Obama’s Alice-in-Wonderland foreign policy

Sol W. Sanders  

That clanking and screeching you hear out of Washington, almost drowning out the caterwauling of the budget debate, is the Obama administration making a 180-degree turn on Pacific Ocean anti-missile defense.

As usual with the cloying mainstream media, the significance of this complete reversal of strategy has been obfuscated at the cost of minimizing a necessary debate on national defense. Unfortunately, that examination did not take place when Mr. Chuck Hagel was before the Senate for confirmation as secretary of defense because of the general confusion of the nominee and his critics.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at live fire exercise in southwest North Korea on March 13. /AP
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at live fire exercise in southwest North Korea on March 13.  /AP

In the fantasy world in which the current administration lives, in 2011 it went about canceling carefully prepared defenses against the developing missile and weapons of mass destruction threat from North Korea to both Hawaii and Continental U.S.

One expert in the field says: the current administration’s response to the North Korean third nuclear test and the impending test of the KN-08 land-mobile ICBM – that is, deploying 14 more interceptors that will take 2-3 years in Alaska and Vandenberg — is “pitiful” [A quiet first U.S.-Japan conference on collaboration in exchanging space intelligence is the only encouraging sign in the whole scene: See March 13 edition of East-Asia-Intel.com]

Continuing a policy of hope and prayer by the Bush administration that China could be persuaded to intervene to halt Pyongyang’s headlong plunge toward catastrophe, the Obama administration went even further. It abandoned the counter anti-missile deployment to what is North Korea’s stumbling but seemingly successful program for achieving weapons of mass destruction.

Suddenly Pyongyang’s effort is now reinforced with new war rhetoric and tests of short-range missiles by the 29-year-old heir Kim Jong-Un to the throne of one of the most monstrous regimes in living memory.

Young Kim’s denunciation and dismantling of safety features of the 1953 Korean armistice by Pyongyang – for example, a “hot line” to South Korea — has now increased the possibility of an accidental exchange which could touch off full-fledged war. Looking back on the continuing set of recent North Korean aggressions – for example the sinking of a South Korean vessel in March 2010 — there is almost inevitability about such a crisis. The two or three years hiatus necessary to implement the beginnings of a return to an effective anti-missiles strategy is going to increase the vulnerability of North Korea’s neighbors, South Korea and Japan, as well as American strongpoints in the Pacific.

Somehow sounder heads – presumably our too often compromised military leadership – has won the day for this sudden administration about face. The move comes as Beijing has done the U.S. the favor of voting for new UN sanctions on the rogue regime. But given Communist China’s violation of virtually every international agreement it has ever undertaken – from its promises to move toward trade liberation in exchange for U.S. support for its membership in the World Trade Organization to surreptitious shipments of missile and other technology to its friends in the Middle East, sometimes through North Korean auspices – this is less than a gesture.

Any kind of analysis of North Korean politics suggests a painful and bitter logic: Pyongyang has no other strategy for maintenance of the regime than continuing to blackmail the U.S., Japan, South Korea — probably China. For Beijing has fears, but not of a surge of refugees in a breakdown of the regime as so many pontificate. [When did this Chinese regime ever show concern about humanitarian causes?]

What China fears is an implosion of North Korea which would lead to unification under a pro-U.S. Seoul regime.

Pyongyangs’s blackmail consists of continued pursuit of aggressive weapons which it now has publicly threatened to use in a preemptive attack on the U.S. and its neighbors. How empty a threat that is depends on the progress of weapons development. But it is not a warning the U.S. can ignore given the basic instability of the regime. Amidst near starvation again and a domestic repression that challenges even Nazi German and Stalinist Soviet Union for its bestiality, Pyongyang now relies almost completely on China for its survival.

The question hanging in the air, of course, is whether Washington will not now only restore earlier anti-missile defenses in the western continental U.S. and Alaska, but go on to back a deployment of short and medium range missile defenses. The successes of the Israelis with Arrow, Iron Dome and David’s Sling systems – all built with partial American funding and collaboration — against Jerusalem’s own threat of massive short-range missile attacks suggest the only reasonable strategy, That would be for the U.S. working with our allies as soon as possible to deploy those defensive armaments in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and, of course, in our major Guam base.

Begging too is a return to the other but related “front”: the Obama administration’s abandonment of carefully prepared, politically and strategically, anti-missile defenses of Europe, and ultimately, the U.S. in Poland and the Czech Republic, against the growing threat of Iranian missiles.

Few independent voices in the missile “community:” accepted professions of the Obama administration – and its Pentagon “yes-men” – when early in President Obama’s first administration Washington also abandoned those carefully prepared earlier plans that adequate alternative measures were being taken. Those Polish and Czech radar and interceptors would provide much better track data for an intercept solution using either European or Alaska based interceptors.

Behind these military strategic decisions is the never-neverland in which the administration lives. It announces a “pivot” toward East Asia for an increased focus on defenses against an increasingly threatening Chinese military buildup at the same time it is running down the totality of U.S. Navy strength.

It continues to court bilateral negotiations with Tehran, rejected time and again by the Iranian mullahs, meanwhile permitting Iran continued progress toward nuclear weaponry unimpeded by the much-touted sanctions regime, as one official after another has admitted in Congressional hearings.

Whether China – which manages life support for Pyongyang with massive food and energy aid in exchange, in part, for metals imports – would or could force Pyongyang to back off is a moot point. There is evidence the new Chinese leadership like its predecessors is conflicted, especially with reported support for Pyongyang in the People’s Liberation Army with its growing influence over all Beijing decision-making.

President Obama is about to visit Jerusalem to get new assurances from a just assembled new Israeli coalition government it will not move unilaterally against Iran, according to the hints from Democratic Party circles. The hapless new Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel may have let the cat out of the bad when he supposedly misspoke during his confirmation hearing and characterized the Obama Iran policy as “containment”.

If, indeed, as it appears the difference between the Americans and the Israelis is an Obama administration proposal to distinguish between the capacity of Iran to make a nuclear weapon and its actual weaponization, another example of the lunacy of such Obama administration logic is revealed.

Can anyone believe the mullahs – who hid their uranium enrichment program for 17 years from UN and American intelligence – could be trusted in a pledge to forgo “weaponization”? Or, indeed, would the very acceptance by the U.S. of Iran’s WMD capabilities not deliver into Iran’s hands the very prestige and leverage in its drive to dominate the Persian Gulf and world oil? Nor can Israel, with the history of the European Jewry, dismiss out of hand repeated Tehran threats to wipe Israel off the map.

Sol W. Sanders, (solsanders@cox.net), is a contributing editor for WorldTribune.com and East-Asia-Intel.com and blogs at yeoldecrabb.wordpress.com

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