FILE - In this May 10, 2016 file photo, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waves at parade participants at the Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, North Korea. If North Korea has been a foreign policy headache for Barack Obama’s presidency, it threatens to be a migraine for his successor. The next president will likely contend with an adversary able to strike the continental U.S. with a nuclear weapon. Whoever wins the White House in the Nov. 8 election is expected to conduct a review of North Korea policy(AP Photo/Wong Maye-E, File)

Time and North Korea

Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
Fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way

1973 Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon 

The media and DC politicians call it “kicking the can down the road”.  In real life outside the Swamp, it’s called procrastination, paralysis by analysis, or just plain ole cowardice. Making the hard decision is well…hard; previous cowardly indecisiveness has frittered the hours away and now its time to pay the piper.

No issue more showcases this can kicking reality than North Korea. It is an existential global threat, built over time. North Korea’s desire to own nuclear weapons has been known since the early 90s. Throughout that time, Foggy Bottom has had the lead, so diplomacy, sanctions, and bribes in the form of foreign aid have been our go-to solutions. From Clinton through Bush to Obama, the cycles of the past 15 years of North Korea problem solving could be described as laughable if not so dire. North Korea blusters, threatens and bluffs, Congress gets their panties twisted in a knot, the media ratchets up noise, and the White House promises to find a livable solution.

The cycle then goes through the UN, sanctions, and threats of more sanctions, all the while North Korea becomes more and more bellicose. Eventually, the White House folds, and the State Department is tasked with diplomatic bribery. Millions and millions of aid and cash, based solely on North Korea’s promise to stop pursuing nuclear weapons. Once they are satisfied they have bled us dry, we get their promise to be good global citizens, and voila, the crisis is averted. Until the next time. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. All the while, they are lying through their teeth, working like a rented water buffalo to achieve their nuclear goals, and getting closer and closer to success.

Success for North Korea has arrived. Time’s up. The clock has run out, the can has been kicked all the way to the end of the road. Which leaves us with one of two very different scenarios.

The first is a continuation of the past two decades, and fittingly Susan Rice puts it most succinctly: (Business Insider)

“We need to be very measured, very careful, very planned in our rhetoric. I hope that we will see more measure out of the administration and out of the president as he approaches this very real challenge. A pre-emptive attack by the United States would be a very, very poor choice, a very dangerous choice,” Rice said.

It is plain this scenario is premised upon the acceptance that North Korea is a nuclear power, Susan Rice makes this very plain in her latest interview: (CNN)

“The issue now is what to do in a world where North Korea, led by Kim, possesses some of the most destructive weapons in history.”

By now, its glaringly apparent China and North Korea are banking on this dovish acquiescence. Their long term gamble has been based on their long-held belief Washington is more hot air than spine. Given China’s decision to allow Kim Jong Un to carry on unfettered, it appears they haven’t moved off of this position.

Enter Team Trump with phrases such as “fire and fury” and “destruction of its people”; or to put it in a more colloquial manner: “Oh hell no!”  Let’s hope they stay true to their initial instincts, time’s running out.

Every year is getting shorter never seem to find the time
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way
The time is gone, the song is over
Thought I’d something more to say

About the author

Wm. P. Fitzhenry

5th generation Texan, 2nd generation reformed Presbyterian, a twin and a serial entrepreneur.

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