10.16.2017 0

As North Korea threatens Guam again, now what?

By Robert Romano

Stability is an illusion. So is power. What deters a nuclear first strike against the U.S. is the perceived response. More generally, nuclear powers don’t go after one another because the likely consequence is nuclear annihilation on all sides. Once one or two nukes go off, the likelihood that more go off rises exponentially, so nobody does it.

What makes the world stable today, then, is the perceived reality of mutually assured destruction.

So far, nobody’s arguing that North Korea is stable enough not to potentially launch a first strike. It certainly has not ruled out such a possibility. Instead it has threatened Guam, fired missiles over Japan and so forth. The most recent threat to Guam last week stated, “our hand [is] closer to the ‘trigger’ for taking the toughest countermeasure.”

Still, retiring Sen. Bob Corker’s (R-Tenn.) biggest problem is not with the regime’s rhetoric, but with the President who is trying to put pressure on them. In an interview with the New York Times on Oct. 8, Corker stated of Trump, “he doesn’t realize that you know that we can be headed towards World War III with the kind of comments that he’s making.” Full stop.

If Corker, or Democrats or media types for that matter, truly believe that the current regime in North Korea is so unstable that it would be provoked into launching a nuclear first strike based on mere rhetoric, then the regime is too dangerous to be allowed keep its nuclear weapons stockpile. Same deal with Iran.

Is this even a serious perspective? If you believe a tweet (or perhaps a movie that insults North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-Un for that matter) can set off the regime to launch nuclear missiles or an EMP, what exactly is your argument against President Trump’s determination to disarm the regime there?

That the regime is stable, has joined the nuclear club and will abide by the unspoken “no first strike” rule because that would mean their own destruction? Or that our worst nightmare has come true, a maniac has acquired nukes and will destroy multiple cities because he felt slighted even if it means his own destruction?

Many members of Congress, including senators like Corker or John McCain (R-Ariz.), and the mainstream media routinely demonize Vladimir Putin for all the evils in the world, but somehow, he’s a cool customer who doesn’t pound his fists and threaten Armageddon over the insults. And yet, if they have their way, we’re supposed to ratchet up tensions across the board in Ukraine, on the NATO frontier and in Syria apparently because Wikileaks published emails from the DNC and John Podesta.

But on North Korea, what’s their strategy? That we should just be really nice to North Korea because the leader might get upset and start launching missiles?

Unfortunately, while intelligence agencies and Congress was apparently distracted chasing Russia collusion election narratives on behalf of the Clintons throughout 2016, North Korea apparently managed to complete, reportedly, more than 60 warheads, including the H-bomb, miniaturized nukes and ballistic missile capable of hitting most or all of the U.S.

It is hard to see a scenario that would not ultimately result in war at this point. If the regime is as unstable as we are led to believe, then eventually, one of those “test” missiles it is launching could have a real warhead on it (maybe it doesn’t go off) to see if we’ll shoot it down or even notice that it had a nuke on board. Or they’ll just eventually lose it and start firing off multiple shots at the U.S. and its allies in the region — going out in a blaze.

That’s not an argument against taking action.

Which, for those who need help, an argument for not taking action would go something like this. North Korea can handle criticism, in the least, and will obey rational nuclear deterrence policy. They are now a member of the nuclear club and won’t jeopardize their own position by engaging in a nuclear first strike.

But if they’re too crazy and criticism might send them over the edge, that’s not applicable. Because if deterrence is not an option, then there is only one other option.

So, what to do? It’s a staring contest with the costliest of potential consequences. Do nothing, and eventually the results could be catastrophic. Preempt North Korea, and the results could be equally catastrophic.

For those who simply wish to think this is somehow Trump’s fault, North Korea did not complete its nuclear weapons program overnight. This crisis, which is decades in the making, could have just as easily been put on Hillary Clinton, with the same potential dire consequences for both action and inaction. She would be facing the same choice had she won.

Hawks will argue this is what they’ve warned all along would happen, and will likely — I’d say rightly — note that the threat could have been preempted years ago before it became imminent. But now here we are. Sometimes, foresight proves accurate. It’s not a matter of hindsight and we told you so. The situation simply is what it is now. Here we are now.

This is not about the election. That’s over. We have only one president. Who faces the same crisis a Democratic president would have. If we want to play the blame game, then fine, the past three administrations that did nothing to stop North Korea from going nuclear are to blame for doing nothing. The hawks were right.

Now what?

The choice facing Trump is no easier than that faced by Truman in 1945 or Kennedy in 1962. No less serious.

So, if anyone has any evidence at all to suggest that the North Korean regime is actually stable and sane and can be trusted to indefinitely possess a growing nuclear weapons stockpile, now’s the time to show it. That they are not threatening the U.S. and its allies in the region. Otherwise, you are not actually presenting the President with any better alternatives than the one that is appearing to be increasingly likely.

Sometimes, the wrong thing happens. Murphy’s law. Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong, eventually. In a nuclear world, it was inevitable that a maniac would eventually get nukes. Now what?

Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.

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