Lee and Ling Are Free and Somehow North Korea Won?
Via ThinkProgress, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton observed the safe return of Euna Lee and Laura Ling from North Korea by saying, “I worry that the outcome is a lot better for North Korea than for the United States. I mean this is a classic case of rewarding bad behavior.”
Let’s see: the United States got back two imprisoned Americans. The North Koreans got a photo op with former President Bill Clinton. Right now, Clinton, former Vice President Al Gore, Lee and Ling are finishing up remarks on a Los Angeles tarmac. There is no sense in which this outcome is “better” for North Korea. If Bolton wants to sit down with the Lee and Ling families and tell them that their daughters’ freedom wasn’t worth a few snapped pictures, that’s his right, but I wonder what their response would be.
Perhaps a better way of thinking of the situation is that there really are cases where diplomacy can succeed at minimal cost. If North Korea feels like it won something by the Clinton visit, fine. No minimally serious cost/benefit assessment can result in a conclusion that the United States lost more than it gained here. Letting the North feel like it gained something when it didn’t isn’t rewarding bad behavior. It’s basic diplomatic savvy.