The aggression by North Korea is further evidence that the United States is steadily losing power and influence in the world. Iran has led the way, developing its nuclear weapons under pretence of not doing so, while being met with repeated pleas from America and Europe to negotiate and the imposition of sanctions that at best are half-hearted. Following the shift in the regional balance of power, Turkey is Islamising, and Lebanon looks like doing so as well. Chinese leaders publicly oppose the United States. The Russians gobble parts of Georgia, oblige the United States to cancel proposed missile defences in Europe, and succeed in cutting the American stockpile of nuclear weapons even though the United States has responsibilities on a scale far greater than Russia. Let’s not even speak of Venezuela and the Latin Americans.
It is possible that domestic considerations motivated the dictator Kim Jong-Il: He may have thought artillery barrages on South Korea would encourage the military to back his son Eun, selected to be the next dictator. But obviously he took it for granted that the United States response would be limited and purely verbal. The heart sank when President Obama duly obliged by bloviating about North Korea as “an ongoing threat that needs to be dealt with,” while offering no measures that might do so. Worse still, he called on China to tell its little North Korean friend to “abide by the rules.” The whole point of totalitarian countries is that they do not abide by the rules, and therefore democracies have to devise policies to find a way round that. If they are not to be hamstrung, democracies have to defend themselves with imagination and force.
South Korea and Japan have both been toying with the idea of going nuclear, and American weakness may now push them to it. The same thing is occurring in the Middle East, where several Arab countries are developing nuclear programs to defend themselves against Iran since the United States can’t be trusted any more to do so. Obama has declared a wish to have a nuclear-free world but the net result of his approach looks like being unprecedented nuclear proliferation.