Maddow and Clemons Discuss North Korea and Imperative of Getting Obama Asia Team in Place


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Fun clip on Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC show tonight.
But the serious part is that we really don’t need a replay of North Korea mismanagement at the beginning of the Obama administration like we had at the beginning of the George W. Bush administration.
Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Chriistopher Hill did a great job pushing forward a complex array of promising initiatives in the Six Party Talks — and since he resigned and began the process of getting himself over to Iraq as America’s new ambassador there, things have gone down hill.
It’s time to get the rumored long enough nominee Kurt Campbell, who was the Founding CEO of the Center for a New American Security, officially appointed as Hill’s successor and confirmed.
— Steve Clemons


15 comments on “Maddow and Clemons Discuss North Korea and Imperative of Getting Obama Asia Team in Place

  1. kotzabasis says:

    It was a thought experiment and you missed its point.
    You are digressing into ‘softer areas’ from your previous posts and I’ve nothing to add. Piracy now has become to you an ‘economic’ issue and merely an “extended nuisance” and entertaining vaudeville, “media-pants wetting.”


  2. Dan Kervick says:

    “Just a thought experiment. If one had credible intelligence of a high concentration of pirates on land that by hitting them one would have inflicted upon them a devastating blow from which they could never recover, it would be utterly doltish not to use such an opportunity that would shorten the war and overall casualties just because it could entail that some innocent people would be killed.”
    This sort of scenario paints an unrealistic picture of the pirates as some kind of “pirate army” that is best countered by attrition of their numbers until they surrender. I don’t think it works that way. The pirates are fishermen, who have taken to using their fishing trawlers to mount pirate attacks. Piracy in the Gulf of Aden has become a lucrative profession, and people will continue to pursue that profession as long as it remains lucrative. There is no fixed supply of pirates, just as there is no fixed supply of investment bankers. There is no pirate army to defeat.
    We can’t bomb all the fishermen in Somalia, nor would that make sense. There is simply no need for this kind of overkill. The pirates attacked a US-flagged ship earlier this month, and that mistake resulted in an extended nuisance, the rescue of the captain, a week of media pants-wetting, three dead pirates and one captured pirate. This outcome is going to have a deterrent effect, and the pirates were dealt with out on the water. With stepped up resources and commitment, we can turn this piracy business into a non-viable enterprise.


  3. kotzabasis says:

    Dan Kervick
    Lawless people are not concerned with what MIGHT HAPPEN to them if they break the law, but, as you correctly say, by the “actual infliction of the harsh penalties’ imposed upon them, and I would add in this case wherever they are, on sea or land. It would be strategically foolish and inutile to confine one’s tactical operations solely on the “high seas” as well as reveal one’s tactics to one’s enemy. Just a thought experiment. If one had credible intelligence of a high concentration of pirates on land that by hitting them one would have inflicted upon them a devastating blow from which they could never recover, it would be utterly doltish not to use such an opportunity that would shorten the war and overall casualties just because it could entail that some innocent people would be killed.
    I used the “draw of the gun” figuratively, not that you said it, in response to your “stagecoach” post, that if you draw it you have to shoot your deadly foe wherever he is, even in a ‘crowded street.’
    War has too many imponderables to compute them beforehand with algorithmic precision. McNamara’s “fog of war” is the constant condition. That is why people, and even professional soldiers, avoid it justifiably like the plague. But once one has decided to ‘unsheathe the sword’ then like the “feudal knights one has to make mincemeat of one’s enemies and leave morality to the clergy,” to quote the great Austrian writer Robert Musil.


  4. Dan Kervick says:

    “These are LAWLESS people that no law will ever restrain their actions.”
    You seem to be confusing enforcement of the rule of law with respect for the law, Kotzabasis. Obviously, these pirates have no motivation to obey the law simply because it is the law. They are not law-abiding people.
    For such people, reassertion of the rule of law always requires the imposition of harsh, credible penalties. Some percentage might be deterred by the mere credible threat of these penalties. But others will only be prevented from violating the rules of the road on the high seas by the actual infliction of the penalties.
    I didn’t say that we should draw the gun and not use it. I said that in this case it seems likely that whatever force needs to be applied can be applied away from land, and away from innocent people. Yes, sometimes innocent people are killed in justifiable actions. But we shouldn’t recklessly endanger innocent lives just to prove our “will” or “mettle”, not when we can bring the required force to bear without endangering those innocents.
    While the pirates aren’t motivated by respect for international rules, they are, as you have pointed out, motivated by profit. As it becomes less and less likely for the pirates that they will profit from attempted acts of piracy, and more and more likely that they will lose their lives or liberty, their banditry will be brought to an end.


