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‘Little Rocket Man’ May Be in the Captain’s Chair, After All

In the morning darkness of Wednesday, Kim Jong Un launched an ICBM that rose almost 2,800 miles into the sky before falling into the Sea of Japan. 

North Korea now has the proven ability to hit Washington, D.C.

Unproven still is whether Kim can put a miniaturized nuclear warhead atop that missile, which could be fired with precision, and survive the severe vibrations of re-entry. More tests and more time are needed for that.

Thus, U.S. markets brushed off the news of Kim’s Hwasong-15 missile and roared to record heights on Wednesday and Thursday.

President Donald Trump took it less well. “Little Rocket Man” is one “sick puppy,” he told an audience in Missouri.

U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley told the Security Council that “if war comes … the North Korean regime will be utterly destroyed.” She than warned Xi Jinping that “if China does not halt the oil shipments” to North Korea, “we can take the oil situation into our own hands.”

Is Haley talking about bombing pipelines in North Korea—or China?

The rage of the president and bluster of Haley reflect a painful reality: As inhumane and ruthless as the 33-year-old dictator of North Korea is, he is playing the highest stakes poker game on the planet, against the world’s superpower, and playing it remarkably well.

Reason: Kim may understand us better than we do him, which is why he seems less hesitant to invite the risks of a war he cannot win.

While a Korean War II might well end with annihilation of the North’s army and Kim’s regime, it would almost surely result in untold thousands of dead South Koreans and Americans.

And Kim knows that the more American lives he can put at risk, with nuclear-tipped missiles, the less likely the Americans are to want to fight him.

His calculation has thus far proven correct.

As long as he does not push the envelope too far, and force Trump to choose war rather than living with a North Korea that could rain nuclear rockets on the U.S., Kim may win the confrontation.

Why? Because the concessions Kim is demanding are not beyond the utterly unacceptable.

What does Kim want?

Initially, he wants a halt to U.S.-South Korean military exercises, which he sees as a potential prelude to a surprise attack. He wants an end to sanctions, U.S. recognition of his regime, and acceptance of his status as a nuclear weapons state. Down the road, he wants a U.S. withdrawal of all forces from South Korea and international aid

Earlier administrations—Clinton, Bush II, Obama—have seen many of these demands as negotiable. And accepting some or even all of them would entail no grave peril to U.S. national security or vital interests.

They would entail, however, a serious loss of face.

Acceptance of such demands by the United States would be a triumph for Kim, validating his risky nuclear strategy, and a diplomatic defeat for the United States.

Little Rocket Man would have bested The Donald.

Moreover, the credibility of the U.S. deterrent would be called into question. South Korea and Japan could be expected to consider their own deterrents, out of fear the U.S. would never truly put its homeland at risk, but would cut a deal at their expense.

We would hear again the cries of “Munich” and the shade of Neville Chamberlain would be called forth for ritual denunciation.

Yet it is a time for truth: Our demand for “denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” is not going to be met, absent a U.S. war and occupation of North Korea.

Kim saw how Bush II, when it served U.S. interests, pulled out of our 30-year-old ABM treaty with Moscow. He saw how, after he gave up all his WMD to reach an accommodation with the West, Moammar Gadhafi was attacked by NATO and ended up being lynched.

He can see how much Americans honor nuclear treaties they sign by observing universal GOP howls to kill the Iranian nuclear deal and bring about “regime change” in Tehran, despite Iran letting U.N. inspectors roam the country to show they have no nuclear weapons program.

For America’s post-Cold War enemies, the lesson is clear: Give up your WMD, and you wind up like Gadhafi and Saddam Hussein. Build nuclear weapons that can threaten Americans, and you get respect.

Kim Jong Un would be a fool to give up his missiles and nukes, and while the man is many things, a fool is not one of them.

We are nearing a point where the choice is between a war with North Korea in which thousands would die, or confirming that the U.S. is not willing to put its homeland at risk to keep Kim from keeping what he already has—nuclear weapons and missiles to deliver them.

Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of a new book, Nixon’s White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever.

