The Latest Diplomatic Tactic: Make-Believe

North Korea has a long history of being a malevolent nation. The communist dictatorship was first placed on the State Department’s list of terrorist-supporting nations in 1987, after it bombed a South Korean jetliner– an attack that followed years of North Korean abductions of Japanese citizens.

But now, North Korea has been granted its most recent demand: that the world pretend otherwise. In exchange for an empty promise to relent in its pursuit of nuclear weapons–for the umpteenth time–North Korea has been taken off the list of state sponsors of terrorism. In effect, the facts about its appalling past are now being officially ignored by the U.S. government.

North Koreans have not given up their hostility toward the U.S. and others, nor has the U.S. government said anything to that effect. Indeed, the only thing that has changed is the degree to which our leadership places importance on facts.

This meaningless removal of one terrorist nation from a list of terrorist nations raises the question of why North Korea is even in the news to begin with. If officially ignoring the fact that Kim Jong-Il oversaw the murder of 115 airline passengers can absolve the nation of any wrongdoing, why not also ignore the fact that Kim is trying to build a nuclear arsenal? If evading one part of reality gets you closer to your goal, why not evade another? All Condoleezza Rice would need to do is sign a document officially recognizing North Korea’s universal goodwill. Wouldn’t that solve the issue and bring us that much closer to world peace?

To anyone who takes an honest look at the history of this conflict, the answer is obvious. Disregarding the facts of reality—and substituting empty hopes in their stead—accomplishes nothing. History—including the history of this conflict—is littered with example after example of the futility of such a policy. If Kim Jong-Il has demonstrated anything consistently, it is that he has no intention of honoring his litany of promises or of forgoing his goal of becoming a nuclear threat. Time after time, the efforts to appease North Korea have failed. And time after time, the U.S. has overlooked those failures and hoped that trying the same thing over again would somehow result in success. Those futile years of “diplomacy” yielded a predictable result in 2006, when North Korea detonated its first nuclear bomb.

Being “flexible” with the facts will not prevent a nuclear-armed North Korea. To the contrary, we need to adopt an inflexible, objective approach to the facts–which means recognizing the reality of the situation and acting accordingly. The further we continue down the familiar road of alternating appeasement and angry letters, the worse it will be when we are finally forced to confront reality.

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