Friday, October 13, 2006

McCain's 1994 speech

Here's the 1994 speech in which John McCain criticized the Clinton administration for its North Korea policy. This is the basis of McCain's claim that he argued all along that Clinton's policy was a failure.

Read the whole thing. And then compare it to this timeline of Korea-related events.

I'm struck by how alarmist and wrong McCain was about much of what he said. The only thing he got right was that North Korea should not be trusted -- but that ignores the fact that the Agreed Framework did not require trust. Instead, it required IAEA inspections and verifiable actions.

He predicted the talks would fail; they didn't. He predicted North Korean artillery would hold Seoul hostage while they withdrew from the NPT; they did neither. He predicted the North Koreans would reprocess the plutonium; they didn't -- at least not for eight years, until after we had officially killed the Framework following the exposure of their uranium program.

His push for "counterbattery fire" was remarkably toothless. Counterbattery fire simply means using artillery to shoot at other artillery in an attempt to suppress or destroy it. But the North Koreans have 11,000 artillery tubes, most of that on the border, most of it dug in and hardened over the last 50 years. No amount of counterbattery fire would seriously diminish that in time to save Seoul.

He posits an early test of administration resolve: whether IAEA inspectors would be allowed to visit two nuclear waste sites for the Yongbyon reactor. What happened? Check the timeline.

A week before his speech, North Korea had said inspectors could remain at the reactor. The same day he spoke (June 23), they said they would fully comply with the NPT and the IAEA, On July 12 they said the IAEA inspectors could stay at Yongbyon, the fuel rods would not be processed and the reactor would not be restarted. By Sept. 13 the IAEA was able to issue a report of its inspections, saying no plutonium had been extracted there since 1993.

By November 1994 the IAEA was able to certify that North Korea had frozen all operations at Yongbyon.

The timeline might have been a bit longer than McCain implied it should be, but the end result was the same: North Korea, contrary to McCain's prediction, fully submitted to IAEA inspections at all of its known nuclear sites.

Other than showing him questioning Clinton's approach, I don't know why he thinks this speech helps him make his point. It shows him to be wrong on every specific count, and his main alternate proposal -- counterbattery fire to prevent NK from holding Seoul hostage -- ineffective.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Marc Schneider said...

McCain has developed this reputation for independendence and he certainly deserves respect for what he has given to the country, but, politically, he has many of the same drawbacks that other Republicans do--namely that he is obsessed with showing that he isn't Clinton. The Republicans have made such a fetish out of being tough and being anti-appeasement that they seem unable (at least rhetorically)to accept that there are difficult problems that require patience. Of course, running for president, McCain needs to solidify his relationship with conservatives and the Bushies, but I see no evidence that he really has much of a clue about foreign relations--unlike other Republicans like Chuck Hagel and Dick Lugar. A lot of ostensible centrists like McCain because he has broken with the GOP on some issues, but I see him essentially as a hard core conservative, albeit less ideological and partisan. conservative.

10/13/2006 3:50 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

Yeah, McCain has never really impressed me. Quite often he grabs a headline by "standing up" to the administration, only to quietly cave a few days later. And while he can be good at criticizing a given approach, his own proposals are less than impressive -- as in this case.

He's better than some of the true believers in his party, but that's about it.

10/13/2006 4:38 PM  

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