Sunday, July 24, 2005

Where the Right is Right

July 24, 2005
The New York Times
Liberals took the lead in championing human rights abroad in the 1970's, while conservatives mocked the idea. But these days liberals should be embarrassed that it's the Christian Right that is taking the lead in spotlighting repression in North Korea.

Perhaps no country in human history has ever been as successful at totalitarianism as North Korea. Koreans sent back from China have been herded like beasts, with wires forced through their palms or under their collarbones. People who steal food have been burned at the stake, with their relatives recruited to light the match. Then there was the woman who was a true believer and suggested that the Dear Leader should stop womanizing: after she was ordered executed, her own husband volunteered to pull the trigger.

"The biggest scandal in progressive politics," Tony Blair told The New Yorker this year, "is that you do not have people with placards out in the street on North Korea. I mean, that is a disgusting regime. The people are kept in a form of slavery, 23 million of them, and no one protests!"

Actually, some people do protest. Conservative Christians have aggressively taken up the cause of North Korean human rights in the last few years, and the movement is gathering steam. A U.S.-government-financed conference on North Korean human rights convened in Washington last week, and President Bush is expected shortly to appoint Jay Lefkowitz to the new position of special envoy for North Korean human rights.

The problem with the conservatives' approach is that it's great at calling attention to the issues, but some of its methods are flawed and counterproductive. There's talk, for example, of proposing a 25 percent tariff on Chinese goods unless China protects Korean refugees - but a tariff wouldn't help Koreans and would undermine the world economy. Likewise, a campaign by well-meaning activists to help North Korean refugees in China has so far only set off a Chinese crackdown that forced some 100,000 refugees back to North Korea. The conservative approach has generally been a mix of fulmination and isolation, which hurts ordinary Koreans, amplifies Korean nationalism and cements the Dear Leader in place.

Debra Liang-Fenton, executive director of the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, a bipartisan and secular group, agrees that the religious right is more active on this issue, but she wants more liberals to join the campaign as well. Her group is a good place to start:

So can anything be done to help North Koreans? Yes, if liberals stop ceding the issue to conservative Christians. Ultimately, the solution to the nuclear standoff is the same as the solution to human rights abuses: dragging North Korea into the family of nations, as we did with Maoist China and Communist Vietnam.

Our first step should be to talk directly to North Koreans, even invite senior officials to the United States. Many conservatives would accept direct talks, as long as the agenda included human rights (on the model of the Helsinki accords).

Second, we should welcome North Korea's economic integration with the rest of the world. For example, we should stop block\ing Pyongyang's entry into the Asian Development Bank and encourage visits to North Korea by overweight American bankers. In a country where much of the population is hungry, our most effective propaganda is our paunchiness.

Third, we should continue feeding starving North Koreans, while also pushing for increased monitoring. The food is delivered through the U.N. World Food Program in sacks that say, in Korean as well as English, that the food is from America. Nobody has done more to bring about change in North Korea than the World Food Program, which now has 45 foreigners traveling around the country.

Having just returned from North Korea, I see a glimmer of hope, for in Pyongyang you can feel North Korea changing. Free markets are popping up. Two tightly controlled Internet cafes have opened. Special economic zones seek foreign investment. Casinos lure Chinese gamblers. Cellphones have been introduced, with restrictions. The economy has been rebounding since 2001. Plans are under way for a new Orthodox church.

These are modest changes, but they are worth building on. For that to happen, we need two things almost as elusive as North Korean democracy: cooperation between liberals and conservatives, and acknowledgement that our long policy of isolating North Korea has completely failed.


NY Times Editors Caught Red-Handed

The New York Times
July 24, 2005

Other Voices: On Editing, Explanations and Perceptions
In the final paragraph of "When an Explanation Doesn't Explain Enough" (July 17), you refer to "the mistaken perceptions of some readers." Were they really mistaken?

It seems to me that your explanation of this situation confirms the suspicion of "an unusual number of readers" that "a Times editor had tried to put words in the mouth of the reserve Army officer, Capt. Phillip Carter, without his consent."

After all, isn't that exactly what happened? Captain Carter had rejected an editor's suggestions that were included (albeit inadvertently) in the published version of his opinion article. To my eyes, these unauthorized insertions have an anti-Bush bias.

Although I'm no fan of President Bush, I do believe strongly that the strength of our democracy depends in part on a well-informed (broadly defined) citizenry. Necessarily, our citizenry depends on an effective - and ethical - Fourth Estate. In my view, The Times failed us in this case, and the line, "The Times regrets the error," is both trite and inadequate.

Seattle, July 17, 2005

I agree that the editors' note on the Op-Ed page falls far short of being a full explanation. A bigger problem, however, is the question of what should be considered standard give-and-take. The changes made by the editor did not "clarify and improve" - the standard set forth by David Shipley, the Op-Ed page editor. They completely changed the meaning as well as the focus of Capt. Phillip Carter's article.

