Saturday, May 2, 2009

Libertarian on dealing with North Korea

With Realism and Restraint, by Doug Bandow
The Korea Times, May 1, 2009

North Korea demonstrates the limits of President Barack Obama's more accommodating diplomacy.

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea engages in perpetual brinkmanship. Last winter the tortuous negotiations over the North Korea's nuclear program crashed if not burned over verification procedures for Pyongyang's official nuclear declaration.

The Obama administration hopes to rejuvenate the six-party talks, but the way forward is uncertain after the North's recent missile launch.

In fact, the effort was much ado about nothing. The botched effort suggests that the DPRK poses less than a formidable military threat. Gen. James E. Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, snickered: "On the idea of proliferation, would you buy from somebody that had failed three times in a row and never been successful?"

However, as a step designed to win international attention the test was far more successful, creating the usual public frenzy in Seoul, Tokyo, and Washington. The U.S. denounced the launch as illegal and went to the United Nations for redress.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon complained that the action was "not conducive to efforts to promote dialogue, regional peace and stability," as if those were North Korea's objectives.
China and Russia exhibited their usual reluctance to crack down on the North. With Beijing's call for "calm" and "restraint," the Security Council approved a resolution insisting on little more than enforcement of previously approved sanctions.

What should Washington do?

The Obama administration needs to realistically assess the conundrum that is North Korea. We should downplay any expectations of changing North Korea.

America should step back and let others take the lead in dealing with Pyongyang. A desperately poor, isolated state with an antiquated military, the DPRK poses far greater problems for its neighbors than for America.

Only South Korea is within reach of the North's army — a good reason for the U.S. to withdraw its troops, since they are not needed to safeguard the Republic of Korea. (Seoul enjoys a vast economic, technological, population, and diplomatic edge over the North.)

Japan along with the ROK is vulnerable to North Korean missiles. China and the South both fear a violent DPRK collapse and refugee flood. Beijing also suffers from the nightmare of spreading nuclear proliferation, which could result in Japan developing nuclear weapons.

Unfortunately, Washington and North Korea's neighbors have only bad options. It would be wonderful to create a democratic, humane DPRK. It is more important to avoid a new Korean war and cap any North Korean nuclear arsenal.

Thus, the Obama administration should focus its efforts on halting any further North Korean nuclear developments.

Unfortunately, convincing Pyongyang to yield its small atomic arsenal will require a geopolitical miracle. However, Pyongyang can do little with a small cache of nuclear weapons: attacking the U.S. would be suicidal, and Kim prefers his virgins in the here and now.

In contrast, the North could do enormous damage with a large and growing stockpile of nuclear materiel, including underwriting widespread proliferation.

To the extent the DPRK has been willing to comply with its promises — both in accepting the Clinton-era Agreed Framework and the later accord negotiated with the Bush administration — it has been to freeze its existing program. Future negotiations should focus on the same end.

For the same reason the U.S. must not get sidetracked by the North's missile program. As one American official anonymously declared: "We are not going to … let them distract us from the goal, which is denuclearization."

While the prospect of North Korea possessing advanced missile technology is unsettling, nuclear proliferation is the more important game.

Finally, Washington needs to concentrate on changing the negotiating dynamic with North Korea before negotiating with Pyongyang. For years the DPRK has used brinkmanship to win concessions. The U.S., ROK, and other friendly states need to reverse this reward structure.

First, they should respond to the North's provocations with bored contempt rather than excited fear. Calling an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council sent precisely the wrong message to Pyongyang.

Second, rather than publicly whining about North Korea's actions, friendly nations should quietly inform Pyongyang that they will offer no benefits while it is ratcheting up tensions.

If the DPRK responds positively, however, Washington should offer diplomatic recognition and the end of trade sanctions, small concessions in areas where punitive policies have manifestly failed; South Korea should move back toward the "Sunshine Policy."