36 Comments (Open | Close)

36 Comments To "‘Little Rocket Man’ May Be in the Captain’s Chair, After All"

#1 Comment By Bill Pitcher On November 30, 2017 @ 10:06 pm

Sure, let’s pay the ransom now, admit Kim to the club and hope he behaves for the next four decades. Mr. Buchanan, you know better. We built a military to defeat evil, and here is evil personified.

#2 Comment By Jeremy 2 On November 30, 2017 @ 10:31 pm

They called Trump’s bluff.

#3 Comment By Lenny On December 1, 2017 @ 1:37 am

With Rexit, the chicken hawks will be in charge

War is more plausible then ever now

#4 Comment By Mia On December 1, 2017 @ 6:48 am

First of all, if we would ignore Kim like we always ignore tin pot dictators everywhere else, then he wouldn’t have stellar material for internal propaganda for the next 100 years and be getting off on all of his nuclear tests. Cut him off, shut him down, and keep the diplomatic work on the lowdown. Make him look ridiculous and unimportant in the larger scheme of things.

Secondly, we should not withdraw any of our troops from South Korea. Not only does Korea have a history as a client state, not as an independent nation, and it’s very small with lots of big bully nations around it, the big dream of the Kims since they took over has been that we would leave and they could then overrun the whole country and kill every citizen, not just the northern ones.

Then, let’s just forget this whole idea that I read about elsewhere that we should take his local cult of personality seriously and not insult him by contradicting it. Oh, poppycock. He’s a delusional idiot, and we should not be playing into his idea that he is really god on earth, no matter how much he objects and claims he is insulted and won’t talk with us over it.

Finally, the issue of China is a big one. People have said that NK doesn’t have the technology to interpret the telemetry on the rocket launches, so some other country must be aiding them. Very likely. I find it frightening the changes that are going on in China with Xi that are mostly not even an issue in the US media or with Trump, so Kim does seem to me like a useful distraction keeping us out of Chinese issues. Xi ripped up the treaty on Hong Kong in July, he’s been having booksellers kidnapped all over and brought before the Chinese police, he made himself the head of the party in a way that now makes him as important as Mao, now he’s wanting the Christians to put his photo in the place of their holy pictures and look to the Communist Party instead of religious ideas as their salvation, etc. They’ve had the bomb, though no one has said boo about that for years (just like they haven’t with the basket case ally Pakistan either that also has the bomb and who has been harboring Al Qaeda, which is one of our stated adversaries), even though China has made much more effective and aggressive actions in the region. It’s just unbelievable how much hype is going on right now over Kim. The Kim Dynasty has always been nuts, so what is special now?

#5 Comment By Centralist On December 1, 2017 @ 8:26 am

thousands would die

Millions good sir. If the nukes are as good as they claim millions if not more.

#6 Comment By Herbert Heebert On December 1, 2017 @ 9:05 am

Kim Jong Un also sees what happened to Ukraine. It is not only the Americans who are at fault.

#7 Comment By Cererean On December 1, 2017 @ 9:16 am

How would Iran respond to such a negotiation? How would Saudi Arabia respond to Iran’s response?

What about the many other despots of this world?

If Lil’ Kim is allowed to keep his nukes, then North Korea won’t be the only country to join the nuclear club. What happens when a future nuclear power collapses into civil war? How do you control the proliferation of nuclear weapons/material then?

#8 Comment By Centralist On December 1, 2017 @ 10:11 am

“Sure, let’s pay the ransom now, admit Kim to the club and hope he behaves for the next four decades. Mr. Buchanan, you know better. We built a military to defeat evil, and here is evil personified.”

We have a military for our on defense we are not holy crusaders out to rid the world of evil. We tried that in Middle East recently went well if you count huge amounts of men, materials, and money gone as good.

#9 Comment By Michael Kenny On December 1, 2017 @ 10:45 am

As the recent ISS report showed, North Korea couldn’t launch a single rocket without motors supplied from or via Russia. For Kim to “rain nuclear rockets on the U.S”, Putin must first allow rocket motors to be rained down on him! No rocket motors, no rocket man!

