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Wayne Post
  • Richard L. Hermann: New approach needed on North Korea

  • While the North goes to considerable lengths to keep its people out of the global information loop, it cannot possibly hope to succeed in suppressing news and ideas 24/7. Even wealthy, politically repressive China has found that it cannot achieve a 100 percent national information barrier. There are always ways around it.

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  • By Richard L. Hermann
    The leaders who run North Korea are at it again, saber-rattling and spewing hysterical Armageddon-like threats with numbing regularity.
    While the notion that they could actually lob a nuke into the United States is, at present, an absurdity, it will one day be considerably closer to reality. We need to plan for that eventuality. Such planning must incorporate both the North Korean paranoid worldview tempered by the rational assumption that the North does not want to commit national suicide (which would be its likely fate if it actually launched a nuclear attack on the U.S., South Korea or Japan).
    Our policy toward North Korea has been inconsistent. The appeasement of the Clinton and Bush eras has been replaced by a more skeptical Obama administration which, unlike its two predecessors, has not succumbed to the predictable annual gamesmanship that the North Koreans throw at us in anticipation of receiving some sort of concession. To date, the Obama-ites are the first White House occupants in two decades to resist the temptation to knuckle under to the North’s annual threats.
    Regardless, the Obama policy is hardly an improvement over the Clinton-Bush record. Both approaches have failed to get us anywhere. What is needed is a fresh examination of our long-term grand strategy regarding North Korea.
    First, we need to document our foreign policy objectives in this region: (1) We want to calm the North down while providing a sufficient deterrent to keep the South secure and continuing on the road to prosperity for all of its people. (2) We want China to exert whatever influence it has on the North toward more transparency, less militarization and more focus on improving the lives of its people. (3) We want the North to stop promoting terrorism (for years, the North has trained Hezbollah fighters) and exporting nuclear, missile and other military technology. (4) We want to nudge the North toward a more open, democratic regime or at least toward a market economy and engagement with the global community which, in turn, could be an impetus for less bellicosity and more rational behavior.
    Getting there won’t be easy, but several historical precedents show us a possible way. For the entire Cold War era, one of our most effective counters to the Soviet menace was our radio broadcasts aimed at the Soviet Union and its Eastern European captive nations. Despite Soviet jamming, millions of Soviet and Eastern European citizens were able to receive information from the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty. The information they received from the steady drumbeat of messages about free societies, economic prosperity and the daily lives of ordinary Americans contributed incalculably to their rising expectations and yearning for something closer to a Western way of life. In other words, the relative pittance that we spent on propaganda beamed to the East paid off far more than it cost.
    Page 2 of 2 - Today, a miniscule shadow of that effort is reflected in something called “Radio Free Asia.” This is a modest, private sector operation beamed at eight Asian nations, including North Korea, funded by a tiny federal government grant.
    Radio Free Asia, in its current state, is woefully inadequate to the task. Given the opportunities available through the greatly expanded media outlets of the 21st century — the Internet, social media, etc. — it begs the question why we are doing so little when the potential for gain is so great?
    While the North goes to considerable lengths to keep its people out of the global information loop, it cannot possibly hope to succeed in suppressing news and ideas 24/7. Even wealthy, politically repressive China has found that it cannot achieve a 100 percent national information barrier. There are always ways around it.
    Instead of dropping leaflets, which South Korea does, the U.S. and South Korea might consider dropping iPhones and iPads.
    “Rants” is a series of political and social observations written by part-time Canandaigua resident and Canandaigua Academy graduate Richard Hermann. Email him care of Messenger Post Media at messenger@messengerpostmedia.com.
     
     

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