The Instigator
RoyLatham
Pro (for)
Losing
22 Points
The Contender
JBlake
Con (against)
Winning
24 Points

Obama should appoint Cheney to negotiate with North Korea over hostages

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 7 votes the winner is...
JBlake
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/8/2009 Category: Politics
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,309 times Debate No: 8561
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (17)
Votes (7)

 

RoyLatham

Pro

The North Koreans have seized two American citizens for the apparent purposes of aggrandizing Dear Leader, Kim Il Jong, and for extracting a ransom in the form of concessions for their release. http://www.breitbart.com... Past negotiations have followed the pattern of Dear Leader getting the attention he sought, receiving payment through various concessions, and then reneging on his part of the deal.

One option being discussed among pundits is to send former Vice President Al Gore to negotiate. Gore was identified in the 2000 campaign as "an inspiration to the millions of Americans suffering from Dutch Elm disease." He thus could be counted upon to avoid confrontation. The two women seized were reporters for Al Gore's TV network. But, a pundit asked, what should Gore say when he went to North Korea? There is no easy answer to that. The same problem would exist if Vice President Biden or Governor Richardson or Secretary of State Clinton were sent. Nothing they could say would fail to be interpreted as a form of groveling concession, again fulfilling Dear Leader's ambitions.

The best approach is to send former Vice President Cheney. One thing Cheney could say is: "Nice setup you have here. It would be a shame if anything happened to it. We want our citizens returned." That would be more effective than anything Gore or Biden could say, but it is not quite the right diplomatic tone. Instead, he should say, "President Obama has sent me express his very deep concern over the situation in which two American citizens are being held in error by the government of North Korea. It is difficult to express the depth of President Obama's concern, but he has told me that this could lead to a dramatic worsening of relations between our countries. Therefore, I hope that you will act quickly to resolve this situation." Or words to that effect.

President Obama has taught us that the words used to say something are not nearly as important as who says them and how they are said. Unfortunately, Darth Vader is unavailable to do the present job, so Vice President Cheney will have to suffice. What Cheney would say is not substantially different from what any other representative would say. The message is in who is saying it. The move would have the greatest potential for resolving the situation peacefully by causing Dear Leader to back off.

The resolution is confined only to negotiations for the release of the two Americans currently being held captive. Broader negotiations should involve South Korea, China, and Japan, but holding American citizens is narrowly a concern for Americans.

This move by Obama would also promote the bipartisanship that he espouses and would serve to improve his image of being too apologetic.

The resolution is affirmed.
JBlake

Con

I would like to thank Roy Latham for posting this unique and interesting foreign policy topic. I've been hoping to debate him for some time. This should be a fun debate, regardless of the outcome. I just hope that I can do justice to the topic.

=======

Pro's burden in this debate is to show that Vice President Dick Cheney is the best candidate to head a negotiation with North Korea over the imprisonment of two American citizens. My burden is to show that he is not the best candidate. I can win this debate if I offer a more suitable alternative or if I show why Dick Cheney would not be a good candidate for the position. I will briefly summarize Pro's position, then offer my own case.

As usual, I reserve the right to offer more arguments later in the debate if it becomes necessary.

------------

Pro believes the speaker to be of more importance than the message. As such, he believes Darth Vader to be the ideal candidate. Since Vader is a fictional character (and thus unavailable) Pro proposes Vice President Cheney (VP Cheney hereafter) as the next best option. The idea being that just by sending VP Cheney will send a chilling message to the North Korean government in the form of a subtle threat.

I disagree with Pro's analysis that the messenger is more important than the message. Therefore, I negate, that Obama should appoint Cheney to negotiate with North Korea over the American prisoners. I will offer some reasons below:

------------

THE MESSAGE
More important than sending a subtle threat through the choice of a messenger is an effective message that the administration intends to follow through on if the North Korean government fails to comply. There are several economic options available to the U.S. that they need not resort to subtle physical threats. I will outline them below:

SANCTIONS
The Obama Administration could push for further UN sanctions on North Korea. Whether or not the UN is amenable, the U.S. could enact sanctions of its own. They could also push other trading partners of N. Korea to follow suit.

UN FOOD AID
The Obama Administration could seek to remove the UN food aid program to North Korea. This would have a very real effect on North Korea and its government.

