Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Should We Even Care if North Korea Gets an ICBM?

Unless a deal is reached or the USA launches a preventative strike, North Korea is going to get its hands on a working ICBM sooner rather than later. This has led to many dire predictions, including the breakup of the US alliances with Japan and South Korea and the vaporization of San Francisco. Obviously, were these things to happen, they would be very bad. However, the United States has successfully stared down the Russians and Chinese for decades and they have far more ICBMs pointed at our cities than North Korea could ever hope to acquire.
            The common retort to this line of thinking is that North Korea is more of an apocalyptic doomsday cult than it is a normal country, and thus previous norms of conduct do not apply. However, this leads to a very problematic road of thought. If one ICBM by an “insane” regime is enough to decouple the United States from its allies in Asia, then Japan and Korea’s alliances with the USA were fundamentally worthless. By this logic, the USA’s defense guarantee was only good when it thought it wouldn’t actually have to fight a nuclear war, and the entire Cold War was the world’s most expensive Game of Pretend. This not only misreads history, it also calls into question why any nation would ever ally with the United States.
            While in an ideal world, Kim Jong Un would not be entrusted with anything more dangerous than a spork, the US alliance structure has proven remarkably resilient. Granting Kim the power to usher in the apocalypse gives him far more power than he deserves. Without the fear he instills in the world with his atomic saber-rattling, he is a petulant nobody. He deserves to be treated as such.


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