To many members of America's highly sophisticated foreign-policy establishment, it is coming as a great shock to learn that North Korea's dictator agreed to accept American aid in exchange for not developing nuclear weapons — and then went ahead with the development of such weapons anyhow.
This is not what they were taught in their conflict-resolution courses. And this is certainly not what was expected by the experts at the Carter Center who were instrumental in striking the 1994 U.S.-North Korea deal that now turns out to have been an utter fraud. As the Carter Center's website notes:
After North Korea withdrew its membership in the International Atomic Energy Agency and threatened to expel the agency's inspectors, the United States began pushing for U.N. sanctions, fearing North Korea was developing an atomic arsenal. At the invitation from President Kim Il Sung, President and Mrs. Carter traveled to North Korea, and after talks, President Kim agreed to freeze its nuclear program in exchange for resumption of a dialogue with the U.S. The ensuing dialogue was the first between the countries in 40 years and resulted in North Korea's promise to significantly change some nuclear energy production facilities.
Well, what's a few billion U.S. taxpayer dollars down the drain — funds that, we must now conclude, have been used to help one of the world's most brutal dictatorships more effectively oppress its people and develop weapons of mass destruction that can be used against the U.S. and its allies? (Following the 1994 agreement, North Korea became the largest U.S. aid recipient of any country in the Asia-Pacific region; we provided not only money but also more than 500,000 tons of fuel oil per year, and we agreed to help North Korea build "safer" nuclear-power plants.)
Perhaps there are lessons we can draw from this experience. Perhaps the experts at the Carter Center and other foreign-policy deep thinkers might want to embark on some kind of research project that would attempt to discern whether the following events suggest a pattern:
1991: Saddam Hussein agrees to give up his weapons of mass destruction in exchange for a ceasefire with the U.S. Saddam violates the agreement.
1993: Yasser Arafat agrees to retire from terrorism and become an ally in Israel's war against terrorism in exchange for authority over the West Bank and Gaza. Arafat violates the agreement.
1994: Kim Il Sung agrees to end North Korea's nuclear-weapons program in exchange for massive amounts of aid. Kim and his son and successor, Kim Jong Il, violate the agreement.
One might even delve into history for other examples, for instance the Munich Pact of 1938 under which Britain and France made territorial concessions to Hitler in exchange for promises Hitler decided it was not in his interest to keep.
One should not jump to conclusions, one should not generalize, and certainly no one should revert to stereotyping. It would be unfair, after all, to suggest that all dictators, tyrants, and megalomaniacs are the same. They're individuals and they are all — every single one of them — special.
Still, it may be that we — how do I say this without sounding judgmental? — it may be that we need to acknowledge that such people may have at least a propensity to be less-than-fully candid, a tendency not to scrupulously keep their word and fully live up to their agreements. (Or maybe they simply interpret such terms as "promise" and "agreement" differently than we do, based on our respective cultural constructs and backgrounds?)
In other words, it might not be unreasonable to suspect that when leaders of free nations make deals with despots, shake hands with mass murderers, and sign treaties with terrorists, the results may turn out to be less than a triumph for the forces of peace, reconciliation, and international comity.