CHINA
China holds much sway over N. Korea. Getting China involved in the process would be much more effective than the subtle threat of sending VP Cheney. I agree with Pro's assertion that the issue is narrowly a concern for Americans, but that does not preclude the involvement of China or other nations in the negotiation process. China is especially suited to act as a mediator.

AL GORE
If we can conclude that the message is indeed more important than the messenger, then Al Gore would be a perfectly suitable alternative (though not the only available one). He is in a unique situation with regards to this issue because the prisoners in question were in N. Korea under his employ.

SUBTLE THREATS
Anytime someone makes physical threats they should be ready to act upon them. If someone does not follow through on a physical threat then future threats will be taken less seriously and be less effective. Some issues may or may not warrant physical aggression on our part, but this one does not fit into that category. This is not the issue on which to go to war with N. Korea. A diplomatic solution would be ideal, with economic sanctions and the removal of aid being secondary.

VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY
VP Cheney already had his opportunity to improve relations with N. Korea during the Bush Administration. At this point, his administration's N. Korea policy seems to be a failure given recent provocative action. Since he already failed once in this endeavor, why should the American public trust him again?

=======

CONCLUSION
The subtle threat of sending Vice President Dick Cheney is unwarranted in the issue at hand. This is especially true because there are more suitable responses such as sanctions (U.S. or U.N.), removal of aid, or the employ of a powerful mediator. The resolution is negated.
Debate Round No. 1
RoyLatham

Pro

Yes, only rarely to we get to shape foreign policy on this site.

Con declares past policies towards North Korea a failure and proposes new policies of UN sanctions, cutting off food aid, and engaging China in pressuring North Korea. These alleged "new policies" are precisely the old policies that failed:

"Bush Seeks China's Help on Halting North Korea's Nuclear Program" http://www.foxnews.com...

"Following North Korea's nuclear test in October 2006, Security Council members imposed sanctions on Pyongyang. The 'financial sanctions. A month after the Council adopted the US-backed sanctions, "
http://www.globalpolicy.org...

2003: "The United Nations dispatched a special envoy to North Korea today to assess the threat of humanitarian crisis in the wake of the United States' decision to suspend delivery of food aid to the impoverished country, which has suffered years of drought and famine. ... U.S. aid officials are demanding four reforms..." http://www.unwire.org...

In my opening argument I asserted that past policies have failed. I said "Past negotiations have followed the pattern of Dear Leader getting the attention he sought, receiving payment through various concessions, and then reneging on his part of the deal." The pattern actually preceded Bush, having included the Clinton Administration who did all the same things, with the same results. Con's proposal thus brings to mind:

"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."
--Albert Einstein, (attributed) http://www.quotationspage.com...

So sending Al Gore with same old message will not produce new results.

I agree with Con in his assertion that, "Anytime someone makes physical threats they should be ready to act upon them." So if Cheney delivers a veiled threat, we must be prepared to act by doing something as follow up. With a veiled threat, the follow through action may be the minimum required to convince Dear Leader that much worse may follow. For example, the follow-up might be to shoot down one of North Korea's missiles launched over the Pacific.

The goal is not just to impress Dear Leader. The reason that the Chinese are not acting is that they fear the collapse of the North Korean regime would send a flood of refuges across the border into China. That would happen if the US decided unilaterally to take out Dear Leader with a cruise missile delivered to his parlor. Currently, the Chinese have no worry of the US doing that, because the Chinese expect that the US will continue the same dance with Dear Leader.

Sending Vice President Cheney to chat with Dear Leader would add gravitas to the message in a way that Al Gore could not. It would show that Obama is not a wimp to be toyed with, and it would show that Democrats and Republicans are united behind Obama on this issue. It's doubtful that Dear Leader himself would be shaken by Cheney's delivery of the message, although there is a much greater chance if Cheney delivers it than Gore. However, the Chinese are possessed of their mental faculties and might well act preemptively to stifle Dear Leader. If they do not, a follow up no more dramatic then sinking a North Korean paddle boat might well convey the message effectively.

