While Americans are looking at Washington, DC and the ongoing TrumpRussia saga, older and far more serious business is stirring in the other direction. I wonder how long it’s going to be until we’re forced to give it due attention. I’m talking about North Korea and its open desire–and gradually developing ability–to shoot nuclear warheads at us.
We’re all used to people threatening to kill us and they have been in the short time I’ve been alive. The Iranians, al Qaeda, and so on all clearly intend to do something or the other to us, somehow. However, we’re arriving where this one country has the intent and almost has the means to really do it.
The question I have is whether it is acceptable for another nuclear-armed nation to vow to attack us. Are we permitted to do something about it?
It’s not just that the problem with North Korea is old, as I said above, but I think we’re going to have to take another look at some of our old solutions. During the Cold War, it was the policy of the United States to never rule out the possibility of first use of nuclear weapons. It’s still our position, although I don’t think the president has ever been terribly clear about how he feels about it or whether he’d really do it.
But can we agree that what North Korea has done so far is justification for a first strike? I’m not so sure. They can’t actually nuke us yet.
What about preemptive war with conventional means?
I’ve often said that the great unresolved foreign policy question of the last decade is whether or not a preemptive war is justified to prevent nuclear weapons proliferation when we know that its occurrence will directly threaten us eventually rather than immediately or even imminently. Even though we did this against Iraq in 2003, public opinion was divided over it and I think that the war’s course and outcome made it less likely that the American public will allow it again.
But does that mean that there’s never going to be a situation in which preemptive war is the correct answer? If not, is the situation with North Korea one now?
I’m not agitating for another war. It’s been nonstop war going on for 16 years now and I’m sick of it. Unfortunately, I don’t think that North Korea’s provocations are something we can ignore for much longer. Worse, I don’t think the president is inclined to either. Add to that dangerous equation that presidents who are facing bad press and stalls in their legislative agendas at home have enormous incentive to flex their muscles on the world stage and I think we can all agree we’re in a shitty position.
What are the best options right now? Do we have the luxury of waiting a bit longer? Even if we do, should we let Kim draw first blood? Or is this all for show?
It looks to me like things are already in motion. I don’t know what’s coming and even though I believe I know what Trump is going to do–and I think it’s going to be the only real option–I don’t want it to be true.