January 11, 2012

Rear Vision

ABC Radio National

Paul Cleary [Senior Writer, The Australian]:
… 90% of a $330 billion revenue windfall [from the 2003 mining boom] was spent by the Howard government in the last few years of office.
(Australia's Mining Boom, 10 April 2016)

CONTENTS


2016

2015
2014
2013
2012
2011
2010
2009

REAR VISION


Annabelle Quince & Keri Phillips

2016


2015


2014


2013

  • Syria — from peaceful protest to civil war, 27 October 2013.
  • Second wave feminism, 13 October 2013.
  • Beyond the bank bailout, 29 September 2013.
    Neil Barofsky: Adjunct Professor of Law and Senior Research Fellow, School of Law, New York University.
    Special Inspector General (2008-2011) overseeing the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP), US Treasury.
    Richard Sylla: Professor of The History of Financial Institutions and Markets and Economics, New York University.
    Jeff Madrick: Author, Age of Greed: The Triumph of Finance and the Decline of America, 1970 to the Present, Alfred A Knopf, New York, 2011.
    Alan Binder: Professor of Economics and Public Affairs, Princeton University.

    Keri Phillips:
    [On the 3rd of October 2008, George W Bush] signed into law the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program — the TARP.
    Two weeks earlier Lehman Brothers, a global financial services firm and then the fourth-largest investment bank in the US had filed for bankruptcy.
    It was the largest bankruptcy in history and played a major role in the ensuing global financial crisis …
    The TARP was designed to ensure the survival of American financial institutions and also to protect millions of homeowners with unsustainable mortgages from foreclosure.

    Neil Barofsky:
    Essentially what happened [was a] massive build-up of leverage or borrowing from a bunch of large Wall Street banks and investment banks, and they were borrowing money to make these enormous bets on mortgages.
    [They’d] gather up thousands and thousands of mortgages and turn them into a type of bond called a mortgage-backed security.
    And [then] they made a tremendous amount of money buying them and selling them and making fees.

    [Over] the course of the decade, they started running out of mortgages because there's only so many mortgages that qualified under the normal standards of a mortgage …
    [So, in order to] keep the process going … they started making bonds out of the mortgage bonds, these complex instruments called CDOs.
    And then they started making bonds [out] of bonds, [so-called] CDOs-squared …
    And then they started making complex bets through derivatives on these bonds.
    And even [then there weren't enough] mortgages to feed this [huge money-making] machine.

    So … they started … lowering standards: [giving mortgages] to anyone who had a pulse, whether that person had a job, didn't have a job, it didn't matter.
    Lend them 100% of the purchase price, lend them 110% of the purchase price, it didn't matter.
    [Over] the course of the decade [people made billions] of dollars and executives got fabulously wealthy.
    But sooner or later, like any type of bubble, it had to pop. …

    The Federal Reserve consciously decided that it wasn't going to regulate fraud, even though there was a lot of evidence that there was a lot of fraud going on …
    [The Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan, believed] that the market [would —] if it was just left alone [—] take care of fraud [by itself.]
    [It was a] horrendous mistake.
    [Likewise,] other regulators were frankly asleep at the switch. …

    You saw Goldman [Sachs] and Citi, two of the biggest Wall Street institutions, betting against the very products that they were selling and pitching to customers — customers who lost $1 billion in a matter of months while the institutions profited.

    [The GFC was] a combination of deregulatory zeal, bad regulators not doing their jobs, and … the unharnessed greed [of] Wall Street …

    Richard Sylla:
    [In 2004] the heads of Wall Street firms, went down to Washington and told the SEC …
    [The academic] economists are saying the world is more stable [than in the past …]
    [You currently only allow] us to lever up [to] 15 or 20 to 1, but [since the] the world is [now] more stable we [should be allowed to] lever up to … 30 to 40 to 1 …
    [And by] doubling the leverage [they doubled] the risk.
    And the SEC … meekly went along and said …
    [Go] ahead, give it a try.
    [Then it] all blew up.
    They threw caution to the wind. …

    Jeff Madrick:
    The bank bailout [was necessary.]
    [There was no way the government could] let the banks go under …
    [But the treasury] lent the banks a lot of money or bought shares in the banks with no requirements on the banks about what to do with that money.
    All they did was try to save the banks and really basically the shareholders and the bondholders, mostly the bondholders.

