War with North Korea is beginning to seem inevitable unless the U.S. is willing to put more pressure on China and Russia and there are no indications of that happening. Also, don’t believe the hype from the White House about fire and fury destroying North Korea. They make it sound as though it will be a one way war. It won’t be. A lot of people will die and many Americans will be among them.
Surely our military can easily destroy the hermit Asian nation in short order, If not our huge military expenditures were for naught. Despite our overwhelming power, Kim Jong Un has enough conventional and nuclear power to strike back hard. He can cause millions of deaths in South Korea, Japan and the rest of the region before he ceases to exist. Many of those lives will be American. We have thousands of troops in the region and there are thousands of other Americans who live and work there. The cost of human life will be enormous and the effect on the economy is incalculable. Any war with North Korea will damage the U.S. and its allies in a very significant manner. Kim knows that and so does Donald Trump. Well, Trump should know that if he listens to his military advisors instead of General Hannity. .
The Chinese and the Russians along with perhaps Iran are Kim Jong Un’s only trading partners, China being the most influential because they are responsible for about 90 percent of the trade with North Korea. Iran may be illegally supplying oil to Kim in exchange for nuclear help and most certainly the North is getting back door help from Russian and China. Kim’s country has been almost totallly isolated from the rest of the world yet he seems to have an unlimited budget for testing rockets and nuclear weapons. Where is he getting the money and material? One must also ask how a rocket program that produced dud after dud, suddenly became so advanced? And, where is he getting the money to equip and maintain a huge Army and Navy? Perhaps that money; that support is not coming directly from China and Russia but it is possible that their banks are involved in several ways, including laundering money from nations friendly to Kim’s regime. If that’s the case, the U.S. has some leverage. The question, of course is, will we use it. Will we start sanctioning those interests in the hope of stopping Kim’s crazy march to war.
Some ask why Kim is acting like a lunatic. Doesn’t he know that the U.S. could easily defeat him? Sure he does but he is not afraid of our power because every time we’ve had a chance to use it we’ve backed off. History has convinced him that the great United States with all its trillions of dollars of defense equipment is really a paper tiger. He believes that Trump will back down just as his predecessors did. Here are but three examples.
- Most Americans have forgotten or are not even aware that North Korea forcibly hijacked the unarmed U.S. Navy reconnaissance ship, Pueblo, from international waters in 1968. One crew member was killed and the other 82 were taken prisoner, interrogated and even severely beaten. We not only lost the ship, we also lost top secret encryption equipment to the North Koreans. The Johnson administration did nothing. “After 11 months of torture and starvation,” says USA Today, “the crew of the Pueblo was released in December 1968 after a series of negotiations with the North Koreans and a false apology by the United States. An apology the North Koreans and Kim Jong Un still believe was real and sincere.
- A year later they killed 31 Americans when they shot down a Navy EC-121. That was the largest single loss of a U.S. aircrew during the entire cold war. The plane was conducting electronic surveillance, and acting as a forward warning device for other U.S. forces but was over international waters when it went down.
- In 1976, North Koreans hacked to death two U.S. Army officers in the Demilitarized Zone. The U.S. Army officers had been part of a work party cutting down a poplar tree that was blocking the view of United Nations observers. The North Koreans took the ax the men were using to trim the tree and chopped them to death.
Readiness levels for American forces in South Korea were increased to DEFCON 3 early on August 19. Rocket and artillery attacks in the area were considered, but South Korean President Park Chung-hee did not want military action taken. Three days later, the U.S. and South Korea launched Operation Paul Bunyan, to cut down the tree. The teams included two 30-man platoons armed with pistols and axe handles. North Korea acted quickly, sending nearly 200 heavily armed troops into the zone. In Japan, the Yokota Air Force Base was put on full alert but nothing happened. It took almost an hour to cut the tree down but the stump was deliberately left standing. Nothing more was done by either side.
Those are examples of some serious atrocities committed by the North Koreans that resulted in no retaliation from the U.S. There was a lot of grumbling and planning but the U.S. did absolutely nothing. There were many more incidents, too, and that’s why Kim Jong Un isn’t afraid of us.
Kim, though, doesn’t know what he’s dealing with in Donald Trump. No one really knows how Trump thinks or how he makes decisions. What we do know is that whatever the process is it doesn’t remotely resemble any known use of critical thinking and decision making. More than likely his decision will be compulsive and dependent on the advice of the person or persons he trusts most, not those who know the most. He has the power to retaliate in any way he sees fit and no one in the U.S. Government has the power to stop him. The President reminds me of the character played by Mel Gibson in the Lethal Weapon movies if you know what I mean.
The U.N. has voted unanimously more than once to sanction North Korea, but to no effect. Kim has responded with even more missile launches and nuclear tests. It is as though the Russians and Chinese vote to sanction North Korea with a wink and a nod. If they meant it, if they really oppose his crazy antics the governments of Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping would speak out, but they say little and when they do there is always a hint of blaming the U.S. If Kim and his Generals were really afraid of China in particular would Kim continue to ignore them? You can’t help but believe that he knows the money and material will not be cut off no matter what he does and that China and Russia’s public condemnations are nothing more than oral idling or sleight of hand. One hand taketh away while the other giveth. .
So we are back to the question of whether the U.S. should confront China and Russia, threaten them, their industries, their banks and others with strict sanctions that would hurt them economically. The risk the U.S. Faces, though, is that both of those nations are very strong nuclear powers as well. Trump’s balancing act is this. He must keep the Putin and Xi on the sidelines. He wants to isolate this conflict so it is between the U.S. and North Korea. He cannot afford to have the Russians and Chinese side with Kim. Should we decide to sanction the business interests in those two countries we risk creating an even worse crisis than we already have.
So where does that leave us. Well, if we can’t do something about Putin and Xi and we cannot get Kim to talk then maybe war is inevitable. There is, though, one last chance for negotiation and that is for the U.S. to agree to talks without the demand that North Korea give up its nukes. That would at least get us talking and perhaps get them to agree to quit testing rockets and warheads while the talks are taking place. Perhaps we can approach the nuclear issue later but for right now I vote for getting them to the negotiation table in any way we can.
If we don’t begin talks, and if Kim continues his belligerence war may be inevitable and if it is regardless of the incredible military power we possess we cannot guarantee that Kim will be unable to use his nuclear arsenal either on South Korea, Japan, Okinawa, Guam or maybe even the United States.
If you are not at least a little frightened by all of this, you ought to be. This is the most serious situation our nation has seen since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. We are in a very dangerous game of “Chicken” and so far it doesn’t appear as though anyone is going to blink.
And from where I sit, that’s the truth