It seems that in the space of a year or less I have read that North Korea is still years away from developing nuclear weapons capable of reaching the U.S. and then, well, maybe not so many years, and now, well, maybe it now has the capability of launching a nuclear attack on the U.S. mainland (at least Alaska), after test firing what may have been an intercontinental ballistic missile toward Japan. Poor Japan. But poor us too maybe.
While I don’t need to know or should know the details of our defense secrets or intelligence, I don’t want to be told untruths or given misleading information. The fact that a nation under the control of an apparent mad man — whoops I am not presently referring to United States (but come to think of it), North Korea, could launch a nuclear attack on us is something I want to know.
I have to think that either our intelligence on North Korea has been wrong or that for some reason our government did not want us to know what it knew or something like that, but I cannot figure how that helps.
I feel on this just as I felt about Iran. We tell them in confidence that we will not tolerate their threat but give them a chance to decide on their own to get out of the nuclear weapons game and allow them to save face. But if there is no cooperation from them, then we act and do what we must to rid ourselves of the danger (but not before considering the cost benefit analysis of our actions and what all of our options might be).
I know, sounds kind of reckless and dangerous. Well I don’t know what we would have to do. There may well be some way short of a full-out, head on attack by us. In North Korea’s case we would need to warn China and give China one more chance to somehow rein in North Korea. Most of this would have to be done in secret because it would not seem likely China would work with us in the open on this.
But this continual plopping of missiles aimed westward into the ocean by North Korea has to stop before it does pull us into World War III.
But overblown rhetoric will do no good on this. It appears as if President Trump has already fallen into the trap of drawing a line that North Korea could not pass but it has, so now what? Does he back down like his predecessor, thus confirming we don’t really mean what we say? Probably so. But with Trump that might be easier since he says all kinds of things and then changes his position without even admitting that he has changed.
From what I have been hearing and reading there are no good military options. A so-called surgical strike, the experts think, would likely trigger a major response from North Korea. That nation is capable, they say, of immediately firing a tremendous barrage of artillery that would threaten a majority of the South Korean population which lives relatively close to the border. And it might use tactical nuclear weapons.
And here’s a disappointing surprise to me: I mean all my life I have been aware that we have troops permanently stationed in South Korea, supposedly ready to repel the North (which we’ve never actually signed an armistice with since the end of active combat in the Korean War in the early 1950s). But what I did not know is that the force we have there currently could not hold back the North Koreans for any amount of time. We would need reinforcements from mostly the continental U.S. and that would take time. And the casualties (for all) would be astronomical, according to expert observers in the field.
So I don’t advocate some ill-advised and poorly planned pre-emptive strike and particularly not some spur-of-the moment thing like Trump does with his middle-of-the-night tweets or even that air strike in Syria, that seemed so well-timed but had so little effect.
One problem I have read is that all or much of North Korea’s nuclear apparatus is either underground or on mobile launchers, making finding them and getting to them with a surgical strike difficult to doubtful.
What we need and what we do not have is leadership that is calm and cool and deliberate but decisive.
It would seem China is the key, even though Trump has stated he has given up on it. I am sure in its public posturing China is not going to just go along with us but it has to be concerned about the threat of its errant comrades who seem ready to start World War III and risk wiping out the planet in nuclear winter just to be respected or feared on the world stage. And China fears the disruption of hordes of desperate North Koreans crossing the border into China in a war or crisis.
Behind-the-scenes diplomacy and negotiations are needed. China is really North Korea’s lifeline. And heavy sanctions by China against North Korea could well do the trick. In the past I know (I don’t know now), we have given North Korea food aid. We could let North Korea know (in private) that we are willing to continue humanitarian assistance to the starving people there and that we do not propose to meddle in the state affairs of that country, even if it is a rigid totalitarian state where the elite eat the rest starve. However, we have to realize that food aid does not necessarily get to those who really need it.
Over time things change. Populations do not forever put up with being kept down when others thrive, but that has to be left up to primarily those populations.
We need to keep our military pressure up too, though. You can be strong and even demonstrate your strength without the threatening rhetoric that paints one into a corner.
It was both our fortune to be the ones who came up with nuclear weapons first and our misfortune they were ever developed. The two bombs we dropped on Japan produced a decisive and timely win in World War II in the Pacific theater. But at the same time we let the nuclear genie out of bottle and nothing we can do will force it back in. Now we are forced to protect ourselves from those who would use the technology in unprovoked aggression.
I did not say anything other than in the headline about Iran. Supposedly we have an agreement with that nation, signed during the Obama administration, designed to prevent that nation from developing nuclear bomb capabilities for so many years (and then what?). But there has already been evidence that it is violating the terms of the treaty. We meddled in the affairs of that nation decades ago and it has never forgiven us.