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Misunderestimating The World
Obama Gets North Korea Wrong Too

David Sanger at the New York Times adds another foreign policy F to the Obama Administration’s report card—this time on North Korea. Read:

When Mr. Obama lands here on Friday on the second stop of his Asia tour, he will be confronting the question of whether his strategy of “strategic patience” with the North has been overtaken by reality: an unpredictable, though calculating, ruler in Mr. Kim, who has proved to be more ruthless, aggressive and tactically skilled than anyone expected.

“We have failed,” said Evans J. R. Revere, who spent his State Department career trying various diplomatic strategies to stop the North. “For two decades our policy has been to keep the North Koreans from developing nuclear weapons. It’s now clear there is no way they will give them up, no matter what sanctions we impose, no matter what we offer. So now what?”

It is an assessment some of Mr. Obama’s aides say they privately share, though for now the administration refuses to negotiate with the North until it first fulfills its oft-violated agreements to freeze its nuclear and missile programs. A recent effort inside the National Security Council to devise a new approach resulted in a flurry of papers and classified strategy sessions—and the conclusion that all the alternatives to the current course were worse.

“We’re stuck,” one participant in the review said. […]

“I’m now convinced North Korea would prefer to collapse with nuclear weapons than try to survive without nuclear weapons,” Chun Yung-woo, who recently served as the South’s national security adviser, said this week. Yet the strategy Washington is pursuing is based on the opposite assumption.

To be fair, it’s not like previous administrations have had an easier time dealing with the Norks. But in the shadow of failures in Syria and Ukraine, and with the Middle East Peace Process having officially collapsed, a pattern seems to be emerging: The U.S. fails to understand the goals and driving principles of other countries and then proceeds to construct faulty policies based on bad assumptions. Bad stuff follows.

The biggest question now: Is this administration smarter about Iran than about other countries?

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  • alanstorm

    “Obama Gets North Korea Wrong Too”

    Well, at least he’s consistent.

  • adk

    “But we will always have Middle East Peace Process.”

  • Brian H

    I continue to get the sense that our best bet, as a globe-entire, of getting something in North Korea that stops the slow-motion collapse with minimal disruption is to convince China to basically sponsor a proxy within the military leadership of NK to oust the Kims and take over, instituting some semblance of Deng-style reforms. It’s less preferable to OUR interests in the West than a unified & democratic peninsula, perhaps, but it’s likely the best realpolitikal possibility to secure the country & its weapons without war our humanitarian disaster. Better to offer a clear-thinking rival a stronger client state in lieu of having a madman selling nukes to God-knows-who.

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