While the Middle East was erupting in savagery, Madeleine Albright decided to put that vexing problem to one side and traveled 10,000 miles for the most stilted photo-op in recent memory. Posed in front of what looked like a cheap travel poster, our Secretary of State popped up with a big grin for her host -- Kim Jong Il of North Korea.
Why does North Korea beckon the Clinton administration in the waning days of this presidency? It's the legacy thing. Desperate to be remembered for something other than what everyone knows he will be remembered for, Clinton is casting about for a suitable "historic" opportunity to be the "healer of the breach." Alas for him (though not for the rest of humanity), there are only a handful of communist regimes left to appease.
If normalizing relations with Cuba would not have cost Al Gore the Florida vote, Clinton would surely have done that (and don't be surprised if he moves in that direction after Nov. 7). So who is left? China? That particular grovel has been underway since the first days of the administration.
But there stands North Korea -- isolated, belligerent, Stalinist and starving -- in sum, a perfect candidate (from the Clinton perspective) for American largesse.
North Korea is one of a handful of nations that represents a true threat to our national security. We still have 37,000 troops in South Korea, and the North has threatened to swallow them in a "sea of flames." Additionally, North Korea has recently been lobbing medium range ballistic missiles into the Northern Pacific over Japan to flex its muscles.
But that didn't slow our noble diplomats. After all, signing pieces of paper is what wise foreign policy is made of, right? That, and bribery. Believe it or not, North Korea is now the largest recipient of U.S. aid in Asia. During Albright's visit, she spoke of paying North Korea another $1 billion a year in return for ceasing its missile program -- or in return for earning Bill Clinton a Nobel Peace Prize, I can't remember which. Whether Kim Jong Il would be free to continue selling missiles to such nations as Syria and Iran is unknown at this time.
While Albright fled the Middle East disaster for refuge in North Korea, the policy of this administration is actually quite consistent. In each case, the Clinton policy amounts to appeasing dictators in the name of "peace" and ignoring every iota of evidence suggesting that conciliation is viewed by tyrants as weakness.
Though it would be going too far to say that Bill Clinton is responsible for the complete meltdown of the ill-named "peace process" we are now witnessing, it is not too much to say that he was the proximate cause. By insisting upon a meeting at Camp David, even after repeatedly being put off by Yasser Arafat, who said he was not ready, Clinton was asking for trouble.
Yes, the empty box marked legacy haunts Clinton's dreams. But it wasn't just that. One guesses that he is also a victim of the simplistic but widespread belief, particularly pronounced among liberals, that all problems, particularly vexing international disputes involving decades of bloodshed, implacable demands and clashing civilizations, can be solved by getting leaders into a room and forcing them to negotiate with one another.
Bill Clinton himself cannot even negotiate successfully with the Republican leadership. And yet he placed Israel in mortal danger.
Throughout this "process," the Clinton administration has pretended that the Palestinians were cooperating, changing their absolutist demands and accepting the existence of Israel. There was never any evidence to support this fantasy and plenty to refute it. Several Israeli leaders played the same game. Now self-deception and appeasement have yielded not peace, but war -- as they always eventually do.
If Al Gore wins on Nov. 7, we can doubtless expect more appeasement of tyrants -- large and small. Sen. Joe Lieberman has recently said that he "respects" Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, and that a meeting between the two would be a "great idea." Same principle: appease.