Paul Greenberg

(2) The world responds generously, asking only that North Korea stop building nukes in return.

(3) Sure, the regime says.

(4) The aid is delivered, much of it going directly to North Korea's military and party elite.

(5) Pyongyang goes right on building its nukes -- and now a system to deliver them long-distance, too.

Kim Jong Il may no longer be with us, but Junior follows the familiar script with filial loyalty. North Korea demanded the hundreds of thousands of tons of food and supplies just last month -- and promised to shut down its nuclear program and missile tests in exchange. The usual naifs cheered the great change in Pyongyang, saying this Kim was going to be different from all the others. He's not. Just quicker.

To much fanfare, North Korea now has announced that it would be putting an "observation satellite" in space next month. That's a euphemism for testing a long-range missile capable of delivering the North's new nukes across oceans or continents. Like an express to California.

But there is indeed a new North Korea. In the past, when daddy was in charge, the North Korean regime would wait until after it had received the bribe before going back on its word. But when this "new" regime announced last week it would be shooting stuff into the sky, the 240,000 tons of food hadn't even arrived yet.

No, no, no, Li'l Kim. You're not playing the game in the accepted sequence. First you get the aid. Then you renege.

Could it be that the newest Kim is just none too bright? Unlikely. It's just that our diplomats are as dumb and gullible as ever. Lucy keeps snatching the football at the last minute, but innocent Charlie Brown never learns. Only this time our North Korean friends didn't wait long to take away the bait. They did it almost immediately.

Same old routine, only revved up. Why bother with time-consuming delays? No fuss, no muss, no more pretending to be Mr. Nice Guy. Why waste time? Being suckered has never been so easy. And so fast.

. .

It's a game as as old as appeasement and the same rules still apply. They haven't changed since Herr Hitler and Mister Chamberlain used to play it back in the '30s. The more the West gave, the more was demanded -- and taken.

It's the kind of game any number can play. It's easy to learn. Iran's mullahs have mastered its basic lesson: Develop your own nuke and you'll be invincible. Then nobody can or will see to it that you carry out your agreements. The rest of the world will pretend you're peace-loving even while you're threatening your neighbors, exporting the technology necessary to build nuclear weapons, and sponsoring terrorism worldwide.

This latest betrayal on the latest Kim's part is so blatant it has even elicited an expression of "concern" from his regime's Big Brother in Beijing. But we all know how much such concern on the part of another Communist dictatorship. It's just a substitute for actually doing something about the developing threat.

Yes, there have been plenty of words directed at this rogue regime -- but Washington seems to have long forgotten that actions speak louder.

When all of England was cheering Neville Chamberlain's "peace in our time" after still another ally had been sold out at Munich in 1938, a voice in the wilderness was heard over the cheers and applause. Winston Churchill, M.P., could see there was nothing to celebrate and much to lament. He called what had happened at Munich "a disaster of the first magnitude," and warned, all too presciently: "This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of a bitter cup which will be proffered to us year by year unless by a supreme recovery of moral health and martial vigour, we arise again and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time."

The taste of that bitter cup should be familiar by now, even as Barack Obama celebrates his great contributions to peace in our own time by slashing the military budget.

It's an old, old story, and an old, old lesson. It goes all the way back to Ethelred the Unready, whose follies were chronicled in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, which concluded: "All these calamities fell upon us because of evil counsel . . ." And because of those who followed it.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.