On April 18, Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez replied to the Obama magic with a photo-op presentation of a virulently anti-American screed at the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad. Flush with success, Chavez returned to Caracas, offered more visas and passports to Hezbollah and Hamas terrorists, and increased arms shipments to narco-insurgents in Colombia and Mexico.
The O-Team proffer of "quiet discussions" with the Taliban has yielded a spring "jihad," which threatens to overwhelm the Pakistani army and put Islamabad's nuclear arsenal at risk. In Mesopotamia, the "date certain" withdrawal of U.S. combat forces from Iraqi cities has precipitated a spike in grisly suicide bombings and the highest American casualty counts in more than a year.
On March 20, in a "video message" to the people of Iran, Mr. Obama offered Tehran "a new beginning" and stated, "My administration is now committed to diplomacy that addresses the full range of issues before us." Secretary of State Hillary Clinton followed up April 8, promising that the U.S. would be a "full participant" with Great Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China in renewed talks with the Iranians on that "full range of issues."
The Iranian response to these "new openings" should have been instructive. On May 20, just hours after an Oval Office meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the ayatollahs replied to Mr. Obama's "outstretched hand" and offers of face-to-face bilateral meetings by launching a 1,200-mile-range, solid fuel Sajjil-2 ICBM. Five days later, Iran rejected further talks with anyone regarding its nuclear program.
This week's detonation of a nuclear device near the North Korea-Russia border -- not to mention the ripple-fire launches of ballistic missiles and Pyongyang's subsequent abrogation of the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War -- is much more than just the test of an atomic weapon. It is a test of how the West in general -- and the U.S. in particular -- will respond. Every genocidal despot is watching -- especially those ruling Iran.
Short of a military attack, there are few things left in our quiver to deter the North Koreans and Iranians from developing and deploying nuclear weapons. That does not mean nothing can be done.
Mr. Obama said again this week that his most important responsibility is "protecting the American people." If that's true, he ought to announce immediately that no company doing business of any kind with North Korea or Iran will be allowed to do business in the United States. Second, he should ask Congress to reinstate the funding for homeland ballistic missile defense he cut out of the fiscal year 2010 defense budget. Third, he should expedite the installation of ballistic missile defense radars and interceptors in Europe. Doing less is a formula for disaster.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.