The ma­niac in Py­ongyang

Does it re­ally mat­ter if North Korea has nukes?

The Hamilton Spectator - - COMMENT - Gwynne Dyer is an in­de­pen­dent jour­nal­ist whose ar­ti­cles are pub­lished in 45 coun­tries. GWYNNE DYER

“This guy, he’s like a ma­niac, OK? He wiped out the un­cle. He wiped out this one, that one. I mean, this guy doesn’t play games. And we can’t play games with him. Be­cause he re­ally does have mis­siles. And he re­ally does have nukes.”

So spoke Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump in Iowa in Jan­uary. North Korea flight-tested a bal­lis­tic mis­sile on Satur­day night that landed off Ja­pan’s west coast, so what will he do now? What can he do? And is North Korea’s 33-year-old dic­ta­tor, Kim Jong-un, re­ally a ma­niac?

South Korea’s for­eign min­istry cer­tainly thinks so: “North Korea’s re­peated provo­ca­tions show the Kim Jong-un regime’s na­ture of ir­ra­tional­ity, ma­ni­a­cally ob­sessed in its nu­clear and mis­sile de­vel­op­ment.”

But why would it be ma­ni­a­cal, or even ir­ra­tional, for the North Korean leader to want nu­clear-tipped mis­siles that can reach the United States? Af­ter all, the United States not only has nu­clear-tipped mis­siles that can reach North Korea; it has enough of them to erad­i­cate the coun­try 20 times over.

If it is not ma­ni­a­cal for the United States to have them, why is it ma­ni­a­cal for the North Kore­ans? Be­cause Amer­i­can lead­ers are re­spon­si­ble, they ex­plain, whereas Kim Jongun is a ma­niac. Beg­ging your par­don, but isn’t that ar­gu­ment rather cir­cu­lar?

The United States is the only coun­try that ever de­vel­oped nu­clear weapons with the de­lib­er­ate in­ten­tion of us­ing them. It was at the end of the Se­cond World War, when tens of mil­lions had al­ready been killed, and moral re­straints had largely been cast aside.

But the United States never used its nukes again, even when it still had a mo­nop­oly on them — and all the other known nu­clear pow­ers got them in the name of de­ter­rence: stop­ping some­body else from us­ing nu­clear weapons on them.

The Soviet Union de­vel­oped them to de­ter the United States from launch­ing a nu­clear strike. Bri­tain and France got them to de­ter the Soviet Union. China got them to de­ter all of the above. And Pak­istan and In­dia each de­vel­oped them be­cause they sus­pected the other coun­try was work­ing on them.

So why can’t the rest of the world be­lieve that North Korea is do­ing this in or­der to de­ter an Amer­i­can nu­clear at­tack? North Kore­ans have lived 65 years with the knowl­edge that the United States could do that when­ever it wanted, and it is not ma­ni­a­cal to take out a lit­tle in­sur­ance against it.

The North Korean regime is bru­tally re­pres­sive and given to foam­ing at the mouth over mi­nor slights. But since it has ac­tu­ally kept the peace for 64 years, it is hard to main­tain that it is ma­ni­a­cally ag­gres­sive.

So why say it? Be­cause if you don’t char­ac­ter­ize North Korea as in­sanely dan­ger­ous, then you can­not jus­tify for­bid­ding it to have bal­lis­tic mis­siles (which sev­eral dozen other coun­tries have) and nu­clear war­heads (which nine coun­tries have, and an­other four had briefly be­fore giv­ing them up).

Since none of the great pow­ers want North Korea to have them, and they con­trol the United Na­tions Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, they have man­aged to get spe­cial UN bans on both bal­lis­tic mis­siles and nu­clear weapons for North Korea. Main­tain­ing that the Py­ongyang regime are ma­ni­acs is part of the pro­gram, but it does frighten those who are not in on the joke.

It would be bet­ter if the ban worked, since the world has more than enough nu­clear pow­ers al­ready. How­ever, the ban is es­sen­tially un­en­force­able, and the heav­ens will not fall if North Korea does get a few nu­clear-tipped ICBMs one of these days.

It will never have very many, and they will not be used for some lu­natic “first strike” on coun­tries that are tens of times more pow­er­ful. They will be for de­ter­rence, only to be launched as an act of re­venge from the grave. Just like every­body else’s.

What can Pres­i­dent Trump do about this? He could try brib­ing North Korea into sus­pend­ing its work on mis­siles and bombs. That worked once be­fore, but not for very long. There is re­ally noth­ing use­ful to be done.

And what will he say about it? No­body knows, prob­a­bly in­clud­ing him.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.