The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Column: Stuck between a rock and a really, really hard place

I’m from Connecticut, a state about 1,150 miles away, according to Messieurs Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Co-founders of Google. Thanks to the reality of American geography, the only realistic way to get back-and-forth from Grinnell to Connecticut is by flying. As many—scratch that, all—my friends know, I hate flying. I’m scared beyond belief of it. There’s just something incredibly unnatural and wrong about getting in a metal tube and jetting around at 500 mph 35,000 feet above the ground. To make matters worse, that metal tube often decides that it doesn’t quite want to fly straight, but would much rather prefer to bounce and shake around as much as possible.

As much as I might hate flying, though, I have no choice—if I want to get back to Grinnell, it’s the only realistic way of doing so in a decent amount of time. I’m sure many of you can appreciate the feeling of being stuck between a rock and a hard place— between not going to school and flying. Our President and the international community at large are now stuck in a very similar situation.

I’m referring, of course, to the recent events in North Korea. Kim Jong-Il and his government have been consistently using the political method of “brinkmanship—taking actions that provoke responses from the international community in order to force the international community into giving North Korea more aid to maintain the important leverage they hold on the world stage. North Korea’s bargaining chip? The threat of nuclear proliferation and intercontinental ballistic missile technology. This technology, by the way, is up for sale to the highest bidder.

Worse, North Korea can get away with demanding and receiving aid from the world in exchange for making promises regarding its nuclear program. Because President Obama was elected on a foreign policy platform arguably centered on diplomacy and negotiations, he is limited in the scope of his actions if he wishes to keep his promises— stuck, in other words, with the proverbial carrot as opposed to the stick.

However, if President Obama remains true to that moniker and sits down with the North Koreans, he will be playing right into their hands. They will continue to demand aid while offering empty promises and misinformation about the nature of their missile program. North Korea, playing innocent, claims their missile program is for launching exploration satellites into low-Earth orbit, but that same rocket is easily modifiable into an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of reaching Hawaii or Alaska.

If Obama doesn’t negotiate with the North Koreans, calling instead for increased sanctions or action from the UN Security Council, he will meet a quick veto from China, North Korea’s stalwart ally—preventing any substantive UN efforts. The only remaining option—intimidating the North Koreans through military means, such as moving more Navy assets near the coast, or threatening to shoot down future missiles—runs counter to Obama’s stated mission of diplomacy and would lower American legitimacy.

So, Obama is stuck between a rock and a really, really hard place—an ineffective United Nations, and a North Korean nuke.

While my decision to return to campus each break is difficult for me, I certainly don’t envy the decisions our President faces in the future. Somehow this might make flying a little less scary—the fires of a nuclear detonation are slightly more intimidating to me than the whimsical attitudes of Northwest Airlines.

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