We Can’t Deter North Korea

In the New York Times this morning Obama Administration National Security Advisor and UN Ambassador Susan Rice has an op-ed in which she makes the claim that North Korea can be deterred. I agree with this passage:

Either Mr. Trump is issuing an empty threat of nuclear war, which will further erode American credibility and deterrence, or he actually intends war next time Mr. Kim behaves provocatively. The first scenario is folly, but a United States decision to start a pre-emptive war on the Korean Peninsula, in the absence of an imminent threat, would be lunacy.

which are the points I’ve been making for some time. However, I disagree with the premise of her op-ed. There is no evidence that North Korea is deterrable. For example this:

By most assessments, Mr. Kim is vicious and impetuous, but not irrational. Thus, while we quietly continue to refine our military options, we can rely on traditional deterrence by making crystal clear that any use of nuclear weapons against the United States or its allies would result in annihilation of North Korea. Defense Secretary James Mattis struck this tone on Wednesday. The same red line must apply to any proof that North Korea has transferred nuclear weapons to another state or nonstate actor.

ignores the very long list of miscalculations by authoritarians over the period of the last 80 years. Hitler, Tojo, Mr. Kim’s grandfather, Saddam Hussein, and Moammar Qaddaffi all believed that the U. S. would never go to war with them or that they could prevail or at least escape scot free in a war with the United States. Security states are predisposed to such miscalculations.

What I think that a nuclear-armed North Korea capable of reaching the U. S. with its weapons is likely to do is use nuclear blackmail to achieve its political, military, and even personal goals. Policy by other means.

I agree that the North Koreans can be prevented from using nuclear weapons but doing so requires the active cooperation of the Chinese rather than the verbal support they’ve provided so far. If you’re looking for a way of dealing with the situation on the Korean Peninsula short of war, you’ve got to be considering sanctions against China.

2 comments… add one
  • TastyBits

    […] Security states are predisposed to such miscalculations.

    For the same reason, I doubt that Kim-whatever is going to stop until he gets at least one nuclear armed ICBM. (He only needs everybody to believe that he has one.)

    I do not believe that a war would be as bad as is touted. On the border, all known and suspected artillery and rocket site would be eliminated beforehand, and anything left would get one or more ranging shells before being destroyed.

    Taking out their air-defenses should be easy, and then, the known command-and-control and launch locations would be eliminated. They would be decapitated and de-fanged, rather quickly. If the US has an actual EMP ordinance device, anything not shielded would be susceptible, and civilian disruptions could cause a problem for their government.

    Deployment of US based military, equipment, weapons, and ordnance would take some time. In the First Gulf War, some Marines sat in the desert for six months waiting for everybody else to join the party.

    The occupation is likely to work as well as most of the post-WW2 occupations have worked. Limiting a war only to air assets is probably a bad idea., and without an occupation, there is no way to affect the eventual outcome.

    Isolating the Chinese banks being used for trade with N. Korea is likely to fail. There is more than one way to facilitate trade between China and N. Korea.

    I am not trying to ‘harsh anybody’s mellow’, but I do not see any easy, moderate, or hard solutions to the problem. Not to worry, I am used to being the ‘turd in the punchbowl’.

    I am too old and fat, but at least, my niece who wants go to Afghanistan and fight would get the opportunity.

    But, what do I care? Let N. Korea burn this bitch to the ground.

  • Andy

    It’s a dangerous time, ripe for miscalculation.

    It’s also a good time to remember the lengths the US went to in order to cut down a tree in the DMZ in 1976. That was just one incident of many where we were on a war footing and ready to pull the trigger.

Leave a Comment