Thursday, July 06, 2017

The Issue of North Korea

I don't envy the president in his consideration regarding North Korea's latest missile test. It's a giant cluster for any president to have to tackle. The good news for Donald Trump is that even though he is massively incompetent he was at least diligent enough to surround himself with good people in both the defense and security sectors. He seems, for now, to letting them run the show and that's a good thing.

The first instinct would be to launch a preemptive strike in the next year to 18 months that it's going to take for North Korea to enable their new missile with nuclear capabilities. The problem there is that it would likely result in tens of thousands of lives lost, mostly Korean. In addition, China has no desire to see a unified Korea that is more friendly to the US. So, we end up back at sanctions which have largely been ineffective in curbing Kim Jong Un's desire to be a nuclear power. We have to decide if we can live in a world where North Korea can bomb California with nuclear missiles. I'm not sure we can.

Thus, we seem to be left with the inevitability of war.

1 comment:

Nikto said...

The idea of a preemptive strike is an invitation to disaster. It might have been possible when George W. Bush was president. We can probably lay the North Korea problem on W, because of the "Axis of Evil" speech, after which he invaded Iraq, making it clear to North Korea that unless they had some way to protect themselves they would be next. So the PRK doubled down on their nuclear research, detonating their first weapon in 2006, three years after Bush invaded Iraq.

But what's done is done. The idea that we can preemptively destroy them without significant retaliation by North Korea is as foolish as Bush's idea that we could preemptively destroy Saddam Hussein's WMDs without any kind of blowback.

The difference is that we already North Korea really does have nuclear weapons, and probably chemical weapons as well. A preemptive strike at PRK's nuclear facilities will invite nuclear retaliation, either in the form of a "suitcase nuke" detonated in a container ship the Port of Los Angeles or New York, or a series of dirty bombs detonated in major American cities. We also can't discount a series of chemical weapon attacks across the United States, similar to the one that killed Kim's half brother, only on a much larger scale.

The PRK is run by a madman who considers himself to be a god, and a good number of his subjects have been brainwashed to think the same. He doesn't care what happens to his country after he's dead, so you can be sure retaliation is on the table. We would be foolish not to assume that he's got assets already deployed outside the country ready to attack us if we blow up North Korea.

The PRK cannot threaten the existence of the United States in the same way that the United States can utterly destroy them. But they can inflict some nasty wounds: they could ruin the US economy by detonating suitcase nukes or dirty bombs in New York, LA, Chicago, Houston and DC, possibly sending us into a depression.

Mutually Assured Destruction worked with the Soviet Union, because they were equal to the United States in size and destructive potential, and their leaders were responsible. The PRK is tiny, can't beat the US in the nuclear or conventional arena and will be wiped off the face of the earth if they try. The threat of retaliation is the only card Kim has to play. You can't play chicken with a madman who thinks he's a god and has nothing to lose.

We're also hemmed in by the fact that if we nuke North Korea into the Stone Age, we'll also inflict major damage on South Korea and China. That would probably be the bigger problem, especially if one of our bombs hits a Chinese city by mistake.

As galling as it is, we have to continue to play the diplomatic game and wait until someone in the PRK has the balls to take Kim out themselves and hope they're not as crazy. After the murder of Kim's half-brother, the threat of a dynastic succession is small; his only child is a five-year-old girl.

It doesn't help that the United States also has a madman at the helm, who's constantly threatening a trade war with China, the country whose help is most needed to deal with North Korea.