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May 19, 2008

John Bolton's One Percent Doctrine
Posted by David Shorr

According to John Bolton, the split over the importance of negotiations in foreign policy is a difference of one percent. Apparently the foreign policy debate pits those, like Bolton, who believe negotiations can resolve 99% of international disputes versus liberals who are certain that negotiations can solve each and every situation in the world. These calculations raise an interesting accounting problem. Leaves me to wonder about 'international dispute' as a unit of measure.

I also wonder who these hundred percent-ers are. They must believe that negotiations could by themselves have resolved Bosnia, the Taliban's sanctuary for the September 11 terrorists, or Hitler's drive for domination. Talk about staw men throwing stones!! Bolton rejects the idea that this is a debate between reasonableness and unilateralist cowboys. Instead it's a debate between clear-eyed statesmen and pacifists!?!?

This is not a debate over whether negotiations will always work; of course they won't resolve every situation. It's a debate over when negotiations should be tried. Recent policy gives us a pretty good data set for the refuse-to-negotiate idea. The theory of issuing demands, standing tough, and waiting for the other side to capitulate hasn't been shown to work so well.

Let's take North Korea's nuclear program, an issue about which Amb. Bolton has strong feelings. What did they do when we refused to talk? Build nuclear weapons. Our demands and toughness didn't impress them very much. My favorite quotes on this subject come from Amb. Robert Gallucci in a 2005 Atlantic Monthly article on a North Korea war game they conducted. Rant is probably more accurate, but it's worth quoting at length.

"When I came back with the Agreed Framework deal and tried to sell it," he said, "I ran into the same people sitting around that table -- the general to my right, Ken across from me. They hated the idea of trying to solve this problem with a negotiation.

"And I said, 'What's your -- pardon me -- your ****ing plan, then, if you don't like this?'

"'We don't like--'

"I said, 'Don't tell me what you don't like! Tell me how you're going to stop the North Korean nuclear program'

"'But we wouldn't do it this way--'

"'Stop! What are you going to do?'

"I could never get a goddamn answer. What I got was 'We wouldn't negotiate.'"


To people who say that negotiating with the North Koreans rewards bad behavior, Gallucci says, "Listen, I'm not interested in teaching other people lessons. I'm interested in the national security of the United States. If that's what you're interested in, are you better off with this deal or without it? You tell me what you're going to do without the deal, and I'll compare that with the deal."

He was adamant that we were better off under the Agreed Framework -- cheating and all -- than we are now. "When the Clinton folks went out of office, the North Koreans only had the plutonium they had separated in the previous Bush administration. Now they've got a whole lot more. What did all this 'tough' sh** give us? It gave us a much more capable North Korea. Terrific!"

I agree with Amb. Bolton that time is a precious asset in dealing with situations like these. As Gallucci explains, the get-tough approach is a dangerous time-waster.


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"Let's take North Korea's nuclear program, an issue about which Amb. Bolton has strong feelings. What did they do when we refused to talk? Build nuclear weapons. Our demands and toughness didn't impress them very much. "

Are you sure that's the one on which to hang your hat? The negotiations between the Clinton White House and North Korea -- a whole lotta carrot and no stick -- meant that Kim Jong-il's centrifuges ended up spinning out uranium bombs, not plutonium. Well, that's a victory! Good thing we negotiated!

They started building while we were talking. They kept building while we were exporting to them all those carrots (well, fuel oil, but still...). They continued to build them after we told them that we caught them building. And they continued to proliferate by exporting technology and know-how to Iran, et al.

To be fair, after the Bush meltdown they broke the seals to the Yongbyon reactor rods and began making plutonium bombs alongside the centrifuges that were manufacturing bomb-grade uranium,, but that doesn't exactly help your point all that much, does it?

Indeed, it puts to lie your central point: The North Koreans were developing uranium bombs, but they weren't building plutonium weapons. Now, they have plutonium weapons. But they would've had uranium ones, anyway.

This is especially so since Bush, like Clinton, didn't threaten North Korea with violence. He cut off the bribe, but the bribe wasn't helping retard North Korean nuclear proliferation.

In other words, it's difficult to test your hypothesis about military options because military options weren't applied to the standoff.

I don't have a dog in this fight. I don't care whether a Democrat or a Republican becomes our next commander-in-chief. But I do think that the pithy aphorism -- "the get-tough approach is a dangerous time-waster" is misplaced.

What proved to be a "time waster" was reading your riposte to Bolton by citing North Korea.

