THE RISK OF NUCLEAR ANNIHILATION IN THREE ACTS
So, everyone’s freaking out about North Korea having nuclear weapons. I get that.
North Korea = bad.
Nuclear weapons = bad.
North Korea + nuclear weapons = worse.
North Korea + nuclear weapons + an intercontinental ballistic missile system + a hydrogen bomb = time to panic.
Let me be clear. I wish there were no nuclear weapons. I wish there were no international conflicts. But, there are nuclear weapons and there are international conflicts. That’s been the case since the United States became the first — and so far only — nation in the history of humanity to drop a nuclear weapon on a civilian population. Not once, but twice.
Students of world history everywhere foresaw these crossroads of conflict intersecting quite a long time ago and there was little, if anything, anyone could do to stop the inevitable pile up of geopolitical interests. The wheels of what’s become a perpetual nuclear standoff were set into motion from the instant gunpowder was invented. Call it — destiny. So-called “advances in technology” created musket balls, then bullets after that — then bombs, then chemical bombs, then battleships, then bombs on battleships, then rockets, then bombs on rockets, then ballistic missiles, then nukes, then nukes on everything from rockets to airplanes to submarines. Next up — baby strollers armed with nukes (don’t laugh — terrorists somewhere are probably working on this now). And, we aren’t even finished with all the “advancing” yet — assuming the whole damned planet doesn’t blow itself up in a giant mushroom cloud of mass extinction.
Yes, a nuclearized North Korea is precisely what happens when absconding recklessly into the mad laboratory of political miscalculation. Add one-part American global policeman certain to ignite flash points and a pervasive attitude of resentment (800 American military bases in 70 countries), a bitter Korean War still going on seven decades after the last battle was fought, combined with inevitable advances in military technology increasingly accessible to an ultra-paranoid totalitarian state willing to sacrifice every shred of human comfort within its borders for its own despotic survival — and that singular obsession was bound to spawn a successful nuclear weapons program at some point.
Well, that point is now. As horrific daily life is for the average North Korean, millions likely starving and brainwashed, the only way Kim Jong-un holds onto his power for several decades (remember — “Dear Leader” is relatively infantile age 35) is to prop up the barricades with fiery weapons that no adversary will dare ever want to face. That means building nukes and demonstrating the willingness to use such deadly instruments if ever seriously threatened by attack.
Hence, Kim Jong-un is behaving exactly as he should, that is, within his twisted distortion of what his nation-state should forever be — a one-man dictatorship. He would be utterly foolish to scale back any nuclear ambitions now after coming so far, given those advances shall provide his regime not only membership in the coveted country club of players holding a nuclear super driver, but a negotiator that has to be respected if for no other reason than the man with the funny haircut has powers to wipe out his neighbors with one phone call. It’s reminiscent of the local street thug who yanks a businessman off the street into a back alley and sticks a Glock pistol up to the temple and then blurts out — “So, do you respect me, now?”
Faced with annihilation by giving the wrong answer, what are we to say?
Unfortunately, we can’t take out this street thug, not without pronouncing an instant death sentence upon millions of innocent South Koreans, Japanese, and perhaps Americans who are also within range of the regime’s conventional weapons and nuclear scope. If we had such powers to secretly rid the world of this menace, extrication by force would have happened quite some time ago. Recall our nation tried to murder Cuba’s Fidel Casto multiple times and failed miserably. By comparison, there’s little chance of penetrating an even more formidable line of defense within the psychotic state of North Korea. Besides, there’s no guarantee that killing Kim Jong-un would even solve the bigger problem of nukes. His successor might perceive the assassination of the national leader who’s worshiped as a god to be immediate grounds for launching a catastrophic end-all war. So, let’s dispel the crazy talk of killing North Korea’s leader, at least for now. That’s probably riskier than launching a military attack.
So, what should we do instead about this “threat?”
How about this: Nothing.
That’s right. Do nothing, except play it cool.
Of course, I don’t mean nothing in the sense of abandoning diplomacy. I don’t mean nothing as in letting down our guard. A wiser alternative — America’s defensive nuclear capabilities should be strengthened not just because of the looming North Korean threat but also the inevitable acquisition of nuclear capabilities by other rogue nations and perhaps even maniacal terror groups. A sobering reality is the day will come when wackos somewhere will get nuclear weapons and we damn well better plan for that day. Perhaps shutting down a few of the 800 military bases spread out in 70 countries could be a solid down payment on strengthening America’s national defense because right now it looks a helluva’ lot more like a national offense.
Quoting rogue journalist Caitlin Johnstone:
“It’s just mind-boggling how they keep selling the same plotline over and over and over again. A mentally deranged dictator is threatening American safety and abusing his own citizens, and we need to take him out right now before he does any more harm! People buy into it again and again, like a bunch of kids watching Scooby Doo thinking “This monster’s real for sure this time!” Then it turns out the ghost was just the creepy old rich guy from scene three and the next episode they’re acting like it never happened.”
