“Speak softly, and carry a big stick.” That was Theodore Roosevelt’s foreign-policy philosophy, and it’s paying off for George Bush in North Korea, at least so far:
In its first concession after months of hostility, North Korea on Saturday signaled that it would consider President Bush’s offer of written security assurances in return for dismantling its nuclear program.
The conciliatory statement, first reported by the North Korean news agency, marked an abrupt about-face for the government in Pyongyang, which days earlier had ridiculed Bush’s offer as “laughable” and “not worth considering.” … Iran also bowed to international pressure several days ago, saying it would suspend its uranium enrichment program and sign an agreement permitting international inspections.
China put more pressure on North Korea to consider the Bush Administration’s offer of written security assurances in lieu of a formal non-agression pact (which would undermine the military alliance with South Korea). Iran fell into line a few days ago. Of course, we need to have strong verification programs in place to ensure that these regimes really have given up on their nuclear programs, but until it became clear that Bush was willing to act forcefully to back up his diplomacy, we’d still be passing meaningless resolutions in the Security Council.
In business, it’s often said that you only have to fire one person to get a group into line. After that, everyone else gets the message. Despite their posturing, the week’s events show that Roosevelt’s philosophy still works best, and that you don’t have to go to war with everyone — sometimes you only have to topple the first tyrant before the others wise up. And for a man who keeps getting reviled as a unilateralist, he seems to be working well with China and Russia to confront both Iran and North Korea, which shows that the same demonstration of power works well in gathering allies. No one wants to be on the losing side of anything. Just ask France and Germany.