    They did not fire management.
    [Not] merely to punish them for making mistakes, but how do you expect a management that made all these mistakes, that had friends who should have been fired because they made mistakes, that have cosy relationships in Wall Street, how do you expect them to reform these institutions?
    It's obvious many of them should have been let go as a condition for getting that money.
    [But it] never occurred to the Bush administration [—] or to the Obama administration which took over only a few months later and … in particular Timothy Geithner, the Treasury Secretary under Obama [—] to let these people go.
    In fact they insisted … that executives at AIG [—] the big insurance company that wrote all these derivatives that went bad [—] be allowed to keep their bonuses. …

    Neil Barofsky:
    TARP was supposed to be a means to an [end: a] broader, more robust financial recovery. …
    As it turned out, it wasn't so successful in that [goal — to help] homeowners … regular people, small businesses, Main Street if you will …
    It was [however,] very successful in saving the banks and putting them back on a path of profitability. …

    What I saw was [regulatory capture.]
    [The] officials at the Federal Reserve and [the Treasury] so closely identified the interests of the largest financial institutions with [what] was good for America, that they failed to see or prioritise those Main Street goals. …
    [Many] had come from … all the same institutions that helped cause the crisis …
    [They] left those jobs to help work for the government.
    And I believe they did so [with the genuine intention of serving] their country at a time of crisis.
    But they brought all that Wall Street ideology with them.

    [When] I would point out [that] they had a program that was vulnerable to fraud [and] abuse, and they would tell me,
    Neil … you don't need to worry about this, they're banks, they would never risk their reputation by putting their own profit over public policy.
    And I remember at the time thinking to myself:
    Where have you guys been the last couple of [years? …]
    [And] of course where had they been?
    They had been at Goldman Sachs and Bear Stearns and Merrill Lynch and Bank of America.
    [That] had a lot to do with it.

    [Also,] there's so much money flowing from Wall Street into Washington: campaign contributions, lobbying efforts, it's relentless.
    [And it] has a very negative impact on the democratic process and on the reform process. …

    Keri Phillips:
    In the end only about $450 billion of the $700 billion allocated to the TARP was actually disbursed, and all of the money given to the big banks has been returned.
    The taxpayer may even make a modest profit.
    Homeowners hoping for mortgage relief, however, [were not so fortunate. …]

    Alan Binder:
    [In] the law as passed by Congress in October 2008 there were quite explicit instructions (but not a number) to the secretary of the Treasury to use some of the money to mitigate and prevent foreclosures, so that at the end of the day there would be fewer homes foreclosed upon.
    That was in the law, but no number, no number at all.
    The law was written to give tremendous discretion to the Secretary of the Treasury.

    So what happened?
    Hank Paulson [former Chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs,] used zero dollars, nothing at all.
    Tim Geithner became Secretary of the Treasury in late January 2009 with the Obama administration, and he assigned $50 billion of the $700 billion … to helping homeowners out of their mortgages, refinancing them and so on.
    [There] were many millions of bad mortgages … so $50 billion [is a pittance. …]
    [And because] the qualification criteria were made pretty tough for political reasons … only a fraction of the $50 billion … was actually utilised. …

    Neil Barofsky:
    What we found out was that the banks [—] with the tacit approval of Treasury [—] were using the system to … extract payments out of struggling borrowers …
    Treasury designed this program [in a way that] made it more profitable for a bank or a mortgage servicer to string out a borrower [with endless trial modifications] and then foreclose on them [rather than giving] them a permanent modification [that would allow them to keep] their homes. …
    [Geithner explained to us that the aim of] this program was [to] in his words, ‘foam the runway’ for the banks.
    [He] said that the banks would suffer potentially catastrophic losses and would have to be bailed out all over again if they had to go through too many foreclosures at the same time …
    [This program would help to] stretch out the process [so as to protect the banks from undue risk. …]
    So really you had a program that was supposed to help homeowners, but the only institutions that it helped, once again, were the largest financial institutions. …

    Keri Phillips:
    In July 2010, President Obama signed into law the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
    Over 2,000 pages long, it contains the most significant changes to financial regulation in the United States since the reform that followed the Great Depression.

