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This North Korean thing.

August 9, 2017

Every American generation since at least 1918 has lived under the cloud of a global war threat.

People of a certain age can readily remember the “duck-and-cover” drills of the 1950’s and ’60s, which even 10-year-olds knew were pretty stupid. Believe it or not, pre-internet, they had access to newsreel footage of Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the bombs dropped. Somehow, our desks didn’t seem like they would protect us very much.

Hot wars or cold, some dictator seems to have always been available to threaten every generation.

Forward to 2017, and we have North Korea.

In hindsight, the so-called Korean War, or as it was called then, police action, was one of the United Nations’ early failures, although it didn’t seem like a failure at the time. There was never a peace treaty signed, and technically, the war between North and South Korea is still on.

For those students who think history began with the internet, the United States did not declare war on Korea.

As a member of the newly formed United Nations, America did provide the bulk of the men and material  expended during the Korean War, as they were required and indeed expected to do under, yes, Article Five.

So much for the history.  If you want to know more there are innumerable books on the subject, and the Cliff’s Notes version on Wikipedia provides a reasonable overview.

In other words, President Trump, and in all fairness, past President Obama didn’t start this conflict, because it really never ended.

Various administrations have sought to keep the lid on the simmering kettle, largely through the carrot-and-stick approach. North Korea rattles its sabers until the West gives in on some point and North Korea tends to benefit most from the political dance. The lid rattled a little, but it stayed on.

That all changed when NoKo decided to go nuclear.

In a way, NoKo is the victim of its own prior successes. Threats have always worked in the past, so why not keep making them?

If the country had a rational leader and only had conventional weapons, perhaps the world could still make that work. After all, blackmailers want the spoils, and if they kill the victim, there are no more spoils to be had.

Unfortunately that isn’t the case.

Decades of being taught to hate the West has produced the guy we have now. It’s a good bet that the man doesn’t care whether this conflict ends in the decimation of his country. It’s about pride and revenge at this point, and he probably really believes that he can win.

From the U.S. point of view, the stakes are too high to keep placating North Korea with the current dictator calling the offensive shots.

The difference now, as it was in 1951-53, will be whether Kim Jong Un can count on the Chinese to back him up.  In the 1950’s they did, with some help from the then Soviet Union.

Today, China has to weigh whether having an all-out nuclear war on their border is in their best interests.

Make no mistake, if President Trump or any other president wanted to, he could reduce the North Korean landscape to one large bomb crater.

It’s somewhat interesting that NoKo is threatening Guam.  If their objective is to recapture South Korea there is nothing to be gained by getting into a shooting war with the U.S. on home turf, because one of the casualties of that war would be South Korea as well. Clouds of nuclear detritus would not stay in the North.

That’s also a consideration for President Trump. We have nothing to gain if we lose South Korea and part of Japan to an all-out nuclear conflict.

The fly in the ointment is whether Kim Jong Un is reckless enough to actually deliver a nuclear weapon into the United States. So far, he has given only scant hints that he has a rational brain cell or two left.

China also hinted they may have assessed their role differently than their mid-20th century predecessors when they voted for sanctions.

It is those few hints that keep this a war of words at present.

At this point, if the recent intel on NoKo’s nuclear timeline are more accurate than the ones that suggested we still had a few months or even years left to solve this conflict diplomatically, time has run out.

After all, every blackmail victim eventually reaches the point where they simply cannot pay up anymore.

We are there.

From → op-ed

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