The excellent Janet Daley puts into words what I was thinking this morning regarding North Korea's missile test and various leaders condemning this as "unacceptable".
For that matter, what does he propose doing right now about North Korea? There was lots of heavy talk about how unacceptable that country's belligerent tour de force had been in firing what could have been a nuclear-armed missile over Japan – but talk, as they say, is cheap. What might the "punishment" be for such a "violation" of the coming nuclear-free world order? And who would be responsible for administering it?
Exactly. If you find something unacceptable you do something about it - or you tolerate it. Toleration does not imply acceptance, but if you tolerate something long enough it becomes considered acceptable. The fact is, NK's nuclear ambitions (as well as Iran's) may well be unacceptable to the leaders of the world, but the North Koreans know that there isn't a single thing they can do about it (as does Iran).
Their best buddies, the Chinese, will block any attempts to force through any serious UN Security Council resolution. The best they can hope for is slightly toughened sanctions - but as all these do is hurt the average Jong Public in the NK street I don't think the leaders of North Korea will worry too much. Besides, anything they need they can get through China - no questions asked.
They know that any military action will not get UN support - and without that (for some reason) that means there can be no widepsread public support for military intervention. Furthermore, with the US economy in freefall and their military already overstretched there is little the USA can do militarily. Which brings us to the next, excellent point Daley makes.
Post-war Europe has built its comfortable, deeply cushioned, welfare-state social democracy with the money it had once spent on armaments. Beating their swords into benefit payments has worked very nicely for all those peace-loving Europeans who turned their backs on militarism even as the Cold War raged. But it only worked because America was providing the arms and the defence protection that Europe highmindedly disdained.
Comfortable, deeply-cushioned and still completely unaffordable even with the money we once spent on defending ourselves. As Daley points out, Obama now wants that feather bed for his people and the message to Europe is clear - the US are not going to continue to pick up the tab for protecting Europe much longer.
Europe will have to fund its own defence and that is one big reality cheque.