We have all heard of and experienced a catch-22 situation, in which you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Regardless of the choice that you make, the outcome will be a negative one. This is precisely the situation that the U.S. government and President Obama find themselves in now with Pyonyang.
Kim Jong Il has successfully placed Obama in the most precarious of positions by launching the Kang Nam to Myanmar – daring the U.S. to enforce sanctions by the U.N. – and stating that if the U.S. interferes it will be an act of war. Which it would be due to the language of the U.N. declaration that states that any country seeking to board another country’s vessel must obtain permission – which North Korea would never grant.
The Kang Nam, en route to Myanmar, is suspected of carrying nuclear technologies and or weapon systems in direct defiance with U.N. sanctions. It is in the best interest of the U.S. to stop and board the vessel… Or is it?
I highly suspect that this is nothing more than a political power play, and a brilliant one at that. It is likely, in my mind, that the ship is carrying no weapons or technologies, but is instead nothing more than a baited trap. Should the U.S. Navy board the ship and find nothing, then the U.S. will have been in violation of U.N resolutions and committed an act of war on North Korea, while being embarrassed by another intelligence failure (akin to Iraq).
However, if the U.S. does not board the ship then Kim Jong Il will have basically shown that the U.N. cannot enforce its sanctions and will have pulled Obama’s “punk” card. Still managing to embarrass the U.S. The fact that a) North Korea is in violation of sanctions b) has a history of trading weapons and nuclear technologies with Myanmar c) Kang Nam could be carrying weapons and nuclear technology and d) essentially dared the U.S. to stop them, compels Obama to take a stand.
Yet if Obama orders the Navy to board the Kang Nam, Pyongyang will get to cry foul, embarrass the U.S. and likely garner more favor from other U.N. nations that see the U.S. as an antagonist. Kim Jong will then likely be able to pressure the U.N. into releasing some sanctions.
I cannot help but wonder if this is not precisely what Kim Jong Il has planned out. I cannot help but wonder if the senile old dictator is crazy or crazy like a fox. Not that it really matters. Regardless of Kim Jong’s intent the U.S. still has to deal with it.
Welcome to a true test of political skill, backbone and diplomacy, Mr. Obama. Welcome to a real rock and hard place – welcome to a catch-22.