How the National Debt Puts Our National Security at Risk

The Obama Administration's lack of leadership on the threats from North Korea proves a pivotal point that has been recognized by political observers dating back to Thucydides: domestic politics influence foreign affairs. One of the reasons why Obama will not take a hardline stance on North Korea is because our economy is so dependent upon China. This is an inexcusable arrangement that can only be overcome if those in Washington put an end to irresponsible spending and if the Democrats quit pushing for the debt ceiling to be raised. Our national debt has become a national security liability.

When it comes to foreign policy, Obama, and those who support his positions, lacks principle and backbone. North Korea is all but daring the U.S. to attack and nothing has been done by the U.S. in response. It would be irresponsible to at this point attack North Korea but we should not let the threats and suspicious movements go unheeded.

Obama has not been nearly as vocal and out-front about stopping North Korea as he has been about stopping Iran. Obama has supported imposing stricter sanctions on Iran in order to get them to stop enriching uranium. But what we know from our sanctions against North Korea and Cuba is that sanctions hurt the needy; the people in the street, while the ruling class is relatively unaffected.

Simply look at sequestration to see an illustration, to a lesser degree, here at home. Obama cancels White House tours at $18,000 a week while continuing with lavish vacations and parties for himself and his family. All the while he punished the less fortunate that came to DC for a tour of a national treasure.

Those in the North Korean ruling class are able to sustain lavish lifestyles while the people have some of the worst living conditions in the world. This is why sanctions have not affected North Korea’s pursuit of long-range nuclear weapons and will not in Iran. Those in charge of making the policy decisions do not feel the affect of the sanctions.

This may lead some to conclude that the people who are hurt by sanctions will demand policy change—if not regime change—since they are being hurt by their government’s policies. But that hasn’t worked in Cuba or North Korea. In fact, the regimes in those countries are so well entrenched and insulated from public opposition that power has successfully transferred from father to son in both countries.

Why Obama thinks sanctions will work differently in Iran is mind-boggling. And why he thinks continuing sanctions against North Korea will work is even more confusing. The U.S. threatened to cut off its promised food aid if North Korea goes through with a missile test last April. North Korea told the U.S. to keep its food.

Perhaps why our leaders don’t take as hard a line against North Korea as they do against Iran is because of China. China backs the North Korean nuclear program and the government. Our elected officials know that if we attack North Korea, we will suffer consequences in our trade relations with China. And when the economy is struggling to come back, politicians don’t want China to stop buying our debt or closing off its borders to our manufacturers. Because our politicians can’t control their spending, which requires them to borrow money from China, U.S. politicians are unwilling to stand up to China or its allies. Our domestic policies dictate foreign policy decisions which means if our politicians are irresponsible at home we risk being weak abroad.

This also may be why Obama is reluctant to go into Syria when it was all too willing to launch a coordinated attack against Libya. The atrocities committed by Assad against the Syrian people are no less terrible than those committed by Qaddafi against the Libyan people. But Libya did not have the backing of Russia and China on the UN Security Council. China is a trading partner with Iran, but China also knows it will benefit from an embargo on Iranian oil by the U.S. and Europe. If China is the only buyer for Iranian oil the price China has to pay for that oil drops since there will be fewer customers to compete with. But China will not benefit from U.S. intervention in Syria and Obama knows it which may make him tentative on intervening in Syria.

It is too much to ask that our politicians openly acknowledge that they prefer to attack weak countries over strong countries, even if strong countries pose a greater risk to our interests and the interests of their own people. And there is no way one of our leaders would tell us, even though it’s true, that if a country has China’s support the U.S. cannot and will not get involved because of our nation’s unnecessary economic dependence on China.

When we hear the current White House speak about its foreign policy agenda we should keep in mind that it is only willing to fight for American interests and end tyrannical rule when victory seems certain. Likewise, we need to realize that our international security is inextricably linked with our domestic politics. Until we can drive down the debt, increase domestic manufacturing, and rid ourselves of a trade deficit with China we will not be able to support a principled foreign policy agenda.

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