    Alan Binder:
    • First of all it set tougher lending standards for banks. …
    • Secondly it set up [an orderly] liquidation procedure… for the next time we have to lay to rest a gigantic financial institution like Lehman Brothers, or we almost did for Bear Stearns, we almost did for AIG, we almost did for Citibank, [and] we almost did for Bank of America. …
    • Thirdly it set up … a systemic risk regulator. …
      [It's] called the Financial Stability Oversight Council, and … has a hunting license to look everywhere for systemic risk. …
      So now there is a whole apparatus for systemic risk regulation which not only crosses borders [but also covers] big segments [of the financial system that previously] weren't regulated at all. …
    [We] had a disgraceful law on the books called a Commodity Futures Modernisation Act dating from 2000 …
    Congress basically [prohibited] the regulatory authorities [from regulating] derivatives [at the insistence of the financial industry. …]
    [That has been] changed to a regulatory regime for derivatives …
    [Wall Street] is fighting it tooth and nail. …

    Jeff Madrick:
    There's a culture of greed.
    People actually think it's okay … to cheat.
    You often have to cheat to keep your job. …

    Neil Barofsky:
    If there is an absence of fiduciary duty of a banker towards their clients, change the law and make it one …
    We need to get away from that mindset that I saw in Treasury … where the officials [said:]
    Oh no, they would never do the wrong thing because they are banks!
    Well, they will do the wrong thing … unless you make a very clear rule that this is wrong and if you do this you will be punished, you will go to jail or you will pay a fine …
    [That's] something that is just sadly missing in our system.

    [We currently have] an unworkable series of incentives that
    • encourage risk-taking,
    • encourage criminal behaviour, and
    • encourage fragility of our system.

    [The] first step is to [address 'too big to fail' institutions.]
    [We need] break them up … so that
    • the failure of any one can't bring down the system.
    • they won't have [the] power or influence in Washington to write their own rules [and]
    • they won't be able to take as many risks because they won't be doing so on the back of the American taxpayer …

    Richard Sylla:
    One of the ironies [of] having institutions that were too big to fail so they had to be bailed out [is that some have become] much larger.
    [The reason being that the] failed institutions were [absorbed] by institutions that were a little bit stronger …
    For example, Washington Mutual [failed and] was purchased by J P Morgan Chase.
    … Wells Fargo [bought] Wachovia Bank.
    [If] part of the problem of the crisis was we had institutions that were too big to fail, one of the results of the crisis [is that] our biggest institutions [have] got even bigger …

  • Disengaging in Afghanistan, 4 August 2013.
  • Eavesdropping: political surveillance in the democratic state, 28 July 2013.
  • The death penalty, 21 July 2013.
  • The Australian car industry, 14 July 2013.
  • Egypt: Where has the revolution gone?, 7 July 2013.
  • Elections in the Islamic Republic of Iran, 9 June 2013.
    Shaul Bakhash: Clarence J Robinson Professor of History, George Mason University.
    Farideh Farhi: Independent Scholar and Affiliate, Graduate Faculty, University of Hawai'i.
    Ali Ansari: Professor of Iranian History, University of St Andrews, Scotland.