#10 Comment By ukm1 On December 1, 2017 @ 10:49 am

The govt. of the United States is still banking on Russia and the People’s Republic of China abandoning North Korea in order to make a room for another American military misadventure similar to “Operation Iraqi Freedom” or “Operation Desert Storm” in the Korean Peninsula.

American govt. has already labeled North Korea and the Islamic Republic of Iran as two global sponsors of international terrorism!

American govt. wants to protect Japan and South Korea from devastating military strikes from North Korea while this time around American govt. will not be able to protect its mainland from North Korean ballistic missiles if American govt. chooses not to sign a peace treaty with North Korea.

The govt. of North Korea wants a bilateral peace treaty with the United States as well as complete stop to American military exercises in the Far East by total withdrawal of all American troops from South Korea and Japan.



P.S. The President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, has recently said, North Koreans will eat grass before giving up their nuclear arsenals!

#11 Comment By Zebesian On December 1, 2017 @ 10:54 am

Kim Jong Un is not a fool? His Chinese allies are starting to consider abandoning him due to his aggressive threats, and Japan is talking about building up its military in response. He is dumping what few resources NK has into offensive weapons systems that would cause massive retaliation if he used them, and he is also making his rivals dump a lot more resources into their ability to resist an actual invasion.

#12 Comment By bacon On December 1, 2017 @ 11:41 am

In re the Donald’s ability to play in this league, Mr. Buchanan and millions of others put him into office exactly because he is a businessman and not a politician or statesman, put him there to shake up or perhaps break up the establishment, not to play high stakes political games with foreign leaders. Well, you have what you wanted. Trump the businessman whose expertise in that arena led him to a position in which no large bank in New York would loan him money appears to know somewhere between not much and nothing about anything, but trusts his self-touted world class instincts to react correctly, beautifully, completely successfully, to any crisis. Mercy.

#13 Comment By ukm1 On December 1, 2017 @ 12:20 pm

Zebesian says: His Chinese allies are starting to consider abandoning him due to his aggressive threats…

You’re an imbecile!

The People’s Republic of China has bilateral treaty with North Korea that says, if United States attacks North Korea, the PRC will join North Korea to expel Americans from the Far East.

However, in order to maintain good business, immigration and trade relationships with the United States of America, the PRC has recently said, if North Korea strikes first, then North Koreans must bear the entire brunt on their own as the People’s Republic of China will stand down.

Any American military misadventure in the Korean Peninsula will destroy not only North Korea, but also will destroy South Korea and Japan.

Wall Street will collapse.

America and Russia have functional nuclear triad to deliver nuclear payloads to enemy-territories via air, via water, and via land.

Whereas North Korea still doesn’t have fully functional nuclear triad and, that’s why, North Korea is currently working on submarine-launched ballistic missiles!

Because, America can literally incinerate the entire land of North Korea within 24 hours — if not in lesser time, but with submarine-launched ballistic missiles North Korea will still have something very surprising for millions of American citizens in the American mainland.

After the Korean War II, God forbid, America will not remain as we have known it for 300 years!

#14 Comment By One Guy On December 1, 2017 @ 1:04 pm

A good article by Pat Buchanan! I’m happy to have been wrong. Nothing he said is really newsworthy, but I agree with what he says.

Much as I’d like to offer a solution, I realize I’m an amateur in this area. If I wouldn’t even advise the electrician how to hook up my stove, how can I think I know more than the professionals about foreign policy? But I do enjoy reading the opinions of the amateurs who DO know everything about foreign policy.

#15 Comment By ukm1 On December 1, 2017 @ 1:50 pm

Addition to my previous posts:

Both Russia and the PRC consider American military presence in the Far East an illegal occupation.

Russia and the PRC think that, World War II was over 75 years ago and, today, there is no legally valid case for American military occupiers in South Korea and in Japan and in the South China Sea.



#16 Comment By collin On December 1, 2017 @ 2:24 pm

I figure let him have nukes and poor country. While we are at, let them anchor the Chinese government being allies with a nation that is probably not popular with average citizen. At this point, all we can do is contain him from doing actual damage but let him risk Chinese or South Korea trade (some of which I believe is produced by NK citizens.)