Given the editorial positions of The Times, it is inevitable that readers will assume the worst: that the editor tried to put words in Captain Carter's mouth. What other possibility is there?

Explaining how it happened is helpful, but I believe readers are entitled to know more. Have the policies regarding "editing" Op-Ed articles been clarified? Has the particular editor been disciplined? If there are no consequences for such actions, what will deter them in the future?

New York, July 17, 2005

Despite your long and confusing explanation, it is clear that an Op-Ed editor's initial proposed insertion into Capt. Phillip Carter's article was made up out of whole cloth before later discussions with the writer. Even though the piece was to be revised based on editors' subsequent conversations with Captain Carter, the initial reaction by the editor who chose this language as the going-in position is indicative of both the inherent bias of this individual editor as well as (I fear) The Times's editorial staff.

The real error here isn't that the wrong piece was run. Rather, it is that the Times editorial board permits editors to think - however fleetingly - that they can change the text and tone of a citizen's opinion to fit their own preconceived political notions.

As a United States Marine reservist who recently served a combat tour in Iraq, I find this incident to be particularly objectionable. No self-serving explanation or apology stating that proper procedures were not followed can hide the apparent lack of candor demonstrated by the editor who initially proposed this language.

Pittsburgh, July 17, 2005

You write: "Captain Carter's message led The Times that same afternoon to propose the textual changes that alluded to the surprise of his call to active duty, the officer said. 'Within 10 minutes' after receiving the changes, he recalled, 'I said, "No way." Those were not words I would have said. It left the impression that I was conscripted.' His call-up was 'not a surprise,' he told me, because he had actually 'volunteered' for mobilization."

I cannot imagine how this turn of events could be interpreted by any reasonable person other than that the editor put his or her words into the mouth of the original author, words that the author immediately and completely disagreed with.

It is clear that those "suggested changes" had nothing to do with clarity and style, but everything to do with the editor's political agenda and bias. It is disappointing that you appear to see it differently.

Marlborough, Mass., July 17, 2005

You have proved beyond any doubt whatsoever that The Times's editorial process is in fact biased. If not, why would the editors even have proposed the textual changes that alluded to the surprise of Capt. Phillip Carter's call to active duty, when he clearly asserts that he was in "no way" surprised?

Is that how editors work - they "propose" the emotional response that the subject of the article ought to have experienced? What do you think the chances are that the editor would have proposed that Captain Carter was "gratified" or "thrilled" to have been recalled to active duty?

Burlington, Vt., July 17, 2005

You do not cite the real problem: the system that encouraged the mistake to happen.

If The Times was going to print the Op-Ed article, it should have done so when the original submission arrived or discarded it in its entirety. The attempt by the editor to help the writer by suggesting clarifications and adding updates and revisions was wrong. If the contributor was not a professional writer, so be it. Let him tell his story his way.

Op-Ed editors should not be tampering with the content of the originals other than correcting spelling or blatant grammatical errors. In the case you describe, there were just too many revisions and communications flying back and forth.

Woodcliff Lake, N.J., July 17, 2005

Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain

July 17, 2005
The New York Times

When an Explanation Doesn't Explain Enough
Corrections Appended

UPHOLDING the journalistic integrity of The New York Times requires a lot of care. Maintaining the perception of journalistic integrity can require even more care.

Mistakes can become a black eye for the paper, especially when established editing procedures and safeguards are bypassed. And even a forthright correction, when crafted without careful attention to the perceptions it may create, can make things worse.

Such a case occurred a little more than a week ago, when this disturbing editors' note appeared in the paper:

"The Op-Ed page in some copies yesterday carried an incorrect version of an article about military recruitment. The writer, an Army reserve officer, did not say, 'Imagine my surprise the other day when I received orders to report to Fort Campbell, Ky., next Sunday,' nor did he characterize his recent call-up to active duty as the precursor to a 'surprise tour of Iraq.' That language was added by an editor and was to have been removed before the article was published. Because of a production error, it was not. The Times regrets the error."

An unusual number of readers were quick to assume - and complain - that a Times editor had tried to put words in the mouth of the reserve Army officer, Capt. Phillip Carter, without his consent. Many saw an anti-Bush bias in the added language.

"How can it be that editors were putting words in the mouth/pen of a contributor, words that completely changed the tone of the piece?" asked Peter Henry of Princeton, N.J. "Mr. Carter's aim was to call upon the President to make direct recruiting pitches. This urging could be read to contain an implicit criticism, yes, but certainly not in the manner akin to what the editor(s) inserted into Mr. Carter's work. What was added by the editor(s) changed the tenor of the contribution and was, in layperson's terms, a bold-faced lie."