Con advocates sending Al Gore, probably in a Little Bo Peep costume, with the message that if Dear Leader does not behave then we'll repeat the same cycle of failed policy one more time. Con is right, we cannot fail to follow through this time. The establishment of North Korea as a nuclear arms merchant,with nutcase Dear Leader running the store is not acceptable. Our strategy therefore is to get the Chinese to act with our least physical intervention in North Korea possible. President Obama sending Vice President Cheney would show a resolve unmatched by previous Administrations, so that a minor action as follow up would send a convincing message. There is even a chance that the Chinese would be sufficiently impressed without any follow up. There is no chance that Al Gore, even backed up by his entire flock of sheep, could accomplish that.

The resolution is affirmed.
JBlake

Con

Thank you, Pro, for your quick response.

As usual, I will address each point under its proper heading.

======

SANCTIONS, AID, and CHINA
In the second round Pro asserted that sanctions, removal of aid, and engaging China are precisely the policies that have failed in the past. He then goes on to admit that offering concessions are part of the cycle in which North Korea gets what it wants then reneges on its part of the deal.

Sanctions and removal of aid can and have proven to be effective in other cases. The difference here, as Pro notes, is that we have offered concessions why not ensuring that N. Korea keeps their part of the bargain. No where in my opening round did I suggest that we should offer any concessions. The benefit N. Korea receives from releasing the two U.S. citizens in question is to not lose aid and to not be further sanctioned. They cannot renege on this deal because their not being sanctioned and losing aid is wholly dependent on release.

--------

AL GORE
Pro can deride and insult liberals all he wants, no matter how thinly veiled. I will happily accept the conduct point from the readers.

Pro claims that Al Gore would be sent to N. Korea with the "same cycle of failed policy." However, this is not the case in this instance. No one is offering any concessions, as I have already mentioned. The message this time is 'return our citizens or suffer the (economic) consequences.' This is in stark contrast to the message of sending Cheney, which is 'return the citizens or be bombed.' As I said in round one, this is not the issue on which to go to war. There are more peaceable solutions.

OTHER OFFICIALS
Al Gore is by no means the only option available. Bill Richardson would be an adequate candidate since he has negotiated the release of U.S. citizens from Korea in the past (http://www.telegraph.co.uk...).

Ret. Gen. Wesley Clark has a similarly hard-line reputation to that of Cheney but without the dark connotations. If indeed we need to send subtle threats in order to achieve the release of the two prisoners then sending Ret. Gen. Clark, or any other military man, to negotiate would have the same (or greater) effect.

----------

THREATS OF VIOLENCE
As I have asserted repeatedly, this is not the issue on which to go to war. The fate of the two women is regrettable, but not worthy of starting a war in which tens of thousands of lives will be lost; or of toppling the regime. Our legitimate reasons for opposing the regime would be undermined.

---------

CHENEY
I have my doubts that Cheney's war hawk reputation is sufficient enough for China to be "impressed" enough to act. If Pro wishes to make this assertion I hope he is willing to provide ample evidence that Cheney's reputation is such that his mere presence would have such an effect.

Pro says that a violent follow up to Cheney's veiled threat would likely sufficiently impress China into action. However, the minor follow up action, in this instance, is what would cause the Chinese to act - not Cheney's leadership of the special envoy. Therefore, literally anyone could replace Cheney with the same result. If anyone can replace Cheney and achieve the same result then Pro loses this debate.

CHENEY PT. 2
The very different domestic and foreign policy ideologies that exist between Obama and Cheney are sufficient reasons why Cheney should not be considered for the position unless it can be unequivocally proven that his presence would have the extreme effect that Pro claims. Pro has failed in this regard thus far, as evidenced by Pro's concession that a follow up would likely be necessary for our physical threats to be effective.

======

CONCLUSION
Pro has yet to demonstrate a unique benefit of sending VP Cheney to negotiate the release of two U.S. citizens imprisoned in N. Korea. In order to win this debate he will first need need to show that the threat of violence is the only viable negotiation method in this case. If he can successfully demonstrate that, then he will need to show why Cheney is a better candidate than other men with similar hard-line reputations without the ideological difference.

