And the Winner Is....
Maybe it's the influence of sports in our lives.
Or that human desire to measure everything in terms of who came out on top, and who got left behind.
Whatever the reason, there's no doubt that life, love and international relations are often defined in terms of winners and losers. And, with that in mind, we're pleased to announce the world leader who emerged triumphant at this weekend's EU summit in the Czech Republic.
May we have the envelope, please? (drumroll)
Taking top honors without so much as showing up, the top prize for grabbing global attention--and embarrassing the U.S. in the process--goes to Kim Jong-il of North Korea.
Think about it. With today's launch of a Tapeodong-2 long-range missile, Mr. Kim achieved a slew of political goals in less that 15 minutes--the time required for his rocket to fly from North Korea, to splashdown in the Pacific.
First, the DPRK dictator once again thumbed his nose at international convention. Virtually everyone from President Obama to Kim's Asian neighbors warned him against the missile test, but the TD-2 went off as scheduled. Did we mention that many of these same leaders still favor diplomacy as the preferred method of engaging Pyongyang?
In fact, the new U.S. envoy to the Six Party talks--aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear program--has suggested that Washington may be prepared to "overlook" the missile test, if Mr. Kim will return to the bargaining table. Fire off a long-range missile and get Washington to beg for a resumption of negotiations? That's a win-win by any one's standards.
But it gets even better. Not only did Kim Jong-il put his regime back in the global spotlight (and score an impressive propaganda victory to boot), but there's virtually no chance he'll be punished for his actions. While Mr. Obama is talking about additional sanctions, North Korea's friends on the U.N. Security Council--China and Russia--have veto power over any measures, and both are urging "restraint" in any new resolution against Pyongyang.
That means the likely "punishment" for the DPRK is another meaningless diplomatic warning. They haven't deterred North Korea in the past, and this time is no different.
While the diplomats haggle over language, Pyongyang will press on with its missile and nuclear weapons efforts. An Iranian delegation was present for today's launch, and the ICBM technology being developed in North Korea will quickly find its way to the Middle East.
By some accounts, at least one stage of the TD-2 is built in Iran, another testament to Mr. Kim's worldwide proliferation program. From Damascus to Caracas, there is no shortage of willing customers for North Korean weapons technology, including petro-states who will underwrite his development efforts.
Not bad for a guy who was supposedly on his death bed just a few months ago. You know, the same, two-bit dictator who has been written off time and time again. As we've noted before, various experts in the State Department and the intelligence community have been predicting the demise of North Korea for decades. Clearly, the DPRK's economic and political models are unsustainable. But it's naive to believe that Pyongyang will disappear anytime soon, or make significant concessions on its most important issues.
Obviously, if Kim Jong-il was the big winner this weekend, then there had to be a loser of equal proportions. Our vote goes to President Obama, who has been ignoring or downplaying the North Korean issue for more than a month. Refusing to use missile defenses to shoot down the TD-2, Mr. Obama then expressed surprise and outrage over the test. His response? Get the U.N. to pass another, empty resolution.
We would imagine that Mr. Kim is genuinely looking forward to the next four years. His country is bankrupt and millions of his citizens are starving, but suddenly, North Korea's global prospects seem particularly bright.