Like it or not, long term containment was the best strategy against the Soviet Union.

#17 Comment By EarlyBird On December 1, 2017 @ 3:47 pm

Mr. Pitcher wrote: We built a military to defeat evil, and here is evil personified.

No, we built a military to protect American national security, and have a civilian apparatus which makes cost/benefit decisions in the use of that military. While that often includes confronting evil, it just as often means living with lesser evils to prevent greater ones.

Imagine not threatening NK with a war which, if we fought, would be won with Pyrrhic victory, finding ways to ease his paranoia and bring NK open to the world with the softest possible of landings. Sound “naive”? No more so than pursuing wars around the world to “defeat evil” and expect the US to endure that role.

#18 Comment By FJR On December 1, 2017 @ 4:10 pm

This is the 2nd Amendment debate on a global scale. Except in this scenario, NK are the conservatives wanting nukes for self defense and the US are the liberals wanting better background checks and controls.

#19 Comment By Chester Middleton On December 1, 2017 @ 5:34 pm

“This is the 2nd Amendment debate on a global scale. Except in this scenario, NK are the conservatives wanting nukes for self defense and the US are the liberals wanting better background checks and controls” – FJR

Very much on point with this statement. If the right to self-defense extends beyond the Constitution of the US (“God Given”), gun rights advocates should be supporting NK’s right to defend themselves, and Iran’s right to defend themselves.

Or does the Castle Doctrine only apply to Westerners?

#20 Comment By Dee On December 1, 2017 @ 6:42 pm

“This is the 2nd Amendment debate on a global scale. Except in this scenario, NK are the conservatives wanting nukes for self defense and the US are the liberals wanting better background checks and controls.”

LOL and so true… I tip my cap to your pithy observation.

#21 Comment By Zebesian On December 1, 2017 @ 6:46 pm

Ukm1, I agree that war with North Korea is a terrible idea. I’m just saying, un’s Actions are foolish. If NK and a China have a defensive alliance, then why bother with nukes? They can’t possibly help him, as the USA won’t dare attack them anyway.

#22 Comment By Fran Macadam On December 1, 2017 @ 7:14 pm

Amazing how many ordinary folks think that their elites ruling the world, or getting us to go for broke or die trying, is actually to our benefit. Look at history – it’s never been about spreading democracy and freedom, it’s been about who gets to rule resources and the financial system, with an ever expanding appetite. If some side effect for freedom accidentally happens and it conforms with the other selfish objectives, great. If not, so what, ruling is easier that way, through bribing local satraps and keeping a big military presence there as a warning.

#23 Comment By Patrick On December 1, 2017 @ 9:18 pm

The importance of planning for the occupation of a country became very apparent with out recent Iraq invasion. There were warnings by experts, such as General Zinni, but unfortunately these concerns were dismissed.

Would neutralizing North Korea’s offensive capacity need to be followed by an invasion then occupation? There are many other complicating factors such as nuclear contamination; and there may already be significant contamination from repeated testing. We also don’t know how China would respond to an invasion or occupation of North Korea.

Getting involved in a Ground war in Asia has greater risks than it is with a Middle Eastern Nation.

The rapid growth and sophistication of the North Korea nuclear weapon and delivery programs must raise the suspicion that there are industrial nation involved. Understanding who is assisting Korea, and what they hope to gain is important. In this situation our nation’s economic power be more useful, if used as a weapon against the North Korea enablers.

#24 Comment By craigsummers On December 1, 2017 @ 10:24 pm

Mr. Buchanan

“…….For America’s post-Cold War enemies, the lesson is clear: Give up your WMD, and you wind up like Gadhafi and Saddam Hussein. Build nuclear weapons that can threaten Americans, and you get respect………”

This is not true with North Korea. North Korea is in a unique position. Their army and artillery are within range of Seoul where 25 million people live inside and outside of the city limits. Likely tens of thousands would be killed. South Korea’s most important city would be leveled. That has always deterred the US – that and the Chinese military which would probably enter a war.