Michael J. Painter of San Francisco also had questions: "It's one thing to change a word or phrase for clarity's sake or cut something for brevity, but how can any editor pull such stuff out of thin air and add it to an op-ed piece? An op-ed piece is supposed to reflect the views of the author, not an editor's. I don't get it. What am I missing?"

We must go back to early June to start finding answers to these questions. That's when Captain Carter, then still a lawyer in a San Francisco firm, submitted a 700-word Op-Ed piece that urged President Bush to make a military recruiting speech. The analysis had already been edited when Captain Carter sent an e-mail message to the paper on June 22 that said the Army had "recalled" him for duty in Iraq.

Captain Carter's message led The Times that same afternoon to propose the textual changes that alluded to the surprise of his call to active duty, the officer said. "Within 10 minutes" after receiving the changes, he recalled, "I said, 'No way.' Those were not words I would have said. It left the impression that I was conscripted." His call-up was "not a surprise," he told me, because he had actually "volunteered" for mobilization. (It's not clear when the editors first learned that he had volunteered for active duty.)

An e-mail response from his editor later in the day continued to press for mentioning the call to active duty. "O.K.," it said, according to Captain Carter, "but we need the personal reference. Not only does it make the piece stronger, we otherwise would not be forthcoming with the readers."

In subsequent telephone conversations, Captain Carter told me, "I indicated I would pull the piece before having textual references added." David Shipley, the editor in charge of the Op-Ed pages, confirms the officer's threat. So the version of the article with the suggested "surprise" phrases in the text was cast aside. It was then agreed that a reference to active duty would be included in the author identification that ran with the article.

This sort of give-and-take is standard practice on the Op-Ed pages. "We try to clarify and improve copy," said Mr. Shipley. "We do this for the benefit of our contributors, many of whom are not professional writers. We do not impose language on them - if they want something out or something in, we accede to their wishes. They have final sign-off."

So Captain Carter, who has contributed articles to several publications, approved the final version without the "surprise" phrases - a clearance that is standard practice on the Op-Ed pages. But then came the mistake that the editors' note called a "production error." The editor in charge of the piece accidentally discarded, or "spiked" in the paper's jargon, the cleared final version and instead put the previously rejected copy with the "surprise" phrases on the track for publication. "Unfortunately, we blew it," Mr. Shipley said.

When the editor left on vacation, Captain Carter worked with a second editor to update the article after President Bush's June 28 speech about Iraq. The editor entered the officer's changes in the version of the piece that he found in the lineup of articles awaiting publication, which was the one with the "surprise" sentences. But that version was never sent back to Captain Carter, as a strict adherence to the standards of the Op-Ed pages would seem to require even though all the changes had come from him.

"If the changes are really small, and they're fine, and they're from the author, then it's really just a matter of typing them in correctly," Mr. Shipley said. "In retrospect, of course, I wish we had sent him a final final."

The stage was now set for the hectic events of Tuesday night, July 5. In San Francisco, Captain Carter checked at about 10 p.m. his time to look at his article, headlined "Quiet Man," a reference to the president. Spotting the "surprise" phrases in the article, he immediately called The Times's news desk in New York. "I told them to kill it," he told me in an interview last week.

So the Carter article was yanked out of the paper and an ad for The Times itself was hastily dropped in its place. The article was also removed from until a corrected version could be prepared.

The next morning, Gail Collins, editor of the editorial page, and Mr. Shipley began work on the editors' note, the strongest of the corrective statements The Times publishes. Clearly, they didn't try to minimize the mistakes that had been made. But because they did not take a little more space to explain how the "surprise" phrases had surfaced as part of the give-and-take of the editing and updating process, readers were left to suspect the worst. And that fed perceptions of a serious ethical lapse at The Times.

"It did not occur to me to get into a more detailed explanation of the editorial process," Mr. Shipley said. "In hindsight, maybe I should have added a line or two. It was already pretty long and complicated, though."

Even with this sorting out of the mistakes actually made and the mistaken perceptions of some readers, the doubts about the paper's credibility stirred up by this incident won't be easily erased.

The July 17 public editor column incorrectly reported where Phillip Carter lived and the location of the law firm where he worked before he was called to active Army duty. He lived in Santa Monica, Calif., and the law firm was in Los Angeles.

The public editor serves as the readers' representative. His opinions and conclusions are his own. His column appears at least twice monthly in this section

The Quiet Man

July 6, 2005
The New York Times
Editors' Note

The Op-Ed page in some copies of Wednesday's newspaper carried an incorrect version of the below article about military recruitment. The article also briefly appeared on before it was removed. The writer, an Army reserve officer, did not say, "Imagine my surprise the other day when I received orders to report to Fort Campbell, Ky., next Sunday," nor did he characterize his recent call-up to active duty as the precursor to a "surprise tour of Iraq." That language was added by an editor and was to have been removed before the article was published. Because of a production error, it was not. The Times regrets the error. A corrected version of the article appears below.

