Leader Blues

Friday, August 07, 2009

EDITORIAL >> Clinton diplomacy

We all knew that Bill Clinton possessed masterly diplomatic skills and that his global prestige remained undiminished eight years after leaving the presidency, so it was a surprise only that he made a trip to North Korea to negotiate the freedom of two American journalists imprisoned by the rogue dictator, not that he succeeded.

The North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, beamed like it was the happiest moment of his life Tuesday, when he posed with the unsmiling former president a short while before announcing that he was ordering the two women released from prison, where they had been sentenced to hard labor for 12 years for violating the country’s sovereignty. They had ventured near or across the border while working on a story about refugees for the San Francisco news network started by former Vice President Al Gore.

It may have been the happiest day of the little tyrant’s life. He reportedly has yearned for many years to be visited by the political leader who was for a generation the most admired man on Earth.

There was immediate criticism of the former president by the old regime in Washington. John Bolton, a prominent diplomat in the Bush administration, said Clinton handed the dictator a huge worldwide propaganda victory. All for the freedom of two silly women.

Kim Jong-il’s diplomatic triumph is entirely in his own mind and the minds of craven men like Bolton. The North Korean leader stands in no better relief in the eyes of the world than he did the day before Clinton’s unmarked plane touched down in Pyongyang.

Clinton’s visit reinforces what is supremely different between the two nations, the United States’ undying quest for freedom and justice for every one of its people and the communist regime’s disdain for individual freedom. Prestige, the propaganda wars, nuclear détente and all the other implications of Korean-American relations were secondary to getting the freedom of two innocent citizens who until the moment of their capture were ciphers in the affairs of nations.

Propaganda triumph? Yes, but it wasn’t the Korean’s.

Ernie Dumas writes editorials for The Leader.