Absolutely. You have also mentioned the importance of alliances, and how fostering present relationships and creating new ones is absolutely essential for the United States. Given your emphasis on alliances, and the present situation with North Korea and Iran where there are divisions in the Security Council about what resolutions should be passed, how, if you were in power, would you address these differences?
I would like to think that we wouldn't be in quite the same position!
I'm sure you wouldn't actually.
I think it's important to focus on that because the situation might very well have been different. I think most administrations probably would have continued along the lines of the Clinton administration in direct engagement with North Korea-having conversation, discussion, diplomacy, secret and otherwise, to try to figure out what set of circumstances and conditions would make it more likely rather than less that they would pursue a nuclear program. What we've done with non-engagement, with hiding behind the six-party talks, is that we've enabled North Korea to go from a country that may have had the capacity to produce one or two nuclear weapons but lacked the capacity to sell, transfer, or sign those weapons to someone who might use them, to a country that now has the capacity perhaps to produce as many as ten. At that point they are freer, if you will, to consider negotiation, sale, transfer of the technology of the items themselves. So direct engagement would and should have been pursued, and had it been pursued, perhaps we could have gotten the agreement that was struck in the early 1990s back on track and potentially could have expanded it.
In terms of discussions today, it is incumbent upon America to point out to China that the current situation with North Korea is in neither their best interest nor ours. It's clearly not in anyone's best interest to have a calculating dictator armed with the capacity to sell nuclear weapons, whose economy in the past has been based in part on black marketing of weapons, dope and currency, with the capacity to do the same with a nuclear bomb. It's not in China's best interest because now the equation's a bit different for Japan. Japan has expressed a decision at this point not to pursue their own nuclear program, but there's now a reawakening of militarism within Japan which I'm sure China is not particularly thrilled with. Why is that reawakening happening? Well, because North Korea fired a missile off. Maybe it was a dud, but nevertheless they fired it off, and they appear to have tested a nuclear weapon. So the ability to point out to China why it's in their best interest to work in concert with us to neutralize North Korea and the threat they produce, I think, is important. You'd have a two-track process where the United States is directly connecting with and talking to North Korea, and reassuring them and China that it's not our intent to necessarily change the regime. So long as it's our intent to change the regime in North Korea, it's going to be virtually impossible to get the Chinese to the table in a meaningful way, because they don't want the consequences of regime change. They don't want millions of refugees pouring over their border, creating more problems for them. If we're really serious about solving this problem, we have to be engaged in a different way.
What about Iran?
It also true with regard to Iran that our failure to engage and to talk has created a much more difficult and troublesome situation. When President Bush designated by name Iran, North Korea and Iraq as the axis of evil, it was a huge mistake. It's one thing to talk about characteristics of states and nations that you don't particularly agree with. It's something else again to single out three specific nations, then invade one of those nations and knock out in three weeks an army that their neighbor fought to a draw for 10 years. Now if you're the folks on the other side of the border, what common-sense conclusion could you reach? You've been designated, you've been linked, the country next to you has been invaded, and an army that you couldn't beat was defeated in a relatively short period of time. Again, we need to engage in diplomacy and conversation with Iran. What Iran may want is recognition internationally as a player in the region. Again, there's a notion that we're trying to change the regime. We need to work with a number of countries, including Russia and other international powers, to reassure Iran that it's not our intent to change their regime. If we can reassure them that it's our intent to figure out a way in which they can have international respect and recognition-in exchange for recognition of Israel's right to exist, the ability to work with them to produce a more stable Iraq, and the ability to work with them to empower moderates and isolate extremists in the Islamic world-then it's in their best interest and ours to do so.