The seismic meters that registered the effects of North Korea's underground test yesterday might just as well have been monitoring the foreign policy incompetence of the Republican Party. Each leap of the needle represented a lost opportunity to avoid this crisis. The GOP's ideologically-driven fixation on Iran - which is still five to ten years from developing a bomb - led them to bungle every chance they had to prevent this from happening. So did their fixation on regime change in Pyongyang - and we can see how well that's working in Baghdad.
They insisted on avoiding direct one-to-one talks with North Korea, preferring instead to work through European negotiators. That would, specifically, be representatives from the "old Europe" that Donald Rumsfeld so contemptuously dismissed during the propaganda blitz that sold us the Iraq War.
The Europeans weren't worth listening to about Iraqi intelligence, but the GOP didn't mind entrusting our nuclear safety to them. Go figure.
The Europeans, sensibly, wanted us to engage in direct one-on-one talks with North Korea, saying that this was the only way to avoid the disastrous situation we're in now. The Republicans in Washington refused their entreaties for years - incredibly, by insisting that we didn't want to interfere with the Europeans' negotiations. Now we have a new nuclear power - one that may be developing long-range missiles to deliver their warheads.
It takes brains and guts to negotiate -- two factors in short supply in today's GOP. (And for those who would argue that I'm ideologically driven, I did extensive contract work for the government under the first President Bush and was proud to be serving my country in that capacity.)
As John Kennedy said, "Never negotiate out of fear - but never fear to negotiate." When dealing with an unstable character (and fashion disaster) like North Korea's current leader, you must always build rigorous verification procedures into any treaty you negotiate. Fortunately, everybody now understands that verification works - thanks to the absence of WMDs in Iraq.
This incident may or may not drive the Foley case off the front pages. I've discussed the Foley case at length - not to "defend Studds," as one writer misunderstood, but as a perfect "teaching moment." It encapsulates the Culture of Corruption perfectly, by illustrating how the Republican leadership placed partisan gain above even the well-being of minors. And lest we forget, we now know that Jack Abramoff had at least 400 contacts with this White House.
This new incident is another such teaching moment for America, should the Democrats be smart enough to use it. While the Administration was whipping up war fervor about Iran, another crisis was about to explode in the East. And guess what? It just exploded. Who wants to take bets on whether they'll learn from this, and engage in meaningful - and tough - negotiations with Iran?
Remember, folks: It's either negotiation with Iran, or another war - one that we're currently unable to fight because of the debacle in Iraq. And shouldn't we try negotiation first? Common sense says yes. They say no.
A failed anti-terrorist policy, a Culture of Corruption that leads to the top, and a foreign policy that has just spawned a new and hostile nuclear power. As the song says, have you had enough?