As some of you may know one of my pet peeves with the Trump administration is that while they do the right thing they rarely take the time to explain why they do the things that they do. The result is that the left gains control of the narrative which leads to public distrust. These explanations don’t even have to come from the administration itself. They can come from any member of the conservative intelligentsia, but half of them want Trump to fail and don’t bother and half of them don’t seem to have a grasp on the situation.
Nowhere is this more evident than the North Korean summit. While it has been received positively due to the hype generated by Trump the left is already trying to paint it as the ultimate symbol of Republican hypocrisy. They argue that the right was angry at Obama for his nuclear deal with Iran but laud Trump for his efforts with North Korea. They hope that the disciplined message they put forward will convince people to ignore the differences between the two and why it is to the best interest of America to be friends with one and antagonize the other.
This is the first and most important difference between the two countries. Iran is the chief rival of the American coalition in the Middle East whereas in Asia that position is not occupied by North Korea but rather it is occupied by China. No matter what improvements North Korea may give to its economy or military they will not take this position away from China. In fact if you follow this analogy to its logical conclusion you will see that the situation of North Korea is more similar to Syria or Yemen than it is to Iran. In that the aforementioned countries are used by our rivals to stir up trouble with our coalition. In all these cases it is to our advantage to contain or crush our main rivals while drawing away countries from their sphere of influence.
In each region the American coalition is led by its proxies. Japan and South Korea for Asia and Israel and Saudi Arabia for the Middle East. The difference in power between our proxies and China in Asia and Iran in the Middle East means that the best Japan and South Korea can hope for is containment while our coalition in the Middle East can hope to achieve local hegemony by marginalizing Iran. In fact anyone can see that this is the ultimate strategy being pursued in the Middle East with the offensives by Israel and the Sunni coalition against Iran and the Sunni states that are to close to it. Since there is a possibility of victory over Iran it is to our benefit to antagonize them and to be friendly with North Korea as Asia will at best be a stalemate.
Active Vs Passive
In essence North Korea is a passive threat while Iran actively seeks to harm our interests. If I were to ask what threat North Korea poses the most likely response would be Nuclear War. An option that all analysts agree North Korea will not survive. Until and unless that happens they are not actually a threat. I admit that they do cause flash points from time to time with South Korea. Yet South Korea is stable enough to weather anything short of an outright invasion. In fact the most popular opinion in South Korea calls for the reunification between the two countries which shows that whatever North Korea has done has not had much effect on them. On the other hand Iran actively seeks to harm our interests. They support rebels in Yemen, Syria, and encourage countries like Qatar who want to take the place of Saudi Arabia.
When we make efforts to be friendly with Iran the resources we spent are immediately used against us even if there is an eventual success. When we seek to be friendly with North Korea the resources may or may not be used against us in the future and may even be used to our benefit in the event of eventual success. Again there is merit in friendly relations with North Korea and none with Iran.
Simply put North Korea has nukes that they can use now and Iran doesn’t. We need to make peace with North Korea more than we do with Iran while we have more time to try things with Iran. In the best case scenario where we support our allies in Israel and the Sunni coalition the Iranians may not even reach the level of North Korea.
I hope I’ve shown how both countries are unique and why peace with North Korea and a harder line with Iran is needed.