  5. kotzabasis says:

    Dan Kervick
    Of course you don’t have “to exterminate all the bandits,” and your “cost-benefit analysis” is a perfect measure that would end such banditry. But to reach that measure that would deter the pirates from practicing their deadly enterprise one cannot do it by “half-measures.” It would be a half-measure to draw the gun and not shoot at your enemy. However, your “rule of law” is not a half-measure but NO MEASURE at all. These are LAWLESS people that no law will ever restrain their actions.
    I’m afraid you are too well- intentioned and too replete with humane genes that disqualify you from being a pragmatic strategist in deadly conflicts. No war has ever being fought clinically without the spilling of innocent blood. The price of freedom and the continuation of a civilized society at times is quite high. Nothing of great value is costless. The question always is whether people have the sagacity, the will, and mettle to pay the price.
    Paul Norheim
    This is a ‘straitjacket’ detachment from reality Paul. An “excellent illustration” that totally destroys your fabricated ‘paradox” is Iraq that by indisputable statistics shows that more civilians were killed by “irregular elements” i.e., by terrorists, than by the regular army of the U.S. and its allies. And to infer, sarcastically, that Americans don’t kill intentionally because that would give them “bad PR,” is to denigrate shamefully U.S. armed personnel who have been trained not to kill civilians, unlike the terrorists who are trained to kill them deliberately. .


  6. Dan Kervick says:

    I may have misinterpreted you. There are some people who have recently advocated the *intentional* targeting of the pirates’ towns and kin in order to teach the pirates a lesson. You instead seem to be advocating going after the pirates themselves, and regard whatever happens to the communities around them as collateral damage brought on by the pirates decision to live among other people.
    I appreciate that when you talk about “exterminating the scourge of piracy”, you are only logically implying that it is the scourge that must be exterminated, not the people. I hope that’s all you mean. Because as for the people themselves, I think experience with banditry shows that it is by no means necessary to exterminate all the bandits – even if such a thing were possible – in order the deter them from banditry. It is only necessary to change the cost-benefit analysis with which they operate. When it becomes to hard to profit from banditry, and too risky, the banditry ends.
    This isn’t a half-measure. It is just a question on of re-asserting the rule of law without inflicting more death and pain on our fellow human beings than is necessary.
    Unlike the case with some terrorists perhaps, the pirates do not hide continually among civilian populations plotting their crimes. They frequently float around in boats on the open ocean. Thus, if they are to be targeted for attack, there is no excuse for not targeting them when they are out there on the high seas, away from innocent people. If one can kill or apprehend some transgressor in a way that doesn’t risk the lives of innocents, then one should do so. It is not relevant whether we can pin the “fault” for the innocent deaths on the wrongdoer. What is relevant is that we avoid causing absolutely unnecessary deaths, whomever is to be assigned the ultimate fault for those deaths.
    Let’s not build these bandits up into something more than they are. What is needed now is stepped-up global policing of international shipping lanes, and that calls for increased levels of economic, manpower and intelligence commitment. The pirates are not an army, and civilization isn’t crumbling. We just need to invest more resources than we have previously.


