Democrats are convinced that President Donald Trump is approaching the showdown with North Korea in the wrong way. However, these same Democrats have to admit that all past approaches have failed.
According to the Washington Examiner, Susan Rice, the former National Security Council advisor for President Barack Obama, has even used the dreaded “F word” to describe past American policies in North Korea. “You can call it failure,” she told CNN.
Despite acknowledging that the Obama administration’s approach to the regime of Kim Jong-un did not succeed, Rice nevertheless felt qualified enough to pen an op-ed in the New York Times decrying the Trump administration’s handling of the North Korean situation.
In the piece, Rice cautions the United States to not give up on diplomacy just yet.
“We have long lived with successive Kims’ belligerent and colorful rhetoric,” Rice reminded her readers. Rice also mentioned that all throughout the Cold War, America tolerated a nuclear Soviet Union.
While she is right in some respects, and it is certainly true that everything is preferable to a nuclear war, Rice fails to acknowledge that the caution she preaches has gotten the U.S. nowhere.
In 1994, President Bill Clinton’s diplomatic overtures in North Korea awarded the regime with oil and over $4 billion in investments from the United States, Japan, South Korea, Russia, China, and Germany. The regime of Kim Jong-il turned around and used this money to build up its weapons systems rather than feed its own people.
The Obama administration’s policy of “strategic patience” similarly did little to dampen North Korea’s enthusiasm for building up its nuclear arsenal. From Pyongyang’s perspective, nuclear weapons are the one thing guaranteed to stop the U.S. from promoting regime change in northeastern Asia. Kim Jong-un learned from the West’s ill-planned toppling of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya and likely sees nuclear missiles as a way to retain his power.
This foreign policy decision is perfectly logical. The West does have a very recent history of conducting regime change in the Middle East, almost all of which have ended badly for everyone involved. Libya is no better today than it was under the dictator Gaddafi and, aside from pronouncements from the North Korean government, there’s little evidence to suggest that North Koreans themselves want a war just to keep the Kim dynasty in power.
The Trump administration must answer a hard political question: Is it in the U.S.’s interest to attack North Korea? If so, what can the U.S. gain from such military action? “America First” means putting American interests first, and, despite the ugliness of communism, toppling the North Korean state may not be in America’s interest.
That being said, the Trump administration can rightfully refuse to listen to the suggestions of Rice and other Obama-era officials. They achieved nothing during their tenure, and may have made the situation worse.
All previous American approaches to North Korea have utterly failed. It is time that the Trump administration pursues a new path that achieves most of our foreign policy goals without committing the United States to a costly nuclear war.