Why does Trump need to continue to pressure on a nuclear North Korea?
If there is one lesson for U.S. foreign policy in the last 15 years is that military intervention can seem simple, but it is in fact very complex. A military invasion has the option for intended consequences that not even the best planner can anticipate.
So I am glad that the Trump Administration is studying all the options on North Korea. President Trump and his team of experienced advisors are taking the time to arrive at a smart policy rather than shooting first and having to ask important questions later.
The national-security issues surrounding North Korea goes deeper than just nuclear weapons. The problem with Pyongyang is a much larger issue. North Korea is experiencing a genuine awakening with having a nuclear capability. Kim Jung Un, the profanity-prone, paranoid tyrant, is leading his citizens to the precipice of an unrecoverable disaster. Kim’s story is as fascinating as he is terrifying. A nuclear North Korea with Kim at the helm is a recipe for destruction.
For the U.S., this current situation presents a compelling opportunity. For nearly seven decades, North Korea has regarded Washington as the ultimate enemy because it was the principal supporter of South Korea, the region’s leading democracy. North Korea wants nukes to even the playing field with America, a country that represents everything North Korea hates. The U.N. (with significant U.S. help) defeated them in a war nearly 70 years ago. Kim’s obsession with destroying America and unifying the Korean Peninsula has produced a very real national-security problem: the rise of a nuclear North Korea that directly threatens the U.S.
North Korea’s first argument against the U.S. is that supports the “tyranny” of the government of South Korea. Kim’s view is ironic seeing how Kim oppresses his own people and more than a quarter of North Korean have died from starvation and famine while he pursues a nuclear missile at the expense of his citizens.
Now in the latest crisis, the U.S. has a chance to break the dysfunctional dynamic that produces so much hatred and violence, but at what cost? A war with North Korea will cost over a trillion dollars and leave millions, …yes millions, dead while devastating the region. The war would cause the biggest refugee crisis since World War II and make Syria’s refugee issues seem very, very small. The outcome of the war would be terrible. The result would be mass slaughter of North and South Koreans.
The Trump Administration has properly aligned itself with hopes and aspirations of the world by asking China to intervene. President Trump has called on allies from all over the region to engage in severe reform and sanctions against North Korea. It would be great if Kim would step down, but that will never happen. For Kim to survive a war with America would be a humiliation for Washington at the moment in history when the world is watching. Kim right now faces sanctions and isolation with his continued nuclear tests. All of this makes Kim anxious to stay in power. This crisis has been an opportunity for the U.S. to align with partners in the region- South Korea, Japan, and China- to contain a nuclear North Korea.
So the U.S. must follow through in its efforts to get contain Kim, pulling all the diplomatic levers and seek maximum multilateral and international support to stop Kim from getting nukes. If the North Koreans ask for assistance and aid to feed its starving people in exchange to stop testing missiles, then Washington should move in that direction.
The U.S. military is already directly in the conflict by beefing up its presence in the region. This buildup really makes little difference. Kim’s main advantage is not in the air but on the ground. He has tanks, armored vehicles, a fanatical 2 million-man army devoted to him, and massive firepower all pointed at Seoul. The basic question is how to shift the balance away from Kim and towards resolution without bloodshed.
What kind of war would the U.S. wage against North Korea?
There is no doubt that the U.S. military is ready and able to defeat North Korea. The American military is at its very best in maneuver warfare. Just look at Desert Storm and the first three weeks in the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The American approach to warfare is not on overpowering an enemy but on outflanking him, targeting his weaknesses and destroying him. Nobody does this better than the U.S. military. The post-Vietnam army was built, deliberately, for short, conventional, decisive conflict just like the one we face in North Korea. Moreover, we know the terrain, the people and the culture better than other foreign places in the world because we have been on the Korean Peninsula for nearly seventy years.
What should the U.S. do about North Korea?
- Military planners are urging President Trump to go slow with North Korea. Make sure that all avenues of diplomacy have failed before launching a military option. A nuclear North Korea with weapons of mass destruction is a scary thought.
- Don’t go to war without NATO or the United Nations.
Our greatest threat is from the unpredictability of North Korea. We don’t know what Pyongyang will do next. We don’t really have a good system for combating a rogue nuclear threat.
There is no doubt that we would wallop North Korea in a conventional war, just as we did in the Korean War (1950-1953). The war with North Korea never really ended. The war ended in a ceasefire and armistice. North Korea has been a major seller of rocket technology to Iran and Syria. So, it is a sponsor of terrorism.
America is very good at using military power to project its foreign policy goals. The problem with using military force is that you sometimes make mistakes and you create enemies, and you get bogged into another quagmire. The best example is the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. We are still dealing with ISIS almost 15 years later.
The problem with North Korea is that there is no magic bullet. The best way to prevent a nuclear North Korea is to prevent Kim from turning his missile tests into an area of strength. That needs to be done on the diplomatic end. So, we need to keep doing that until all other options have been exhausted.
Keeping strategic priorities focused on containing a North Korean nuclear threat first. Then, if necessary, you go after Kim Jung Un or his weapons of mass destruction capability. It’s high time that we force Kim Jung Un to comply with U.N. Security Council Resolutions. But, in doing that, as always, the use of force should be a last resort.