The Excellent Adventures of Matthew Todd Miller and James Clapper



We had thought enough had been said about the release of this last round of detainees: Jeffrey Fowle, Kenneth Bae, and Matthew Miller. But we have to take our hats off to Nate Thayer at NKNews for a remarkable scoop on Matthew Miller. My colleague Marc Noland has long expressed his skepticism about what he calls “dystopian tourism” (our tourism posts here). But Thayer’s interview with Miller shows he takes the genre to an entirely new level. We don’t want to spoil the NKNews story, but suffice to say that Miller thought that being arrested would allow him to see the real North Korea.

Were it only true! We can do no better than cite Jeffrey Bader's dry commentary on the Laura Ling-Euna Lee saga:

“We all felt a sense of relief that the journalists, who had been mistreated, were safe and sound. We also felt considerable irritation at American innocents abroad who stumble into such situations as if they were in downtown LA and then expect to be saved, with regard to the damage they do to US national security interests. The possibility of repeat performances by other gullible or misguided Americans, putting us in a similar box, worried us, and rightly so, although subsequent incidents did not involve as “valuable” a prize as Ling and Lee were." That’s for sure.

Back on planet earth, James Clapper offers up a very thoughtful interview on Face the Nation on his North Korea trip. It is almost surreal to think of the American Director of National Intelligence meeting both the North Korean Minister of State Security and the head of the Korean People’s Army Reconnaissance Department. But two things did emerge from the trip: that the North Koreans were disappointed that Clapper was not bringing a “breakthrough” message—an indication of how far apart the two parties remain—and that Clapper saw subtle generational differences among the North Koreans, and more reasonableness in his younger interlocutors. His description is consonant with our theory that this is a political system held hostage to powerful veto players in the military, security apparatus, and military-industrial complex.

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