President Obama is pursuing a worldwide policy of engagement that is drawing sneers from our adversaries and abetting perceptions that the United States and its president are weak and can be messed with.
But the one exception to the Cumbaya Doctrine is North Korea. Obama has pointedly not reengaged with the North Koreans in the wake of the Six Party Talks fiasco. It’s a conscious effort by the White House to break the cycle of the Kim Family doing outrageous, scary things – as in yesterday’s bombing of a South Korean island – to draw us back to the bargaining table with offers of new concessions and money.
Similarly, Obama’s reaction to the bombing itself has also been correct. By not making too big a deal of it, he sends a message to North Korea that these types of provocations do not cause us to slobber foreign aid all over them and beg them to behave. Meanwhile, the decision today to begin joint exercises with the South Koreans flashes the proper symbol that we are engaged and will defend our ally.
Unfortunately, Obama’s stance toward North Korea and his outlook toward the rest of the world cannot be completely separated. To some extent, Obama’s policy of weakness and his failure to understand that the rest of the world’s bad guys can’t be reasoned with probably helps spur Kim to bomb South Korean islands and blow up its naval vessels.
While North Korea has it’s own reasons – a show of machismo by the Dear Leader’s anointed replacement, his son Little Jerk, for one – it can’t help that Kim Jong-Il probably perceives the U.S. president as naive.
And it’s worth noting that after George W. Bush, in a much maligned gesture, placed North Korea on the Axis of Evil roster, there was little of these kinds of violent shenanigans out Mr. Kim