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United States Diplomacy with North Korea and Vietnam

Explaining Failure and Success

Michael Haas

Dr. Michael Haas’ book, United States Diplomacy with North Korea and Vietnam: Explaining Failure and Success, aims to explain a significant, beguiling discrepancy in U.S. foreign relations: How has American diplomacy with Vietnam proved so successful when compared with its efforts to negotiate with North Korea? Haas undertakes a comparative analysis of foreign policy decisions to determine how relationships between the U.S. and each country have diverged drastically, in spite of a legacy of U.S. occupation in both regions. By tracing diplomatic interactions historically, comparatively quantifying diplomatic missteps on the part of the U.S., and cross-testing four paradigms of international relations, Haas presents a case for why the U.S. has succeeded in developing good relations with Vietnam while failing to achieve them with North Korea.

Nuclear war haunts the world today because the U.S. has refused to negotiate a peace agreement with North Korea for more than six decades, yet the U.S. is on friendly terms today with Vietnam, a former enemy. This book answers why, finding that Washington’s diplomacy with both countries explains the dramatic difference. Among four theories posed, power politics and presidential politics are refuted as explanations. Mass society theory, which focuses on civil society, finds that negotiations regarding American soldiers missing in action paved the way for success with Vietnam but not with North Korea. But diplomacy theory—tracing moves and countermoves during diplomatic interactions—reveals the real source of the problem: The United States provided reciprocated unilateral positive gestures to Vietnam while repeatedly double crossing North Korea. Although Pyongyang repeatedly offered to give up nuclear developments, Washington offered no alternative to Pyongyang but to develop a nuclear deterrent to safeguard the country against a devious and hostile U.S.

The book, in short, serves as a serious corrective to false narratives and options being disseminated about the situation that fail to appreciate North Korea perspectives. Now that North Korea has a nuclear deterrent, diplomacy is the only route toward a de-escalation of tensions so that the United States can live peacefully with North Korea in a manner similar to its relations with nuclear China and nuclear Russia. More broadly, United States Diplomacy with North Korea and Vietnam demonstrates what happens when Washington plays the role of global bully, whereas more resources are needed for developing diplomatic talent in a world that will otherwise become more dangerous.

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Afterword (Johan Galtung)


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Johan Galtung

What is U.S. diplomacy? After U.S. bombing killed 3.5 million in Korea from 1950 to 1953, and the U.S. Army killed 3 million in Vietnam from 1961 (under Kennedy) to 30 April 1975 (under Ford). Softer?

This very rich, well-researched book by Michael Haas—a senior, major U.S. political scientist—gives detailed “softer” empirical, factual answers in Part II. Indeed, this book is highly recommended.

However, I want to explore the “deep culture” implications of U.S. foreign policy, compared with “U.S. diplomacy.”

The self-image of the United States is as successor to Israel as most favored nation—by God, with Chosen People and Promised Land (CPPL). Such a vision started in 1620—on the Mayflower. In contrast, the “existence of the ‘Jewish State’” over the past seventy years demonstrates that Israel does not enjoy CPPL status; that existed only under King David and the kings who followed Solomon.

In other words, during 1620 the position of CPPL was empty. Puritan Pilgrims from East Anglia via Leiden in Holland applied for that status. London, with no chosen people but command of the promise land, was beaten in a War of Independence from 1775–1812 for Promised Land for Chosen People, ushering in 141 years of wars seeking “unconditional surrender.” Up to then, the USA appeared to be invincible. ← 139 | 140 →

The Korean War 1950–1953, even with a Uniting for Peace...

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