The point is this: often there is a lot more leverage over the problem in direct negotiation -- which comes with some measure of accountability -- than with remaining aloof and morally superior. I stand by what I said; the apples-to-apples comparison is between North Korea's capability with the US using steady and continuous talks to keep the pressure on versus issuing demands from our high horse and offering nothing of interest.

The difference between the two sides of this debate is not over whether to retain the option of using force, but rather how pro-active to be diplomatically to avoid reaching the point of armed confrontation.

The discussion of North Korea reminds me, ironically enough, of the conclusion of World War II -- with Japan specifically. Although Americans then and now call the Japanese capitulation "unconditional surrender", it was in fact a surrender under one condition: that Emperor Hirohito be allowed to keep his throne. It may seem trivial to us, but the Japanese government refused to surrender otherwise. It sounds as if Bolton (or the Bush Administration?) would have had Truman refuse to yield -- after all, the Japanese were considered to be the evil terrorists of WWII. And must I even ask how many hundreds of thousands of American lives such an uncompromising position would have cost?

Well, if that's true then I guess I'll just conveniently forget what I was doing in 1994 and 1995. As I recall, Clinton ordered my general to start prepping us for raids on North Korea's nuclear program.

Much of it was maudlin -- Marines and Soldiers rushing about to find plutonium and remove it. But it nevertheless was real. Some 250 officers were posted in South Korea to form a war headquarters, and POTUS ordered an oplan that would drastically increase the number of troops, air assets and naval forces in the country.

In late 2004 there emerged an agreement of sorts, with a whole lotta carrots. The 1995 practices the president forced me to endure likely were triggered by North Korean grumbling over unresolved issues important to the Asian dictatorship.

One would be perhaps untoward in quippinig that Clinton's administration infamously did NOT resolve these issues, nor keep military pressure on the North Korean regime past 1995, perhaps because the White House was embroiled in stillbirthing a non-existent truce between Palestinians and Israel.

In the meantime, while Clinton's team did NOTHING diplomatically or militarily about North Korea, Pyongyang began building light reactors, purchased centrifuges from Pakistan's Khan network, and started spinning out uranium material instead of plutonium.

Is now the contention that Clinton should have kept talking? CIA knew about the reactor construction and the sales of Pakistani centrifuges and the likely diversion of the program to uranium fabrication. In 1996, South Korea broke off relations with the North over Pyongyang's spy submarines and the discovery that the junta had been swapping missiles for Pakistani centrifuges.

Toward the end of the administration, when there obviously had been no bilateral talks of any substance for nearly five years, Wendy Sherman and Madeleine Albright rushed to Korea and tried to confect a last-second agreement that included nuclear proliferation and long range missile sales. Instead, all we got was a commitment to abide by the 1994 framework that obviously had failed to prevent uranium production and illicit missile sales.

So, in the Shorr Manifesto, we see that when military force was threatened, North Korea sought to talk. When military force was taken off the table and the "accountability" of "direct negotiation" was used, North Korea built nuclear weapons.

When Bush's White House stopped paying the bribe to restrict plutonium production in lieu of ongoing uranium production, we had the status quo.

What if crazy cowboy Bush had threatened to begin pulverizing North Korean nuclear facilities with around-the-clock bombing missions from Osan? Perhaps we would've seen North Korea return the the bargaining table. I guess we'll never know because I got to put my WMD snooping practiced in 1994 to the test in Iraq nine years later.

Unfortunately, of course, Iraq had no WMD.

Regardless, the original points made were meaningless. It's a bit much to cite North Korea as an "apple-to-apple" example of the impossibility of tough talk and stern action when, indeed, stern action wasn't threatened.

When it was, North Korea complied. When it wasn't, they did what North Korea wanted to do.

Indeed, the exact opposite of what you proposed.

Soldiernolongeriniraq: and you have what evidence to back up your claims that North Korea had "centrifuges that were manufacturing bomb-grade uranium", "that Kim Jong-il's centrifuges ended up spinning out uranium bombs", and that "they continued to proliferate by exporting technology and know-how to Iran, et al."

Soldiernolongeriniraq: Good thing I caught you while you're still around. You just added several new statements to my list of things you say that are in need of citation. For example: "Pyongyang began building light reactors, purchased centrifuges from Pakistan's Khan network, and started spinning out uranium material instead of plutonium." I suppose you mean light water reactor, but you apparently aren't referring the two that were part of the AF. So where are the other ones you mention?