* * *

LOS ANGELES — AMERICA is facing a military manpower meltdown. Overwhelmed by the demands in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army has all but used up its emergency recruiting measures: higher enlistment bonuses; more expensive marketing campaigns; even home loans for some recruits. Although the Army recruited its quota for June, it will probably miss its target for the year. Retention is going fairly well, thanks in part to re-enlistment incentives that are tax-free when a soldier re-ups in a combat zone.

The Army has also cycled through hundreds of thousands of reservists and deployed emergency personnel policies like “stop loss” to man its units.

Yet the supply of troops is still dwindling, to such an extent that the Army has now told field commanders to retain soldiers they had been intending to discharge for alcohol and drug abuse. It’s time to call in the heavy artillery: the president of the United States.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, President Bush has made many speeches in support of the global war on terrorism, including his address last week exhorting Americans to stay the course in Iraq. Unfortunately, he has never made a recruiting speech, and his only call to arms came in a fleeting reference at the end of his recent speech. Young Americans (and their parents) need to be told that they have a duty to shoulder the burden of military service when our nation is at war, and that doing so is essential for the preservation of freedom and democracy at home and abroad.

President Abraham Lincoln was able to man the Union Army without conscription for the first two years of the Civil War in large part because of his calls to service. Winston Churchill girded Britain for great sacrifice during World War II with his famous pledge to fight in the streets and on the beaches. Such leaders understood the power of the bully pulpit, and the need for the people to connect their personal sacrifice to a larger national goal.

President Bush’s second inaugural address, with its vision of America’s mission to spread freedom, offers a good platform for a recruiting pitch. And he could broaden his message beyond just military service by calling for young Americans to serve in all areas where their country needs them, from front lines of homeland security to those of inner-city education.

Still, the military is where the need is most acute. Recruiting duty may be the toughest job in the Army today; many recruiting sergeants would probably rather be with a combat unit in Iraq than hitting the high schools in Illinois.

A presidential recruiting speech may not fill every barracks, nor will it induce every old soldier to sign on for another tour, but it would help remind potential soldiers of what we’re fighting for.

Phillip Carter is a lawyer and Army reserve officer who was recently called up to active duty for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

A Sucker Bet

The New York Times
July 17, 2005
PYONGYANG, North Korea

Every single home in this country has two portraits on the wall, one of the Great Leader, Kim Il Sung, who is still president even though he died 11 years ago, and one of his son, the Dear Leader, Kim Jong Il. Inspectors regularly visit homes to make sure the portraits are well cared for.

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Every subway car carries those same two portraits as well, and every adult wears a button depicting the Great Leader. And every home (or village, in rural areas) has an audio speaker, which starts broadcasting propaganda at 6 each morning to tell people how lucky they are.

Children spend long hours in day care centers from the age of 6 months, sometimes returning to their parents only on weekends. Men normally perform seven or more years of military service. Disabled people are sometimes expelled from Pyongyang, a green and well-groomed capital that is one of the prettiest in Asia, because they are considered unsightly.

And although the national ideology is juche, or self-reliance, the U.N. World Food Program feeds 6.5 million North Koreans, almost one-third of the population. Even so, hunger is widespread and has left 37 percent of the children stunted.

Yet North Korea focuses its resources on prestige projects, like an amazing 10-lane highway to Nampo (with no traffic).

Many conservatives in and out of the Bush administration assume that North Korea's population must be seething and that the regime must be on its last legs. Indeed, the Bush administration's policy on North Korea, to the extent that it has one, seems to be to wait for it to collapse.

I'm afraid that could be a long, long wait. The central paradox of North Korea is this: No government in the world today is more brutal or has failed its people more abjectly, yet it appears to be in solid control and may even have substantial popular support.

From a brief visit like mine, it's hard to gauge the mood, because anyone who criticizes the government risks immediate arrest. But Chinese and other foreigners I've spoken to who live in North Korea or visit regularly say they believe that most North Koreans buy into the system, just as ordinary Chinese did during the Maoist period.

Likewise, over the years I've interviewed dozens of North Koreans who have fled to China or South Korea, and they overwhelmingly say that while they personally dislike the regime - that's why they fled - their relatives believe in the Kim dynasty with a quasi-religious faith. They say that when everyone is raised to worship the Dear Leader, when there are no contrary voices, people genuinely revere the leader.

Most say the faith is not as strong as it was a dozen years ago, mostly because so many people have heard whispers of Chinese prosperity. But they still laugh at the idea that the Dear Leader is about to be toppled.

