An Insider’s Account of Obama’s North Korea Strategy, by Jeffrey A. Bader

[On 8 March 2012 the Brookings Institution held a launch for Jeffrey Bader’s latest book, “Obama and China’s Rise: an Insider’s Account of America’s Asia Strategy”. Bader is currently John C. Whitehead Senior Fellow in International Diplomacy, Foreign Policy at the John L. Thornton China Center in Washington DC. Previously, he was President Obama’s Senior Director for Asia on the National Security Council for the first 3 years. The following is a selection of what the author had to say about US North Korea policy, which figures prominently in the book. This selection is taken from the 9 Mach 2012 edition of The Nelson Report. To hear the entire speech, please click March 8, 2012 book launch at Brookings. –CanKor]

Jeffrey A. Bader

(…) Instead of describing how seamlessly we executed plans drawn up in the first days, let me lay out what we did in reaction to events. As one of my colleagues said to me after a frustrating day dealing with demands for elaboration of a strategy, “there’s no such thing as strategy; there’s only tactics.” An exaggeration, to be sure, sort of like the observation that history is just one damned thing after another. But it frequently feels like the complete truth when you’re in the middle of the fray.

First, North Korea, since that was the issue that posed the most immediate dangers and consumed so much time, effort, and energy.

We came into office on something like automatic pilot, prepared to pick up implementation of Assistant Secretary Chris Hill’s plan for dismantling the Yongbyon plutonium reactor. But North Korea quickly eliminated that option. Intelligence in February 2009 showed North Korean plans to launch an ICBM, later announced to be a satellite launch. We could not proceed with implementation of dismantlement, and further international shipments of heavy fuel oil, under the shadow of an ICBM launch. So it’s fair to say that North Korea’s plan produced a very significant hardening of attitudes in the Obama national security team. Read the rest of this entry »

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