Today's Reading Assignments
A couple of worthy articles, which remind of an axiom from George H.W. Bush. As the 41st President once observed, "What you don't know about domestic policy will keep you from getting re-elected; what you don't know about foreign policy will get a lot of people killed."
Flash forward 20 years; so far, Barack Obama's international miscues haven't resulted in mass casualties, but the potential for catastrophe is clear. Writing in today's Washington Post, Michael Gerson writes that the President's policy of "engagement with our adversaries" (above all else) has been a colossal failure when it comes to Iran and North Korea:
North Korea responded to administration outreach by testing a nuclear weapon, firing missiles toward U.S. allies, resuming plutonium reprocessing and threatening the United States with a "fire shower of nuclear retaliation." During congressional testimony, Clinton admitted, "At this point [it] seems implausible, if not impossible, the North Koreans will return to the six-party talks and begin to disable their nuclear capacity again."
The Iranian regime's reaction to engagement was to cut the ribbon on a nuclear enrichment facility, add centrifuges, conduct a fraudulent election, and kill and imprison a variety of political opponents. Regarding administration overtures, Clinton recently told the BBC, "We haven't had any response. We've certainly reached out and made it clear that's what we'd be willing to do . . . but I don't think they have any capacity to make that kind of decision right now."
As Mr. Gerson observes, the Obama team has blamed "non-engagement" by previous administrations (read: George W. Bush) for non-existent relations with Pyongyang and Tehran. But such claims are hardly accurate; during his second term, Mr. Bush and his advisers, led by Secretary of State Condolezza Rice, made a several overtures to both regimes. In return, Iran accelerated its nuclear development program and increased its meddling in Iraq; North Korea conducted its first-ever nuclear test, and introduced its first crude ICBM, capable of reaching Alaska and Hawaii.
Besides, the "Blame Bush" rationale is getting a little lame. Six months into his presidency, Mr. Obama owns both problems--for better or worse--and what happens next will be determined largely by his actions, not those of Bush #43.
"...can the lack of a serious conversation with Iran -- or with North Korea -- now credibly be blamed on the previous administration? Obama's diplomatic hand has been extended for a while now. Fists remain clenched. This is not because some magical diplomatic words remain unspoken. It is because of the nature of oppressive regimes themselves."
The Obama administration's public campaign of engaging enemies is headed toward an entirely unintended consequence. Eventually it will raise expectations for action. As the extended hand is slapped again and again, the goals of North Korea and Iran will be fully revealed and the cost to American credibility will rise. Already the administration has given Iran a September deadline to respond to the offer of talks and has threatened "crippling action" if Iran achieves nuclear capabilities. Congress is preparing sanctions on Iranian refined petroleum, which would escalate tensions significantly.
Making matters worse, both Pyongyang and Tehran are fully prepared to call Washington's bluff. With Mr. Obama refusing to respond--or responding with half-hearted measures--Iran and North Korea will escalate the regional crises, and the U.S. will be exposed as impotent on the world stage.
At that point, the Israeli Air Force will head east; Iran will respond with its counter-attacks, and the Middle East's nuclear genie will permanently escape his bottle. On the Korean Peninsula, Kim Jong-il (or his military) will continue to ratchet up tensions, conducting more missile and nuclear tests that will likely lead to a clash with U.S. and South Korean forces. After that, anything could happen. The number of lives lost in both regions could be staggering.
In a similar vein, Thomas Sowell offers the following observation in his latest National Review column: "..if the worst that Barack Obama does is ruin the economy, I will breathe a sigh of relief."
A scary thought, indeed.