Thursday, March 08, 2007

Flash News: The Cold War Ends in Pyongyang, North Korea

Lost in the banter over the recent tentative agreement with North Korea that would disarm it’s nuclear arsenal was an incredible development: the Bush Administration backed down, Pyongyang won.

This actually is not a bad outcome. If it holds, the agreement will go down in history not as an arms control deal but as the end of the Cold War.

By opening the door to possible negotiations over diplomatic normalization between the United States and North Korea, Washington made a long-overdue concession, even if it was tacit, to recognize the North Korean regime as legitimate. It’s akin to Iran saying, okay, maybe Israel does have a right to exist.

This is not just a matter of the Bush Administration wisely reversing its foolish policy of promoting regime change. Since the hostilities in the 1950-1953 Korean War ended with a shaky armistice – not a peace treaty – the United States has steadfastly refused to negotiate with the North one-on-one to resolve tensions in the powder keg Korean Peninsula. This suited Cold War strategy and gave virtual combat training to our troops on the DMZ. But the policy should have been jettisoned in 1990, when the opportunity to support South Korea’s new policy of engagement and eventual reunification came and went.

The result has been 17 years of wasted time. Cut off from its major patron in the collapsing Soviet Union, the economy tanked and famines and deprivation followed. The seeds were sown for a desperate and fatalistic course to gain international respect with nuclear weaponry.

The Clinton Administration picked up the hot potato from the myopic Bush I gang and forged a flawed but credible attempt to coax the starving and paranoid Communist state back toward reality. Then George Bush Junior and his foaming-at-the-mouth advisors stepped in and quashed the disarmament deal. Get this: they acted on dubious intelligence reports about a new uranium enrichment program. And they forced the Asian partner in the “axis of evil” into a corner, where it bared its fangs.

North Korea remains a repugnant country, a failed autarkic experiment in totalitarianism ruled by an irrational scion of dynastic political cult worship. It boasts the worst record on human rights violations in our Galaxy, bar none.

But finally, it looks like it got what it needed to start the proccess of rejoining the ranks of international society.

A Sex Study Designed to Paper over History: Abe's Dilemma

Okay, Japan’s Prime Minister Abe Junior is failing the test of whether he can balance the views of right-wing monsters in his ruling party with common sense. In a jingoistic haiku of virtual holocaust denial, Abe made the audacious remark last week that the enslavement of Koran and Chinese prostitutes (“comfort women”) by the Imperial Army during the Pacific War was voluntary. The women weren’t coerced, he said. .

Predictably, the victims of Japanese war time aggression howled in protest. And justifiably so – credible and copiously documented research on the veracity of the army’s sex slave trade by foreign as well as Japanese historians proves the case.

So does the gripping testimony of many aging survivors of the rolling military brothels that followed marauding troops as they marched into China and Southeast Asia, old women who have overcome the shame of their past and risked ostracism in their communities to speak out after all these years.

Indeed, the Japanese government issued an apology in 1993 to victims of the brothels, But that went too far for the rabid nationalist fringe, which is still arguing that the United States baited Japan into World War II and Asia invited its would-be liberators.

So what does Abe do? He announces today, as a sop to critics of his brutish diplomatic blunder, that he appointed a special panel in his Liberal Democratic Party to investigate the matter. We can expect a muffled and indecisive whitewash of guilt or innocence by foxes probing the dried blood in the chicken coop, a half-baked revision of historical revisionism.

Don’t worry. Japan’s ship of state stays afloat on the superbly vague commitment to study contentious issues in a serious and forward-looking manner.

Abe will wait for the scandal to blow over and then put his finger to the domestic political winds. And in August there’s a good chance he’ll appease his power base by making an incendiary pilgrimage to Yasukuni Shrine. The old gods of imperial fascism still hold a death grip on Japan’s honesty and its credibility in international society.