Opinion

Graham Allison’s Yellow Submarine And American Blue Meanies

Graham Allison of Harvard University’s Belfer Center argues for restraint and cooperation with Iran as the best means of securing and successfully implementing the nuclear deal now before the U.S. Congress. For evidence supporting his idea, he points to the Clinton- era 1994 Agreed Framework deal with North Korea, another deal that did not require congressional approval as a treaty would but did require Congress to subsequently help implement the deal.

Allison says such deals represent the right kind of road to travel with Iran, too. He claims North Korea built zero nuclear weapons during the Clinton era of cooperation represented by the Agreed Framework but switched and built nuclear weapons during the Bush administration which he claims had adopted a failed policy of confrontation with Pyongyang.

Let’s examine the facts.

North Korea’s record of terrorism against the United States and its allies is not perhaps as well known as that of Iran, but nonetheless there has been no “restraint or cooperation” on the part of Pyongyang including in its nuclear program.

North Korea made the decision in 1998 — during Allison’s so-called time era of cooperation — to violate the Agreed Framework as well as every other nuclear agreement they had ever signed — five in all. That’s every agreement they had signed dealing with proliferation and nuclear activity.

As my colleague and former boss Lt Gen Mike Dunn, (past President of the National Defense University and the Air Force Association, and retired from being Vice Director for Strategic Plans and Policy for the Joint Staff in Washington, D.C.) explains: “This decision came before Madeline Albright’s visit in 2000. At the same time as Albright was toasting North Korea and making plans for a Presidential visit, they were acquiring and spinning centrifuges in violation of the Agreed Framework, the IAEA agreement, the North-South Denuclearization Agreement, and the Basic Agreement.”

He further notes: “Even more ominous, NK was cooperating with Iran, Pakistan, and Syria to spread nuclear and missile technology beyond the Peninsula. By the middle of 2000, NK had embarked on the largest military build-up since the beginning of the Korean War. They increased the number of troops along the DMZ by 100,000. They increased the number of artillery pieces along the DMZ by one-third. They increased the number of long-range artillery — those that could reach Seoul — by 75%.”

General Dunn admits “some in the Clinton Administration thought these increases were defensive in nature. I did not agree. An Army does not deploy its artillery in front of its infantry in a defensive mode. They were also exercising their forces more than at any time. Their readiness was as good as or greater than it had ever been.”

Dunn says the facts prove Allison wrong. As he wrote to me on July 12, 2014,  “Additionally, North Korea had active production lines of aircraft, ships, subs, ballistic missiles, artillery, tanks, and other military equipment.”

He further wrote: “During that time, they repeatedly refused to meet with me in Panmunjom to discuss confidence building measure and other programs to reduce tensions. They engaged in military actions numerous times … To include firing on South Korean ships in international waters, firing shots across the DMZ, infiltrating Special Forces by submarine into South Korea, and other acts of war. The more we sought to talk, the more bellicose they became.”

In fact, as former Secretaries of Defense Les Aspin and William Perry both told Congress, their best estimate was that North Korea had produced between 1-2 nuclear weapons by the early to mid-1990s. When the North Koreans admitted cheating on the October 21, 1994 “Agreed Framework” deal between the U.S. and North Korea, the Bush 43 administration did stop fuel shipments, which initiated the “formal” end of the deal on the U.S. side. But the North had imploded the deal already with its serial cheating.

But a few years later, the Bush administration led six party talks that concluded in at least three instances — September 2005, February 2007 and October 2007 — agreements with the North to begin the process of denuclearizing the Korean peninsula. So while the Agreed Framework was null and void, the administration did continue to seek a cooperative, diplomatic avenue to denuclearize. And in addition to that, in late 2008, the Bush administration took North Korea off the “state sponsor of terror” list.

But this “cooperative effort” — seemingly missed by Allison — was met with a new list of North Korean demands on January 13th 2009, at the very end of the Bush administration but for all intents and purposes intended for the incoming administration. This included the threat that the North would “never denuclearize.”

On January 22, 2009, just days after the Obama administration took office, and just nine days after the demands of the 13th of January statement, unclassified images of the North Korean missile launch facilities showed preparations for a missile test. This was followed in May 2009 with a nuclear weapons test, even after the new administration had emphasized, repeatedly, during the campaign and in the few short months in office, they were willing and able to meet “unconditionally” with rogue states, including the North,  with an “outstretched hand” to reach a nuclear deal. At this time intelligence analysts still thought North Korea had only a few nuclear weapons.

It was only after the missile test and nuclear weapons test in early 2009 and subsequent bellicose North Korean behavior  that the Obama administration turned to support the implementation of the toughest sanctions on North Korea to date. Despite the new President’s offer of dialogue and cooperation, and despite the Bush administration’s second term policy of talk and engagement, North Korea continued to test missiles, support terrorist states like Iran and Syria, and expand their nuclear capability to where China now estimates they have upwards of 20 such bombs.

In short, like Al Capone, the Blue Meanies of Pyongyang do not care who or how nice the Police Commissioner is. The DPRK is simply a crime family, masquerading as a nation state. Conciliation means nothing to them except a posture to take advantage of.

But instead of drugs, sex slaves, gambling or extortion, this crime family in North Korea deals in terrorism, nuclear weapons and the ballistic missiles to deliver them. And as a partner with the Islamic State of Iran, that should be serious business. No matter who lives in the Yellow Submarine.