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Kaplan: The Good News Abroad.

“It’s a truism that Barack Obama faces the most intractable set of challenges that any president has faced in at least 50 years. But on a few issues in foreign and military policy, he’s caught a break. Whether by luck, the effect of his election, or President George W. Bush’s stepped-up drive to win last-minute kudos, Obama will enter the White House with some paths to success already marked, if not quite paved.” Having covered six diplomatic priorities for Obama right after the election (the link was buried in this post), Slate‘s Fred Kaplan takes a gander at five foreign policy arenas primed for good news under the coming administration.

North Korea: Now Not-so-Evil.

“This can be a moment of opportunity for North Korea. If North Korea continues to make the right choices, it can repair its relationship with the international community — much as Libya has done over the past few years. If North Korea makes the wrong choices, the United States and our partners in the six-party talks will respond accordingly.” In a Rose Garden statement yesterday, Dubya announces the lifting of trading sanctions against North Korea, on account of Pyongyang seemingly agreeing to nuclear disarmament as outlined in recent multilateral talks. But don’t get the wrong idea, folks: Talking to our enemies is still an act of horrible, dirty appeasement. Update: Slate‘s Fred Kaplan surveys the deal.

The Hoover Raids.

In order to make effective these apprehensions, the proclamation suspends the Writ of Habeas Corpus for apprehensions made pursuant to it.” Taking a page from his earlier mentor, A. Mitchell Palmer, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, recently declassified documents reveal, floated the idea of interning 12,000 Americans he suspected of disloyalty in 1950, during the Korean War. [Hoover’s letter.] “Hoover wanted President Harry S. Truman to proclaim the mass arrests necessary to ‘protect the country against treason, espionage and sabotage.’ The F.B.I would ‘apprehend all individuals potentially dangerous’ to national security, Hoover’s proposal said.” Thank goodness our intelligence community is past such retrograde thinking and kneejerk trampling on civil liberties today…uh, right?

House: Remember the Comfort Women.

“‘Inhumane deeds should be fully acknowledged,’ said Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee…’The world awaits a full reckoning of history from the Japanese government.‘” The House passes a resolution calling for Japan to apologize for its WWII “comfort women” program. [Text.] “Lawmakers want an apology similar to the one the U.S. government gave to Japanese-Americans forced into internment camps during World War II. That apology was approved by Congress and signed into law by President Reagan in 1988.” Well, I’m all for offically recognizing historical sins in the past — *cough* slavery *cough* — but, unfortunately, no mention was made in this bill of our own possible complicity in Imperial Japan’s ugly system of forced prostitution. The resolution might carry more rhetorical force if it did.

Small Comfort, greater shame.

“‘As expected, after it opened it was elbow to elbow,’ the history says. ‘The comfort women…had some resistance to selling themselves to men who just yesterday were the enemy, and because of differences in language and race, there were a great deal of apprehensions at first. But they were paid highly, and they gradually came to accept their work peacefully.‘” The continuing furor in Asia over Japan’s ignominious use of “comfort women” (re: forced prostitution) during WWII reaches America, as it comes to light that occupation Japan created a similar “comfort system” for American GI’s in the year after the war (until MacArthur shut it down in the spring of 1946.) “An Associated Press review of historical documents and records shows American authorities permitted the official brothel system to operate despite internal reports that women were being coerced into prostitution. The Americans also had full knowledge by then of Japan’s atrocious treatment of women in countries across Asia that it conquered during the war…Although there are suspicions, there is not clear evidence non-Japanese comfort women were imported to Japan as part of the program.”

Somebody Set Up Us the Bomb?

In a welcome bit of good news on the international front, negotiators strike a deal in North Korea that lays down a plan for nuclear disarmament by Kim Jong Il’s regime. But all is not rosy yet: “In a harbinger of the potential for difficulties ahead, the official North Korean news agency said the agreement required only a temporary suspension of the country’s nuclear facilities…The agreement also seemed likely to face opposition in Washington by conservatives who remain unconvinced that the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Il, ever intends to relinquish his nuclear weapons. Similarly, the Bush administration faced criticism from Democrats who charge the administration that broke away from the Agreed Framework in 2002 ended up five years later with a roughly similar accord.

Meanwhile, in related news, a European Union report argues that it is now too late to prevent Iran from developing its own nuclear weaponry. “The admission is a blow to hopes that a deal with Iran can be reached and comes at a sensitive time, when tensions between the US and Tehran are rising. Its implication that sanctions will prove ineffective will also be unwelcome to EU diplomats.

It’s the End of the World As We Know It?

“So, here we are. The two major powers in this confrontation are led by blunderers; the provocateur is a chronic miscalculator. It doesn’t look good.” Oh, so there‘s the WMD: As John Bolton pushes for aggressive sanctions at the UN against the Kim Jong-Il regime, Slate‘s Fred Kaplan parses several ugly scenarios that could unfold after North Korea’s nuclear gamble on Monday (the same day, coincidentally, that South Korean Ban Ki-moon won official Security Council backing to replace Kofi Annan. Looks like he’ll be working overtime right out of the box.) By the way, if you’re keeping score at home, Dubya & co. now seem to have grievously mishandled all three prongs of the “axis of evil” trifecta. Sigh. That’s great, it starts with an earthquake

…and Ki-Moon.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, the Security Council seemingly decides on Ban Ki-Moon, South Korea’s foreign minister, to replace Kofi Annan as the next general secretary of the United Nations. Ban’s closest rival, India’s Shashi Tharoor, has conceded the race…Official word comes next Monday.

Al Liars.

“‘Saddam only expressed negative sentiments about bin Laden,’ the former Iraqi foreign minister, Tariq Aziz, told the Federal Bureau of Investigation when he was asked about Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda’s leader…’He specified that if he wanted to cooperate with the enemies of the U.S., he would have allied with North Korea or China,’ says a passage in the nearly 400-page report.” A new Senate intelligence report confirms what has become patently obvious: There was no link between Iraq and Al Qaeda before the war. “Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., a member of the committee, said the long-awaited report was ‘a devastating indictment of the Bush-Cheney administration’s unrelenting, misleading and deceptive attempts’ to link Saddam to al-Qaida.

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