Byline: THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Nobody complains when the U.S. or British navies fire a Trident intercontinental missile at the Eastern Test Range off the Florida coast, as a Demonstration And Shakedown Operation. And this is a nuclear-armed, operationally-deployed missile that has been both explicitly targeted at other nations with nuclear weapons and implicitly targeted at states without nuclear weapons (e.g. "no options are off the table" for Iran).
So why all the fuss when North Korea tests its missiles? The West is understandably irked by its use of missile and nuclear related activities as diplomatic bargaining chips to extort economic aid. But before Washington panics, it should remember that Pyongyang has few alternatives.
The Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK) has faced severe economic crisis for two decades and its embryonic attempts at economic reform as part of Kim Jong-il's Sunshine Policy, modeled after and intermittently encouraged by China, have done little to address the crisis. Instead, matters continue to worsen.
The Stalinist command economy and the personality cult of the "Dear Leader" are not good foundations for a free market hyperinflation, caused by an emerging tolerance of smuggling and private enterprise, has made life more difficult for the already starving people of the DPRK, who might look back at the previous rationing with fondness.
The North Korean situation is often characterized as intractable. It may be true that there is no ideal answer, but a failure to identify a solution seems to be a failure of willingness to address the fundamental problems and a failure of imagination to envision a successful future.
When it comes to conceiving a North Korean solution, the West led by the United States is more worried about the means than the ends. It does not want to be seen rewarding the bully tactics of Pyongyang nuclear extortion. Nor does it want to support a communist state with a rogue regime.
But what futures can we envision for a peaceful outcome? What are the red lines that Pyongyang and the international community won't cross? For Pyongyang, regime survival is key. It is also likely that Oriental traditions of saving face and Kim Jong-il's principle of Juche (self-sufficiency) the country's official ideology (or political religion) would play a big part in securing a long-term peace.
The West might like to see regime change and democracy. And in the absence of revolution will push for nuclear disarmament. Many would see reunification with South Korea in a democratic Korea as an ideal outcome. But there seems no room for a negotiated compromise as things stand today.
Can we look to history for some clues? Can we draw parallels from the revolutions against monarchs of 18th century Europe, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the Soviet Union or the postwar transformation of Japan? While each hints at conditions and strategies likely to prompt change there are some important elements missing: Unlike post-Renaissance Europe, there has been no enlightenment in North Korea. …