DALLAS — Our new president has just committed foreign policy. Run for your lives! He's going to Git Tuff on North Korea.
North Korea consists of several million people who are the verge of starvation. Our ally, President Kim Dae Jung of South Korea, has been working to open a dialogue with the North. In fact, he got the Nobel Peace Prize for it last year.
Kim believes that there is only a narrow window of opportunity to get North Korea out of its dangerous isolation. George W. Bush just slammed that window. Despite two years' worth of efforts by the Clinton administration, Bush says he is not interested in resuming missile talks or in the eventual normalization of relations with North Korea.
Since the end of the Korean War a half-century ago, the United States has been maintaining an expensive army — now at 37,000 soldiers — between North and South Korea. It was one of those deals where we didn't have an exit strategy at the time and no one has thought one up since.
President Bush II said the reason that he doesn't want to deal with North Korea is: "We're not certain as to whether or not they're keeping all terms of all agreements."
But we only have one agreement with North Korea, and according to the people in charge of it, there's no evidence that North Korea has broken any of the terms. So later a White House spokesman explained that the president meant future noncompliance with future accords — the ones that Bush doesn't want us to have — even though he did not use the future tense. The spokesman said (watch carefully — this may become one of the most famous phrases of Bush II): "That's how the president speaks."
Is our children confused yet? This is enough to make us devoutly grateful for "President" Cheney's most recent recovery. Or perhaps not.
Foreign policy happens, and last week it happened that Secretary of State Colin Powell "signaled" (don't you love diplomatic language? One envisions him standing out on a runway with colored flags) that we would go for "smarter" and smaller sanctions against Iraq.
This would be good, because although it is rarely mentioned in this country, our sanctions in Iraq are believed to cost the lives of 5,000 children every month, causing other nations to think of us as hideously brutal and callous. You can't imagine how surprised many of our allies were when George W. put a gag order on women's clinics in foreign countries because he couldn't stand the idea of little babies' lives being taken in abortion. This is widely believed to be an example of inconsistency.
In any case, Cheney was not happy with Powell's plans to relax the sanctions. And who, after all, would know better than Cheney how little they matter? (Except maybe the 5,000 kids who die from hunger and lack of medical attention each month.)
You see, Cheney's former employer, Halliburton (an oilfield services company), has been trading with Iraq for quite some time despite the sanctions. Halliburton subsidiaries Dresser-Rand and Ingersoll Dresser Pump Co. helped reconstruct Iraq's oil industry, according to The Washington Post and numerous other publications. This was going on while the United States was regularly bombing Iraq. In 1999, Iraq emerged as the fastest-growing source of U.S. oil imports, and as Bush has reminded us, more and more of our imports come from overseas.
According to the Financial Times of London, Halliburton under Cheney also operated in Iran despite the sanctions against that country by means of foreign subsidiaries, mainly in Europe. Cheney has urged the easing of the sanctions against Iran.
Cheney, according to The Baltimore Sun, lobbied long and hard (as recently as June) to lift sanctions against Iran because of Halliburton's interest in the Caspian Sea region — currently the biggest oil and gas lode in play outside the Middle East. There's a huge fight over where to run the pipeline to bring the oil out, but running it through Iran would be cheapest, which is why business favors it. Because of the same oil play, Cheney wants to repeal sanctions against Azerbaijan, which doesn't get U.S. aid because of its ethnic cleansing of Armenians. (Hope you're following all this.)
So the Bush foreign policy so far may not be perfectly clear to all of us, but think of it this way: Our enemies are bound to be just as confused as we are.