Talk is cheap, especially in matters of foreign policy.
Over the past decade, we’ve learned that words — soft or tough — won’t abolish the North Korean nuclear threat; only action will. To our detriment, both the current president and past presidents have proved this fact — in spades.
Take former President Barack Obama. Eight years of “strategic patience” and politically correct responses delivered in a diplomatic fashion did nothing to stop the pariah state from advancing its nuclear weapons program. To the contrary, Kim Jong Un knew that the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize who campaigned on ending wars — not commencing them — would avoid a military conflict with Pyongyang at all costs. That accurate political assessment was exploited by the dictator, and the rogue regime continues to put the world on edge with its continual missile launches and nuclear arsenal — which can now reach major U.S. cities, not to mention our allies.
Evidence that politically correct words, delivered politely and cautiously a la Obama, fail miserably.
Enter Donald Trump, a brash, tough-talking New Yorker who prides himself on not being PC. He has also failed to get North Korea to stand down. Let’s look at the timeline.
After a series of missiles launches by North Korea throughout the first half of 2017, President Trump said on Aug. 8: “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”
That bombastic rhetoric drew vast criticism from Democrats and some conservatives alike, but more importantly, did this tough talk work? Far from it. On Aug. 26, North Korea fired three short-range missiles. A couple of days later, it fired a missile over Japan — the first in eight years. On Sept. 3, Kim continued to kick sand in our faces by testing a hydrogen bomb so powerful it triggered an artificial earthquake. That major provocation was followed by a Sept. 15 missile launch from Sunan, which flew over northern Japan before landing in the Pacific Ocean. And then there was the intercontinental ballistic missile launch on Nov. 29.
On top of all that, the belligerent dictator delivered a televised threat to the United States on New Year’s Day, saying, “It should properly know that the whole territory of the U.S. is within the range of our nuclear strike and a nuclear button is always on the desk of my office, and this is just a reality, not a threat.” Trump responded by tweeting that his nuclear button is bigger than his rival’s and that it works.
If history is the best teacher, the war of words between the two nuclear powers won’t yield world peace any time soon.
All the more reason President Trump should heed Theodore Roosevelt’s foreign policy doctrine: “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” Holding China and other nations that violate international trade sanctions accountable while suspending provocative U.S. military exercises in the region would go further toward getting North Korea to back down than another tweet.
That’s for sure.