Obama and the Rogues WSJ
North Korea and Iran intrude on his diplomatic hopes.
President Obama took office loudly promising to be the anti-George
W. Bush of foreign policy, vowing to "extend a hand" to adversaries
"willing to unclench" their fists. What he has received instead is an
education in the reality of global rogues, and how he responds has
become a major test of his Presidency.
immediate challenges are North Korea and Iran, governments that the
American left claimed were "evil" only because Mr. Bush had declared
them so. Perhaps Mr. Obama believed this too, though five months later
he has learned otherwise. North Korea has rejected his every overture
and is now defying the U.N. to press its nuclear and proliferation
ambitions. As for Iran, the mullahs are attempting to crush a popular
uprising after a stolen election while also showing disdain for Mr.
Obama's diplomatic entreaties.
The question is whether Mr. Obama will now adapt his policies to
meet challenges he clearly didn't expect. Jimmy Carter took office with
similar illusions about the Soviet Union, promising to cure our
"inordinate fear of Communism." Our enemies pushed back at what they
perceived to be U.S. weakness, and Mr. Carter and his NSC adviser
Zbigniew Brzezinski never recovered. We'll soon learn if Mr. Obama is
made of sterner stuff.
On North Korea, for example, the President has vowed that "words
matter" and that renegade missile and A-bomb tests must have
"consequences." The U.S. has rallied the U.N. to pass sanctions against
Pyongyang, albeit no tougher than those the U.N. issued in 2006. Those
sanctions include a Security Council "call" to intercept North Korean
attempts to sell or spread weapons and delivery systems of mass
destruction. The issue is whether those sanctions will be enforced.
As it happens, a U.S. Navy destroyer is currently tailing a North
Korean ship suspected of carrying illicit weapons toward Burma via
Singapore. The cargo ship Kang Nam left a North Korea port last
Wednesday, and a South Korean intelligence report said it is believed
to carry missiles and other parts. This would violate U.N. sanctions,
and the U.S. has every legal right to board the ship. Alternatively,
the USS John S. McCain (named for the Senator's father and grandfather)
could steer the Kang Nam to Singapore and inspect her there.
Either action carries risks because North Korea has said it will
consider such an inspection to be an act of war. No one knows how the
North would respond, though its leaders must know that any attack on
South Korea would guarantee the end of their rule. It's also possible
the entire North Korean crew could defect if promised asylum.
The risks of doing nothing are even more serious because it would
show the North — and the world — that the U.N. sanctions once again
mean nothing. The threat of a North Korean attack on the South is
small, but the danger of nuclear proliferation to the U.S. and its
allies is clear and present. We know Pyongyang has proliferated to Iran
and Syria in the recent past. Senator John McCain said yesterday the
U.S. should board the Kang Nam, a sign that Mr. Obama could count on
domestic political support. Will the President let Kim Jong Il make a
mockery of U.N. condemnations?
Regarding Iran, Mr. Obama will also have to rethink his hopes for a
grand nuclear bargain with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. This
diplomatic desire explains the President's cautious refusal last week
to take sides in the post-election standoff — or, as a Washington Post
headline put it, quoting Administration sources, "Obama Seeks Way to
Acknowledge Protesters Without Alienating Ayatollah." It's impossible
to imagine the Reagan Administration whispering something similar about
Soviet dissidents and the Politburo.
Read the rest here.
UPDATE: Caroline Glick agrees:
What they fail to consider is that by genuflecting to tyrants, Obama has made the US an international laughingstock. Far from sharing their adulation of Obama and his cool demeanor, most of the nations of the world believe that the US has abandoned its leadership role. And unlike the US media, they realize that America has no understudy.
Unfortunately, unless the Obama effect wears off soon, by the time the American people become aware of this fact it may be too late to make a difference.
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