Austin Bay

Barack Obama isn't leading. Instead, events are leading the president -- and I don't mean stage-managed summits, puppet press conferences or White House dinners, but the international events that matter, the ones paid for in blood.

Iran and North Korea are immediate cases where rogue regimes seeking nuclear weapons follow calculated strategies that harm American interests and allies.

North Korea is impoverished, but its gangster dictatorship knows how to run a nuclear extortion racket to obtain cash and political concessions from its neighbors.

Iran's mullah regime surveys the Middle East's oilfields and concludes a similar scheme -- with a few local twists -- will shakedown its region. One difference makes Iran's ploy potentially more dangerous than North Korea's. North Korea has quit the communist expansion business (that religion failed). Tehran, however, harbors international aspirations. Radicals in high government office insist nuclear weapons will advance their version of global Islamic revolution.

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Both nations bluster, but they also act. Last month, an event caught South Korea by surprise: an explosion sank a South Korean warship, killing 46 sailors. Last week, investigators examining the wreck said it appeared an external explosion (possibly a torpedo or mine) sunk the ship.

An accident? Or did North Korea launch a sneak attack? The South Korean government is avoiding talk of reprisal, but East Asia is on edge. North Korea announced it might test a nuclear weapon next month. What will the Obama administration do if the situation deteriorates?

From its inception, the Obama administration has talked and talked a great deal about the way it wants the world to be. Rhetorical theatrics, to include sermons promoting visions, and emotionally charged media spectaculars hold pre-eminent and almost holy positions among administration elites.

This is understandable, for these are the tools of domestic politics in a free, secure nation of laws -- the terrain where American community organizers operate. Obama believes that if he can chitchat long enough and with sufficient eloquence, the world will align with his words -- his rhetorical "oughtta be" becomes the way it is. It worked in Chicago.

Austin Bay

Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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