  7. Paul Norheim says:

    A comment to the exchange between Kotzabasis and Dan
    Kotzabasis says:
    “I’m however surprised that you so facilely assuming that these
    raids will INTENTIONALLY be killing women and children. The
    latter will be killed only if the pirates adopt the tactics of the
    terrorists and use women and children as human shields.”.
    Of course no single innocent human being will be killed
    intentionally by the Americans (that would be bad PR). But if you
    attack by “relentless means, i.e., by air and commando raids the
    Somali towns from which piracy stems”, much more innocent
    civilians are likely to die than those killed by pirates.
    This is an excellent illustration of a certain paradox, namely
    between those “irregular” elements who target non-combatants
    (or, in direct terrorist operations: civilians), and a regular army
    targeting the enemy in ways that inevitably kill a lot of civilians,
    not because they are targets, but because the regular army
    decides to target the enemy by means that often, and inevitably,
    kill more civilians than the irregular elements (pirates/terrorists)
    When you look at the tactics and outcome of some recent
    events (like the Israeli attack in Gaza, and the Sri Lanka`n army
    against the Tamil Tigers), it is indeed very difficult to
    distinguish between “terrorists (who) use women and children
    as human shields”, and states who send their armies to kill
    indiscriminately. If you look at statistics regarding the
    percentage of civilians killed in wars during the last hundred
    years, you would come to the conclusion that the respect for
    civilian lives seem to have diminished drastically – regardless of
    terrorists, guerillas, or pirates. The regular armies and the
    politicians behind them have their significant share in this
    There is no point in mentioning Dresden, Hiroshima, and
    Nagasaki to prove that: Iraq is a fresh example.
    How many innocent civilians did Saddam Hussein kill? And how
    many innocent civilians did Clinton and Bush kill –
    To me it`s always been difficult to distinguish between terrorist
    methods and Kotzabasis`”relentless means”. For poor, innocent
    women and children, hit unintentionally, I would imagine that
    this distinction would make no sense.


  8. kotzabasis says:

    Dan Kervick
    Thanks for your intellectually amicable and positive response to my post. I’m however surprised that you so facilely assuming that these raids will INTENTIONALLY be killing women and children. The latter will be killed only if the pirates adopt the tactics of the terrorists and use women and children as human shields. So if there is no intentional killing my ‘honor’ and ‘chivalry’ are not besmirched.
    Moreover, if you are prepared to put ‘stagecoach shotguns’ and send “out posses to track and engage the bandits” then you have to go the whole hog. You cannot exterminate the scourge of piracy by HALF MEANS or by chivalric ones.


  9. Dan Kervick says:

    I agree in part with C-G Kotzabasis’s assessment. We certainly can’t wait for the restoration of the ability (and inclination) of Somalis to police their own territory and to take action against pirates. Somalia is the most failed and dysfunctional of failed states. I also agree that the linchpin of the problem is that piracy in that part of the world is extremely lucrative. The piracy won’t end until piracy is made an ill bargain for the pirates.
    But, given that assessment, I have a different view on the best means for addressing the problem, and the chances of success of a coordinated international response.
    Yes, the area to be policed is very large. But this isn’t a matter of just sailing around hoping to encounter pirate ships, or hoping to be in the right place at the right time. I assume we have the ability to identify and track most of the ships belonging to these pirates, to share the needed information (though not the sources and methods) with merchant vessels, and to direct force where it is needed in a timely way, especially if we have a larger multinational force of ships in the area. I am also assuming that some of the tagging and tracking means available are clandestine, and are unlikely to be discussed in public.
    I also suspect that the economic and other hurdles that need to be cleared so that merchant ships can better defend themselves can be cleared quickly with vigorous, multinational government involvement.
    I am somewhat shocked that Kotzabasis would recommend air raids on the home towns of the Somali pirates. No honorable man would defend the intentional killing of the women and children of one’s adversaries as a means of deterring those adversaries. I thought C-G was more chivalrous than that.
    Maybe it’s an old-fashioned American outlook based on too many cowboy movies, but I was brought up to believe there were certain acceptable and unacceptable ways of handling these kinds of problems with banditry. Arming and funding more people to ride shotgun on the stagecoach is certainly called for. And sending out posses to track and engage the bandits, and either apprehend or kill them, is also appropriate and in bounds. But sending people to shoot up the towns and encampments where the bandits’ families are located? Not OK.


  10. Don Bacon says:

    the NK situation ratchets up:
    U.N. nuclear inspectors leave North Korea
    Seals are removed and cameras switched off at a nuclear plant.,0,1329298.story?track=rss
    This ought to push pirates of the Gulf off the front page.


  11. Steve Clemons says:

    Don — Thanks for MoonOfAlabama’s great NK resource page.


