THE STATE OF AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY
The American Opportunity/Free Congress Foundation View (Part 4)
In this part 4 of our series on American foreign policy we discuss the North Korean crisis, and how the Trump Administration is making progress through the application of principles of Conservative Internationalism.
To recap, in Part 1 of this series, we defined the previous foreign policy approaches followed in the past: Nationalism, Realism, Liberal Internationalism, and Conservative Internationalism. In Part 2 we presented the case that President Trump, while defining has policy as “realism”, is also following a policy of “conservative internationalism”, combining force and diplomacy, and promoting freedom and democracy. In Part 3 we discussed the strategic goals of China, Russia, Iran and North Korea and why their long term policy is aggressive and seeking change of the post-WWII Western international order.
North Korea’s policy of threatening the United States has come to a head with that country’s determined advancement of their nuclear weapons development and their program to create intercontinental ballistic missiles that can strike the United States and its allies. The consequences of such promised aggression is not limited to a nuclear strike by the North Koreans. A nuclear capability would upset the balance of relations in East Asia. North Korea would enter into any future conflicts with the United States, Japan, South Korea, or any other Western power in a position to apply a nuclear threat.
All last year, staff from our foundation attended meetings of foreign policy organizations, academics, and think tanks on the subject of the North Korean threat. In every meeting we asked, “Are we going to allow the North Koreans to obtain a nuclear armed missile that can attack the United States or not?” That question was always answered by silence. That question has now been answered by President Trump. The new answer is “no, we are not going to allow it.”
So far the Trump Administration seems to be following a policy of Conservative Internationalism, stating clearly defined goals of stopping North Korea’s nuclear development, using force, and promising more force, while opening the door to diplomacy. North Korea is poor. They have little money relative to the major powers in the world. President Trump continues to deploy ships and planes, and to call for tougher policy. North Korea will have no choice but to keep its military on constant alert, spending its limited resources.
An important part of the Trump foreign policy is stating our certain intentions so there is no misunderstanding by anyone. Secretary of State Tillerson has the reputation of being a careful and measured man, and his statement of the U.S. position is not subject to misinterpretation. In his recent trip to Vancouver, Canada to attend a joint meeting to discuss the Korean crisis Secretary Tillerson said: “We all need to be sober and clear-eyed about the current situation. We have to recognize that the threat is growing and if North Korea does not choose the pathway of engagement, discussion, and negotiation then they themselves will trigger an option.” What message could be clearer?
If North Korea doesn’t seek a diplomatic solution, they will run out of money, and an internal rebellion may become possible. If the North Korean people are going to starve under the current regime anyway, and if their soldiers can’t be fed or armed, what does anyone in North Korea have to lose in a rebellion? The United States and its allies are right to keep the pressure on -- without an Olympic pause.
North Korea and its apologists like to characterize this nuclear development as defensive. They say North Korea’s nuclear weapons would prevent the United States and its Pacific allies from attacking North Korea, and attempting to bring down their regime. Yet today, we see no evidence that the United States or any of its allies previously has sought any change in North Korea’s government or territorial integrity. Except for US responses to North Korean threats, we are aware of no policy to invade, attack or seek to rescue the North Korean people. We should be clear that North Korea is the aggressor without provocation from the United States or its allies.
There is a line of thought in Washington D.C. and elsewhere that stopping the North Koreans from their nuclear development is not worth the risk. Deterrence and containment should be the order of the day. If China and Russia have the bomb, why is one more aggressive, authoritarian country any worse? We reject that line of analysis, and are unwilling to accept the surrender of the safety of our countrymen and those of our allies to the armed goals of North Korea’s dictatorship. A passive response to this crisis today would likely mean more nuclear proliferation in the immediate future beyond the Korean peninsula.
We should also ask who else would benefit from U.S.acquiescence in North Korea’s nuclear advancement? One answer might be China and Russia. Both of those countries are following policies of aggression to try to upset the Western world order. China invaded the East and South China Seas, testing Western resolve and challenging the sea lanes. Russia conquered the Crimea by force, invaded the Ukraine and Georgia, and threatens the rest of Europe, especially the areas they call the “near abroad”.
North Korea may be a test. In the larger strategic scheme, North Korea is expendable to both Russia and China. Meanwhile, those countries can learn what action or inaction the West will take when our very lives are threatened. Inaction by America and its allies thus sends a message of weakness to China and Russia that may set up a fatal miscalculation as they continue to push outward to dominate their neighbors.
China and Russia are being asked and are expected by the US to aid in the economic pressure on North Korea. Those countries can join the US and be a force for peace, or they can assume responsibility for a conflict if the North Korean program continues. Reports are that the Russia and China are not a part of the North Korean policy of aggression. This is their opportunity to prove it.
Some say the North Korean Olympic outreach to South Korea may be an effort to divide South Korea from its U.S. and its Pacific allies. While the U.S. should guard against this possibility, the Olympic outreach may be the first signal that the North Koreans know they must yield, and want a settlement to be negotiated through their neighbor to the south and not with President Donald Trump. Nonetheless, the United States and its allies must keep the economic pressure on to make possible a diplomatic solution.
In Part 5, to follow this week, we will discuss the role played by reaffirming Western democracy, and how that reaffirmation adds to Western power in this ongoing conflict for the future of mankind. The Korean conflict is only a small part of this twilight struggle. The outcome of this global conflict will determine how, not just Americans, but all people in the world will live in the future.