Every week on Monday, the WoW! community and our invited guests weigh in at the Watcher’s Forum, short takes on a major issue of the day, the culture, or daily living. This week’s question: How would you solve the problem of North Korea?
Don Surber: I have no idea. Hope Trump does.
Rob Miller: I’ve been thinking this one over for awhile. Patrick O’Hannigan was kind enough to refer me to an Austin Bay article on the subject, which as it happens I’d read. One of things the article reiterated it that in this situation, “there are no good options.”
True enough, but there but there are indeed better and worse ones. The worst of them is to do nothing.
Some facts stick out. Obviously both President Trump and the Chinese were operating under a false premise. The president assumed that the chemistry between himself and President Xi was better than it actually was, and that the Chinese were reasonable actors who could be counted on to help dismantle this threat. The Chinese mistakenly think they’re still dealing with Bill Clinton, George W. Bush or especially, Barack Hussein Obama. That assumption on their part is undoubtedly being aided by the disrespect shown President Trump by the media and various Democrat politicians. In China, a leader allowing this kind of thing would be the result of a shocking loss of face and a prelude to losing power. The Chinese have never really understood many aspects of our society.
So the Chinese are saying North Korea isn’t their problem, and continuing to trade with them…in fact, trade has actually increased by almost 40%. Sanctions are mostly worthless because of the way China and America’s economies are linked up. And negotiations with the Kims, as always, are an exercise in futility.
North Korea and Iran are both rogue nations close to having nuclear weapons. And if they have them, they will sell technology and perhaps even actual nukes to all sorts of bad actors, giving rise to global terrrorism on a scale which will dwarf what we see now.
Since China refuses to get involved, our options appear to be waiting around to see what happens (that worst option I mentioned) or a well planned, well executed preemptive strike. If I were President Trump, I would already have the plans drawn up for this and secured so that the New York Times, CNN or creatures of that ilk couldn’t commit treason by leaking them in Prime Time. I’d want the strike to target the Yongbyon reactor and destroy it, along with several research centers and the Nork’s missile sites. I would also sink anything North Korea’s military has that floats or flies as well as the bases they use, and target North Korea’s military bases that house its conventional army as well.
Without air cover, North Korea’s numerous but poorly equipped conventional army would be controllable, if they even invaded. Ground troops without air cover usually end up taking the dirt nap in modern war. Taking out the Kims could be an added bonus, since totalitarian functionaries like army generals are not known for taking action without orders from the top.
Civilian casualties would be unavoidable, but given how many lives would be saved, especially American lives, it’s unfortunately unavoidable. And there are benefits.
Our relationship with China could change for the better as long as the Chinese were reassured that their ‘near abroad’ was not going to be militarily invaded. China really isn’t prepared for a war, especially against the U.S, which would involve their chief trading partner and a major strain on their economy. A closely linked economy is a two edges sword that cuts both ways. And new respect for America and our president would ensue, not just in China but elsewhere.
I’m convinced we will eventually have to deal with Iran in a similar fashion, but that presents a somewhat different scenario that should be dealt with separately.
Mike McDaniel: Before getting into solutions, we need a bit of a history lesson. We are still at war with North Korea. In fact, the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice–July 27, 1953–will soon be here. North Korea formally announced it would not abide by the Armistice at least six times, beginning in 1994, and more recently, in 2013. And despite such high-level diplomacy as Madeline Albright watching traditional communist pageantry such as dancing children and marching troops, the Norks have continued to be deadly belligerent.
The North has routinely engaged in espionage, and hostile military exchanges, routinely shelling South Korean territory, kidnapping foreign nationals–including Americans–for ransom, torpedoed at least one South Korean ship, and a wide variety of other clear acts of war. A partial list of their depredations is long indeed.
The Hermit Kingdom brutally tortures its own people, incarcerating thousands in a vast gulag, and brainwashing the entire population to the extent they believe their rulers Gods, protecting them from the evils of the outside world. Those rulers and their lackeys, of course, live like kings while hundreds of thousands of their people starve, often being reduced to eating grass and tree bark. Due to malnutrition, North Koreans are substantially smaller in stature, and far less healthy, than South Koreans
While the North Korean military is antiquated, it is vast, with thousands of hidden and fortified artillery pieces aimed at Seoul. North Korea has a substantial chemical and biological arsenal, which it will not hesitate to use. And then there is the nuclear threat, which is the current crisis.