  12. Don Bacon says:

    Some history on US foreign relations with North Korea from Moon of Alabama.


  13. kotzabasis says:

    Somali piracy needs speedy, decisive, and relentless action by the U.S. and its European allies. To wait for the ability of Somalis “to police their own territory” and Somali leaders “to take action against pirates,” involved in such a profitable enterprise in a POOR country, is to flight in the face of reality. Not to mention their military incapacity even if they were willing to do so.
    Further, an increase of vessels and a better coordination is totally inadequate to police such a huge “expanse of ocean” as Secretary Clinton herself remarks. To pursue such a policy as Secretary Clinton delineates is to pursue a chimera. What the U.S. and its allies must do is to attack by relentless means, i.e., by air and commando raids the Somali towns from which piracy stems, and at the same time placing the requisite armaments on merchant ships that will protect them from any approaching pirate vessels. No amount of “CARROTS” will dissuade the pirates to desist and stop them, repeat, from such LUCRATIVE business in such impoverished country. Only their decisive military defeat will persuade them to do so.


  14. Steve Clemons says:

    Mr Murder — you are darn right it is time. I am going to a Law of the Seas briefing this morning by Caitlyn Antrim at the Stimson Center coincidentally.
    best, steve


  15. Mr.Murder says:

    Time for that Law of the Sea treaty upgrade, Steve?
    SECRETARY CLINTON: “But before I turn to the important issues that we discussed today about Haiti, I’d like to take a moment to discuss an issue that affects us all, and that is the scourge of piracy. The attempted capture of the Maersk Alabama and the attack yesterday on the Liberty Sun off the coast of Somalia are just the most recent reminders that we have to act swiftly and decisively to combat this threat. These pirates are criminals. They are armed gangs on the sea. And those plotting attacks must be stopped, and those who have carried them out must be brought to justice.
    Last weekend, we were all inspired by the courage and heroism of Captain Phillips and his crew, and by the bravery and skill of the U.S. Navy. These men are examples of the best that America has to offer. And I salute and thank them. But now it falls to us to ensure that others are not put into a similar situation. As I said last week, we may be dealing with a 17th century crime, but we need to bring 21st century solutions to bear.
    I want to commend the work that this Department’s anti-piracy task force has already done, along with their counterparts throughout our government. In the past several months, we have seen the passage of a robust United Nations Security Council resolution, a multinational naval deployment, improved judicial cooperation with maritime states and an American-led creation of a 30-plus member International Contact Group to coordinate our efforts.
    But we all know more must be done. The State Department is actively engaged with the White House and other agencies in pursuing counter-piracy efforts, both unilaterally and in concert with the international community. This Friday, a steering group that includes State, the Department of Defense, the Department of Justice, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Homeland Security, and the intelligence community, will meet to consider recent events and potential responses.
    This week, the State Department is taking four immediate steps as we move forward with a broader counter-piracy strategy. But let me underscore this point: The United States does not make concessions or ransom payments to pirates. What we will do is first send an envoy to attend the international Somali peacekeeping and development meeting scheduled in Brussels. The solution to Somali piracy includes improved Somali capacity to police their own territory. Our envoy will work with other partners to help the Somalis assist us in cracking down on pirate bases and in decreasing incentives for young Somali men to engage in piracy.
    Second, I’m calling for immediate meetings with our partners in the International Contact Group on Piracy to develop an expanded multinational response. The response that came to our original request through the Contact Group for nations to contribute naval vessels has turned out to be very successful. But now we need better coordination. This is a huge expanse of ocean, four times the size of Texas, so we have to be able to work together to avoid the pirates. We also need to secure the release of ships currently being held and their crews, and explore tracking and freezing pirate assets.
    Third, I’ve tasked a diplomatic team to engage with Somali Government officials from the Transitional Federal Government as well as regional leaders in Puntland. We will press these leaders to take action against pirates operating from bases within their territories.
    And fourth, because it is clear that defending against piracy must be the joint responsibility of governments and the shipping industry, I have directed our team to work with shippers and the insurance industry to address gaps in their self-defense measures. So we will be working on these actions as well as continuing to develop a long-term strategy to restore maritime security to the Horn of Africa.”


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