Vernuccio’s View: Obama Foreign Policy Errors Affect Korean Crisis

The foreign policy failures of the Obama and Clinton presidencies are affecting the current Korean crisis.

The United States is seen by Pyongyang as a government that has a weakened military, a lack of resolve to follow through on demands, and, perhaps most importantly, possessing a strange propensity towards punishing its friends and helping its enemies.

Examine the last item first.  For reasons that have yet to be explained, the Obama Administration, generally reluctant to engage in armed conflict, played a key role in forcibly removing Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi from power.  Gaddafi had surrendered his nuclear program, ended his association with terrorism, and was essentially on the same side as the West in opposing radical Islam. Obama also encouraged the ouster of Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, who also sided with the U.S. against radicalism. From Kim Jung-un’s perspective, it makes far more sense to be an enemy rather than a friend of Washington.

And, of course, there is Iran.  With the exception of North Korea, no nation has uttered more threatening statements against the United States than Iran. Rallies are regularly conducted by its leadership calling for the destruction of America, its ships and planes regularly threaten the U.S. Navy, and Tehran sponsors terrorist movements aimed at U.S. interests and allies. The result? A nuclear deal in which the Iranians gained billions of dollars (in cash for easy transfer to terrorists) all in return for nothing more than an agreement to simply delay its nuclear weapons program.

Militarily, the United States is in a far lesser position than it was eight years ago, not just in its diminished military, but in threats to the homeland itself.  Continental America is in a less secure position, thanks to Obama’s tacit acceptance of the Russian Navy’s return to Cuba, the acceptance of Russian military influence in Nicaragua, and the vastly strengthened Russian military presence in the Arctic.  America’s major military rivals, Russia and China, have dramatically built up their forces while the U.S. diminished its own.  For the first time in history, Russia has a more powerful nuclear force. China’s navy and the sophistication of all its forces have been dramatically strengthened.

Added to those hard facts is an important psychological component.  There is a significant element within the U.S. political and punditry class that, fundamentally and against all logic, tacitly agrees with the most strident anti-American beliefs of the nations’ opponents. The Washington Free Beacon has recently reported that the vice-chair of the Democrat National committee, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) has stated that “Kim Jong-un is acting more responsibly than Trump.”  As North Korea’s Kim Jung-un rapidly developed the ability to strike the American mainland with nuclear weapons and issued clear statements that he fully intends to do so, they reserved their condemnation not for him, but against President Trump’s firm rhetorical response to it.

As Pyongyang explicitly describes its plans to launch attacks, Jenny Town, assistant director of the U.S.-Korea Institute at the John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies essentially subscribes to a moral equivalence concept by urging both sides to simply cool their rhetoric.  How does this solve the underlying issue of North Korea’s nuclear belligerence?


This approaches has failed miserably and repeatedly in the past.  Conceptually, it is deeply similar to President Obama’s provision of financial rewards and sanctions suspensions to Tehran in return for nothing more than a delay in Iran’s nuclear weapons development—a fact which Kim Jung-un clearly understands.

The North Korean dictator may be portrayed as an immature despot, but it is clear that he has shrewdly examined the history of the recent past and has adopted a course which may be evil but is also quite logical.

Frank Vernuccio serves as editor-in-chief of the New York Analysis of Policy and Government.

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