.

Mr. Kerry had his facts right, but at the same time the C.I.A. was reporting to the White House that the North was cheating on its 1994 accord. When confronted with that evidence, the North threw out international inspectors.

“Besides the fact that implementation of the 1994 Agreed Framework was lagging far behind schedule ( partly because of Republican opposition in the US), Sanger should also mention some other small details:

  • “North Korea actually offered to negotiate more than once with the US after the US accused them of having an HEU program (the “cheating” Sanger is referring to). Bush refused to do that.
  • “The US pressured the other members of KEDO – the international entity charged with implementing the agreement – to cut off the oil shipments to North Korea . Those shipments were also part of the Agreed Framework. Proving what a stroke of genius this idea was, North Korea then ejected the IAEA inspectors.
  • “Those inspectors happened to be monitoring spent nuclear fuel in N Korea, as well as the rest of North Korea/’s nuclear facilities that were frozen in 1994. Now they/’re not and North Korean is free to produce more plutonium as well as use the plutonium it has to make several nuclear weapons (they may well have already done the latter) This plutonium weapons program, by the way, much more advanced than the HEU program, as far as we know.
  • “What North Korea/’s HEU program has to do with not talking to North Korea, Sanger never makes clear. The point, in case Sanger missed it, is that North Korea was a bigger threat than Iraq and the Bush administration didn/’t do anything about it.

“One more thing. Sanger is technically correct to point out that /’Mr. Kerry argued that was Mr. Bush/’s fault though he never made clear what the president could have done differently to prevent the paranoid Mr. Kim from reacting in any other way./’

“But this misses the point – Kerry/’s job was to propose an alternative solution for moving forward. He did that. He also needed to point out the simple fact that Bush has F/’d up on North Korea. He did that. Keep in mind that the punditocracy would have indicted Kerry for being long-winded and pompous if HAD provided more detail on North Korea.”