I'm not in the habit of doing scut work of internet souls, but Matt has asked for "sources."

Sources actually are quite easy to find. FAS, CRS, CIA, State -- all have published dossiers on North Korea's nuclear ambitions. From these citations, you would learn that the nation likely controls a 5 MW reactor capable of processing 7g of plutonium annually from uranium (Yongbyon); 1x 50 MW reactor and another 200 MW reactor that began construction in 1984 and would be capable of manufacturing 200kg of spent fuel plutonium (this construction continued through the Clinton years); 1x plutonium processing structure designed to manufacture Plutonium-239 discovered by IAEA in 1994; plus a side deal for more LWRs theoretically to have developed under South Korean tutelage.

CRS, citing DIA reports from the Clinton era, claims the North Korea kept constructing the 1984 reactors, but others (such as the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and Siegfried S. Hecker of Los Alamos) deny that.

Regardless, the Los Alamos group later confirmed that the North Korean's Radiochemical Laboratory continued to process uranium in an "industrial-scale reprocessing facility" using the PUREX method.

What is most obvious is that North Korea itself said in 2002 that it had been enriching uranium. After publicly announcing this fact, it withdrew from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and expelled IAEA inspectors who had been chasing their tails.

This was indeed the backdrop for Rep. Weldon's attempt to start negotiations in 2002. FAS has a copy of his report here:

Later, when North Korea began to reprocess plutonium under the PUREX method, they claimed the didn't have an HEU program. The Los Alamos group didn't find this North Korean claim credible:

"During our previous visits, the DPRK Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials denied having any part of an enrichment program. We concluded, however, that in light of the suspected DPRK procurement activities in the 1990s, confessions of A.Q. Khan and recent statements by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, it is very likely that the DPRK has at least a research-scale uranium enrichment effort."

This shouldn't have come as some surprise to anyone.

After the 1994 framework was negotiated, DIA discovered in 1996 the Kumchangri Underground Complex. A 1997 report determined that the North Koreans were continuing to construct it and that by 2003 it would be operational as a "nuclear production and/or storage site."

In exchange for food, the North Koreans moved out the processing equipment and allowed inspections in 2000, which determined it no longer was part of the nuclear program.

Citing a 1999 Chinese intelligence report culled from a North Korean defector's testimony, Japan's Sankei Shimbun newspaper reported on June 9, 2000 that the HEU program was well underway at Mt. Chun-Ma. This was repeated in the CIA-written report for the US intelligence community of December 2001.

A key to understanding how North Korea made the leap from reprocessing its spent fuel rods to spinning uranium (later abandoned for the plutonium program) came from intelligence designed to impede Pakistan's Khan network.

This is what CIA's Tenet told Congress in 2004:

“We ...believe Pyongyang is pursuing a production scale
uranium enrichment program based on technology provided by AQ Khan,
which would give North Korea an alternative route to nuclear weapons."

The crazy right-wingers at The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, for example, penned the following in 2005:

"More recently, Pakistan has played a substantial role in the progress of North Korea’s nuclear program. In the second half of the 1990s, Abdul Qadeer Khan, scientist and “father” of Pakistan’s nuclear program, supplied uranium enrichment equipment and perhaps even warhead designs to North Korea..."

The New Yorker had a good story about Khan's involvement in North Korean nuclear proliferation in 2003 (“The Cold Test: What the Administration Knew About Pakistan and the North Korean Nuclear Program,” New Yorker, January 27, 2003).

CRS repeated much the same in 2004 (

A 2002 report in "Nuclear Fuel" (CIA Assessment on DPRK Presumes Massive Outside Help on Centrifuges,” Nuclear Fuel, November 25, 2002) concluded that Pakistan sent centrifuges to North Korea, and later reporting by the Atlantic (, Los Angeles Times and Washington Post repeated similar claims about a "nexus" between the two nations nuclear/missile programs.

Or, as CRS put it:

"A Pakistani official involved in Khan’s investigation reportedly said
North Korea ordered P-1 centrifuge components from 1997 to 2000.24 The scope of Pakistan’s cooperation with Libya and Iran (including P-1 and P-2 designs, a nuclear weapon design for Libya, and some complete rotor assemblies) raises significant questions about how much other help Khan might have given to the North Koreans."

