North Korea and the New York Philharmonic
What would you have thought if Franklin Roosevelt had encouraged the Philharmonic to accept an official invitation to play in Berlin in the spring of 1939? Do you think such a concert would have softened the hearts of the Nazis, any more than Jesse Owens’s victories in the 1936 Olympics changed their minds about racial equality? Or inspired the German people to rise up and revolt against Adolf Hilter? Or saved a single Jewish life?
This is truly baffling, though as John Bolton argues in his memoir, the triumph of Nick Burns over the State Department was already complete before this howler.
But if the series of stories on Israel’s operation in Syria are to be believed, North Korea has been shipping nuclear material to Assadand who knows where else. For this Kim Jong Il gets a concert? If he ships an actual bomb, will we arrange an NFL exhibition?
North Korea carried out a nuclear test 14 months ago. Three months earlier it had launched a half dozen missiles in the direction of Japan. Since then it has signed an agreement to dismantle a reactor and has admitted inspectors, but much more remains to be done before even the first phase of disarmament is complete:
Though critical and long-awaited, the shutdown may also be the easiest achievement. Far more difficult, according to experts and former negotiators with North Korea, will be convincing the country to disgorge what the CIA estimates is enough plutonium fuel for eight or more weapons. Almost all of that was produced starting in 2003, while the United States was distracted by the invasion of Iraq and its aftermath.
Then there is the uranium program, and behind that the massive chemical and biological weapons programs.
Sending in the strings now seems like the worst sort of folly, the meaningless symbolism that only a State Department lifer could persuade himself or herself was a breakthrough.
When North Korea permits unlimited inspections of its uranium enrichment sites, then we will be able to say that a corner has been turned. U.S. Ambassador Christopher Hill’s declaration on the orchestra’s visit, that “I hope it will be looked back upon as an event that helped bring that country back into the world,” is the sort of statement that one should never utter about a brutal dictatorship which has killed hundreds of thousands of its own people.