Is Barack Obama the Jimmy Carter of the 21st century? At least one Asian security expert thinks so. India-based analyst Bahukutumbi Raman says the Obama administration is on track to achieve in one year what it took Jimmy Carter three years to accomplish and that is to portray the United States as a "confused and soft power."
With the latest underground testing of yet another nuclear bomb by North Korea, America's response in the coming days and weeks will be crucial. This much we know: North Korea's dictator, Kim Jong Il, is a madman. We also know that he and his father, who preceded him in power, repeatedly lied to the international community about their nuclear weapons development. Negotiating in good faith with madmen and pathological liars is folly yet that's exactly what former President Carter has done on more than one occasion.
To their credit, in 1994 the Clinton administration was ready to take a harsh stand against North Korea's unloading of irradiated fuel rods from a 5-megawatt reactor. According to Washington Monthly in December of 1997, "Lieutenant General Howell Estes, the senior U.S. Air Force officer in Korea, recalled later that although neither he nor other commanders said so out loud, not even in private conversations with one another, 'inside we all thought we were going to war.'"
What prevented an escalation of tension at the time was former President Jimmy Carter sticking his nose into the situation. After repeatedly being rebuffed by the earlier Bush Administration, Bill Clinton reluctantly allowed Carter to go as long as he made it clear that he was not speaking on behalf of the United States. Carter brokered a deal with Kim Jong Il's father and later with Kim himself. It essentially traded money, food and oil in exchange for North Korea not developing a missile program, especially one that involved nukes.
Carter maintained that if we would only give them more of what they wanted they would honor their end of the bargain by abandoning their nuclear program. They didn't. Kim starved an estimated one million people to death while he diverted resources to his arms race.
Then they insisted that they were developing nuclear technology to light and power their country. They enlisted our help in exchange for dismantling their nuclear weapons program. The Clinton administration bit again and the agreement became known as the 1994 Agreed Framework. Under the Framework we would deliver nuclear power technology along with economic and diplomatic benefits. The North Koreans were to halt operations and infrastructure development of their nuclear program. How could we have been so stupid? Because the Clinton Administration was following the advice of Jimmy Carter.
In 1998, Clinton's military chief of staff testified that North Korea did not have an active ballistic missile program. A week later they launched a missile over Japan that landed near the Alaska coast. Whoops.
Even as recently as this past January, Carter told the Associated Press that he believed North Korea would give up its nuclear program in exchange for diplomatic recognition by the United States and being allowed to build new atomic power reactors. How na*ve can one man be? Carter is what the Soviets used to refer to as a useful idiot. He may be, without the useful part.
The time for chump politics has passed. Now it's time for serious action. That should involve a whole array of action, leading up to and including taking Kim Jong Il out. If there's one thing this administration should have learned by now it's that engaging in gullible foreign policy is a deadly game.