The prospect of a peace treaty with America, full normalization of political and economic relations with the U.S., expanded trade with and aid from South Korea and Japan, and full participation in international institutions might beckon Pyongyang forward.

North Korea will long be with us. The Obama administration must recognize that any success will come only slowly, painfully, and incrementally, and as a result of a limited agenda realistically implemented.

Will Obama send a left-wing Scalia to the High Court?

Succeeding Souter. WSJ Editorial
Will Obama send a left-wing Scalia to the High Court?
WSJ, May 2, 2009

With Justice David Souter's announced retirement, a Democratic President will replace a Republican appointee to the Supreme Court. Normally, this would be a chance to alter the ideological balance of a closely divided Court. Justice Souter's replacement is unlikely to do that, but who President Obama does choose will tell us whether Mr. Obama's early move to the left on domestic issues is mirrored in his judicial picks.

Justice Souter was a relatively unknown jurist from New Hampshire who'd served on the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston for only three months before being selected by President George H.W. Bush in 1990. President Bush was presented with the rare chance to replace a retiring liberal giant in Justice William Brennan and create a new center-right majority.

But after the Robert Bork brawl three years earlier, Mr. Bush chose to look for a conservative with no paper trail that could trigger another confirmation fight. At the urging of his chief of staff, John Sununu, and New Hampshire Senator Warren Rudman, he settled on Judge Souter, who'd written no books, no appellate court opinions and one law review article. He was confirmed, 90-9.

In short order, Justice Souter was distancing himself from conservatives on the High Court. Most famously, he joined the 6-3 majority in the 1992 Casey ruling upholding Roe v. Wade. While he advertised himself as a believer in stare decisis, or Supreme Court precedent, Justice Souter nearly always found a way to join 5-4 majorities that overturned precedents he disliked. His nomination was a lost opportunity and one of President Bush's biggest failures -- and the precedent is one reason Republicans revolted against George W. Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers.

Don't expect President Obama to return the favor. Justice Souter, who is 69, is likely to be replaced by a much younger version of himself, even if it turns out to be a black, Hispanic or female version. The reported shortlist includes Elena Kagan, the former Harvard Law School dean and current Solicitor General; Second Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Sonia Sotomayor; Kathleen Sullivan, a professor and former dean of Stanford Law School; and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. Let's just say that Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas are in no danger of finding themselves with a new ally on the Court anytime soon.

Judge Sotomayor would be the High Court's first Hispanic justice and allow Mr. Obama to reward the Latino voters who helped elect him. The fact that she was appointed to the federal bench by the first President Bush could also be used to combat complaints that she's too liberal. But Judge Sotomayor's record deserves scrutiny, not least because she was part of a three-judge panel that declined to address the Constitutional issues at stake in the Ricci workplace discrimination case now before the Supreme Court; some speculate that she didn't want to reveal her views on such a controversial issue.

If Mr. Obama wants a centrist heavyweight, he could turn to Jose Cabranes, a Puerto Rican immigrant named to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals by President Clinton in 1994. But Democrats and liberal activists, who haven't had a Supreme Court pick since Justice Stephen Breyer 15 years ago, will be looking for a left-wing Antonin Scalia, a jurist who can forcefully articulate reliably liberal positions.

Elections matter. And right now President Obama may have the personal popularity and Senate votes to confirm almost anyone he wants. But Republicans still have an obligation to scrutinize his nominees, and that includes finding out whether they share the President's view that judges should consider more than just the facts of a case and the applicable law.

"We need somebody who's got the heart to recognize -- the empathy to recognize what it's like to be a young teenaged mom, the empathy to understand what it's like to be poor or African-American or gay or disabled or old," Mr. Obama said in 2007. "And that's the criteria by which I'm going to be selecting my judges." It's hard to imagine a more expansive view of a judge's role than that one.

Yet given everything else Mr. Obama wants to accomplish this year, he may not also want to risk a battle over a notably liberal Supreme Court nominee. Republicans might take some comfort in that, but not too much. Justice John Paul Stevens is pushing 90. This is unlikely to be Mr. Obama's only nomination.