"I think we'll have regime change in America before we have regime change in North Korea," says Han Park, a Korea specialist at the University of Georgia. He estimates that 30 percent of North Koreans have a stake in the system, and that most of the rest know so little about the outside world that they don't realize how badly off they are.

A hermetic seal is the main reason the Kim dynasty has survived so long. When I arrived at Pyongyang airport, I was obliged to hand over my cellphones and satellite phones, to be picked up on my departure. Even many senior government officials have no access to the Internet.

From the moment I landed at the airport, I kept trying to change money. But the airport refused, my hotel refused and shops refused. Foreigners are supposed to pay for everything only in foreign currency and be isolated from the local economy. (Finally, a friendly Korean official - they were all surprisingly friendly, with unexpectedly good senses of humor - gave me a few coins as souvenirs for my children.)

If the American policy premise about North Korea - that it is near collapse - is highly dubious, our essential policy approach is even more so. The West should be trying to break that hermetic seal, to increase interactions with North Korea and to infiltrate into North Korea the most effective subversive agents we have: overweight Western business executives.

Instead, we maintain sanctions, isolate North Korea and wait indefinitely for the regime to collapse. I'm afraid we're helping the Dear Leader stay in power.


Friday, July 15, 2005

Time to Pull Out. And Not Just From Iraq.

The New York Times
July 15, 2005
Cambridge, Mass.

AMERICAN foreign policy should be guided by two general principles: the first is advancing our security and political interests; the second is encouraging prosperity and responsive government for all people. It may be that with our encouragement and example, many countries will choose to adopt democracy and a market economy, presumably adapted to their own culture. Of course, others will follow a very different road for some time, perhaps indefinitely, as ethnic differences, poverty and historical and religious traditions affect and constrain choices.
America embarks on an especially perilous course, however, when it actively attempts to establish a government based on our values in another part of the world. It is one matter to adopt a foreign policy that encourages democratic values; it is quite another to believe it just or practical to achieve such results on the ground with military forces. This is true whether we are acting alone, as is largely the case in Iraq, or as part of an international coalition.
It seems that many in the Bush administration believed that an invasion to topple Saddam Hussein would result in a near spontaneous conversion of Iraq, and with luck much of the Middle East, to democracy. But the notion of intervening in foreign countries to build a society of our preference is not just a Republican or conservative failing. The corresponding Democratic or liberal failing is the view that America has a duty to intervene in foreign countries that egregiously violate human rights and a responsibility to oppose and, where possible, remove totalitarian heads of state. This Democratic rhetoric quickly moves from "peacekeeping" in a country torn by strife to "peacemaking" and to "nation-building."
The Clinton administration's intervention in Bosnia in the mid-1990's is an example of just such a failing: moving from an initial, laudable objective of stopping the Serbian "ethnic cleansing" of Bosnians to a fantastical goal of creating a "multiethnic" society with peaceful coexistence among three groups - Bosnian Muslims, Croats and Serbs - that have a history of enmity.
We should not shirk from quick military action for the purpose of saving lives that are in immediate danger. For example, the decision not to intervene early to prevent mass murder in Rwanda was a major failure. But we should not be lured into intervention that has as its driving purpose the replacement of despotic regimes with systems of government more like our own. It is not that the purpose is unworthy, but rather that it is unlikely to succeed.
Moreover, in trying to achieve regime change or nation-building, we tend to rely on military force rather than diplomacy, trade and economic assistance. The American military, the best in the world, is built to fight and win wars; we can ask the Marine Corps to defeat Republican Guard divisions or destroy rebel strongholds in Falluja, but maintaining local security, brokering political alliances and running local water systems, hospitals, power plants and schools are not major parts of its mission or training. Reshaping our military to take on the activities that the Pentagon euphemistically calls "stability and security" operations will come at a cost - both in terms of potentially compromising the war-fighting capacity of our troops and in diverting the resources needed to support the civic action that underlies nation-building.
If we want to influence the behavior of nations, we would be better served by combining diplomacy with our considerable economic strength. Even North Korea saw the advantages, for a period of time, of constraining (albeit selectively and temporarily) its nuclear weapons activities for the economic benefits that accompanied the "agreed framework" of 1994. More recently, Libya backed off its secret pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, apparently on the sole expectation of economic benefit. The demise of the apartheid regime in South Africa after an embargo showed what sometimes can be done by collective economic action.
So where does that leave us on Iraq? There is a widespread view, even among many who opposed the invasion, that we have a responsibility to keep our troops in place until certain minimum conditions are achieved: some degree of security for the Iraqi people; a reasonable start on stable and representative self-government; and partial reconstruction of the civilian infrastructure. Prompt withdrawal is considered unthinkable by most Republicans and Democrats, because it is difficult to envision a pullout that leaves a peaceful Iraq in its wake and doesn't invite further unrest in the region.
So the expectation is that we will be in Iraq for several more years, perhaps with a somewhat reduced presence, but spending considerable money (more than $1 billion per week) and sacrificing lives ( one dozen to two dozen deaths and serious casualties per week), while working to achieve those minimum objectives required for withdrawal.
THIS conventional view, however, ignores two important questions. The first is, how much are American interests in the Arab world being harmed by our continued presence in Iraq? Second, how much does the United States' presence in Iraq reduce our ability to deal with other important security challenges, notably those posed by North Korea, Iran and international terrorism? Those who argue that we should "stay the course" because an early withdrawal from Iraq would hurt America's global credibility must consider the possibility that we will fail in our objectives in Iraq and suffer an even worse loss of credibility down the road.
I do not believe that we are making progress on any of our key objectives in Iraq. There may be days when security seems somewhat improved or when the Iraqi government appears to be functioning better, but the underlying destabilizing effect of the insurgency is undiminished. When, after the fall of Baghdad, the decision was taken to disband the Iraqi Army, an impossible security situation was created: a combination of hostile ethnic factions supported by demobilized, but armed, military and security units with surrounding nations actively supporting them.
The insurgency cannot be overcome easily by either United States military forces or immature Iraqi security forces. Nor would the situation be eased even if, improbably, the United Nations, NATO, our European allies and Japan choose to become seriously involved.
Our best strategy now is a prompt withdrawal plan consisting of clearly defined political, military and economic elements. Politically, the United States should declare its intention to remove its troops and urge the Iraqi government and its neighbors to recognize the common regional interest in allowing Iraq to evolve peacefully and without external intervention. The first Iraqi election under the permanent constitution, planned for Dec. 15, is an appropriate date for beginning the pullout.
Militarily, we should establish a timetable for reducing the scope of operations that has enough flexibility so as not to provide a tactical advantage to insurgents. We should also plan on continuing measures like no-flight zones, border surveillance, training for Iraqi security forces, intelligence collection and maintenance of a regional quick-reaction force.
Economically, we should define what amount of assistance we are prepared to extend to Iraq as long as it stays on a peaceful path. It would be best if this aid was but one facet of a broader set of economic initiatives to benefit Arab states that advance our interests.
Of course, these measures cannot guarantee a secure and democratic Iraq free of external domination. But they could be first steps of a strategy to pursue America's true long-term interests in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf.

