Pence Gives North Korea a Stern Look of Resolve

Buried in Josh Rogin’s account of VP Pence’s visit to South Korea is this little nugget.

There has been much discussion in Washington about Pence’s short visit to the demilitarized zone, where he stood outside the Freedom House on the South Korean side of the border and stared into North Korea. Pence wasn’t supposed to walk outside, according to the schedule, but he decided in the moment he wanted to send a message directly to the North Koreans.

“I thought it was important that we went outside,” he said. “I thought it was important that people on the other side of the DMZ see our resolve in my face.”

I’ll let Steve Benen take if from there.

I’m not at all sure what that’s supposed to mean. Does the Vice President seriously believe that North Koreans, looking through binoculars and telescopes, would see his steely gaze and adopt a new posture, intimidated by Pence’s face?

As a rule, that’s not how foreign policy works.

Benen does understated irony better than anyone else in punditry.

Normally I’d be tempted to laugh at stuff like this. But right now the stakes for what is happening with North Korea are too high for that. Besides, Pence is the same guy who recently announced that the time for “strategic patience” (a critical element of diplomacy) is over. So we are going to replace that with stern looks of resolve?

This is all reminiscent of how the entire GOP tried to tell us that ISIS could never be defeated unless we called them “radical Islamists,” which is also utter nonsense. Both of them represent meaningless posturing by people who are pretending to be tough because they’re not competent enough to figure out any real alternatives — other than to simply blow shit up, of course.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.