    Annabelle Quince:
    The Islamic Republic of Iran came into existence in 1979 after the Iranian revolution.
    According to the Iranian constitution, power in the republic is divided between two sets of institutions:
    • the elected republican institutions and
    • the non-elected religious institutions. …
    Shaul Bakhash:
    [At] the apex of authority and power is the Supreme Leader who has to be a distinguished Islamic cleric.
    And since the Islamic revolution in 1979 there have been only two persons in that post, first the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Khomeini, and now since 1989 Ayatollah Khamenei. …

    Beneath him there is an elected parliament, a government headed by a [directly elected] president. …

    Farideh Farhi:
    [The Supreme] leader is [appointed (and can theoretically be removed) by] an 86-member council … called the Council/Assembly of Experts [— members of which are elected for eight year terms.]
    [There is a 12 member Guardian Council made up of six Islamic Faqihs (experts in Islamic Law) who are appointed by the Supreme Leader, and six jurists elected by the Parliament (Majlis).
    However, the elected jurists are vetted by the Head of the Judicial Power who is also appointed by the Supreme Leader.
    The Guardian Council in turn "holds veto power over all legislation" and vets the all candidates for the parliament and the Council/Assembly of Experts.
    Guardian Council members serve six year terms — half changing every three years.
    The Supreme Leader, therefore, indirectly controls the membership of the only body that can remove him (the Council/Assembly of Experts via the Guardian Council and the Head of the Judicial Power) and which determines who succeeds him on his death.]

    Annabelle Quince:
    [In] the late 1990s and early 2000s when the republican institutions dominated the political landscape in Iran. …

    Shaul Bakhash:
    [In] 1997 Mohammad Khatami was elected [as the 5th President of Iran and] launched a broad program of [economic and political] reform …
    Many new newspapers were founded, elections began to have meaning, local councils were established.
    [However, there was a conservative backlash and crackdown, so] his second term was far less effective than … his first. …

    Farideh Farhi:
    The 2005 election was [won by] Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [— a protege of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei — who] brought in … to dismantle reformism.
    [Reform and opposition to the government was treated both as religious impiety or heresy and political treachery or sedition —] an aspect Americanism or Westernism.
    [A] lot of oil money coming in at the time [so] they were able [to maintain social control] through a mixture of generous patronage and very fierce repression [— which culminated in the suppression of dissent after the 2009 election.]

    Shaul Bakhash:
    In 2009 the … Ahmadinejad was running for a second term …
    [The challengers were a] cleric by the name of Nateq-Nouri and the former prime minister Mir-Hossein Mousavi.
    And they separately proposed a program of change and reform, and out of that [spontaneously emerged] what came to be known as the Green Movement.
    [When Ahmadinejad was re-elected] hundreds of thousands of people, particularly in the capital, poured out into the streets in protest. …
    [Both] the opposition leaders were put under house arrest [and] large numbers of their leading supporters and campaign managers were put on trial.
    The protests were [labelled as] sedition …

    Ali Ansari:
    [In 2009, the authorities significantly underestimated] the level of grassroots organisation that had taken place in the couple of years [before the election in opposition to] Ahmadinejad.
    [They didn't believe it was possible for] people on the ground in Iran [to organise] a grassroots political party. …
    [That's why it took them a good six months to crush the movement —] they were completely unprepared for it. …

    [Ahmadinejad has:]
    • centralised power within the presidency …
    • removed the ability of certain bodies to audit and hold bodies to account [and]
    • transferred money and wealth via the presidency into the office of the Supreme Leader. …

    [In 2007, he effectively abolished] the Plan and Budget Organisation [—] an organisation … of economic technocrats who assess the government's performance on economic development [— which had existed since 1949. …]

    [He] has dismantled any form of auditing … in a political system … where auditing was never very strong [in the first place.]
    [As a consequence,] many of the institutions of government are [deteriorating and there has been] a lot of damage to the institutional fabric of the country. …

    Shaul Bakhash:
    [For] the people … the key issues are economic.
    Unemployment is very high [and] the country has experienced very severe inflation.
    The [Iranian] currency, the rial, has lost [perhaps] three-quarters of its value [in the last 18 months.]
    Some of this is the result of severe economic mismanagement at home [and some from] the very extensive sanctions imposed on Iran by the United States and the European community [over the issue of] Iran's nuclear program.
    [So economic issues are closely linked with those of foreign policy.]