North Korea’s dictator wants international aid and recognition. This is simply blackmail using nuclear weapons to threaten his neighbors and the US. The US should help Japan and South Korea build their own nuclear weapons because the US is no longer a reliable partner (not to mention the catastrophic loss of life from using nuclear weapons on NK). Maybe Japan turning to nuclear weapons could motivate China to actually do something about the little dicktator.

#25 Comment By msnthrop On December 2, 2017 @ 5:08 am

At some point the South Koreans or Japanese may realize the only way to prevent millions of their citizens from being killed, is to assassinate those in the Trump administration who are calling for any kind of preemptive attack on North Korea.

#26 Comment By Vitaly Purto On December 2, 2017 @ 8:30 am

“Accepting some or even all demands of N. Korea would entail no grave peril to U.S. national security or vital interests. They would entail, however, a serious loss of face.”
Patric, American face was lost generation ago starting from Bill Clinton’s war on Yugoslavia.

#27 Comment By ukm1 On December 2, 2017 @ 1:18 pm

Zebesian says:
If NK and a China have a defensive alliance, then why bother with nukes?

Modern nation-states are independent entities in their military defenses.

Even if the PRC joins North Korea to expel American military invaders, it is the North Korea (i.e., DPRK) that has to fight for their forefathers’ land (i.e., the entire Korean Peninsula).

The People’s Republic of China cannot and will not fight alone against American invaders and American occupiers for the interest of North Koreans just like Russia did not fight against the Islamic State in Iraq & Syria alone, rather it was the Iranian and Syrian ground military force that fought the ISIS that was being supported by America, Israel, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Americans who were not born — I am one of them — during the first Korean War in 1950’s do not know or cannot grasp that Korea was or is a separate and independent nation from the People’s Republic of China.

The PRC has vested geo-political interest(s) in sustaining a Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (i.e., North Korea) against the formidable military forces of the United States of America.

DPRK acts as a buffer-zone for the PRC.

The Chinese govt. thinks in the long-term whereas American govt. thinks day to day from one four-year term of an American president to another!

World has seen American grandiose military misadventures in Vietnam, in Iraq, in Libya, in Somalia, in Granada, in Bosnia-Herzegovina, in Cuba, in Syria, and in Yemen.

American govt. bombs countries while the Chinese govt. goes for economic expansion to eradicate poverty from Far East to Middle East and from the continent of Africa to the old continent of Europe!

To sum up the entire America-North Korea imbroglio at this point, the government of North Korea wants a bilateral Peace Treaty — NOT war — with the United States in order to end the existing armistice as well as complete end of American military exercises in Far East by total and unconditional withdrawal of all American military occupation forces from South Korea and Japan.

#28 Comment By Dan Green On December 2, 2017 @ 2:15 pm

Get over it . A new member to the Nuke club is with us. Close to Guam and Hawaii this time. Gives NK great leverage to one day attack South Korea and get the two regimes back as one.

#29 Comment By carlton m. prescott On December 2, 2017 @ 4:22 pm

The one thing everybody is missing is that if we strike first the major part of the world will not help us. BUT – if rocket man makes the first strike towards and of our property or allies then the world will be behind us. So the question becomes which comes first the chicken or the egg.

#30 Comment By Gazza On December 3, 2017 @ 7:40 am

Bottom line here is that NK has built nukes for SELF DEFENSE. NK is NOT intending to launch unprovoked attacks against neighbors or the US as to do so would result in destruction of the regime, and KJU has every intention of following his father and grandfather as living a long life as uncontested ruler of his nation (ie a King in all but name).

The “solution” is clear – a Grand Bargain. Recognise NK as a nuclear weapons state. Provide legally binding guarantees that we will never attack NK. Get rid of the sanctions and stop the stupid warmongering. Remove combat troops. In return the NKs accept a limit on the number of deployed missiles and nukes, a ban on MRVs/MIRVS (ie one warhead only per missile), a reduction of forward based conventional forces and a pull back of long range artillery and short range missiles from the DMZ, and a return to the NPT and monitoring of nuclear activities and nuclear material stocks.

