START and North Korea–Not so Different

A couple of foreign policy issues have made lots of news recently.  President Barack Obama really wants the Senate to ratify the new nuclear arms treaty (called “START”) between the USA and Russia.  Meanwhile, North Korea shelled South Korean territory, prompting joint military exercises involving South Korea and the US, which makes North Korea mad.

I think I understand the politics involved in both situations.

Things haven’t been going so rosily for our President these days.  Most people who have an opinion don’t like health care reform, the voters replaced a bunch of Democrats in Congress and in state governments a few weeks ago, the economy is still struggling, and don’t look now but gas prices are creeping up.  What is a President to do?  Bill Clinton began grabbing small victories everywhere he could find them, thus changing the conversation about him.  But most people don’t care about START.  And it doesn’t look like the easy slam dunk that President Obama was hoping for, so as this drags out, there is a danger that Americans will get irritated that he isn’t dealing with real problems.  In other words, it seemed like a good idea at the time, but…

The leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-il, is old and paranoid, a bad combination under the best of circumstances.  He’s trying to pass the baton to his kid, but he doesn’t want his enemies south of the border to take advantage of the situation, so he wants to demonstrate his strength.  Since I think this is just a show of force, I don’t anticipate it escalating too much.

So there you have it–an example of two politicians playing politics with their countries’ foreign policies.  At least President Obama’s actions didn’t kill any South Koreans.