    … Iran is now engaged through proxies in major Middle Eastern conflicts including … the Syrian uprising and … with Israel. …

    Ali Ansari:
    [Of the] 680 candidates who registered to run [in the 2012 Presidential election, the Guardian Council selected] eight …
    [Since the] late 1990's … they've never provided any justification for their decisions. …
    Journalist:
    [Inexplicably,] the former president, Akbar Hachemi Rafsanjani, [has] been barred from running in next month's presidential election.
    Ali Ansari:
    [The] candidates [are:]

    1. an ostensible reformer [and] former vice president [to] Mohammed Ahmadinejad [— Mohammad Reza] Aref …
      [Withdrew his candidacy during the campaign. …]
    2. former nuclear negotiator, Hassan Rouhani [—] seen as a protégé of Rafsanjani and to some extent Khatami.
      [Rouhani won the election. …]
    3. {[Mohammad Gharazi, a former] minister under Rafsanjani …
    4. [Mohsen Rezaee, a former commander in] the revolutionary guards …

    [Four of the candidates are] part of the leader's household [—] protégés of the leader.

    1. former speaker of parliament, [Gholam-Ali] Haddad-Adel [who is related to the Supreme Leader by marriage …]
      [Withdrew his candidacy during the campaign.]
    2. the current mayor of Tehran, Ghalibaf [who is] basically on the leader's side. …
    3. former foreign policy advisor to the Supreme Leader … Ali Akbar Velayati …
    4. the current head of the National Security Council and nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili [—] a carbon copy of Ahmadinejad without some of the obnoxious rhetoric.}

    Farideh Farhi:
    … Iranian elections are neither free nor fair.
    [That being said, there] is a range of candidates that starts [form] centrist reformer all the way to hardline. …
    [Of course,] all of them [are] committed to the continuation of the Islamic Republic [but] in terms of [policies] with real impact on the daily lives of individuals … there is quite a bit of difference.

    Shaul Bakhash:
    [Historically, the] president [has made] a difference.
    Whether this will remain … the case [in the future — who can say?]

  • North Korea: The history of its relationship with the United States and with nuclear weapons, 14 April 2013.
    Bruce Cumings: Professor of History, University of Chicago.
    Dr Tat Yan Kong: Senior Lecturer in Politics, The School of Oriental and African Studies, London University.
    Marcus Noland: Senior Fellow, Institute for International Economics, Washington.

    Bruce Cumings:
    [Until 1945,] the Korean Peninsula [had been a] unified entity [for over a thousand years. …]

    [Late in the evening of August 11th, 1945, a] day after Nagasaki had been obliterated … John J McCloy, who was a lawyer for the oil industry and later High Commissioner of Germany … asked Dean Rusk, [later Secretary of State to John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson] to go into an adjoining room [in the War Department in Washington] and find a place to divide Korea [—] given that Soviet forces had already entered the war and were fighting the Japanese in Northern Korea.

    [Rusk] looked on a map, I think it was the National Geographic map, and noted that the 38th parallel nearly bisected the peninsula [— and, most importantly,] that Seoul would be in the southern zone, the American zone …
    [So] they drew that fateful line without consulting anybody, no Koreans of course, but [not even] their British [or Russian] allies …
    [The] primary purpose of that division was to staunch the inflow of Soviet forces and the Korean guerrillas that the American State Department thought were with them.
    [It turned out that the] State Department [had] vastly overestimated their numbers at about 35,000 …
    … Rusk later wrote that he was rather pleased with the Soviet decision to accept the 38th parallel … even though the US couldn't get troops into Korea for three weeks.

    [There] was no justice [to] it.
    [Why wasn't Japan] divided at the end of 1945 instead of Korea?
    … Japan was [an] aggressor, as Germany was, and had it been divided it would have been seen as their just deserts.
    Korea [on the other hand] had been one of the first victims of Japanese aggression. …

    [The] Cold War [began] almost instantly.
    The US set up a full military occupation and [went] after anybody who was to the left of Harry Truman.
    Patrick Shaw [Australian Head of Mission, Tokyo]:
    Korean prisons are now fuller of political prisoners than under the Japanese rule.
    The torture and murder of the political enemies of the extreme right is apparently an accepted and commonplace thing.
    The American G2 is too concerned with the suppression of the left to inquire too closely into the methods adopted by their Korean agents.
    (11 November 1947)
    Annabelle Quince:
    While America began reshaping South Korea to fit its own political ends, the Soviets threw their weight behind Kim Il-sung.

