Go beyond words
Ask what Ronald Reagan would do
WORDS, words, words. The air is full of them as American diplomats, generals and correspondents fill the dead air at the United Nations with warnings, pronouncements, and blather in general in response to North Korea’s latest triumph: a successful test of an intercontinental missile that could hit Hawaii, Alaska and/or this country’s west coast. But they’re all just idle words full of sound and fury signifying nothing.
The air is full of a lot more than words on Pyongyang’s part. Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis says the North Koreans’ latest missile was one not sighted before, for its range is estimated at more than 3,400 miles and was launched from a mobile platform, which can be harder to target.
This country’s commander-in-chief seems to have reduced his rank to tweeter-in-chief as he fusses and fumes at North Korea’s ally and mentor, Communist China, but shows little inclination to do anything but make threats about cutting off American trade with Beijing— threats not likely to be taken seriously either by the Chinese or anyone else who’s seen this show before. Depending on Beijing to restrain its North Korean trading partner is likely to prove as futile as relying on the old Soviet Union to restrain North Korea’s Kim Il Sung as the Korean War was brewing.
Meanwhile, the crew at Foggy Bottom, aka the U.S. State Department, seems to have no better strategy in this present crisis than the tried-and-failed approach it has used to no great effect again and again: Bluff till this country’s bluff is called, then return to square one, failing to pass Go or otherwise learn from bitter experience. Instead, American and South Korean troops have launched precision-missiles just off Korea’s eastern coast. But who’s scared of the big bad American eagle these days? Certainly not the North Koreans, who can tell a bluff when they see one.
Instead of speaking softly and carrying a big stick, this country’s spokespersons seem to have boiled down American foreign policy to shouting loudly and gesticulating madly. And then bragging about self-restraint. To quote the commander in charge of American forces on the Korean peninsula, Gen. Vincent Brooks: “Self-restraint, which is a choice, is all that separates armistice and war,” referring to the 1953 cease-fire that didn’t end the Korean War but only declared a kind of time-out. And time is fast running out these days.
“As this alliance missile live-fire shows,” declares Gen. Brooks, “we are able to change our choice when so ordered by our alliance national leaders. It would be a grave mistake for anyone to believe anything to the contrary.” But actions still speak louder than propaganda, particularly the transparent kind. South Korea’s president Moon Jae-in has a point when he says the allies need to respond to North Korea’s threats “with more than statements.” Especially unconvincing ones.
Ronald Reagan, the Great Communicator, sent his message not just in words but through actions, which still speak louder. When he became president and commander-in-chief of American forces, American policy still aimed only to contain the Soviet Union. He changed that limited goal from just settling for a draw to victory. And he succeeded. Or as he summed up the great change in American policy after listening to the State Department’s usual long and unconvincing presentation, a better and simpler policy would be: We win, they lose. And this country did indeed win the Cold War under his leadership, and the Communists did indeed lose. Without a shot fired.
HOW CAN this country follow his effective example when it comes to North Korea, and others like Iran? Here’s how:
We could undermine both regimes’ finances rather than let them go on financing terrorism worldwide. In Iran, target the Revolutionary Guard Corps, indicting it for terrorist activities in the court of world opinion. Stop the Iranians, for example, from transferring weapons to its junior partners like Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon, cutting off its water and thus preventing still another war between Israel and Iran’s puppets. Focus on both regimes’ economic and electoral corruption. And keep the pressure on by announcing that war criminals will be held to account.
Keeping up outside pressure until regimes change — in Tehran and Pyongyang — sounds like the best plan all around.
Just as Ronald Reagan let the leaders of the late and unlamented Soviet Union know that Washington was now under new management, and saw this country through to victory, it can be done. This country has done it before — and needs to do it again.