August 7, 2009

Clinton, North Korea, issues

Earlier this week I wrote about President Bill Clinton doing an 'impersonation' of Jesse Jackson by going to North Korea to get hostages released. I meant to hit on a couple of other bigger points than what I mentioned in that post.

(1) Why were the detainees/hostages released?
(2) How did Bill Clinton physically get there? [If I'm not missing something here, then there could be a Department of State issue]

The answer to the first question should be fairly obvious. Why were the journalists released to Bill Clinton? He did have a better relationship with Kim Jong-Il than did George W. Bush. But other countries have a history, Jesse Jackson being a prime example, of releasing hostages/detainees to prominent Democrats and not to Republicans. Why is that? Democrats seem to have an eternal get out of jail free card for use in these situations, and it makes sense. When you look at the tinpots who typically are at the other end of these 'negotiations' they are not part of friendly nations. They are adversarial in nature. What do they have to gain by releasing people they might otherwise use as bargaining chips? Either those detainees have already been used as a bargaining chip, OR the tinpot dictators realize they get some PR by releasing hostages. But the PR isn't for them - it's for the Democrats in the United States.

They care about that. If they want to run amok who would they rather see in the White House - a conservative hawk or a weak liberal? Of course a weak liberal. So by making the Democrats look good, they buy themselves operational room because people in the US might perceive the Democrats as better positioned to get hostages release.

The alternative for the dictatorial regimes is to face a George Bush, or worse (for them) a Ronald Reagan. Remember the election of Ronald Reagan and the expedited release of the hostages in Iran? You can claim it was the Iran-Contra dealings but I guarantee you the Ayatollah was shaking in his boots and looking for a reason to get those hostages freed. Everyone thought Reagan would stomp them. Given that option or free reign to run amok, evil-doers will pick the latter option every time.

How did Bill Clinton get to go on this trip?

From the State Department's website page on North Korea.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: North Korean visas are required for entry. The U.S. Government does not issue letters to private Americans seeking North Korean visas, even though in the past such letters have sometimes been requested by DPRK embassies. Prospective travelers entering and departing North Korea through China must also obtain a two-entry visa for China, as a valid Chinese visa is essential for departing North Korea at the conclusion of a visit or in an emergency. While the ROK Government is attempting to open direct travel routes to the DPRK, routine travel from the ROK to the DPRK is currently prohibited. Travel across the demilitarized zone (DMZ) is allowed only infrequently for official and government-authorized cultural and economic exchanges or aid shipments. There are no regularly operating direct commercial flights from South Korea to North Korea. U.S. citizens who arrive in North Korea without a valid U.S. passport and North Korean visa may be detained, arrested, fined or denied entry. Travelers to North Korea report that fees for local travel costs (taxi, tolls, permits and the cost for security personnel assigned to escort foreigner visitors) can be high and arbitrary.
[Emphasis added]

Bill Clinton is not the Secretary of State. His wife is. Bill Clinton is technically a private citizen. There are no travel restrictions to the country for private citizens but two-entry visas must apparently be obtained from China. Bill Clinton did travel as a private citizen, even though it was clearly, though tacitly, choreographed by both governments. So how did he travel there, how did he get his visa(s) and were there any shortcuts around the travel and/or visa rules as outlined by the State Department.

I'm just asking, since the details aren't entirely transparent. Hey, if the left can try to stir up things on the right by making stuff up, we can do the same by asking questions about legality. If it's all above board great, just disclose it for us.

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