September 28, 2022

Grading Obama’s North Korea approach

Meaningful policy changes risk ‘appeasement’ charges, political losses

We are reaching the mid-way point of President Obama’s second term, and now seems to be a good time to make some preliminary conclusions about the Obama administration. Of course, the present author is not planning to undertake a comprehensive analysis of the Affordable Care Act, nor am I capable of producing an informed analysis of the administration’s Middle East polices. Rather, I shall have to limit myself to a discussion of North Korea-related policies.

It is frequently said that Obama’s North Korea policy has been a failure. One’s definition of success is crucial here. If one defines success as the “complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of North Korean nuclear program,” then yes, the Obama administration has failed. However, the same accusation can be leveled at all of Obama’s predecessors, with the possible exception of Bill Clinton, under whose watch the 1994 Agreed Framework – which may have slowed down, or even briefly halted North Korea’s advance toward constructing a working nuclear weapon – was signed. In this light, it is difficult to criticize Obama for lack of results. His predecessors hardly faired much better, after all.