Posted at 9:10 AM Aug 07, 2009
By Geoff George
So, on Tuesday Bill Clinton went to North Korea and visited with Kim Jong-il and must've said something right, because he ended up coming back with Laura Ling and Euna Lee, the two Current TV journalists who were arrested and sentenced to 12 years of hard labor on grounds of entering North Korea illegally (though I'm sure being Americans with video cameras in hand didn't help).
Even as we all pop the champagne and pin up the "Welcome Back" signs, though, there's this weird faction of party crashers concerned with how the negotiation is going to look in certain international circles. One of the more outspoken voices of this concern is John R. Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the UN during the Bush administration (you know, the administration that had SO much success dealing with Kim Jong-il) who wrote an op-ed piece for The Washington Post suggesting that Clinton's visit was a "significant propaganda victory for North Korea." He writes further:
"In Pyongyang's view, the two reporters are pawns in the larger game of enhancing the regime's legitimacy and gaining direct access to important U.S. figures."
Basically, because North Korea was able to get a former president to come and have a sit-down, the country has scored a victory of sorts in terms of being taken seriously, and now other countries such as Iran might see this and start holding on to prisoners in the hopes of getting their own sit-down.
Thing is, though, how many people are looking at Clinton's visit as an open meeting between equals? It seemed to me more like a meeting between a cool-headed individual and a gun-waving lunatic who at least sort of knows he's only being listened to because he's waving the gun around. Plus, I've never understood the argument that even attempting negotiation and dialogue is detrimental, especially if the only demand is that an ex-president come and sit while the media pops a few flashbulbs. Roberts writes:
"The point to be made on the Clinton visit is that the knee-jerk impulse for negotiations above all inevitably brings more costs than its advocates foresee."
You ask me, though, choosing to not even try to negotiate, to just let the journalists remain imprisoned for the sake of larger politics, is treating the journalists just as much as pawns as the North Koreans did. I think most of us would rather try to see them as people.
On that note, let's watch the happy return footage again! Get your tissues handy.