During an interview Sunday with Meet the Press, Secretary of State John Kerry claimed credit for North Korea being more “quiet” than last year. Kerry, however, misinterprets the regime’s characteristic alternating between provocations and charm offensives as the U.S. having achieved “progress.”
When North Korea ratcheted up tensions last year, it was to intimidate the UN Security Council into adopting a weaker response to Pyongyang’s nuclear test than was being considered. The regime followed the same script in 2009 and in both cases was largely successful.
Despite Kerry’s claims, North Korea has again recently defied the world by launching several ballistic missiles in violation of UN resolutions. Earlier this year, Pyongyang appeared to be preparing its fourth nuclear test which may occur after additional excavation at its nuclear test site.
Obama has seemingly plummeted from the “audacity of hope” to becoming Bunter-in-Chief.
Kerry also asserts that the Obama Administration is “moving forward” on North Korean denuclearization, despite having achieved no progress at all since it entered office. Kerry cites his meetings with China regarding North Korea, yet Beijing continues to resist U.S. entreaties to increase pressure on Pyongyang by more fully implementing UN resolution sanctions.
In the meantime, Pyongyang continues to refine and augment its nuclear arsenal while Washington remains reluctant to impose the same unilateral US sanctions that it has already imposed on Iran, Burma, and Syria. Nor has the Obama administration yet addressed the UN Commission of Inquiry report on North Korea’s human rights violations which reached a level to be considered “crimes against humanity.” Obama’s Strategic Patience policy does indeed require patience, since there is no strategy.
On a broader note, Kerry proclaims “The United States of America has never been more engaged in helping to lead in more places than we are now.” But in recent interviews Obama has abandoned the sweeping idealistic rhetoric of his first campaign to now defining his foreign policy as “don’t do stupid stuff” and being satisfied with hitting singles and doubles rather than homeruns. He has seemingly plummeted from the “audacity of hope” to becoming Bunter-in-Chief.
In May 2014, Obama gave what was advertised by aides as the foreign policy speech of the president’s second term. Rather than soaring to rhetorical heights, the president’s home field advantage, the commencement speech at West Point was universally panned, both across the political spectrum in the United States and amongst allies across the world.
Obama provided an unconvincing litany of what his policy wasn’t rather than articulating a principled vision or overarching strategy. Also notably absent were bold, inspirational declarations such as John F. Kennedy’s pledge that, “We will support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to ensure the survival and success of liberty.”
Despite strong U.S. pledges of support, America’s allies around the world have begun to question Washington’s capabilities and resolve. The Obama administration’s slashed defense budgets and unfilled ‘red-lines’ risk emboldening opponents toward coercive diplomacy or military action. It appears Obama is bringing soft power to a knife fight.