Go be­yond words

Ask what Ron­ald Rea­gan would do

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - EDITORIAL PAGE -

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.

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