The Panic Gap: Reactions to North Korea's Bomb

Everyone knows that Americans should pay more attention to events outside their country's borders, especially now that we live in the Interdependent Age. But maybe the reverse is true.

Issue: Winter 1994-1995

Everyone knows that Americans should pay more attention to events outside their country's borders, especially now that we live in the Interdependent Age. But maybe the reverse is true. Maybe the old, clubby foreign policy establishment had it right when trying to conduct foreign policy out of the public view.

That, at least, was my working hypothesis after traveling to Seoul this summer, during the showdown over North Korea's nuclear ambitions. The more attention the issue received in the U.S. press, the closer to true disaster the whole episode moved. It was only when mainstream Americans--and, even more, the commentators who hector them on tv programs and the op-ed pages--were distracted by other questions that the serious negotiation could begin. Apparently no one has figured out how to interest the American public in international trends without exaggerating, oversimplifying, or warping the reality of events to fit domestic U.S. preoccupations of the moment.

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