Good Luck in the final round, Roy Latham.
Debate Round No. 2
RoyLatham

Pro

The unique benefit of President Obama sending VP Cheney is that it shows American resolve in a way that no other appointment could equal. It shows resolve not only by Cheney's no-nonsense reputation, but by demonstrating Republican and Democratic unity in supporting the President's determination in refusing to allow the standard North Korean duplicity. Whatever the chances of success with any message delivered to North Korea, the chances are improved by having Cheney deliver it. Cheney will be taken more seriously by both the Chinese and the North Koreans than Al Gore or anyone else. No Democrat would demonstrate bipartisan determination, and no person with a dovish reputation would make so bold a statement of intent by the President.

Con claims that UN sanctions alone will force North Korea to comply, because they have worked in the past. Pro gives no evidence that sanctions have worked against North Korea. I provided evidence that they did not work. UN sanctions were imposed in 2006 after the first North Korean nuclear test. http://www.cnn.com.... That did not deter the North Koreans from continuing their nuclear program. The UN passed a resolution condemning the current North Korean nuclear test, but no further UN action has materialized. If a nuclear danger cannot inspire UN action, there is no chance whatsoever that seizing American citizens will provoke sanctions.

Moreover, while the UN may act to impose some additional sanctions in response to North Korea's nuclear test, there is no chance they would impose sanctions based upon their having taken hostages. In 2004, the North Koreans admitted to having kidnapped 13 Japanese citizens in the period from 1977 through 1983, although the actual total was more likely 70 to 80. A resolution condemning the North Korean action passed in the General Assembly over the opposition of Russia and China. However, no sanctions or other punishment was imposed, and without Chinese and Russian support no Security Council action would be possible. http://en.wikipedia.org... The Japanese citizens were held for more than twenty years. This makes it all the more apparent that seizing American citizens will not provoke UN action.

Con claims that Dear Leader cannot renege on a deal to release hostages in return for avoiding sanctions, because once the hostages are released, they cannot be taken back. The error in that thinking is that history shows conclusively that Dear Leader will not agree to that deal in first place. He knows that the UN will never act just to save Americans, and he knows that the policy of China is to provide whatever aid is required for the regime to survive. What North Korea demanded, and received, from the Japanese in return for hostages was money. That is what, according to experts, Dear Leader is likely to demand this time.

" 'It seems to me, the question is whether the Obama administration will have something to lay out,' said Niksch [research analyst at the Congressional Research Service]. He recommends 'a big offer of food aid, probably a million tons or more, possibly two million tons', with no strings attached. In other words, the US would have to drop its insistence on seeing who got the aid - the demand that led to the end of 'humanitarian' shipments from the US last year. . . . A large US donation may provide the opening for the bilateral dialogue that North Korea is widely assumed to want with the US - provided the talk focuses on North Korea's basic demands. These include recognition of North Korea as a nuclear state, one of nine members of the global elite of nuclear powers, and removal of the sanctions that the US is determined to impose." http://www.alternet.org...

I do not know if Cheney delivering a threat of physical intervention will cause Dear Leader to rethink his policies. It might not. Nonetheless, we ought to give negotiation every chance, and the chances are better with Cheney than with any other envoy. If negotiation fails, then, as Pro agreed, we must follow up with physical action. With Cheney having been sent to underscore the determination of President Obama and Congress, we then have the greatest chance that a relatively minor physical intervention would suffice. The goal is to impress the Chinese with our resolve more than it is to impress Dear Demented Leader. A physical action with Cheney as the precursor is more likely to succeed is that the action would then portend of greater action. with the message delivered by a weak emissary, any action is more likely to be dismissed as an empty gesture.

Con makes an odd accusation that I violated debate conduct. I insulted Dear Leader and Al Gore, and probably Vice President Cheney as well--although perhaps he likes the Darth Vader comparison. Insults of third parties is perfectly acceptable in a debate. What is important is that I did not insult Con. Con claims I insulted liberals, and he apparently identifies with liberals, although that did not come up in the debate. In fact I never mentioned liberals in the debate, and I deliberately avoided any such unwarranted generality. There are many liberals who had strong reputations for supporting no-nonsense foreign policies: FDR, Truman, JFK, and Senator Henry Jackson come to mind. If President Truman were around, he would make an excellent envoy to North Korea. Al Gore, however, is not on that list, because his reputation is far too soft. Moreover, I am proposing that Cheney act as subordinate to Obama, in the belief that the generally liberal President Obama would embrace a strong statement with respect to North Korea. The resolution supposes there is no contradiction in Obama being liberal and acting tough with North Korea. Con is straining to take an insult personally when there was none directed at him or intended.

