NEGOTIATION OR APPEASEMENT?….OR IS THERE A DIFFERENCE?….Josh Marshall wrote a piece yesterday that’s gotten a bunch of blogospheric attention:

This entire crisis [in North Korea] — and it’s foolish to pretend it’s not a crisis — is an administration screw-up of mammoth proportions. The administration is trying to portray this as just another crisis that happened on their watch. But that woefully understates its own responsibility for the situation we’re now in.

I think he’s right. Every administration comes into office claiming that the previous administration had a terrible foreign policy: there was no overarching vision, they merely reacted to events as they happened, and the end result was a huge mess.

But as Harold Macmillan famously pointed out, the greatest challenge of any administration is “events, dear boy, events,” and smart politicians leave themselves as much room as they can to respond when events overtake them. Bush’s needless tough talking for the past two years has done just the opposite, narrowing his options to the point that he has almost none left.

So now we’re left in the worst possible situation. We can’t negotiate with North Korea because Bush has repeatedly stated that he wouldn’t do it. Military action has no support either. So what’s left? We’ll “privately” negotiate with the Koreans through third parties, which provides the maximum possible scope for misinterpretation and error, all the time pretending that we’re doing no such thing. This is just dumb.

I wish all the “tough minded realists” out there could get one thing through their heads: negotiation is not appeasement. It’s just negotiation. It’s only appeasement if you negotiate badly and cave in on things you shouldn’t.

So let’s get ourselves back to the table and start negotiating. After all, what other options are there?