Agonizing On Korea

The Agonist talks about
being in South Korea in 1994 and living with the fear of invasion
. The argument is that stalling an invasion in 1994 was the priority, and dealing with Pyongyang more forcefully would have been devastating.

As sympathetic as I am to that argument, in hindsight it would have been better than being forced to deal with a nuclear-armed North Korea. Now, if the North decides to roll across the parallel, there’s very little we can effectively do to stop it. We’re not going to put our troops into a position in which nuclear arms can be used to wipe them out. Unfortunately, the situation in Korea has now dramatically shifted in favor of the North.

I have an aunt in Seoul, and I’m exceptionally worried that the North will pull something. I do not believe that Kim Jung Il would hesitate to use a nuclear weapon, even if it meant retaliation. Nor do I necessarily believe that we would use a nuclear response in the event of a nuclear attack. The risks of applying MAD doctrine to the region are just too risky.

Now all we can hope for is that North Korea chooses constructive engagement over provokation or that the regime eventually falls of its own accord. Perhaps it would not have been wise to more forcefully engage the North Koreans earlier – however, now that’s an option that we no longer have. We cannot allow another rogue regime be able to exercise this kind of leverage again – which means that we must deal with this problem before the threat of nuclear weapons narrows removes the option to do so.

One thought on “Agonizing On Korea

  1. Jay,

    Yes, I agree with you that dealing with a nuclear armed North Korea is much more difficult than a non-nuclear armed one.

    I have only one quibble with your reading of my post. I was in no way advocating that I believed stopping the invasion was the right thing to do. To this day I still question whether Clinton’s policy was right. As Machiavelli said, “you only postpone a war to your own disadvantage.”

    I was only posting what the experience was like, the fear and the uncertainty. Moreover, I was trying to exaplain how “uncertainty” clouds the judgement of leaders and inevitably leads to mistakes.

    I was clear in my post that Clinton got “snookered” by the North like he did by so many others. The guy was a foreign policy lightweight.

    But I was also clear that Bush 41 made similar mistakes with Sadaam. And you do not hear the Conservatives criticize his mistake nearly as stridently as they do Clinton’s. Can’t the right just get over it? He is gone. He is not president anymore.

    I also was trying to make clear that had a war started in 1994 the “unintended consequences” could have been very severe. Of course that is all easy for me to say. Hindsight is as clear as the water in the Tropical Carribbean.

    Otherwise, yours is a good post. I hope your Aunt is ok. Thanks for the trackback. I am happy to have found your blog. I will return frequently.

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