This debate is about the probabilities of foreign policy alternatives working. It is not possible to know with certainty. Our goal should be to give the greatest chance possible first to negotiation succeeding, and then if that fails to a relatively minor physical intervention working. Vice President Cheney delivering the message is most likely to achieve those goals. Renewing past failed strategies is unlikely in the extreme to be successful.

The resolution is affirmed.
JBlake

Con

Thank you once again, Roy, for your well-formed argument. I have thoroughly enjoyed this debate. I would also like to note that I did not take offense to the not-so-subtle subtle insults included in his posts - in fact, I found them rather funny.

I would also like to take this opportunity to correct Pro on one point. I did not claim that sanctions have worked in n. Korea in the past, I claimed that sanctions have worked in other places on other issues. Something through us directly getting what we want, other times by getting other nations to join us in boycotting or sanctioning trade with another nation. I didn't realize I needed sources for this - I considered it to be common knowledge. I will include them now:
- David Cortright and George A. Lopez. "The Sanctions Decade: Assessing UN Strategies in the 1990s." Boulder, Colo., 2000.
- Richard N. Haass, ed. "Economic Sanctions and American Diplomacy." New York, 1998.
- Joseph Hanlon, ed. "South Africa: The Sanctions Report. Documents and Statistics." London, 1990.

I would also like to note that Pro failed to respond to the alternatives I provided in the second round.

-------

I will summarize Pro's argument:

The Obama Administration should appoint VP Cheney as special envoy to negotiate the release of two U.S. citizens because:
1. Merely sending him sends a chilling subtle threat that the U.S. intends to take violent action should N. Korea choose not to comply.
2. Sending him also sends the message that Democrat and Republicans are united in their resolve.
3. Cheney would be taken more seriously by China and N. Korea than any other potential envoy.
4. Ultimately, sending Cheney with a follow up violent action (if necessary) is the best plan.

---------

I will answer each of the points made by Pro to support his resolution in the order that they appear above.

1. I have repeatedly asserted that this issue, while unfortunate, is not a viable reason to go to war with N. Korea. There may be legitimate reasons for violence or war with N. Korea, but this is not one of them. Pro failed to respond to this point I made, suggesting that he believes this to indeed be a provocation to war. On this point we obviously differ, and it serves to outline my criticism of Pro's second point.

2. Of course there will be some bipartisan unity behind the Obama Administration's plan of action. However, as Pro nicely outlines, there will be differences on whether the U.S. should consider this a negotiation situation or a provocation for war. Democrats and Republicans will be far from united. If recent foreign policy history tells us anything its that the two parties have very different views of America's place in the world; and very different views on what a proper response would be.

Even if we can make the jump to assume that Pro is correct and that a display of partisan unity is necessary in this instance, this does not automatically mean that Cheney is the best choice. Appointing a republican or two to accompany Al Gore, Bill Richardson, Wesley Clark, or any other Democrat that can be perceived as hard-line would produce similar results. Another option is to select a Republican to head the delegation who does not have a history of extreme policy differences

3. Pro offered no reason as to why VP Cheney would be taken more seriously by China or N. Korea than any other potential delegate. We can assume that he means the threat of violence that goes with sending Cheney.

4. This is the point where Pro's entire argument unravels. He has backed himself into a corner where he must admit that a follow up physical action would be the necessary step to show N. Korea and China that we are serious about this new policy that Pro has proposed. That undermines his original position that merely sending Cheney would be sufficient to impress China and N. Korea into working with us. Such a follow up would have precisely the same effect even following the weakest of emissaries. It seems anathema to common sense that either nation would look at a violent U.S. response and say "but they sent Al Gore, that means the violence is less important." Once the violent response occurs, it matters not who was the negotiator. At that point it is the bullet that is doing the negotiating.