    Tat Yan Kong:
    {Initially there was no Korean Communist Party, and Kim Il-sung was actually a member of the Chinese Communist Party [—] although this was later obscured in North Korean official accounts.}
    Kim Il-sung [had been a medium level] guerrilla leader in Manchuria during the 1930s. …
    [However, the Japanese forced him] to retreat into [the] Soviet Far East in 1940 [— and it was at that time that] he won the backing from the Soviet Union.

    In 1945, all the … most senior [returning Korean Communists] went to Seoul, expecting [that it] would be the centre of a unified Korea [—] whereas Kim Il-sung [went to] Pyongyang [in the North.]
    [This allowed him,] with the backing of the Russians, to consolidate what was very much a separate regime in the north between 1945 and 1948. …

    Bruce Cumings:
    Essentially you had a political struggle in the first year or two after World War II ended, then a guerrilla struggle that got going in 1947 and lasted almost up to the Korean War.

    One entire division of the People's Liberation Army in China was made up of Koreans …
    [On its return to Korea in the spring of 1950, it became] the 5th division of the North Korean army, and it was posted right above the 38th parallel …
    [It was] those blooded and experienced troops [who] became the shock forces of [an] invasion that would have [quickly] cleared away the South Korean army and South Korean government … had the US not [intervened in what] was fundamentally a civil war …

    Marcus Noland:
    [The war] involved the North Korean army almost winning, going all the way down to the extreme southern end of the peninsula, and then being repulsed by South Korea supported by a UN contingent, which was dominated by the United States but also included troops from a number of countries, including Australia, pushing all the way back up the peninsula, at which point the Chinese entered the war to prevent a North Korean defeat, and then the army moved back south again.
    [In] the end you had had two sets of armies completely traverse the peninsula twice, completely devastating it [until] the original borders were more or less re-established.

    It involved an enormous amount of physical destruction, huge population movements, enormous amounts of population dislocation and divided families …
    [In] that sense, from [1953] on when the armistice was signed until the present, the experience of Korea has been far more traumatic than what happened in Germany. …

    Bruce Cumings:
    There never was a peace treaty ending the war, and so we're technically still at war with North Korea. …
    [We] had 60,000 troops after the war and Richard Nixon took out one division which dropped it to 40,000 which is essentially where it stayed ever since, until Donald Rumsfeld took a combat brigade of about 9,000 soldiers out to fight in Iraq, so that's why there are only about 30,000 now. …

    In the late 1940s, the North Korean regime was a real coalition of the left [—] many of the leading cultural figures in the south went to the north during the 1940s.
    [However, the war] caused Kim Il-sung to get rid of a lot of [those] people. …
    There was an attempted coup against him in 1956 and he responded with draconian measures …
    [In] the '60s he … established [the] so called Juche philosophy [— which] has been drummed into the people's heads ever since.
    They call it self-reliance … but it's fundamentally a virulent kind of Korean nationalism.
    [Since] the mid-'60s there has been a totalitarian state that [goes beyond anything] Stalin created.

    Kim Il-sung is often seen by his own people … as a kind of king, rather than a Communist leader.
    South Korea had hundreds of years of monarchy and hundreds of years of people singing the praises of how great their kings were …
    [The] North Koreans have translated this into a kind of modern nationalist politics … that is quite bizarre …

    Tat Yan Kong:
    During the Korean War the United States threatened to use nuclear weapons against China …
    [And] from 1957 onwards, the United States deployed nuclear weapons in South Korea, mainly in the form of nuclear artillery shells, nuclear mines.
    [This] allowed the United States and the South Koreans to compensate for [their] numerical disadvantage against the larger North Korean forces. …

    Marcus Noland:
    The … North Korean nuclear program started in the 1950s, mainly with Soviet help and a little help from the Chinese.
    [In fact,] countries all over the world were developing small nuclear programs for scientific reasons, for research reasons, or [for purely] prestige reasons. …

    Bruce Cumings:
    [The] Soviets, in return for selling them the plutonium reactor at Yongbyon, required them in 1985 to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty …
    [And] it seemed that for several years North Korea's nuclear program was primarily one to supply electricity, much like South Korea and Japan, who have no petroleum [and so rely] on nuclear generated energy.

