It's impossible not to feel relief and pleasure that Misses Euna Lee and Laura Ling have finally been freed by their North Korean captors. But there's been a certain misguided quality to some of the media coverage of this development attributing credit, as so much of it has, to Bill Clinton's superlative negotiating skills. This isn't meant to take anything away from the former president; he may well possess such skills, and he certainly deserves kudos for his willingness to undertake the trip. But is anyone so naive as to think he would have done so had the deal not been concluded prior to his setting out? Obviously, the price demanded for the women's release--the ransom, to be blunt about it--was a visit to Pyongyang from a prestigious American public figure. An ex-president, popular in the region, who also happens to be married to the current Secretary of State, filled the bill perfectly. I have no idea if anything of substance passed between Clinton and Kim Jong-Il during their private meeting, but for the purposes of freeing the women, a really lifelike wax dummy would have done the trick almost as well.
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