George Russell at Fox News offers a long article today about efforts at the U.N. to “channel new streams of aid and development money to the dangerous regime” of North Korea. Ban Ki-Moon, the current Secretary General of the United Nations, used to serve as South Korea’s foreign minister. In that capacity, he was a strong advocate of the “sunshine policy,” in which North Korea would receive enhanced aid in exchange for restraint on nuclear weapons development, and access to the starving populace meant to receive the aid money. Russell declares this policy an “all-out failure.” Actually, the North Koreans have been making that declaration with uranium enrichment facilities, banned weapons sales, and artillery barrages.
Fox News got its hands on a “highly confidential U.N. planning document” which laments the difficulty of getting aid to starving North Koreans. The memo was written before North Korea’s lawless aggression against the South yesterday. It’s filled with all sorts of characteristically useless globo-cratic suggestions, like “making focused efforts to re-engage with North Korea”, launching public-relations campaigns to “rekindle the enthusiasm” of aid-giving countries to send money, reaching out to “non-traditional” donors “less invested in the political-security situation”, and looking for “new ways to help North Korean bureaucracy meet its U.N.-inspired anti-poverty goals.” The last item on the list of suggestions is to “encourage” the regime to cooperate with the U.N. Commissioner for Human Rights… who is currently forbidden to enter the country.
North Korea’s “focused efforts to re-engage” with its foreign-aid sugar daddies just killed two people, and left smoking craters all over Yeonpyeong Island. The whole concept of reforming rogue states through the compassionate embrace of humanitarian relief is an “all-out failure.” It never works. In fact, it hurts more than it helps.
Every basket-case dictatorship receives piles of foreign aid money. This is no coincidence, since crackpot dictatorships wear sickening poverty as their robes of office, and human misery as their crown. The West always hopes oppressed people will rise up against their tyrants, but lavish foreign aid makes this less likely. Money and supplies are usually stolen by the regime – remember the thug squads holding hungry people at bay with machine guns while they heisted food and medicine dropped in Somalia?
Even when foreign aid actually goes to a suffering populace, it merely strengthens the power of the regime, because it frees up resources that can be used for oppression and international crime. Money is fungible. Every dollar a dictator doesn’t have to spend on Meals Ready to Eat is a dollar he can spend on bullets, artillery shells, and uranium.
Global relationships are no more immune to the laws of economics than domestic policy. You get more of what you subsidize. Foreign aid to dictatorships is a subsidy for tyranny. To date, no tyranny has withered in the loving embrace of U.N. bureaucrats. Like all who become dependent on a subsidy, from rioting Greeks with firebombs to the students clogging London today, dictators become violent when the subsidy is withdrawn… and they have massive firepower to use as leverage.
Canny tyrants, like those who rule North Korea, know they can commit quite a bit of mayhem before they violate the cost/benefit formula of paying them to refrain from even worse behavior. They profit from the cognitive dissonance of a civilized world that cannot allow itself to see their true nature, and insists on treating them as something else. When they look at their own people, they see valuable hostages, not a heartbreaking humanitarian tragedy they have a sacred responsibility to resolve.
One of the suggestions in the confidential U.N. report is to ask China to give more financial assistance to its lunatic client state in Pyongyang. Why should they? All they have to do is sit back, watch North Korea menace world peace, and wait for the flop sweat from U.N. bureaucrats to congeal into a pile of dollars. Everyone knows how this game is played. The United Nations pins its hopes on the foolish notion of asking the worst cheaters to repent, in the face of tremendous incentives to do otherwise.