You can read about Pakistan's missile/centrifuge/HEU program ties with North Korea also in Simon Henderson's "Pakistan’s Nuclear Proliferation and U.S. Policy," Policy Watch, The
Washington Institute for Near East Policy, January 12, 2004 or try to find "Pakistan’s Missile ‘Was a Nodong’," Jane’s Missile and Rockets, Volume 2, Number 5, May 1998, pp. 1-2 and "Scientist Claimed Nuclear Equipment Was Old, Official Says," Los Angeles Times,
February 10, 2004.

Pakistani officials used to claim that any proliferation was "personal" in nature and tied to Khan, not the government of Pakistan. This is insane, but you can read their point of view in "Pakistan informed US of ‘personal’ nuclear technology transfer," Agence France-Presse, December 25, 2002.

Or, as Musharraf published his autobiography (p. 296) in 2006, per CRS:

"Pakistani President Musharraf revealed in his September 2006 memoir, In the Line of Fire, that 'Doctor A.Q. Khan transferred nearly two dozen P-1 and P-2 centrifuges to North Korea. He also provided North Korea with a flow meter, some special oils for centrifuges, and coaching on centrifuge technology, including visits to top-secret
centrifuge plants.'"

That made previous claims by Selig S. Harrison seem inconveniently stupid.

No comment.

Soldiernolongeriniraq: all of the reactors you cited are actually heavy water reactors and have been known about for a very long time. there's a difference, fyi. in fact, construction of the 50mw and 200mw reactors have stalled for so long they are irreparable and will never come online. kumchangri, on the other hand, never hosted anything and us officials visiting the site confirmed as much. so that's what - two or three strikes against you?

your mention of nk's "uranium enrichment program" curiously makes no mention of the cia's own downgrading in its confidence level nk has or had an operation facility that, as you so proudly put it, was spinning out HEU for bombs. you also make no mention whatsoever now, with your sources, that north korea was doing this. instead you provide sources that nk sought pakistani assistance in developing a centrifuge program, and acquired some level of aluminum tubes (no one in the public domain likely knows the exact number). unfortunately for your case, the us has already admitted those weren't used in an enrichment program. what they were initially intended for who knows. so then what to make of the cia's 2002 estimate that: "We recently learned that the North is constructing a plant that could produce enough weapons-grade uranium for two or more nuclear weapons per year when fully operational -- which could be as soon as mid-decade"? any guess as to why, nearly 6 years later, this facility isn't up and running, producing, as you say, bomb-grade HEU? presumably if it were doing so, the IC would still be pressing this issue - am i right?

so i'm perfectly well aware of the background here, but am quite frankly mystified of some of your earlier claims that even now, when pressed, you can't back up. you've even downgraded your own assessment of what nk was up to, not being able to find sources to back up your claims. gee, where have i seen this routine before?

there is a difference, you see, of the procurement searches nk was once engaged in, and your claim that pyongyang was well past procurement and instead had "centrifuges that were manufacturing bomb-grade uranium", "that Kim Jong-il's centrifuges ended up spinning out uranium bombs", and that "they continued to proliferate by exporting technology and know-how to Iran, et al." somehow, you forgot to actually back up any of those statements, despite your best efforts.

care to make another run at it?

No thanks, Matt. People like me go fight wars, and we tend to listen to the claims made by our intelligence agencies and the leader of Pakistan.

I have seen your "routine" before, too. Sorry I mistook the types of reactors that were being built.

But my initial points are correct: NK had switched from plutonium production to uranium bombmaking, guided by Pakistan. The Clinton administration didn't stop this production, and indeed did little to slow it until the Bush administration took over. Also with a lack of military pressure, they too allowed NK to move back to plutonium development.

You seem to believe that NK wasn't making HEU with Pakistani centrifuges and that NK wasn't assisting Iran. Fair enough. Tell Musharraf he's a liar. Tell the PRC they don't know what they're talking about.

The world can't long afford people like you. They put the lives of men like me into danger.

"The world can't long afford people like you. They put the lives of men like me into danger."

Yes, yes, I know. Those pesky people like me that push for strong facts and evidence in the face of speculation (and the words of dictators like Musharraf, apparently...) and unsubstantiated assertions. You know, intelligence personnel are in the business of fact collection as well. And at times, when new evidence arises that challenges their assumptions, their assessment changes. You should try it out.

Also, tell me: what measures did the Bush administration take to end the NK HEU or Pu efforts? And again: I'm still asking for evidence - and apparently you are still searching for it - that NK actually produced HEU. Finally, if you'd said assisting Syria, you'd have a bit more credibility. But assistance to Iran - of the nuclear sort? That too will require some of the substantiation I've been asking for.

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