This is really the only practical and responsible solution. Any consideration of attacking NK is nothing but illegal aggression, and would actually prove that the NKs are indeed correct in their assertion that the US cannot be trusted.

#31 Comment By CAPT S On December 3, 2017 @ 9:04 am

If we were truly serious about keeping NK nuke-free we’d be blasting every test missile out of the sky. Since we’re not doing that, there are only 2 conclusions: 1) Our anti-missile capabilities are less than assumed, or 2) The powers that be are fine with NK going nuclear.

Ooops – there’s a third conclusion, or rather a corollary to #2 … the military-industrial corporatocracy wants another profitable war, preferably with the proletariat’s support. And many of these elites (diabolical narcissists all) believe strongly in the need for depopulation of the masses.

#32 Comment By MEOW On December 3, 2017 @ 12:16 pm

Before WW1 England and Germany were the best bilateral trading partner; albeit making each other rich. France maneuvered England into a naval treaty. So when the “Guns of August” (1914) events unfurled England foolishly gave France a blank check. Well-known warmonger, Winston Churchill as Lord of the Admiralty was the first to mobilize his navy. The dominoes fell quickly and WW1 got underway. The second worst war in the history of our planet. We have lots of “Churchills” that to date have had their warmongering wars. Time to step back and let the peace first folks take a crack at negotiation both NK and Iran.

#33 Comment By ukm1 On December 3, 2017 @ 12:54 pm

Dan Green says:
Get over it . A new member to the Nuke Club is with us.

American govt. gives out supersonic military fighter jets such as F-16 to the nuclear-armed Islamic State of Pakistan!

For what purpose really???

When the nuclear-armed Islamic State of Pakistan tests its missiles, American government’s State Dept. does not say a word.

We all know that — and Mr. Buchanan very well knows that — the target of Pakistanian nuclear bombs and missiles is only one country and that is India.

Also, when nuclear-armed Islamic State of Pakistan sold nuclear-bomb-making technology to Iranians, to North Koreans, and to Libyans, the U.S. Dept. of State and the CIA were silent.

When nuclear-armed Islamic State of Pakistan gave secret asylum to a Saudi national named Usamah bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, the U.S. Dept. of State and the CIA were dead silent.

#34 Comment By PAX On December 3, 2017 @ 4:31 pm

First Please Bring Philip Giraldi back. Negotiate! Negotiate! Loss of face – what the heck does that mean? Is NK a diversion (false flag) while we ramp up to support our indispensable ally Israel obliterate Iran? They need this to ensure their safety within their Biblically undefined borders? Right? Wrong? The least we can do for Israel is bleed and die for them. Right? Wrong? Please bring Philip Giraldi back. I enjoy reading the truth.

#35 Comment By Phyllis On December 4, 2017 @ 2:32 pm

At this date, missile-defense technology exists that’s capable of shooting Kim’s missiles out of the sky. The U.S. refuses to use such technology.

That leaves Japan, South Korea, and soon the rest of the world exposed to nuclear annihilation unless those countries purchase anti-defense systems.

Yet, except for India, which purchased a state-of-the-art anti-missile defense system from Israel, the leader in the field, the countries of the world have refused to protect themselves from Kim’s nuclear threats.

Kim Jong Un is like a mischievous child carrying out science experiments in the family’s basement that could blow up the whole neighborhood. Where are the adults?

No one has to bomb North Korea; all the U.S. has to do to protect itself and the rest of the world is to use existing technology to incapacitate Kim’s missiles. Why aren’t we doing that?

#36 Comment By charlie On December 8, 2017 @ 7:07 pm

If NK keeps its nuclear weapons, it will be able to intimidate SK, Japan, Tiwan, and others. China will be able to keep its south china sea islands. With the right SK leader, they can push the U.S. out of south korea.
Is it worth the cost in lives and destruction to disarm Kim? The U.S taxpayers will have to rebuild SK and NK. We will be tasked with making whole,the korean people N and S. It would cost china and russia nothing. Its a lose lose situation. for the U.S.