30th May 2009
Mark Steyn takes a look at the news.
Doesn’t Kim Jong Il have a compelling personal story? Like Sonia, he grew up in a poor neighborhood (North Korea), yet he’s managed to become a nuclear power, shattering the glass ceiling to take his seat at the old nuclear boys’ club. Isn’t that an inspiring narrative? Once upon a time you had to be a great power, one of the Big Five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, to sit at the nuclear table: America, Britain, France, Russia, China, the old sons of power and privilege. But now the mentally unstable scion of an impoverished no-account backwater with a GDP lower than that of Zimbabwe has joined their ranks: Celebrate diversity!
Maybe we’re the ones being parochial. If you’re American, it’s natural to assume that the North Korean problem is about North Korea, just like the Iraq War is about Iraq. But they’re not. If you’re starving to death in Pyongyang, North Korea is about North Korea. For everyone else, North Korea and Iraq, and Afghanistan and Iran, are about America: American will, American purpose, American credibility. The rest of the world doesn’t observe Memorial Day. But it understands the crude symbolism of a rogue nuclear test staged on the day to honor American war dead and greeted with only half-hearted pro forma diplomatese from Washington. Pyongyang’s actions were “a matter of . . . ” Drumroll, please! “ . . . grave concern,” declared the president. Furthermore, if North Korea carries on like this, it will — wait for it — “not find international acceptance.” As the comedian Andy Borowitz put it, “President Obama said that the United States was prepared to respond to the threat with ‘the strongest possible adjectives . . . ’ Later in the day, Defense Secretary Robert Gates called the North Korean nuclear test ‘supercilious and jejune.’ ”
The president’s general line on the geopolitical big picture is: I don’t need this in my life right now. He’s a domestic transformationalist, working overtime — via the banks, the automobile industry, health care, etc. — to advance statism’s death grip on American dynamism. His principal interest in the rest of the world is that he doesn’t want anyone nuking America before he’s finished turning it into a socialist basket-case. This isn’t simply a matter of priorities. A United States government currently borrowing 50 cents for every dollar it spends cannot afford its global role, and thus the Obama cuts to missile defense and other programs have a kind of logic: You can’t be Scandinavia writ large with a U.S.-sized military.