While American politics in melt down mode over the Democrats almost yearlong obsession in trying to find a scintilla of evidence with which they can hang Trump on charges of colluding with the Russians, both North Korea and Iran have been busy getting on with developing their nuclear missile programs.
North Korean President Kim Jong-Un has blatantly carried out a series of missile tests that show their capability of launching a nuclear missile strike that will put the west coast of the United States within range.
When President Trump warned North Korea of the “fire and fury, never seen before” should they test America’s patience, some Democrats and Obama hang-overs, such as Ben Rhodes, the White House Deputy National Security Secretary under President Obama, accused Trump on MSNBC of “extreme and false statements about all manner of things. It’s more concerning,” he said, “when they are about nuclear weapons.”
So who gets it? Ben Rhodes, or President Trump? Rhodes introduced a security policy of “strategic patience.” Rhodes, it should be remembered, was an ardent promoter of Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran which rewarded the Islamic Republic to the tune of $150 Billion while allowing them to continue their intercontinental ballistic missile development program.
Compare Rhodes criticism to Trump’s statement to Donald Trump’s comments about making nuclear deals with regimes like North Korea on an NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ TV interview in October 1999. That was a decade and a half before Donald Trump entered politics. Here is what he said about the Administration’s refusal, or inability, to adequately close down North Korea’s nuclear program, “Do you want to do it in five years when they have warheads all over the place, each one of them pointing at New York and Washington, is that when you want to do it, or do you want to do it now?”
In that interview, Trump talking about the US negotiators, and using his familiar verbal style, added that the North Korean leaders “are laughing at us. They think we’re a bunch of dummies.”
Who can say, faced with today’s crisis, that Trump was wrong?
The most recent North Korean testing has seen them use their missile launch capability for carrying miniaturized nuclear weapons which they announced would be placed on their warships to aim at Guam. This is not new technology or intelligence. Revelations show that the US Military Intelligence reported this technology to the Obama Administration back on April 2013, but, operating on Ben Rhodes’s “strategic patience” paradigm, President Obama decided to deny the contents of this intelligence assessment, and do nothing about it. In other words, they covered up the intelligence as being politically inconvenient. Strategic patience bathed in denial has resulted in North Korea arriving at this dangerous moment for the United States and the Trump Administration.
It is worth reminding ourselves that Wendy Sherman was one of the architects of both the North Korean and the Iranian nuclear deals. The North Korean deal was used as the US template for the negotiations with Tehran over their advanced nuclear program. Both were based on the fallacy of a strategic patience policy of “let’s go easy on them and see what happened in ten years’ time.”
The strategic patience policy is a frightening failure. It is nothing more than politically kicking the can down the road to be picked up by a future Administration when it is about to explode in a mushroom cloud.
America is in crisis mode right now. They are scrambling to come up with a solution to the North Korean nuclear threat, but there appears to be no good solution in sight, particularly when you are dealing with unpredictable rogue regimes. Conflict seems inevitable.
This is the consequence of kicking that can down the road. Tomorrow, they will wake up to the same crisis when Iran takes the wraps off their project and are ready for a nuclear breakout.
Barry Shaw is the Senior Associate for Public Diplomacy at the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.