John Deutch, deputy secretary of defense from 1994 to 1995 and director of central intelligence from 1995 to 1996, is a professor of chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Behind Enemy Lines

The New York Times

July 12, 2005
PYONGYANG, North Korea

President Bush and his top officials are studiously pretending not to notice, but here in the most bizarre country in the world, the Dear Leader, Kim Jong Il, is throwing down a nuclear gantlet at Mr. Bush's feet.

Senior North Korean officials here say the country has just resumed the construction of two major nuclear reactors that it stopped work on back in 1994. Before construction resumed, the C.I.A. estimated that it would take "several years" to complete the two reactors, but that they would then produce enough plutonium to make about 50 nuclear weapons each year.

This is the most regimented, militarized and oppressive country in the world, but the government seems very firmly in control. And this new reactor construction, if it is sustained, is both scary and another sign that U.S. policy toward North Korea has utterly failed.

I was able to get a visa to North Korea (after being "banned for life" after my last visit, in 1989, for reasons that remain unclear) by tagging along with The Times's publisher, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., on a visit here. The government arranged for us to interview senior officials, including the vice president, the foreign minister and a three-star general. Officials insist that the new reactors are intended solely to provide energy for civilian purposes - and that in any case, North Korea will never transfer nuclear materials abroad.

Don't bet on that. If Pyongyang gets hundreds of weapons by using the new reactors, there will be an unacceptable risk of plutonium's being peddled for cash.

"If they were to succeed in getting one or the other in operation, that would really change the dynamics of the situation," said Jonathan Pollack, a North Korea expert at the Naval War College.

Kenneth Lieberthal, who ran Asian affairs for a time in the Clinton White House, put it this way: "If they get those two sites up, that then creates the potential for them becoming the proliferation capital of the world."

The Bush administration has refused to negotiate with North Korea one on one, or to offer a clear and substantial package to coax Mr. Kim away from his nuclear arsenal. Instead, Mr. Bush has focused on enticing North Korea into six-party talks. The North finally agreed on Saturday to end a yearlong stalemate and join another round of those talks.

Mr. Bush is being suckered. Those talks are unlikely to get anywhere, and they simply give the North time to add to its nuclear capacity.

Li Chan Bok, a leading general in the North Korean Army, made it clear that even as the six-party talks staggered on, his country would add to its nuclear arsenal.

"To defend our sovereignty and our system," he said, "we cannot but increase our number of nuclear weapons as a deterrent force."

