In recent weeks, North Korea test-fired ballistic missiles over the Sea of Japan and exploded its second nuclear bomb. It also convicted two American journalists of "grave crimes" against the North Korean state, sentencing them to 12 years of hard labor.
In response, President Obama denounced North Korea’s actions, stating that they "fly in the face of U.N. resolutions" and that "the United States will never waiver from our determination to protect our people and the peace and security of the world."
The U.N. Security Council also passed a resolution encouraging inspections of North Korean ships suspected of transporting weapons and prohibiting the refueling or resupplying of such ships.
This all sounds good. But the problem is that similar words and half-deeds have had no impact on North Korea for decades.
North Korea is a communist, totalitarian hell where people have no rights or freedoms. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the abrupt end of economic support from the old Soviet Union 20 years ago, 3 million North Koreans have died of starvation; 1 million more have been killed by the government’s state security agency.
For many reasons, the U.S. and the world have chosen to ignore these atrocities. North Korea threatens South Korea with its large army. China refuses to pressure North Korea, fearing a flood of refugees and international focus on human rights abuses. America fears a repeat of the bloody Korean War, in which more than 50,000 American soldiers died.
Through it all, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il and his government have continued developing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. For two decades, U.S. policymakers believed North Korea was developing these weapons to bargain for economic aid and our actions reflected this mistaken belief.
Complicating matters further, North Korea exports its missiles and nuclear weapons technology. It has supplied terrorist nations including Syria and Iran. If North Korea becomes a full nuclear weapons state, there will be no stopping Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and perhaps others will then acquire nukes to balance the Shiite Islamic Republic. The world will become a much more dangerous place where more governments, including many characterized by instability and erratic behavior, will possess nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them.
President Obama should recognize that diplomacy failed Presidents Clinton and Bush. Continued diplomatic "business as usual" will further embolden North Korea and make worldwide nuclear nonproliferation a joke.
Despite many distractions, it is now decision time on North Korea for Barack Obama. Will he make the difficult, courageous and historic decision to go to war against North Korea alongside our South Korean allies?
Or will he follow in the footsteps of Bill Clinton and George Bush by delivering rhetoric while doing nothing?
President Obama will probably do nothing. But if and when North Korea causes a future nuclear exchange, history will judge Obama and his predecessors harshly.
Glen Meakem was the founder, chairman and CEO of FreeMarkets Inc. He is co-founder and managing director of Meakem Becker Venture Capital in Pittsburgh.