The gangsters who rule from Tehran and Pyongyang are no doubt watching the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's actions in Libya with great interest. Generally spared from the fervor that has swept throughout the Arab World (what with the Ayatollah's regime having decimated the opposition since the disputed 2009 elections), these two rogue states are very interested in seeing how long it takes for the West to get rid of Colonel Gaddafi-- or even if we can get rid of him. Despite a pledge
from President Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron, and French President Nicholas Sarkozy that they will not leave Libya until Gaddafi has been removed from power, the madman continues to openly roam the streets of Tripoli while his thugs unleash a furious counterattack
against the beleaguered rebel forces. Now feeling limited by the United Nations Resolution that authorized the creation of a no fly zone, the French are pressing for a broader resolution
to allow for more action to be taken against Gaddafi even as politicians in Europe criticize the intervention.
Meanwhile the West's enemies watch the disarray and lack of American leadership with quiet glee. From China (with its largest crackdown in years) to Burma (with its rigged election
and the creation of a new title for its military master) to Venezuela (where Chavez is continuing to expand his powers), the world's despots have an understanding that there will be little trouble from the Western world outside of a few meager protests from cabinet-level officials. While these crackdowns and abuses are indeed troublesome and should be met with full diplomatic and economic punishments, the rogue states that are most worrisome are Iran and North Korea, who shrugged off concerns of Western condemnation years ago and seek entrance into the nuclear club. As NATO appears rudderless and incompetent in handling a lunatic located directly within its geographic sphere of influence, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Kim Jong-Il no doubt feel more and more assured that they will not be met with much actual resistance at all as they pursue their nuclear programs and flex their muscle internationally. After all, if we can't bring ourselves to stop a mad terrorist who has openly threatened genocide against his own people, what threat could we pose to the well-armed and ambitious Revolutionary Guard of Iran?
Ahmadinejad's crackdown after the 2009 elections was, in part, a test to see how much the West would do as images of his thugs driving into crowds of students filtered their way onto YouTube. North Korea's recent brinksmanship with South Korea was both an attempt to show strength as Kim's power is (apparently) being prepared to transfer to his son as well as a test to push the limits of America's resolve on the Korean peninsula. In both instances, Iran and North Korea had favorable results at seeing what they could get away with. Now, with our often conflicting and confusing responses to the various troubled states of the Arab World and NATO's trouble in handling Gaddafi, the gangsters of Tehran and Pyongyang will try to push the limits once more. We must not let them push too far, though; even in the midst of the crises in the Middle East, the far more dangerous scenario is one of these madmen obtaining a nuclear weapon.
While President Obama has decided that America should play only a supporting role in helping the rebels against Colonel Gaddafi, it is imperative that we take a leading role in keeping Kim Jong-Il contained and continuing to curtail Tehran's nuclear ambitions. We can wring our hands all we want over how to handle Gaddafi and the other Arab dictators, but we must remain firm in our determination that these rogue states are not allowed to get the bomb. A nuclear-armed Iran is a disaster scenario of unprecedented proportions that must not be allowed to come to fruition. If ever there was a time for President Obama to show strength over acquiescence, determination over compromise, and leadership over internationalist deference, it is in dealing with these thugs. If Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his master get a nuke, then our impotence in that part of the world will no longer be a self-imposed restriction on ourselves-- it will be a very real shift in geopolitics. The danger to our allies and interests would be devastating. This cannot be allowed to happen.