Wednesday, August 09, 2017

The Big Bang Is Not A Theory

North Korea and the United States have reached a moment of truth. David Ignatius writes:

If Washington and Beijing manage to stay together in dealing with Pyongyang, the door opens on a new era in which China will play a larger and more responsible role in global affairs, commensurate with its economic power. If the great powers can’t cooperate, the door will slam shut — possibly triggering a catastrophic military conflict on the Korean Peninsula. 

Donald Trump's threat to unleash "fire and fury" has not helped:

The U.S. threat may be a bluff, but with Trump, you never know. Top U.S. officials understand that a preemptive war against North Korea could result in horrendous loss of life and a post-conflict outcome that would be worse for all parties. But when national security adviser H.R. McMaster says that a nuclear-armed North Korea is “intolerable” to Trump, one should assume he means it — and that he is preparing a menu of military options. 

We are edging to the brink -- and the future is uncertain:

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho said Monday, in reaction to the U.N. vote and Chinese-American calls for talks: “We will under no circumstances put the nukes and ballistic rockets on the negotiating table.” Is he bluffing? Again, we don’t know.

The Defense Intelligence Agency concluded late last month that North Korea has mastered the technology for a miniaturized nuclear warhead that could sit atop a missile that could hit the United States, according to The Post. A white paper by Japan’s defense ministry reached a similar conclusion and warned that the nuclear threat was now an imminent problem.  

Some commentators call this a "catalytic moment." Things are speeding up. But what the world is speeding to is anyone's guess. Pessimist that I am, I'm not hopeful. I am certain of one thing: the big bang is not a theory.

Image: The Royal Secret


Toby said...

Pessimism is catching. I keep hearing people talking reason but Trump spouts unreason. Frankly, Trump scares me. He's irrational. He has surrounded himself with Armageddon enthusiasts and militants who see North Korea as a wonderful target for American ambitions.

The Mound of Sound said...

American generals know that the military problem is enormous. NK doesn't have to attack America. Japan, South Korea, even Guam are perfect targets. Hit either of the first two with a nuke and you effectively nuke the global economy. Then there are the two main competing theories of nuclear escalation that foretell how a limited nuclear exchange of this sort can trigger nuclear responses from larger powers. Much of North Korea's medium-range weaponry is on mobile launchers which present enormous difficulties to pre-emptive attacks. Despite having absolute and massive air superiority and special forces units (US and British) on the ground inside Iraq it was impossible to take out Saddam's dispersed Scuds to prevent launches against coalition forces and Israel. Even if America was able to surgically strike Kim's missiles and warheads (all of them) there's the issue of fallout carried beyond North Korea by prevailing winds. Where would that contamination wind up? Who are the immediate neighbours? South Korea, China, Russia and Japan.

Owen Gray said...

And North Korea could serve as a terrific distraction from his other troubles, Toby.

Owen Gray said...

Apparently the Americans -- or at least Mr. Trump -- haven't learned the lessons of Vietnam, Mound. You can carpet bomb a country and still lose the war.

Anonymous said...

This is a worrying situation. But we have faced more worrying nuclear situations in the past. Even though it sometimes seems to be in short supply, man's inherent goodness prevailed. It's too easy to caricature North Korea as a barbaric state, too ruthless and stupid even to care about its own survival. That is a bit much to swallow. Based on his own experience with poisonous gas, Hitler refused to use it, although its use might have kept him and his cronies alive for an extra month or two. While having no military experience Trump may lack Hitler's singular kind of empathy, he is surrounded by generals who do have the experience. Would they obey an impulsive order from him which would result in massive destruction on the Korean peninsula and cause untold grief for America's allies in the region? Trump's generals are not naive or stupid, and more importantly they are not the captives of an absolute dictator as were Hitler's. They must believe, if need be, that they could refuse a suicidal order from Trump and be supported, maybe even applauded for it, by a Congress which is not entirely in love with the man.

Owen Gray said...

The Nuremberg Trials set the bar for obeying -- or not obeying -- a military order, C.D. It's clear that many states and cities are simply bypassing Trump. Let's hope the generals possess the same kind of courage.

Steve said...

I have been to Korea south hundreds of times and always thought this North Korea is a boil that needs lance. This was pre nuke north. I really think we have no choice but to take this madman out.

Owen Gray said...

If he's taken out, Steve, lots of others -- tens of thousands at least -- will go with him.