North Korea seems to have at least a few warheads, though they are apparently unreliable and of low yield. Their missile program, which often fails, is growing at a feverish pace. The Norks work with Iran and other rogue regimes, and will ally with any group that can help them, and which will harm the West. During the Obama years, the world’s despots knew they had free reign, and took advantage of it, which brings us, again, to the current crisis.
Diplomacy ever only works when it is part of a concerted effort backed by overwhelming military force. To date, American diplomacy has been little more than abject appeasement, which has allowed North Korea to become something of a nuclear state. There are some that think North Korea will not be dangerous until it has the ability to mount a small nuclear warhead on a ballistic missile of sufficient reliability and accuracy to strike American targets, or the cities of our allies. Such a view is very short-sighted.
There can be no doubt of the outcome of a war between us. Even if the Chinese interfered, which they may in at least a limited manner, the conflict would be brief, but exceedingly destructive, particularly to the civilian population of South Korea. The Norks would not bother to spare civilians, in fact, much of the military doctrine revolves around destroying Seoul. China, despite its military buildup of recent years, probably does not want to take us on directly. The North would use nuclear weapons offensively. We would use them only in response.
While it’s likely our advanced missile interceptors could shoot down North Korean nucs, they would need only one to slip through our defenses. And delivery by missile is far from the only way to detonate a nuc against us or our allies. A significant and great danger is that North Korea would certainly sell nuclear weapons to rogue states and terrorist groups. One might reasonably assume when President Trump declared North Korea would never get nuclear weapons, he had such hard intelligence in hand.
The primary question: is President Trump serious? Will he do whatever is required to prevent North Korea from obtaining significant nuclear capability? Do we have sufficient combat power and weapons to accomplish that task without leaving us vulnerable to all of our other enemies, or have the Obama years left our military so debilitated–as he obviously intended–that we cannot defend our allies and our own interests from existential threats?
Unless elements of the North Korean leadership stage a successful coup, unless such people are enlightened enough to stand down the North Korean military and sue for peace and unification, unless China keeps its communist hand off the potential for peace, we can only assume we will either have to continue to appease the North and allow them to do whatever they please, or be prepared to obliterate them militarily.
That’s our choice, forced on us by the North Koreans and the feckless cowardice of too many American presidents. It’s also our choice with Iran. Hopefully President Trump is not foolish enough to think they’re abiding by the deal and waiting 10 years to develop nucs. We’re going to have to deal with North Korea and Iran, sooner, rather than later. One can only hope when that day arrives, we’ll take them on, and that we have the military capacity to do it quickly, with overwhelming force, and in such a way no one can effectively interfere.
Dave Schuler: I wouldn’t do anything. At least not publicly and not yet. Privately I would probably inform China, South Korea, and Japan, as calmly and emotionlessly as I could, that If North Korea attacks us, South Korea, or Japan. attempts to extort concessions from us, or sells it nuclear or missile technology to another country or non-state actor that North Korea will cease to exist and they should be prepared.
We can’t allow ourselves to be held hostage that way and we can’t allow every nasty dictatorship to seek nuclear weapons as an insurance policy.
Laura Rambeau Lee: At some point in the near future we will have to deal with Kim Jong Un and his aggressions against the U.S. and our allies in the Pacific. When it comes to issues of such global impact we will need the support of our allies, particularly those closest to the clear and present danger they face should Kim Jong Un decide to attack. Our actions must be quick and decisive and must end his reign of terror over the Korean people. It would be nice and clean if we could do a surgical strike and take him out without civilian casualties but it seems unavoidable. Knowing the potential millions of deaths should he attack Seoul or Tokyo, in the end it becomes a calculation of lives saved versus lives lost. The North Koreans live in darkness, physically and mentally. To free them from such a brutal dictator would be an act of mercy even if some lives are lost in the effort. Dealing with the aftermath will require the cooperation and contributions of our allies. What we do know is we cannot wait for him to strike first.
Well, there it is!
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