November 29, 2010
Carter's RazorBy Jonathan F. Keiler
Occam's razor is the philosophical doctrine that suggests that the best solution to a problem is usually the simplest. But Occam's razor can't always cleanly cut -- to mix metaphors -- every complex Gordian's Knot of America's foreign policy. And when it comes to handling matters in the Korean Peninsula, and particularly regarding the northern half's nutty, well-armed, and dangerous regime, there is no simple solution.
That said, there are things that the United States probably should not do. These can be determined in the case of Korea -- and with regard to many other foreign policy problems -- by using Carter's razor. Named for the failed 39th U.S. president and worst ex-president in the nation's history, Carter's razor rest on the sound assumption that doing the opposite of whatever James Earl Carter prescribes will probably place American foreign policy on the right track, or very close to it. Fans of "Seinfeld" may quickly appreciate the power of "doing the opposite," but even those previously unfamiliar with the concept should have no trouble acknowledging its utility in this case.
North Korea's deliberate and unprovoked artillery attack on South Korea's Yeongpyeong Island, which killed four South Koreans and wounded a score of others, got President Obama up at 3:55 a.m., the phone call that Hillary Clinton claimed she was uniquely qualified to handle. Having taken the call, Obama (with Hillary at his side), once again has an opportunity to weaken America's position in the world. Will he take it?
Ex-President Carter certainly wasted no time pushing Obama in the direction of craven appeasement. Writing in the Washington Post barely a day after the guns fell silent -- for now -- Carter urged that Obama listen to North Korea.
Listening to America's enemies is a hallmark of Carterism. Carter listens like a prison psychiatrist listens to hardened criminals, but without the psychiatrist's appreciation that the patients are dangerous and manipulative psychopaths. Carter embodies liberalism's conceit that criminals, cheats, malingerers, and malcontents are not really bad, just misunderstood.
So since the key hallmark of Carter's razor is doing the opposite, the first thing we should do is not listen to North Korea's regime. Listening to a government that lies, cheats, and operates based on motivations even Carter concedes "no one can understand" is a complete waste of time, reduces the stature of the United States, and rewards the regime for what are frankly its murderous policies.
Carter further advises that his own one-on-one diplomacy with the North Koreans during the Clinton administration, to restrict reprocessing plutonium fuel rods, produced "positive results." North Korea celebrated Carter's success by detonating a plutonium bomb and now has at least seven plutonium-based nuclear weapons. Carter blames this on George W. Bush for his "complete rejection of nuclear explosives" in North Korean hands.
Presumably, according to Carter, this complete rejection led the North Koreans to produce the weapons. So are we to assume that Carter and Clinton didn't completely reject the prospect of a North Korean bomb? If that was the case, what was the point of Carter's diplomatic mission?
Even Carter admits that despite his "successful" diplomacy, North Korea violated the "agreed framework" and began acquiring enriched uranium in order to produce a uranium device. They evidently did this -- in Carter's confused telling -- while not developing a plutonium device. At least until they did.
So, using Carter's razor, we know that another thing that must not be done under any circumstances is to send Jimmy Carter back to North Korea to negotiate another "framework."
Probably President Obama -- or at least "3 a.m. Hillary" -- should have known this. Nonetheless, they sent Carter to Korea this past July, ostensibly to secure the release of a wrongly detained American citizen, and evidently to sound out the North Koreans on reaching some sort of accord regarding their continued aggressive arms programs. Carter relayed the North's desire for a "denuclearized Korean Peninsula." In other words, a return to the status quo before the North nuclearized the peninsula. This, of course is just nonsense, which even Obama may have understood.
So according to Carter's razor, we know that Carter should not be used even to deliver messages to or from the North Koreans.
Finally, Carter advises that North Korea is willing to end its nuclear programs and conclude a permanent peace treaty to replace the armistice from 1953.
Using Carter's razor, we know that the first proposition is an outright lie -- because Jimmy Carter believes it.
The second proposition sounds nice -- and it perhaps thrills the ex-president as Rosalynn once did -- but it is merely a euphemism for acknowledging the legitimacy of the murderous, incompetent, and conniving North Korean regime. Carter would support this. Therefore, America should not.
I'm no Korea expert, and I don't presume to know exactly what the United States should do vis-à-vis North Korea and, more importantly, its powerful Chinese patron. But at least thanks to Carter's razor, I know a few things we should not do. Hopefully, the peanut farmer from Plains will keep running his mouth -- and if history is any guide, he will. Then at least we'll have some guidance as to what our worst options are.