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The Madness of Attacking North Korea

Evan Osnos reports [1] on the emerging groupthink that makes war with North Korea more likely:

Chalk it up to Trump fatigue or North Korea fatigue, or a combination of the two, but members of America’s political class—the “blob” of government officials, donors, and media types—have started to talk about war with Pyongyang as an increasingly likely prospect. Last week, I spoke to a former Cabinet secretary, a Democrat, who told me that if he were in the government today he would support attacking North Korea, in order to prevent it from launching a strike on America [bold mine-DL]. This was not a vox-pop interview at the mall with a casual news consumer; it was a conversation with a seasoned American official who is inexpert on Asia but otherwise well informed and influential. It was a worrisome indicator not because the former secretary is privy to secret information—by his account, he is not—but, rather, because it reflects an emerging bout of groupthink that needs to be checked.

I would have thought that the insanity of starting a war with North Korea was obvious enough that there would be broad, bipartisan resistance to the mere suggestion of it, but Osnos’ report suggests that this is not the case. Attacking North Korea would be extremely costly for the U.S. and its allies, and could very well lead to the use of nuclear weapons that would claim millions of lives. It would also be a blatant violation of international law, and in the absence of Congressional authorization it would also be illegal under domestic law. On top of all that, there is no guarantee that attacking North Korea would “prevent” anything. It is more likely at this point that attacking North Korea would lead to North Korean attacks on American targets. There is no way to justify doing something that would cause all of that devastation.

Above all, attacking North Korea is truly insane is that it is absolutely unnecessary. The U.S. has a large nuclear arsenal that protects it from the attack that the anonymous former Cabinet official wants to “prevent” by starting a war. The North Korean regime has acquired its nuclear arsenal for the purpose of self-preservation, and not so that it can destroy itself with a futile attack on a much more powerful country. The only reason that their government might consider a first strike is if they believe that the U.S. intends to destroy them no matter what they do. Talking up the virtues of preventive war and demanding concessions they will never agree to make that nightmare scenario more likely rather than less.

6 Comments (Open | Close)

6 Comments To "The Madness of Attacking North Korea"

#1 Comment By Hunter C On November 9, 2017 @ 11:54 am

Conservatism as a philosophy used to be stolidly against unnecessary wars. What on Earth happened for so many of them to adopt the hubristic ideal of regime change?

As always, my sincere thanks to Mr. Larison for being a voice of sanity. I come to TAC for his articles as much as anything; but I sincerely hope he ISN’T elevated to the stature of a prophetic thinker by future history books, because that will almost certainly mean the regime change clique will have managed to do something so catastrophically stupid that the United States is left hobbled and ashamed on the international stage for decades to come.

#2 Comment By Wineguy On November 9, 2017 @ 1:02 pm

I was at a dinner party this past weekend and a friend of mine who is very libertarian and much more conservative than me was saying that we need to stop North Korea from using the nuclear weapons and that the only way was a few quick missile launches and they would know their place. I was aghast and kept trying to point out that attacking another country would cause them to respond.

He at least knew about the various artillery and non-nuclear weapons that N. Korea had and understood that it would result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands if not millions, but he said it was better than the current situation.

Eventually, after pointing out his blase attitude towards the deaths of others and destabilization, he used the word that has poisoned dialogue in this country saying that I was in favor of “Appeasement”

I walked away at that point, but what can be said to those that think war is fine since it doesn’t affect them.

#3 Comment By Richard W. Bray On November 9, 2017 @ 2:56 pm

The foreign policy establishment in this country which dominates the federal government, our universities, most prominent think tanks, and our major media outlets is the number one threat to America’s future.

Obama poetically referred to this mass of stupidity as the BLOB, but he demonstrated very little willingness to confront it.

Thoughtful citizens should address these people the same way we approach the manufacturers of cigarettes and other menaces to pubic health and safety.

#4 Comment By sherparick On November 9, 2017 @ 3:09 pm

1. But it would affect him. The radiation would blow west across the Pacific.

2. There would also be the world wide depression.

3. And the the war would go on and on as China intervened, and we would not launch any nuclear strikes on them.

4. It is amazing how group think can drive people over a cliff. In 1954 Eisenhower and Ridgeway were able to face down Dulles that American intervention in Indochina was crazy. But 5 five years later Eisenhower himself had made a military commitment to a country and regime that was completely artificial, South Vietnam and all the insanity followed from that commitment.

5. Conservatives and even libertarians have apparently made a fetish out of Mr. Trump, and now follow his lead mindlessly. What a catastrophe for America and Conservatism.

#5 Comment By b. On November 9, 2017 @ 3:21 pm

“I spoke to a former Cabinet secretary, a Democrat, who told me that if he were in the government today he would support attacking North Korea, in order to prevent it from launching a strike on America”

It bears repeating – it is a dishonest and evasive conceit that Trump’s entourage is in any way functionally, principally different from e.g. any hypothetical HR Clinton administration, or even the Obama government.

Trump’s general conduct, twits, and glossolalia just makes it harder to pretend that the neolib/neocon/con-men prowling the halls, oubliettes and privy pits of power are not terminally dangerous incognoscenti with few degrees of separation from the handlers of nuclear weapons. He still has ways to go to anywhere near match the bodycount of Obama or Clinton, let alone Bush.

Could we dispense with the focus on the straw-hair-man? They are all nuts, and unfortunately they don’t all have an orange hairpiece to signal that at a distance.

#6 Comment By rayray On November 9, 2017 @ 3:36 pm

@wineguy
That story seems as emblematic as any of the current Conservative/interventionist indifference to the human suffering and costs of war.

I grew up thinking that increased communication and sophistication and cultural understanding would lead to more and more diplomatic engagement. A beneficial flattening of the world. There might be more arguments, but they would literally be arguments not armaments.

It is extraordinary to see the opposite happen. the Bush administration’s unfathomable ignorance of Iraq and misuse of diplomacy created the biggest FP mistake of our times…and now the Trump administration’s unfathomable ignorance (about everything) coupled with their misuse of diplomacy to possibly do the same…it’s disappointing.