The threat of new reactors coming on line makes it all the more urgent that Mr. Bush try direct negotiations - not only about nuclear weapons but also, as some conservatives are suggesting, about North Korea's human rights abuses.

No one knows whether direct negotiations and a clearer road map of incentives would succeed, but they couldn't fail any more abjectly than the present policy.

The two projects that North Korea is resuming work on are a 50-megawatt reactor in Yongbyon and a 200-megawatt reactor in Taechon. The former is now just a shell that has deteriorated in the years since work was suspended, but Li Gun, a director general in the Foreign Ministry, says work on it may be completed this year or next. The Taechon reactor would apparently take at least two or three years to complete.

It's possible that North Korea is bluffing or is resuming construction only to have one more card to negotiate away. But if not, there will be considerable pressure in the U.S. for surgical military strikes to prevent the reactors from becoming operational.

General Li said that if the U.S. launched a surgical strike, the result "will be all-out war." I asked whether that meant North Korea would use nuclear weapons (most likely against Japan). He answered grimly, "I said, 'We will use all means.' "

So don't let the welcome resumption of the six-party talks distract us from the reality: Mr. Bush's refusal to engage North Korea directly is making the peninsula steadily more dangerous. More than at any time since the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, we are on a collision course with a nuclear power.


Give Us an 'Eclipse Policy'

The Wall Street Journal

July 13, 2005; Page A14

Condoleezza Rice arrived in Seoul yesterday to the news that South Korea had agreed to send its communist neighbor half a million tons of rice as "humanitarian aid." Ms. Rice put the best face possible on the matter, saying the aid did not undercut U.S. policy toward Pyongyang. Perhaps. But it is important to understand that North Koreans are starving not because of a lack of aid from South Korea or the U.S., but because they are deprived of freedom. Giving aid only throws a line to the government, and prolongs starvation, surely a perverse outcome.

Just look at recent history. In 1998, we nearly witnessed the collapse of the Kim Jong Il regime as three million people died of hunger. Bodies lined the streets, malnutrition caused cutbacks in military exercises, and an energy shortage even affected residential areas reserved for central party officials. The North Korean people finally had some hope that the time had come for regime change, or at least for the start of Chinese-style economic reforms. Sensing also that his end was near, Kim in desperation began begging the international community for aid. Then out of the blue, South Korea's government stepped in and saved him and his regime.

South Korean President Kim Dae Jung decided to give assistance to North Korea without demanding in return either an improvement in the human-rights situation or an increase in economic freedoms. Hundreds of millions of dollars were blindly handed over to Kim Jong Il to do with as he pleased. Much aid was diverted to the military and other power organs, reviving them and helping them to consolidate their power.

More than seven years have passed since South Korea began this policy of indiscriminate assistance. How successful has it been? To judge by progress in the country's human-rights situation, or in its willingness to dismantle its nuclear-weapons program, throwing aid at this regime has been demonstrably counterproductive. The human-rights situation has worsened and food shortages remain unabated. As for disarmament talks, Pyongyang has boycotted the negotiating table for more than a year. Supporters of Seoul's "Sunshine Policy" claim that tensions on the peninsula have been eased and that the policy has contributed toward a settlement of peace. This is a bare-faced lie. As the South Korean government sings its peace songs, Kim Jong Il openly declares possession of nuclear weapons.

In compliance with the government's strategy, South Korea's media has turned a blind eye to the truth in North Korea, painting a false picture of reconciliation and cooperation. As a result, the South Korean people are barely aware of the calamity taking place only 25 miles north of Seoul, nor of the atrocities taking place in North Korea's gulag. For nine long years I was one of its 200,000 political prisoners. I can tell you that the true tragedy of North Korea is virtually unknown even in the South.

While North Korea's people long to see the end of Kim Jong Il's misrule, Seoul insists on holding a dialogue, and cooperating, only with our dictator. While we want to see an end to the menace represented by the People's Army, all we hear from President Roh Moo Hyun and his people is, "Do not irritate Kim Jong Il . . . We need to accept the North Korean system . . . We do not want Kim Jong Il's regime to collapse . . . Kim Jong Il is an intelligent leader." These words fill the North Korean people with indescribable anger. On what basis could Seoul claim its right to go beyond the wishes of the North Korean people? It is up to the North Korean people to decide whether or not to accept Kim Jong Il as their leader.

Signs that North Korea is once again on the brink of a collapse abound, which probably is why Pyongyang has demanded the 500,000 tons of rice from Seoul. As in the 1990s, the food crisis is affecting the ruling elite, and there are reports that rations have been cut even in Pyongyang. The demise of Kim Jong Il may come unexpectedly fast. He is running out of time. If his regime is not kept alive with artificial aid, he will not have enough time to blackmail the world with a nuclear-weapons program.