The United States has faced identical threats before. A few times, in fact. So what, if anything, did we learn from our own history? Listening both to breaking news and the knee-jerk ramblings our current leaders — apparently nothing whatsoever.
In 1949, the U.S.S.R. successfully tested its first nuclear weapon. At the time, that closed-off nation was ruled by a cruel despot named Joseph Stalin who had previously murdered millions of his own people in a reign of terror known as The Great Purge. Many people thought he was crazy. Across the ocean, when news reached our shores that Stalin had “the bomb,” Americans panicked. Congress launched investigations. Sedetionists were imprisoned and executed. The “Red Scare” led to a terrible scourge known as McCarthyism.
Some 15 years later, Red China successfully tested its first nuclear weapon. At the time, that isolated nation was ruled by a cruel despot named Mao Tse-Tung who had murdered millions of his own people in a reign of terror. Many people thought he was crazy, too. Across the ocean, when news reached our shores that the People’s Republic of China had “the bomb,” Americans panicked. Over the next ten years, Mao launched the Cultural Revolution, one of the most frightening periods of the 20th Century — all while he had nukes in his pocket
Today, another presumed madman has nukes. Yet, as harsh as his rule has been for North Koreans, based on all the evidence there’s nothing to suggest that nation has any plans to launch an invasion of its neighbors. More precisely to the question — who exactly is North Korea going to attack? Only three possibilities exist:  China — a nuclear superpower and its primary trading partner?  Russia — with nuclear capabilities and nothing really of value within North Korea’s reach?  South Korea — bolstered by a whopping 3.7 million troops (one of the largest armies in the world), plus a dominant presence by American forces backed with nuclear weapons?
What exactly is the threat here beyond the obvious risk of some kind of accident?
Does anyone seriously believe the North Korean leader is suicidal? I don’t think so. There’s no evidence of this.
Stalin and Mao — two icons who essentially comprise the ideological Mt. Rushmore of North Korea — weren’t suicidal. Yes, they were cold. They were cruel. They were calculating. They were also survivors, in part due to their imposition of domestic terror and threats to foreign outsiders. They never came close to using nuclear weapons. The same can probably be said of Kim Jong-un.
Of course, President Donald Trump lacks the willingness to try and understand the complexity of this crisis. He possesses no knowledge of history. For this and other reasons which are painfully obvious, he could not have handled recent developments in Asia any worse — except for launching a reckless first-strike himself, which he’s actually threatened to do in more than one tweet-crazed instance. Trump’s dangerous rhetoric has accomplished nothing of value, othering than pushing North Korea into a dangerous corner. Instead of “backing down,” as he falsely claimed the regime would do, North Korea is going full-steam ahead with their nuclear program. They’ve even accelerated their testing. Given Trump’s threats and demeanor at this point boosted by scandal and an imploding administration, North Korea would be crazy not to refine their nuclear capabilities.
Far worse than nukes parked permanently inside North Korea is America’s declining credibility in the world, not only to our enemies, but among friends. Since North Korea called down President Trump’s tempestuous bluff, the United States now has few cards left to play. We threaten to unleash “fire and fury” one day. Then, this past weekend, the president admonishes our most essential ally in this conflict, South Korea, for engaging in diplomatic talks. Simultaneously, we threaten to suspend all economic ties with China, the world’s second-largest economy and probably the best leverage we have in trying to negotiate with the North Koreans. Given all the double-talk and messy clean-up afterward by his increasingly frustrated subordinates, to describe President Trump’s doctrine on the Korean crisis as “confusing” would be overly generous. It’s more like — incomprehensible. It’s the crayon drawing of a 3-year-old.
Here’s a more reasonable alternative. Stop panicking about North Korea having nuclear weapons. This day was destined to come. It’s happened before with eerily similar brutal hard-line regimes, and yet somehow we’re all still here. And, it will likely happen again in another part of the world in the near future, what with “advances” in technology and all combined with a thriving pipeline of weaponry supplied by unconscionable death merchants seeking profits.
Alas, the only widespread panic that’s entirely justified remains the presence of a stooge occupying the White House right now who’s at the helm of this nation’s great military power, an incoherent hot-tempered narcissist prone to illogical impulse at any time of night or day, an entertainer-in-chief hopelessly lacking any of the critical skills of his cooler and more clever predecessors — from Harry Truman to Richard Nixon to Ronald Reagan. Even on their very worst days, no one ever thought any previous president might be crazy enough to send the missiles flying.
Indeed — perhaps, it’s time to panic after all, but for entirely different reasons.