WaPo: More Souters

More Souters. WaPo Editorial
The qualities President Obama should seek in filling the shoes of a fine justice
WaPo, Saturday, May 2, 2009

FOR YEARS, the rallying cry in conservative legal circles has been "No More Souters," by which activists meant no more "stealth" Supreme Court nominees whose jurisprudence differed from what the president who appointed them had expected. With Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter announcing his intention to retire after 19 years, a good guide for President Obama might be "More Souters" -- but not in the sense that we want stealth nominees. Justice Souter has turned out to be not only smart and thoughtful -- something that could have been predicted from his confirmation testimony -- but also open-minded and free from ideological orthodoxy. That has made him anathema to the right, but a fine justice whose tenure has been marred only by his well-known aversion to our city. Another Souter would not be a bad achievement for Mr. Obama.

It's odd to realize that the retirement of a justice appointed by President George H.W. Bush and his replacement by a Democratic president will probably not shift the court significantly to the left. Instead, Mr. Obama has an opportunity of a different sort: to add to the diversity of perspectives and experiences on the high court. We do not mean that he should seek to fill in a specific blank -- a second woman, the first Hispanic -- but that he is right to weigh candidates' backgrounds along with their judicial philosophies and intellectual capabilities. Time outside the legal academy and the courtroom is an asset to justices; the best bring to the bench more than a good brain. Constitutional interpretation is not a technocratic operation. Experience in the real world -- of business, of politics, of family life -- adds to the mix. Mr. Obama touched on this yesterday when he outlined the qualities he will seek in a nominee: "someone who understands justice isn't about some abstract legal theory or footnote in a casebook. It is also about how our laws affect the daily realities of people's lives."

The temptation for Republicans will be to treat Mr. Obama's pick as some Democrats -- including, sad to say, then-Sen. Obama -- treated President George W. Bush's. It is legitimate for senators to take a nominee's ideology into account and to probe it within ethical limits, but it is also important to keep in mind that elections have consequences, and that the president is, as a general matter, entitled to name justices who reflect his own understanding of the Constitution and the role of the courts. We say this having supported Mr. Bush's two nominees -- Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. -- as within the mainstream of conservative legal thought. Mr. Obama deserves the same degree of deference in the important choice that he will soon make.

State Sec Clinton on World Press Freedom Day

World Press Freedom Day. By Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State
US State Dept, Washington, DC, May 1, 2009

The United States is proud to join the international community in celebrating World Press Freedom Day and the contributions that journalists make to advancing human dignity, liberty, and prosperity.

We live in a world where the free flow of information and ideas is a powerful force for progress. Independent print, broadcast, and online media outlets are more than sources of news and opinion. They also expose abuses of power, fight corruption, challenge assumptions, and provide constructive outlets for new ideas and dissent.

Freedom of the press is protected by the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and is a hallmark of every free society. Wherever media freedom is in jeopardy, all other human rights are also under threat. A free media is essential to democracy and it fosters transparency and accountability, both of which are prerequisites for sustained economic development.

Those who seek to abuse power and spread corruption view media freedom as a threat. Instead of supporting an open press, they attempt to control or silence independent voices. The methods they use against news organizations and journalists range from restrictive laws and regulations to censorship, violence, imprisonment, and even murder. Such tactics are not new, and cannot go unanswered.

We are especially concerned about the citizens from our own country currently under detention abroad: individuals such as Roxana Saberi in Iran, and Euna Lee and Laura Ling in North Korea.
On behalf of President Obama, I want to affirm the United States’ strong commitment to media freedom worldwide. We will champion this cause through our diplomatic efforts and through our exchange and assistance programs. We will work in partnership with non-governmental organizations and directly with members of the media. And we will stand with those courageous men and women who face persecution for exercising and defending the right of media freedom.