Liberty Expose: The Price of Broken Promises
The President is having fun with nicknames again. In a speech to the United Nations, President Donald Trump outlined the future of American foreign policy in the world, and allocated a portion of his speech towards North Korea, and particularly threatened Kim Jong-Un; or “Rocket Man” as the President eloquently called him.
The President warned “Rocket Man” Kim Jong-Un that the United States would destroy North Korea is compelled to do so in defense of American allies. The President promised a new regimen of sanctions against those who collaborate with the Kim regime, and warned of military repercussions if North Korea fails to surrender their nuclear program
Aside from comparing Kim Jong-Un to an Elton John song, the rhetoric suggesting a return to an assertive foreign policy is welcomed after the failures of the Obama administration’s “lead from behind” narrative, the speech did highlight a naïve and almost delusional concept that is guiding American foreign policy in the region: the idea of denuclearization.
North Korea’s main reason for existence is because of their nuclear program. Without weapons of mass destruction, North Korea is just a country with a military resembling one of the early Cold War. Both the United States and South Korea could obliterate North Korea without significant opposition. And after years of kidnappings, attacks, and a litany of other destabilizing behavior, there is not a regime on the planet the United States and its Asian allies want gone more than North Korea – and Kim Jong-Un knows this. The North Korean regime is probably also aware that the United States has a poor track record when it comes to promises concerning nuclear proliferation and weapons of mass destruction.
They would be correct to not trust the US or the West; in 1994, in the now infamous Budapest Memorandum, Ukraine agreed to forfeit the nuclear weapons it inherited from the Soviet Union after the USSR collapsed. In return, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Russian Federation agreed to respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
Twenty years after Ukraine forfeited their nuclear weapons in exchange for protection, Russia invaded and annexed the Crimean Peninsula. The United States and the United Kingdom threw some sanctions, but aside from that slap on the wrist, the West did nothing. Ukraine gave up their most important shield in exchange for an American promise, and for that Ukraine is now missing a part of its country.
The North Korean regime might also look to what happened to Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. After years of turbulence between the United States and Libya, Gaddafi began to submit to US pressure. In an attempt to improve relations with the US, Gaddafi began the process of rolling back his weapons of mass destruction program in exchange for sanction and diplomatic relief from the US. The process began under the Clinton administration, and accelerated during the Bush presidency when the 43rd President issued coercive threats.
With the dismembering of the WMD programs and the rollback of support of pan-African and pan-Arab causes, the case of Gaddafi and Libya seemed to be a diplomatic victory. The deal was simple; rollback destabilizing behavior, and the US will relieve pressure. And then under the Obama administration, the US bombed Libya. Gaddafi lost power because of the same nation that he tried to appease (though his warnings of terrorizing opponents did put the Obama administration in a difficult position.)
With such a poor history of handling the geopolitics of WMDs, it is no wonder why the Kim regime will not surrender their nuclear weapons. Even without nuclear weapons, North Korea is the most oppressive nation on the planet and the temptation to see the Kim regime burn will be even more intense once the threat of Seoul and Tokyo being consumed by a mushroom clown are removed. Even if Kim Jong-Un were responsible enough of a leader to contemplate denuclearization (he’s not), the failed promises made by the United States alone are enough to make any potential accommodating dictator think twice about trusting the US and whatever deal the American government proposes. Too much standing the US has in the world has been lost.
The reality of diplomacy is that it has more to do with language than it has to do with aircraft carriers. It is a chess match of communication; threats without action lead to a degrading of respect in the international system; actions without threats to on lack of trust.
The installment of missiles into Eastern Europe following the Obama administration’s removal of said missiles is a signal to Russia that the West has reach to limits of its tolerance with Russian adventurism. The passing of American naval ships by Chinese artificial islands signals to China that Chinese attempts to bring the South China Sea into its sphere of influence will be futile. Failure to reinstall the missiles or passivity in the South China Sea also send messages: continue your aggression, the United States doesn’t care.
This is the same reason that no country takes the threat of North Korea seriously; the Hermit Kingdom and the Wile E. Coyote regime that governs it has annihilated all North Korean credibility after years of erroneous threats were made. The same rule applies to American statesmanship. While the actions being taken against North Korea are a step in the right direction, American leaders would be wise to limit the rhetoric to promises the United States is willing to keep – and to not hesitate in fulfilling those warnings when challenged.