Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A National Pastime

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

At this rate, I'm looking forward to hearing from the North Koreans again around Flag Day, unless they consider Halloween a true "national holiday" here in the United States.

The way that they say "hello" really has a way of catching one's attention, doesn't it?

The North Koreans insistence to continue firing off missiles each American holiday (this time, yesterday on Columbus Day) is playing to a current weakness of the White House's image to date, especially in light of the recent Nobel Peace Prize that the president "earned" last Friday.

As we have learned from the playground, diplomacy only goes so far sometimes. With the playground bully, the kid continues to take your lunch money until you put up for yourself. It doesn't matter how many teachers you tell or how many times that kid goes to detention - when the next chance comes up to do the same thing without getting caught, he (or she) is coming back to collect. The same is true with some of the rogue nations that we are dealing with internationally. North Korea and others are going to push the limits of decency and international safety until someone checks them back into a place of civility, cooperation, and compliance. And at this rate, it is not going to come about through pure diplomacy.

People incorrectly view our national pastime as being one of imperialism and oppression. Although there is a history that supports some of those claims, we must not overlook the more important tactic that the United States now takes on - bully-checker.

As with the Iranian nuclear march, North Korea will continue to be a problem around the Korean Peninsula until there is an equal or mightier threat to push them towards reverting back from this dangerous trend. That is becoming more clear. Unfortunately, diplomacy only works when sides share a common goal or belief that can be used as the bridge to connect adversaries to a beneficial solution for all. However, when the world view is not shared by opposing sides (as we have found through human history, not just American history), the main recourse that eventually ends being effective is military presence, be it through threatening means or through actual discourse.

In this matter, it means having the North Koreans looking over their collective shoulder, knowing that the United States will eventually respond.

Being the bully-checker has its advantages.

Our national pastime for the past thirty years has been to be that presence within the international community that can do the most persuasion with the least amount of loss of life, mostly due to the might of the American military and our unique standing as the world's military superpower. Often overlooked is that this reality limited the length of Desert Storm and other military actions that the USA and her allies have engaged in over the course of the past 30 years. Even in instances where matters have lingered on longer than expected (Iraq and Afghanistan clearly come to mind), our power keeps matters from exploding into a bi-continental battleground as it was on 9/11 (or, some could argue, as it was with the recent arrests here in Dallas and New York City.) Our exclusive power has kept another power (can anyone say Iran? Iraq vis-a-vis Saddam Hussein? the PLO?) from escalating their actions and rhetoric further against Israel. In fact, our power has also been used to temper Israel in some of its actions (although not all, as with the case with some Muslim nations) against its neighbors in the Middle East.

Being the bully-checker has its advantages, and it is a pastime that the latest Nobel Peace Prize recipient should not abdicate merely to create equality amongst the nations. As the North Korean actions have shown us, the pursuit of equal nations across the globe threatens the existence of the equality of all people around the world. The void left by the disappearance of the American superpower will be chased by a nation (or set of leaders) without noble intentions. North Korea's recent pastime has been flying the skies at key times in the American calendar. America's recent pastime as the world's superpower post-USSR, albeit flawed, should not wither away lest we wrestle with some international bully that won't go away until all of us lose a lot more than lunch money.

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