Commentary Magazine


Tough Diplomacy

I agree with Max Boot that the administration’s deal with North Korea sounds like a sell-out. The giveaway was Condi Rice’s pledge of “tough diplomacy.” What in the world is that? And what kind of diplomacy do we usually practice, soft diplomacy? How does that work? “Welcome to the store, Mr. Kim. Help yourself to whatever tickles your fancy. It’s on the house.” Well, if that’s soft diplomacy, how is our recent exercise in “tough diplomacy” any different?

To give the administration its due, the North Korean knot is plenty vexing. Since Pyongyang now has a nuclear bomb, military action becomes dicier than it already was with Seoul in range of thousands of North Korean artillery pieces. We have no economic leverage to speak of, and while no country on earth is a worthier candidate for regime change than North Korea, we have almost no ability to influence its internal politics.

This is one more reason why we must bomb Iran before it completes its nuclear weapon. An internal EU report, leaked to the Financial Times on Tuesday, acknowledges that “the problems with Iran will not be resolved through economic sanctions alone.” The “tough sanctions” that the administration talks about are just as spurious as “tough diplomacy.”

“The EU has agreed to pursue sanctions through the United Nations if the Iranians continues [sic] to reject the decisions of the IAEA Board and the UN Security Council,” says the report. The trick to this formulation is that it means the Europeans are prepared only for sanctions adopted by the Security Council, i.e., only sanctions that Russia and China will agree to. But as Russian President Vladimir Putin made clear last week, and Beijing has made clear often, they regard the U.S. as a bigger threat to their ambitions than Iran. They will not cooperate in tightening the vise on Tehran. And even if they did, it is extremely doubtful that Ahmadinejad, Khameini, et. al., will give up their birthright to dominate the Islamic world (or perhaps rule the whole world) for a mess of economic inducements.

I have explained elsewhere why the emptiness of other measures to stop Iran’s bomb and the terrible consequences that would ensue from a nuclear-armed Iran lead to only one conclusion: military action. But here is one more reason. Bombing Iran to destroy its nuclear weapons facilities is one way—perhaps the only way—to turn Pyongyang around. Kim Jong Il would no longer sleep easily worrying about whether his turn was next and might finally agree to trade in his nukes. Now that is what I call tough diplomacy.

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