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In North Korea, Bush forgot how to battle a cold war

I was admiring those hot little red peppers you get in takeout Chinese food when I thought of North Korea. After all, they're too large to ignore and leave a bad taste on everything they touch. The only way to live with them is to avoid them, or remove them -- an annoying, time consuming, messy process.

But this column isn't about North Korea, at least not entirely. It's about President Bush, and his recent reaction to peaceful overtures made by the communist North to its brother, South Korea. Ever since the 1950s, when another US-led coalition force repelled a Northern invasion of the South, North Korea has been a hostile throwback of hard-line communism. With a seemingly large military and a nuclear weapons program, North Korea had implied, until now, that it would one day reunify the nation under iron-fisted Northern rule. When North Korea announced its attention to halt its nuke program and open up a little more to the South, the North took everyone by surprise.

Cautious President Bush, the most surprised of all, advised the South's leadership to stay on the alert for trickery.

For a lifetime cold warrior, Bush hasn't seemed to get cold war infighting down pat. He has seemed to forget some of the more important rules:

1. Never act cautious. When the bad guys offer you concessions, accept them pleasantly and ask for more. If the North Koreans are really trying to trick us by extending a hand of friendship, we can better embarrass them by convincing them to give up more than they wanted to. Acting negative in the face of peace only embarrasses the New World Order.

2. The bad guys are as spooked as you are. Just because North Korea has a large standing army,

that does not mean it is militarily secure. It is possible that North Korea is suing for peace because, after studying the US victory in the Gulf, it fears a similar US strike. Communist nations have always been prone to this kind of paranoia, and the Chinese have been camping out in their bomb shelters since last February.

3. Communism is destined to stink. Despite reports that North Korea's economy is far from collapse, North Korea may be hitting rock bottom, and might be suing for peace because it needs Western cash. US intelligence agencies have always over-inflated the capabilities of communist economies -- it is possible that North Korea is gasping for air.

4. Yield to self-determination. Advocates for reunification of North and South Korea have a big following in the American-allied South. In its quest to squash North Korea, the United States should not annoy the South Koreans by trying to drive a political wedge between to nations of ethnically similar peoples. In doing so, it will only appear racist. The Soviets tried splitting up various Asiatic and Slavic peoples when they created their socialist republics in the USSR, and they only caused civil war and revolt in the process.

5. Superpowers shouldn't lecture allies. The United States contributes to the defense of South Korea, but it should let the South Korean leadership be the spokesman for this defense. American presidents have always tried to avoid publicly lecturing Western allies to bolster the joint nature of their defensive arrangements and avoid resentment. In ordering the South around, Bush only belittles his Southern allies.

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Matthew H. Hersch, a sophomore in the Department of Physics, is an opinion editor of The Tech.