The North Koreans are sending another loud reminder that they are crazy and unpredictable. They just finished showing off another nuclear facility, which means they want more appeasement money to sorta-kinda monitor it under “international” auspices. This shake-down gambit seems to be the paradigm of the future, an easy way to gain cash, attention, and influence otherwise not accorded such a miserable state. Note that in such cases (cf. Iran), the Chinese are usually in the vicinity.
Nonetheless, the more sinister regions of the world are watching the U.S. response to the shelling, for either a yellow or a green light for their own agendas. More enlightened states are watching, too, for indications of the American reaction should the trouble spread to their corners of the world.
Dismissing the idea that past global problems might transcend George W. Bush, this administration operated as if a charismatic world citizen, with reset magic, could win over the globe to a U.N.-sponsored utopia. These false assumptions intrigued the curious abroad — why would Obama seek to advance such absurd notions about global problems having originated with U.S. belligerence circa 2001–2009 and being resolved by U.S. empathy in 2009–2010? Apparently, as we are now learning, North Korea wants to find out the answer.
In general, listlessness and misdirection in Washington always ripple out to the world abroad within a year or two. Sanctimonious Carterism had confirmed the image of a paralytic America by 1979, which may be why that year saw the Chinese in Vietnam, the Russians in Afghanistan, Communists on the rise in Central America, hostages in Tehran, the end of the Shah, and the rise of an emboldened radical Islam. When Nixon and his congressional opponents wrecked U.S. foreign policy in the long dark days of Watergate, by 1973-4 the world became a very unstable place, with the Yom Kippur War, oil embargoes, an imploding Southeast Asia, and the Turkish invasion of Cyprus.
To deter North Korea, we should now express and follow through on the sort of solidarity that is unquestioned, a kind of solidarity that has been sorely lacking in the last two years with Israel, Britain, Poland, and the Czech Republic.
And, in a larger sense, the commander-in-chief needs to stop his contextualizing and apologizing, especially this pernicious messianic notion that, as an empathetic and post-national president, his mission is to redeem a previously culpable America. Otherwise, in the next two years that nonsense is going to get people killed.