Does North Korea have war on their mind? At this point we can only speculate. There's a lot of tough talk flying around, a lot of tests, a few people killed here and there. This morning, U.S. military officials told North Korea that the United States' commitment to help South Korea maintain their independence is "unquestioned." But when it comes down to it, what sort of clout does the U.S. really carry anymore?
"I do think what that we've seen there is an example of how provocative American weakness can be," Liz Cheney, daughter of former VP Dick Cheney, told Fox News this week. "And I think that unfortunately it is policy of weakness that has expanded back into the Bush administration -- into the last years of the Bush administration," she added, taking a surprising jab at her father's tenure in office.
In 2008, President Bush removed Korea from "the Axis of Evil" distinction and the terrorist list. Even when Kim Jong-il conducted 2001 tests of the Taepodong-1 missile and told Bush that he "wouldn't hesitate" to strike the U.S. first in a military attack, we remained silent. (Click here to see a timeline of our wimpy policy with North Korea.) In the wake of rising aggression, the best we can do is send Bill Richardson on an "unofficial visit" with no real news at all? If North Korea is testing the United States, then we have failed miserably. The truth is, we're more afraid of what China could do if they happened to side with North Korea. At the moment, we're stuck at the impotent round-table of six party talks, as per China's request.
"I think that we've seen time and time again North Korea -- they test a nuclear weapon, there are no consequences, they build a reactor for the Syrians, there are no consequences," Liz Cheney said. "And what they have learned is that their belligerence, in fact, often times yields from us capitulation and concessions. I think that it's time for us to put them back on the terrorist list."
Cheney's proposed solution of putting North Korea back on the terrorist list is a mere technicality. "Sanctions" may be a bargaining chip for minor details, but aren't effective in this situation. The military drills we're conducting with Japan is a smart move. Other bold deterrents might be increasing troop levels in the South Korean peninsula, seeking a UN resolution authorizing use of force should North Korea escalate tensions again, and to encourage talks with Russia that assure North Korea that they will not have access to Russian nukes.