Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON -- The world's terrorists and rogue nations have clearly become more dangerous since Barack Obama took office, and analysts say they're testing him to see how much they can get away with.

North Korea, Iran, Al Qaeda in Iraq and the Afghan Taliban have gotten much more threatening in recent months, while the administration pursues a new foreign policy based on the belief that they can achieve much more through soft diplomacy -- sitting down with our adversaries and having a "dialogue" with them.

In an ever more dangerous world, the Obama administration says it is practicing "smart power" instead of "hard power."

"With smart power, diplomacy will be the vanguard of foreign policy," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told senators at her confirmation hearings.

That's the message Obama has sent since his swearing-in, but so far it doesn't seem to be working. On the contrary, it seems to be encouraging further bad behavior.

Communist North Korea has brazenly stepped up its development and testing of medium-range missiles and nuclear weapons that threaten its neighbors and eventually us.

Taliban forces have grown more aggressive, threatening Afghanistan's weakened government and taking control of the Swat Valley and neighboring areas in Pakistan, where they have moved their troops to within 60 miles of Islamabad.

Al Qaeda has ramped up its deadly suicide bombings in Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq, amid reports the United States may slow its withdrawal plans if conditions worsen there.

Iran, too, is working overtime to support terrorists while pursuing its own nuclear programs in defiance of United Nations resolutions and economic sanctions. A CIA report to Congress says it has dramatically increased its uranium-enrichment program.

"This has to do with testing him. But in a larger sense, our adversaries and friends alike perceive a potential U.S. vacuum of leadership -- and international leadership abhors a vacuum, and other people are going to do things to fill that vacuum," said foreign-policy analyst Kim Holmes of the Heritage Foundation.

"In the case of North Korea, we are clearly worse off than we were a few months ago," he told me. "What have we got by reaching out to the Iranians? Not much. They are working on their missiles; there's not much change in their posture. Pakistan is certainly more of a worry now, not just in the tribal areas but in Pakistan proper, and the danger of getting control of nuclear weapons, which would be a nightmare."

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.