On Wednesday 16 June 2010 at the Korea Society in New York hosted to its a three member panel who presented the findings of the Council of Foreign Relations [CFR] Task Force report on 'US Policy toward the Korean Peninsula'.
The report--the fourth that CFR on Korea--has published was presented by the panel who were chosen from among the 24 former US officials, assorted advisors, and experts who spent months arguing and discussing its contents.
Straightaway let's state simply and clearly the report's conclusion: the task force is calling for 'rollback'. It rejected three other options it considered, namely, accepting North Korea's demands or managing the six decade headaches that the two Koreas has produced or advocating regime change above the 38 parallel.
Let's now introduce the three men who presented the CFR's Task Force report on Korea:
Scott Snyder, director of the project, on the staff of the Asia Society, and former US department of state apparatchik; Evans Revere, former president of the Korea Society, and former senior state department apparatchik, and now a senior analyst in Madeleine Albright's consultancy, and finally Charles Pritchard, former ambassador to negotiations with the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea aka North Korea] during the Bush 43 administration, former apparatchik on the National Security Council, and senior advisor on Asian affairs during the Clinton years at the White House.
Their bonae fides are exemplary. Each has met North Korean officials and has seen the highs and now the lows of a non starter US policy towards quieting tensions on the divided Korean peninsula during the Bush and now the Obama presidencies.
According to Pritchard's very general and upbeat remarks as to the CFR report, the task force looked towards a heuristic and holistic approach to the matter at hand, be they missiles, nuclear arsenals, relations with China, Japan, and the ROK [Republic of Korea aka South Korea], FTA [Free Trade Agreement] between South Korea and the US, on and on and on.
Now let's consider its conclusion: 'rollback', which was approved by all the members of the Task Force with some minor squiggles of little substantive import. 'Rollback' is a loaded word; it's has the musty odour of Cold War vocablary. That an august task force of Korea experts had to turn the pages of nostalgia to the days of combatting communism, is distressing, to say the least.
The US and its allies had looked to rollback the Iron and Bamboo curtains. It failed to forment uprisings in the 'People's Democracies' in East Europe and tear down the Bamboo curtain in Asia where it met stalemate in Korea and complete defeat in Vietnam.
In fact, the US and its allies that made up the UN forces fighting during the 1950-1953 war in Korea, were themselves 'rolled back' from the Yalu to the 38 parallel by the North Korean and Chinese Volunteer forces.
So, strange as it may seem, the CFR task force is on a war footing by the very vocabulary it chooses to 'advise' the Obama administration on policy toward the divided Korean peninsula.
The experts who sleep cheek to jowl with any administration in the White House, have recycled the old shibbeloths, bromides, and failed approaches of other reports and past disappointments in policy or missed opportunities.
To them, a branch of hope is China. China must and has to do not only put pressure on its DPRK ally but also determine that country's future. A pipe dream if ever there was one. If this blue ribbon panel of Korean experts stretch wildly for such a safety net, there is little hope that anything good can come from its advice or when you come down to it, it seems that for all the collective centuries of experience that the 24 members represent in study, writing, and dealing with Korea, they remain
blinded to reality, and the Report is motivated and they are moulded more by ideology, and remain superficial in understanding.
The DPRK is a fiercely nationalistic state, did not they know? It would not brook overt Chinese interference in its internal affairs. China will not sign on to more and more harsh sanctions and UN resolutions. Apparently secretary of state Hillary Clinton did not get the message during her few days in Beijing in spring 2010, in a sharp rebuke given to the very high level US delegation by a senior PLA [People's Liberation Army] analyst that China's military, he said, has purchase on the maintenance of territorial integrity of the DPRK. Has the US elite forgotten what happened during the Korean war, you have to wonder?
In substance, the report is a dangerous product of the past. It shows no thinking out of the tried and true box. It shies away from dealing with the DPRK.
Pritchard's desire for a holistic solution fails his own words and test. He objects to missiles, he yells at nuclear weapons, say...everything is on the table yes but only in a way which the US has fashioned it. The DPRK has to accept America's conditions and sanctions and scolding and criticism...or else.
Not only are we seeing a harsh cold warrior standpoint, but it's a 'chip on my shoulder' daring North Korea to knock it off. And this at a time when the US is in two failing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It's a lamentable fact that Council of Foreign Relations Task Force report on 'US Policy toward the Korean Peninsula'is irrelvant and ready for the dust heap and the recycle bin, before the printer's ink is hardly dry.
It doesn't say much for America's 'best and brightest' in the field of Korea. At present, we are witnessing the bankruptcy of ideas of America's 'guiding lights'.
And irony of ironies, the president of the CFR in a letter to the 'Wall Street Journal' is calling for engaging the DPRK not rolling it back.