People love to blame Obama for everything, including events which took place before he entered politics, or even before he was an adult. He’s even been blamed for 9/11. And now, no surprise, he’s being blamed because North Korea says it tested a hydrogen bomb during his term of office.
No explanation, of course, of what the president could have done to prevent it, short of invading yet another country, the Republican solution to all the world’s problems. As “evidence” that Obama is not tough enough, all these claims fall flat. I will offer here five reasons Obama isn’t to blame for a history of events that mostly took place before he was elected in 2008.
World War II: Korea had been annexed by Japan in 1910 and in 1945 it fell victim to the world’s ideological differences, the north going to Russia and the South to the United States. By 1948, attempts to reunify the country had failed, a problem probably beyond the ability of either Stalin or Truman to resolve, and the two halves formed their own governments. Obama was not alive during WWII or its aftermath.
The Korean War: The Korean War erupted in 1950 and lasted until 1953. It resolved nothing. It didn’t come out of the blue, or out of nowhere. It came out of context of all the long history that preceded it, and forces beyond the control of Koreans north and south, and at this point, beyond the ability of the United States itself to control. It ended with the peninsula still divided, the north still staunchly anti-Democratic (though not more communist) and perhaps more paranoid than before. Obama still hadn’t been born when the Korean War ended.
The August Faction Incident: In 1956, both China AND the Soviet Union tried and failed to depose Kim Il-sung as ruler of North Korea, and this was while Chinese troops remained in the country (they left in 1958). If Russia and China could not control their erstwhile proxy, North Korea, it is unreasonable to expect the United States to do so from much further away and in China and Russia’s backyard. This because more amusing when you take Trump’s recent words on Fox News into account: “China has total control, believe me. And if they don’t solve the problem, we should make trade very difficult for China.” China doesn’t have total control. It didn’t even have total control in 1956 when it had troops in the country. This just makes Trump look stupid, not Obama weak.
The Cold War: North Korea evolved into a totalitarian dictatorship, and the entire country is basically a giant fief owned by the ruling family where everyone lives at their whim. It’s army is the fourth largest in the world though it’s total area is only the 98th largest in the world. North Korea established itself as the world’s leading non-aligned country and marched to its own bizarre drummer. Needless to say, Obama was born only in 1961 when these events and historical forces were already well-entrenched, and we haven’t even gotten to George W. Bush.
AND FINALLY, REASON 1
George W. Bush: Both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush inherited this history, but how they handled it is what separates the two men in the pages of history. Bill Clinton managed to improve relations with North Korea, and South Korea developed its Sunshine Policy of using economic. Bill Clinton’s Agreed Framework (1994) halted North Korean production of nuclear weapons. But George W. Bush, not Barack Obama, came along in 2001 and rejected both South Korea’s Sunshine Policy and the Agreed Framework. According to the Bush administration, North Korea was a rogue state. Work on nuclear weapons resumed and its first nuclear test took place in 2006, while Bush, not Obama, was in office.
John Hudson writes at Foreign Policy that
“Although analysts doubt Pyongyang’s claims that the new test involved a hydrogen bomb, there is near-universal agreement that the size and sophistication of North Korea’s nuclear program has increased during Obama’s years in office.”
As though the initial work didn’t take place on somebody else’s watch, work without which the more recent work could not have taken place.
The damage was already done before Obama took office.
“Strategic patience is not working: Rather than pushing North Korea to the negotiating table, the threat posed by Pyongyang’s nuclear program is escalating,” Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy at the Arms Control Association, told Foreign Policy.
This is funny because it was Bush who broke Clinton’s productive and effective agreement with North Korea that would have prevented them from having nuclear weapons in the first place. Again, George W. Bush, conveniently stripped from the pages of history. That’s right: Bush is not mentioned even once in the Foreign Policy “analysis.”
For Republicans now to blame Obama for North Korean’s nuclear capacity is no different than blaming Obama for the rise of the Islamic State, which must also be traced to George W. Bush’s watch. Republicans love to blame Barack Obama for everything wrong with the world, and claim appealing to history and context is just excuse making, but it’s not excuse making, it’s FACT.
Much as Republicans would like to erase George W. Bush from history and just blame Obama for everything that’s happened in the world since September 11, 2001, it doesn’t work that way. Facts matter, and the facts are the Republican Evangelical hero Bush screwed up the world in a big way. If you must blame someone, blame Bush, not Obama, for North Korean nukes.