There is a tendency in international diplomacy to allow “bad actors” to flourish without impediment. Some examples follow:
Perhaps the worst case is Germany after WWI. After its defeat, Germany managed to rearm and even to occupy other countries, most famously Czechoslovakia in 1938, without serious consequences. WWII resulted.
Libya progressed without hindrance towards nuclear weapons under the rule of its dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, but after the Western-inspired overthrow of Gaddafi in 2011 (despite his voluntarily retreat from terrorism beyond Libya’s borders), Libya soon descended into terroristic anarchy.
Afghanistan is an old, seemingly unending story, remaining a haven for Muslim terrorists.
Iran has become the most aggressive jihadist power throughout the Middle East, even while Turkey (and Russia too) vie with it for regional hegemony. The strongest power in the world, the US, watches impotently from the sidelines.
Lately, North Korea is getting most of the newsprint. It has not been deterred from testing its atomic (some say hydrogen) bombs and intimidating neighbors by shooting missiles over their territory. Few would deny that North Korea is a wretchedly poor family business, with many starving or near-starving subjects. Yet, North Korea spits in the eye of powerful nations like Japan and the US with impunity. This is proof that a strong army, coupled with even the threat of nuclear weapons (let alone actual evidence of them) is enough to stymie the most powerful nations in the world from stopping rogue states’ bad behavior.
Certainly, it would have been sensible and prudent to deal with the dangerous activities of these countries before they strengthened, as Israel did when it destroyed nuclear reactors in Iraq (1981) and in Syria (2007).
In the same vein, the US and four other Western powers (P5+1) were extremely short sighted in only temporarily retarding Iran’s nuclear progress instead of stopping it. (Admittedly Russia, the +1, has its own, anti-Western motives.)
Iran has a long history of ignoring and/or cheating on binding UN Security Council resolutions: Res.1696 (2006), Resolution 1737 (2006), Res. 1747 (2007), Res. 1803 (2008), Res. 1835 (2008), Res. 1929 (2010). In negotiating the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), Iran’s skilled and duplicitous negotiators had little trouble overmatching the feckless Westerners, led by American Wendy Sherman, the former social worker who was the “brains” behind the prior, worse than useless, agreements with North Korea.
The 2015 JCPOA, aka the Iran Deal, was the result of the P5+1 negotiations with Iran. “The world powers that negotiated the deal agreed to lift the sanctions against Iran only on the stated assumption that Iran never had, and never would have a nuclear weapons program. Although it is unlikely that any parties to the deal believed Iran’s nuclear program was only for peaceful purposes, they all found it diplomatically convenient to assert that it was. This diplomatic prevarication means that any time evidence is found suggesting Iran is trying to produce or acquire nuclear weapons, the US may feign shock at having been deceived…
“The question is whether the US and other powers have the tools to compel Iran to abort its nuclear weapons program and whether they have the will to use them. Are the great democracies sufficiently determined to impose decisive economic sanctions, or to encourage internal opposition to the Iranian revolutionary regime? What about military force?” (Dr. Max Singer, BESAcenter.org)
The signers of the treaty, especially America, have declined to press the issue of cheating on faith alone. Iran certainly is cheating, unless Iran has had a “change of heart” from the bad old days when it cheated on all of the UN resolutions cited above. The crushing sanctions against Iran have been eviscerated, Iran’s sequestered funds were released from Western banks, and the huge cash windfall is being used to build up Iran’s military machine and to fund its proxy armies, especially Hizbollah on Israel’s northern border.
As we have seen with the tragicomic provocations that North Korea is perpetrating on its neighbors, particularly Japan, the West seems to lack the will to come down on rogue states with its overwhelming power, diplomatic and/or military. Is it too late? Maybe it is, because of the deficiency in the backbone that has become a hallmark of the Western democracies. The US, the most significant and powerful Western country, must recognize that its predominance is threatened, even if it is a wide ocean away.
So far, North Korea states its intention to nuke the US with impunity. Iran is confidently expanding its military footprint and its support for terrorism worldwide while developing ICBMs and ever more advanced nuclear material. Iran is even set to put its forces within 5-10 miles of Israel’s border in the Golan Heights. Consequently, the prospects for a peaceful future appear dim – but are not yet extinguished. How the West will deal with one rogue nuclear nation (North Korea) and a second in the coming decade (Iran) is a question that our elected officials need to grapple with, and there’s no time to lose.