Imagine a world where one country – country X – is bombing at least seven countries at any one time and is seeking to bomb an eighth, all the while threatening an adversarial ninth state – country Y – that they will bomb that country into oblivion, as well. Imagine that in this world, country X already bombed country Y back into the Stone Age several decades ago, which directly led to the current adversarial nature of the relationship between the two countries.
Now imagine that country Y, which is currently bombing no one and is concerned mostly with well-founded threats against its own security, threatens to retaliate in the face of this mounting aggression if country X attacks them first. On top of all this, imagine that only country Y is portrayed in the media as a problem and that country X is constantly given a free pass to do whatever it pleases.
Now replace country X with the United States of America and country Y with North Korea to realize there is no need to imagine such a world. It is the world we already live in.
As true as all of this is, the problem is constantly framed as one caused by North Korea alone, not the United States. “How to Deal With North Korea,” the Atlantic explains. “What Can Trump Do About North Korea?” the New York Times asks. “What Can Possibly Be Done About North Korea,” the Huffington Post queries. Time provides 6 experts discussing “How We Can Solve the Problem” (of North Korea). “North Korea – what can the outside world do?” asks the BBC.
That being said, some reports have framed the issue in completely different terms. In an article entitled “The Game is Over and North Korea Has Won,” Foreign Policy’s Jeffrey Lewis explains that the United States should accept North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and pursue other courses of action:
“The big question is where to go from here. Some of my colleagues still think the United States might persuade North Korea to abandon, or at least freeze, its nuclear and missile programs. I am not so sure. I suspect we might have to settle for trying to reduce tensions so that we live long enough to figure this problem out. But there is only one way to figure out who is right: Talk to the North Koreans.” [emphasis added]
Lewis explains further:
“The other options are basically terrible. There is no credible military option. North Korea has some unknown number of nuclear-armed missiles, maybe 60, including ones that can reach the United States; do you really think U.S. strikes could get all of them? That not a single one would survive to land on Seoul, Tokyo, or New York? Or that U.S. missile defenses would work better than designed, intercepting not most of the missiles aimed at the United States, but every last one of them? Are you willing to bet your life on that?” [emphasis added]
It’s also worth mentioning that Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Paul Selva, already testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee that experts tell him North Korea does not have “the capacity to strike the U.S. with any degree of accuracy or reasonable confidence of success.”
Compare these observations to every single keyboard warrior on Facebook and Twitter who thinks the United States has a duty to defend itself from – and destroy – this rogue state, which is currently attacking no one else nor has any underlying reason to (especially considering that South Korea is open to talking with the North rather than relying solely on a military confrontation).
The problem with the mind-numbingly militarized approach to this conundrum is that it completely ignores the historical factors that led the United States to this crossroads in the first place.
In the early 1950s, the U.S. bombed North Korea into complete oblivion, destroying over 8,700 factories, 5,000 schools, 1,000 hospitals, 600,000 homes, and eventually killing off perhaps 20 percent of the country’s population. As noted by the Asia Pacific Journal, the U.S. dropped so many bombs that they eventually ran out of targets to hit:
“By the fall of 1952, there were no effective targets left for US planes to hit. Every significant town, city and industrial area in North Korea had already been bombed. In the spring of 1953, the Air Force targeted irrigation dams on the Yalu River, both to destroy the North Korean rice crop and to pressure the Chinese, who would have to supply more food aid to the North. Five reservoirs were hit, flooding thousands of acres of farmland, inundating whole towns and laying waste to the essential food source for millions of North Koreans.” [emphasis added]
In its isolated state, the North Korean leadership that held office after the end of the Korean war requested nuclear weapons technology from both China and the Soviet Union. After the collapse of the Soviet empire, spearheaded by the U.S., North Korea began to deteriorate even further, as it had relied heavily on Soviet aid. Following a famine in the nineties that reportedly killed as many as 500,000 civilians, North Korea was left to its own devices as it watched its southern neighbors prosper. It began to rapidly accelerate its nuclear weapons program.
Under the Clinton administration, a deal was struck with North Korea that aimed to ensure the communist nation would eventually freeze and gradually dismantle its nuclear weapons development program.
George W. Bush intentionally derailed this deal in a manner similar to what President Trump is currently doing in his attempts to derail the nuclear deal arranged with Iran in 2015. Then, to make matters worse, the Bush administration accused Iraq of having weapons of mass destruction and invaded the country in 2003, plunging the country into a state of chaos even though Iraq clearly possessed no nuclear weapons.
This decision – coupled with Barack Obama and his NATO cohorts’ decision to invade Libya in 2011 — taught North Korea a very valuable lesson about what can happen to an adversarial state if they give up their nuclear weapons program. This isn’t conjecture. It has come straight from the horse’s mouth.
“The Libyan crisis is teaching the international community a grave lesson,” which was that Libya’s decision to abandon its weapons programs in 2003, applauded by George W. Bush, had been “an invasion tactic to disarm the country” – according to North Korea’s Foreign Ministry.
The invasion of Iraq was quite clearly tied to natural resources and money, as was the decision to invade and topple Libya. Lo and behold, North Korea is reportedly sitting on a stockpile of minerals worth trillions of dollars. It also happens to have only one real major ally: America’s economic thorn in the backside, China, a country the U.S. has had a specific containment policy towards.
It is quite clear that threats of provocation to what is becoming a rapidly growing nuclear-armed state, which is allied to another nuclear-armed state, have nothing to do with concerns about global security or human rights. China has already warned that their leadership will only pick sides in the conflict if the United States strikes first. A simple solution, therefore, would be for the U.S. not to strike at all.
It is for these reasons that Donald Trump stated in 1999 that the U.S. should negotiate with North Korea as a first resort. Now that he is in the nuclear-code hot seat with a decaying presidency on the verge of failure, he has changed his approach.
People sitting behind their computer screens claiming the U.S. should have blown up North Korea a long time ago fail to realize that the U.S. already did just that, as well as the fact that the U.S. has specifically cultivated the conditions under which a state like North Korea would want to acquire nuclear weapons in the first place. These people also fail to realize that the U.S. and South Korea simulate an invasion of North Korea every year and have also planned to simulate nuclear strikes, as well. In its regular joint exercises, the U.S. has even flown bombers low to the ground on the North-South border, dropping 2,000-pound (900 kilograms) bombs.
Who is provoking whom?
If you find yourself fearing North Korea, try to imagine how North Koreans feel about your current and former governments.
No one is pretending Kim Jong-un is a saint, but he is currently bombing no one, and any attempt on his part at bombing America’s allies or bases would see his inevitable assassination and the destruction of his entire regime. This war would also create a refugee crisis that makes the current crisis pale in comparison.
North Korea’s nuclear strategy is a deterrent strategy only. The country has learned many lessons from its own past, as well as lessons from the U.S.-led invasions of Iraq, Libya, and other weaker nations — and in response, it has made it a pointed policy to never succumb the fate of these aforementioned countries.
Anyone who is able to absorb and digest all of this information and still demand war between these two countries needs to pack their bags and sign up for the military with the specific intention of being on the front lines of this battle. If you believe in this war that genuinely, you need to be prepared to fight it.
Anything else is pure cowardice, glorified by sheer ignorance of this conflict’s historical background, its geopolitical concerns, and the humanitarian crisis it would create.