"Credit Where Due: Korean Peninsula Edition"
One structural problem in the world is that they don’t hand out medals for the wars you don’t fight, and the terrible potential consequences of roads you don’t travel down don’t wind up making the headlines. Consequently, policymakers who manage to face-down tricky situations without getting huge numbers of people killed end up overrated.
So I’d like to say that best on what I’ve read in recent news coverage and also what I’ve seen in the WikiLeaks cables, the governments of South Korea and the United States of America seem to have been doing a bang-up job for the past several years of managing a difficult situation. It’s not as emotionally satisfying as being John McCain and randomly musing about “regime change” and it’s not going to “solve” the problem, but it’s protecting the relevant interests at a reasonable cost. And that, at the end of the day, is the job policymakers are supposed to do. It would be nice if the North Koreans weren’t so bizarre and it would be nice if the PRC were more cooperative and it would be nice if the Bush administration hadn’t blundered so badly in its first four years in office. But you have to work in the real people, and people dealt a bunch of bad options seem to me to be making the best of it.