This is why Ms. Rice should remain steadfast in resisting calls by Mr. Roh's government in Seoul to give aid to North Korea. Kim Dae Jung's Sunshine Policy, now being repeated by Mr. Roh, has failed most miserably. If it was a genuine mistake, Ms. Rice and the rest of the Bush administration should try to open eyes in Seoul. If Pyongyang has been manipulating policy behind the scenes, America must react by renewing its determination not to deal with Pyongyang.

George W. Bush, whom I met in the White House last month, knows all of this. His steadfast stance against Kim Jong Il and his love toward my fellow suffering North Koreans is about to give results. The darkest moment of the night is right before dawn. My feeling is that North Koreans will be able to see daylight soon. Now is not the time to give in to North Korea's blackmail or to the general feeling of appeasement that pervades the Seoul government. Now is not the time to give aid, or to agree to bilateral negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea.

Until things change in Seoul, Mr. Bush is the only hope the North Korean people have left. Those who are against him are only going to prolong their suffering.

Mr. Kang, the first person to escape from a North Korean concentration camp, is author of "The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag" (Basic Books, 2001).

Monday, July 11, 2005

Jack's Death, His Choice

July 10, 2005
The New York Times

Jack Newbold is a 59-year-old retired tugboat captain who is dying of bone cancer. It's one of the most painful cancers, and he doesn't want to put his wife and 17-year-old daughter through the trauma of caring for him as he loses control over his body.

So Mr. Newbold faces a wrenching choice in the coming weeks: should he fight the cancer until his last breath, or should he take a glass of a barbiturate solution prescribed by a doctor and put himself to sleep forever? He's leaning toward the latter.

"I've got less than six months to live," he said. "I don't want to linger and put my wife and family through this."

I don't know what I would do if I were Mr. Newbold, nor if I were his wife or daughter (they're both supporting him in any decision he makes). But I do believe that it should be their decision - not President Bush's.

Unfortunately, Mr. Bush is fighting to overturn the Oregon Death With Dignity law, which gives Mr. Newbold the option of hastening his death. Oregon voters twice passed referendums approving the law, which has been used since 1998, and it has wide support in the state.

The Bush administration issued an order that any doctor who issued a prescription under the state law would be prosecuted under federal law. Oregon won an injunction against the order, John Ashcroft lost an appeal, and now the Supreme Court will hear arguments in the fall.

"I'm just grateful I live in the state of Oregon, where we have this option," Mr. Newbold said. "I'm just sorry the John Ashcrofts of the world want to dictate not only how you live, but also how you die. There's nothing more personal, other than childbirth, than passing on."

Mr. Newbold, a Vietnam veteran and former merchant seaman, is funny and blunt, with a flair for nautical language unsuitable for a family newspaper. He started with head and neck cancer. Now cancer is spreading to his bones, disabling him and forcing him to take morphine for pain.

"By God, I want to go out on my own terms," Mr. Newbold said. "I don't want someone dictating to me that I've got to lie down in some hospital bed and die in pain."

Mr. Newbold has started the process of obtaining the barbiturates; two doctors must confirm that the patient has less than six months to live, and the patient must make three requests over at least 15 days. Typically, the drug is secobarbital - the powder is removed from the capsules and mixed into water or applesauce - or pentobarbital, which comes as a liquid. Patients typically slip into a coma five minutes after taking the medication and die within two hours.

Like many patients, Mr. Newbold says that his biggest concern isn't pain so much as the loss of autonomy and dignity. That's partly why he wants the medication on hand - if he feels himself losing the self-control he has prized all his life, he can hasten the process.

"I may never use the medication," he said, "but the knowledge that you have the ability to end it gives you so much relief."

That's common - many patients who get the barbiturates do not in fact use them, but derive comfort from having the choice. Over all, 208 patients over seven years have used the law to hasten death, according to the Compassion in Dying Federation of Oregon, which helps patients work their way through the legal requirements.

When patients use the law, they typically set a date and gather family and friends around them. Those who have witnessed such a parting say it's not as morbid as it may sound.

"It's pretty weird knowing what day you're going to die, but we could plan for it," said Julie McMurchie, whose mother used the barbiturates about a week before she was expected to die naturally of lung cancer. "Two of my siblings lived out of state, and they were able to come, so we were all present. ... We were all there to hug and kiss her and tell her we loved her, and she had some poetry she wanted read to her, and it was all loving and peaceful.

"I can't imagine why anybody would begrudge us that opportunity to say goodbye, and her that opportunity to have peace."

The same applies to Jack Newbold and everyone in his position. Mr. Newbold faces an excruciating choice in the coming weeks, and he's got enough on his mind without the White House second-guessing him.

Back off, Mr. Bush.