Could there be something in the water? The longer President Obama stays in the White House, the more closely his foreign policy seems to track George W. Bush.On the rogue state front, Obama has long since dropped the attempt to reset relations with Iran. Now at the other end of Eurasia, the US is confronting the remaining ‘Axis of Evil’ state, and there is not much happy talk about relations with North Korea.The New York Times reports:
Although Mr. Panetta said there were some indications of progress in the negotiations, he said, “We’re not sure where those talks are headed at this point.” He was referring to two days of talks between United States and North Korean officials this week that were aimed at restarting more formal six-nation negotiations about North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. Mr. Panetta was also referring to the tortured six-nation talks themselves. Officials concluded this week’s exploratory talks, held in Geneva, by saying they had narrowed their differences about future negotiations. But the officials parted without fixing a date for future talks of any kind. […]The officials said North Korea had engaged in the exploratory talks — and had been more accommodating in recent months — because its leaders were eager for food, fuel, currency and economic aid to help support national celebrations planned for 2012. The celebrations are for the 100-year anniversary of the birth of the late Kim Il-sung, the founder of North Korea.The military officials, who asked for anonymity under ground rules imposed by the American military command in Korea, said they feared that the North Koreans were talking simply to extract concessions without planning to give up their nuclear weapons, a view shared by some policy makers in Washington. “We can’t approach the negotiation from the perspective of not having any hope of its success,” one of the officials said. “But I think there’s a great deal of skepticism.”
The trouble with rogue states is that they are rogues. They aren’t interested in statesmanlike compromise. They have clear objectives and consistent policies; the trouble is that both Iran and North Korea understand their national interests in ways that clash fundamentally with the views of the United States and key allies.This doesn’t mean we should go to war with them all; it does not even mean we should be plotting to overthrow their regimes. But it does mean that President Obama, like Presidents Clinton and Bush before him, has learned that sweet words and soothing banalities won’t change the basic objectives of a hostile state.