=======

CONCLUSION
Pro failed to live up to many of his requirements to win this debate. He failed to show why threats of violence, or why violence itself, was warranted in this instance.
I have countered every point made by Pro as to why Cheney is not the best option:
- Hard-liners exist within the Democratic Party; and some exist within the Republican party with fewer extreme differences with the current Administration.
- A delegation consisting of both parties would be sufficient to show partisan unity.
- The violent follow up is the real action that would impress China and N. Korea, not VP Cheney.

Because Pro failed to live up to his burden; because he ignored my alternatives; and because I have sufficiently countered all of his points:
I urge you to vote CON.

Thank you for reading.
Debate Round No. 3
17 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Lexicaholic 7 years ago
Lexicaholic
"Why do I get the feeling that if the North Korea nuked Tokyo, liberals would judge it deeply regrettable, but not worth doing anything beyond one more UN resolution?"

I'd argue for decimating North Korea. That's just me though.
Posted by RoyLatham 7 years ago
RoyLatham
You missed the points about probabilities and lowering the minimum physical action required to get a favorable response. Claiming that any physical action whatsoever is starting a war means there is no point in negotiating, so it doesn't matter who does the negotiating. But once one recognizes that relatively minor actions have greater significance based upon apparent unity and resolve of the US, then probabilities improve. I accept that you never got, and I know I could not explain it more clearly than I did. I'll let it go.
Posted by TheSkeptic 7 years ago
TheSkeptic
"Nice setup you have here. It would be a shame if anything happened to it. We want our citizens returned."

HAHA.
Posted by JBlake 7 years ago
JBlake
I wasn't saying it was not worth any risk whatsoever.

You are missing the point where this connects to the debate over Cheney as the special envoy. The point is that it is the physical action that you admit is almost certainly a requirement for China and Korea to take notice. The physical action is what would make them take notice, not the sending of Cheney.
Posted by RoyLatham 7 years ago
RoyLatham
"Well what physical action did you have in mind that would not lead to war?"

In Round 1 I said, "For example, the follow-up might be to shoot down one of North Korea's missiles launched over the Pacific." You could have responded "that would surely lead to war because .. blah, blah," but you took the stance that I had advocated provoking war. I said repeatedly "the least physical action," which clearly implies something modest and mostly symbolic. Kim has said he would consider sanctions an act of war, so obviously you discounted that possibility as a reason not to act.

"And why did you not address that and correct me in the second or third round when you had the opportunity?"

Because you did not overtly misconstrue my argument until the last round of the debate, to which I could not respond. Previously, you had never argued that any physical response whatsoever would provoke war, only the more abstract "it's not worth going to war over." That's different from, "it is not worth any risk whatsoever." You should have forthrightly said, "The lives of two citizens is not worth any risk whatsoever." Had I understood that early on, I would have argued it.
Posted by JBlake 7 years ago
JBlake
Well what physical action did you have in mind that would not lead to war? The point is, this is not the issue on which to go to war or risk going to war (through provocation). And why did you not address that and correct me in the second or third round when you had the opportunity?

Obviously nuking Tokyo would be more than enough provocation to go to war with N. Korea. I mentioned several times that there are plenty of better issues that are worth doing more than UN resolutions, this is not one of them.
Posted by RoyLatham 7 years ago
RoyLatham
I, of course, said "physical action" not "go to war." North Korea has shot missiles over Japan to extract concessions, took the physical action of seizing hostages, and so forth, all physical actions short of war. I did not like the debate, because "go to war" was a deliberate misrepresentation. It could have been argued that any physical action, no matter how minor, poses an unacceptable risk of war. That would have been legit.

Why do I get the feeling that if the North Korea nuked Tokyo, liberals would judge it deeply regrettable, but not worth doing anything beyond one more UN resolution?
Posted by JBlake 7 years ago
JBlake
Alright, you pulled me in. I just hope I can do the topic justice.
Posted by JBlake 7 years ago
JBlake
I can't believe no one has taken up this debate yet. This is one of the more interesting ones...
Posted by Lexicaholic 7 years ago
Lexicaholic
""Of course quoting oneself is acceptable."

Or maybe I used quotation marks to set off the scene. I could have used asterisks, but I thought, what the heck, people will get what I mean.

Some anyway."

Oops, ignore this drivel. Misunderstood the direction of the last few comments. Need more coffee, or more sleep ...
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