Talked To Death
By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Wednesday, May 27, 2009 4:20 PM PT
Axis Of Evil: Did U.S. weakness invite North Korea's nuclear provocations? Like Tehran, Pyongyang has rejected Obama administration diplomatic overtures. Are these rogue states seizing a new opportunity?
Read More: East Asia & Pacific
One of the most jarring of Barack Obama's campaign promises was his oft-stated willingness as president to conduct direct talks with any head of state in the world, without preconditions.
Even if the other party was a brutal dictator, like Kim Jong Il, willing to starve millions of his countrymen; or a Jew-hating Islamofascist fanatic like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, surely sharing a nice pot of tea in the Oval Office could do no harm.
Endless talk in U.S. foreign policy may have already begun to do measurable harm. This week it was revealed that in spite of Venezuela strongman Hugo Chavez's soulful handshake with President Obama at the Summit of the Americas last month, Chavez's government has been supplying Iran with uranium for its nuclear program in a policy designed to undermine the U.S., according to the Israeli foreign ministry.
And Ahmadinejad this week rejected a proposal to freeze the progress of Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for there being no new economic sanctions imposed on Iran, ruling out the possibility of talks on the topic with the U.S., Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia, which planned to invite Iran to meet.
At the same time, in his re-election campaign, Ahmadinejad has mischievously challenged Obama to debate him "at the United Nations to discuss problems and world management for peace and participation of all for security and stable peace."
The president will now visit Saudi Arabia on top of Egypt in his trip to the Middle East and Europe next week, so he can discuss Iran's nuclear stubbornness with King Abdullah in Riyadh.
But there is nothing that the Saudis or Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak can say or do that will substitute for a good dose of U.S. realism in dealing with terrorist states.
Tehran senses a new era of blind faith in the powers of negotiation. So does Pyongyang as it undergoes a succession struggle in the wake of an apparent stroke suffered by Kim Jong Il last year.
In Foreign Affairs magazine in 2007, candidate Obama promised, "I will work to forge a more effective framework in Asia that goes beyond bilateral agreements, occasional summits and ad hoc arrangements, such as the six-party talks on North Korea."
The current repressive regime in North Korea clearly has been negotiating in bad faith all along, during both the Bush and Clinton administrations, never intending to get rid of nuclear weapons. Still, for Obama to denounce the six-party talks, which included Japan, China and Russia, was to invite this week's nuclear bomb and missile tests.
The Obama administration seems to believe that offering bilateral talks involving a presidential envoy comes off as so flattering that no tin-pot dictator can resist the prestige it bestows. North Korea's obvious answer: No thanks — nukes will give us even more prestige.
Buying off North Korea with dubious bribes like multibillion-dollar light water reactors (that themselves pose a proliferation risk) and economic aid may no longer be feasible. North Korea is intent on going nuclear, and the U.S. must make missile defense a top priority — one spending program the Obama administration has not been interested in, cutting its funding by 16%.
Meanwhile, what more damage will America's new era of "tough diplomacy" cause in the coming months and years? Will Communist China, for instance, decide that now is the golden opportunity to strike Taiwan? Will North Korea make a move against South Korea? Will Russia under ex-KGB operative Vladimir Putin sense that there will never be a better time to flex its expansionist muscles against its neighboring former Soviet republics?
What, after all, could the U.S. do under any of these scenarios? We are already waging wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The trouble with believing too much in talk is that your enemies can conclude you don't believe in action.