Despite the avalanche of criticism and fear-mongering from the left, it appears that President Trump’s tough talk about North Korea is starting to pay off. He has gotten China to both publicly back away from supporting its neighbor and traditional ally should Kim Jong Un provoke a war with the west and to squeeze the NK economy by cutting off billions of dollars in purchases. This latter action was as a result of the new UN sanctions against NK – sanctions China supported in a reversal of normal policy.
These may have been the diplomatic dominoes that forced the murderous dictator to abandon his reckless promise to shoot missiles into the waters of Guam. This is not a resolution of the problem, but the best start we have seen since the Korean War was put on hold in the early 1950s.
In terms of foreign policy, one of my most enlightening friendships was with former Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger, who, along with President Reagan, was the architect of the fall of the Soviet Union. In discussions over several years, he described the threat of North Korea with a warning prescience that went largely unappreciated and unheeded by successive presidents.
President Clinton approved a deal that gave North Korea billions of dollars in return for a pledge to end its nuclear ambition. As so often is the case with Democrat foreign policy, symbolism was more important than reality. Without any enforcement, the late-North Korean dictator Kim Jon il proceeded unfettered to establish a nuclear program.
President Bush fully endorsed his predecessor's red line, making a nuclear North Korea unacceptable. In the same breath, however, the United States assured the world and Kim Jon il that we would never use force despite the overused claim that “nothing is off the table.”
President Obama doubled down on the already failed strategy of empty threats, endless unsuccessful negotiations and ineffective sanctions. He underscored a policy of silent surrender by a strategy of global military withdrawal, including a reduction in the size of the armed forces. His retreat under a euphemistically named policy of “leading from behind” set off worldwide aggression by American adversaries, resulting in the rise of ISIS, the expansion of Russian influence and the acceleration of North Korean militarization.
According to Weinberger, war is never avoided by appearing weak or being unwilling or incapable of successfully engaging in war. He repeatedly warned that to maintain world leadership, the United States had to have a “two war capability” since one conflict, such as in the Middle East, would result in aggressive moves by other adversaries – and his prime example was always North Korea. Without doubt, America has by far the most powerful military force in the world, but unless a threat to use it is credible, it means nothing – and for decades our threat has not been credible.
For a threat to be perceived as real, it must incorporate a real possibility of overwhelming military action. In language similar to that of President Trump, President Harry Truman gave a stern warning to the Japanese, and when they failed to heed his warning he brought the war to an end with the atomic bomb. President Jack Kennedy backed down the Soviet Union when they threatened America with nuclear missiles in Cuba. His threat to take military actions was successful because it was credible. President Ronald Reagan proved the worth of his threats by ordering the Air Force to bomb the Libyan capital in retaliation for the terrorist attack on a Berlin café and in view of the nation’s efforts to become a nuclear power. The result was the end of Libyan state-sponsored terrorism. President Trump appears to have blocked further use of chemical weapons with a surgical bombing of the Syrian military airport.
The peace-at-all-costs progressives continue to reject military intervention as a viable option, and they criticize President Trump for what they call “bombastic language.” They now openly abandon the long-standing doctrine that a nuclear North Korea is unacceptable and proffer arguments that it is inevitable and we should adjust accordingly. Least they allow the apocalyptic fantasies to run away with them, I would console the pacifist left by noting that if Trump’s threats were not perceived as credible to them, they would not be perceived as credible to Kim Jong Un.
They mistakenly see the kind of policy of “mutual destruction” that kept the United States and the old Soviet Union from pulling the atomic trigger. But, to compare Pyongyang to Moscow is a mistake. A more apt comparison would be Nazi Germany. They also fail to understand that even short of nuclear war, the expansion of enemy nuclear states changes the balance of global power. America would be subjected to the same sort of nuclear blackmail that we see today – blackmail the political left seems willing to pay forever.
The hyperventilating anxiety of the appeasement axis is evidence that Trump’s current threat is credible and could lead to military action if the Chinese and North Koreans do not end Kim Jon Un’s nuclear program. More importantly, the threat is now being viewed as credible by the world community.
While a diplomatic solution is still possible and preferred, a military resolution is definitely on the table. In fact, a diplomatic solution is far more likely now that the world knows any failure by the diplomats will most certainly lead to military intervention. Before we run in panicked helter skelter in anticipation of atomic bombs raining down from the skies, we have to understand that there are quite a number of military options, including cyber and electronic weaponry, that do not require atomic bombs.
While it is true that those in the greatest of harm’s way are the citizens of Seoul, South Korea, Tokyo, Japan and our own Guam, even the most limited attack on any of that geography will assure Pyongyang’s utter destruction – or as President Obama promised, they would be “wiped off the face of the earth. (Very provocative language that today’s anti-Trump media never found troublesome.)
As horrible as that is to even contemplate, the most likely outcome would be a unifying invasion by South Korea. There would be both a massive migration into China and, ironically, an embracing of the new leadership by many of the suffering North Korean masses. This is the prospect that most terrifies China and will most likely lead to the end of the Middle Kingdom’s tolerance of the rogue Kim dynasty.
Unfortunately, it is a far more dangerous option today because of the failed policies of the past – policies to which Trump critics are too eager to continue. It is literally true that the situation becomes even more dangerous with each passing day. The era of accepting that which we claim to be unacceptable is over.
Larry Horist is a conservative activist with an extensive background in public policy and political issues. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman, and he has served as a consultant to the White House under Presidents Nixon and Reagan. He has testified as an expert witness before numerous legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress and lectured at Harvard University, Northwestern University, Florida Atlantic University, Knox College and Hope College. An award winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.