Voters are getting some scary reminders this week that it’s a dangerous world out there and that the next president must have the knowledge, experience and disposition to navigate America safely through it.
Wednesday, North Korea claimed it had successfully tested a hydrogen bomb, which would be a significant and destabilizing advance in its nuclear weapons program. There was already reason to worry with the young and unpredictable Kim Jong Un having his jittery finger on the trigger.
At the same time, Saudi Arabia and Iran are ratcheting up the historic struggle between Sunni and Shia Muslims, following the Saudi regime’s execution of a prominent Shiite cleric and attacks on two Saudi diplomatic outposts in Iran.
Both are complicated crises that require deft diplomacy and strong resolve – and American leadership.
Secretary of State John Kerry is trying to calm tensions between Saudi Arabia’s Sunni leaders and Iran’s Shia theocrats, who are already involved in what are basically proxy wars in Syria and Yemen. But Muslim nations already are choosing sides, with several allies joining Saudi Arabia in severing diplomatic ties with Iran. The Middle East is always a powder keg, so it’s essential to put out any sparks.
On North Korea, after an emergency session Wednesday, the United Nations Security Council condemned the nuclear test and U.S. ambassador Samantha Power called for further economic and other sanctions.
But previous sanctions have had mixed success bringing North Korea back from the brink. While there’s substantial skepticism about whether the explosion was really a hydrogen bomb, North Korea has conducted three other nuclear tests since 2006, has advanced its missile technology and is accused of selling its know-how to other rogue regimes.
Unsurprisingly, Republican presidential candidates jumped at the chance to blame President Barack Obama and Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, his secretary of state from 2009 to 2013. It’s easy to criticize from the sidelines, especially with the benefit of hindsight. Tough talk may get applause at campaign rallies, but it isn’t enough.
We need a statesman (or woman), not a showman. As best they can, voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and beyond have to judge what in a candidate’s background and character would equip him or her to successfully juggle multiple foreign crises – who is really qualified and suited to be commander in chief.