    {[When] the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 … the North Koreans said … they were under threat from American nuclear weapons [—] which was true … we had nukes installed in South Korea from 1958 until 1991 …
    [It] came to a crisis in June 1994, when President Clinton was just about to mount a pre-emptive strike on the huge plutonium complex [when] Jimmy Carter intervened … and got a freeze on that reactor …
    [This] showed that North Korea was willing to give up its nuclear program for normalisation of relations with the US and some kind of guarantee that we wouldn't attack them.
    Jimmy Carter:
    North Korea was not likely to [respond] to threats or international pressure or embarrassment or condemnation …
    [The] alternative had to be something that would let them and us save face [—] and the only way I could see was to establish some form of communication.
    Marcus Noland:
    [He] cut a deal with Kim Il-sung, that in return for the North Koreans freezing certain nuclear weapons related activities, the United States and a coalition or consortium of countries would provide the North Koreans with two nuclear reactors that would be less prone to proliferation than the ones that they had in operation. …

    Annabelle Quince:
    [In July 1994, Kim Il-sung died and] Kim Jong-il replaced his father as leader, just as the North Korean economy was going into freefall. …

    Tat Yan Kong:
    [The] collapse of the North Korean economy by something like 50% between 1994 and 1999, sent out the signal to the Americans that North Korea was not a viable entity.
    So the Americans [concluded:] if the North Korean economy is going to collapse anyway, is it really worthwhile following through on this deal?
    [The North Korean's] perceived this was a lack of faith on the American side, and their view was the only way to keep the Americans on track was to actually develop further nuclear and missile programs in order to show the Americans that they were still in business …
    [For] the Americans, this showed that the North Koreans were cheating. …

    After 9/11 the American view of the world became very [black and white — and] North Korea was squarely placed in the evil camp.

    Marcus Noland:
    [Starting] in 1998 and going into the early years of the Bush administration … the North Koreans were cheating on the agreement by developing a second nuclear program, a second secret nuclear program via the AQ Khan network.

    Bruce Cumings:
    [The] Bush administration [was split over] North Korea …
    Colin Powell wanted to take up where the Clinton people had left off in an engagement policy …
    Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney had bombing plans for North Korea …

    Tat Yan Kong:
    [There] was a pick-up in the second term of the Bush administration in 2007, 2008, under the auspices of the six-party talks they actually reached a tentative agreement, and they actually arrived at some principles for further negotiation. …
    [However, these subsequently] came to nothing. …

    Marcus Noland:
    In his inaugural address, President Obama extended his hand to North Korea and Iran.
    North Korea responded … with a nuclear test followed by a missile test. …
    So the Obama administration made be completely understandable political calculation that there was nothing to be gained here. …

    Annabelle Quince:
    In 2011 the North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-il died.
    Journalist:
    Kim Jong-il's Swiss educated 29-year-old son Kim Jong-un is set to take over the dynasty that's controlled the North for more than five decades.
    Marcus Noland:
    [His] behaviour appears to be even more bellicose than his father's. …

    Tat Yan Kong:
    … Kim Jong-il was more experienced, he had been effectively running the party for 20 years before he came to power, and he could more directly controlled the levers of power.
    He had more authority.
    Kim Jong-un very much needs to prove himself and he needs to work within the context of collective decision making. …

    [From] the North Korean perspective, the American military exercises [—] deploying … weapons like the B-2 bomber [— is] extremely threatening. …
    We've been through these cycles before [with] the North Koreans … trying to demonstrate their power and their resolve.
    What they are seeking is the readiness of the United States to come to the negotiating table with them and treat them as equals [—] to talk with them without preconditions.

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