Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

West Can Neither Live with nor Take Out North Korean Nukes

by Victor Davis Hanson// National Review

 

It’s time for the U.S. and its allies to prepare for a tough, messy confrontation.

 

North Korea recently test-launched a long-range missile capable of reaching Alaska.

 

When North Korea eventually builds a missile capable of reaching the U.S. mainland, it will double down on its well-known shakedown of feigning indifference to American deterrence while promising to take out Los Angeles, San Francisco, or Seattle unless massive aid is delivered to Pyongyang.

 

Kim Jong-un rightly assumes that wealthy Western nations would prefer to pay bribe money than suffer the loss of a city — and that they have plenty of cash for such concessions. He is right that the medicine of taking out Kim’s missiles is considered by Western strategists to be even worse than the disease of living with a lunatic regime that has nukes.

 

No wonder that the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations had few answers to North Korea’s serial lying and deceit about its nuclear intentions.

 

Sanctions were eventually dropped or watered down, either on reports of the mass starvation of innocent North Korean civilians or on false promises of better North Korean behavior.

 

China publicly promised to help rein in its unhinged client while privately doing nothing. Apparently, Beijing found a rabid North Korean government useful in bothering rivals such as the Japanese and South Koreans while keeping the U.S. off balance in Asia and the Pacific. The dynamic economies and pacifism of Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan were taken for granted by China as easy targets for coercion and blackmail.

 

Russia is never any help. Under President Vladimir Putin, Russian foreign policy is reductive: Whatever causes the United States and its allies a major headache is by definition welcomed.

 

There seems to be zero chance of a North Korean coup or a Chinese intervention to remove Kim. The brainwashed North Korean population is cut off from global news and knows nothing other than three generations of Kim family dictators. The military junta that surrounds Kim is likely as aggressive as its leader. These functionaries see his survival as the only guarantee of their own privilege and influence.

 

A preemptory strike might not get all of North Korea’s nuclear missiles and could prompt a conventional response that would wreck nearby Seoul — a scenario about which North Korea openly brags.

 

Pyongyang believes that only the Israelis are wild enough to preempt and bomb neighboring nuclear facilities, as they did in 1981 against Iraq and again in 2007 against Syria. And yet Israel attacked only because neither Iraq nor Syria had created deterrence by possession of a single deliverable nuclear weapon.

 

What are the bad choices for the Western alliance in defanging North Korea before it miscalculates and sends a missile that prompts a war?

 

Sanctions have in the past crippled Pyongyang. But this time around they should not be lifted, despite the prospect of ensuing chaos in North Korea. It may be tragic that a captive population suffers for the lunacy of its leader, but such misery is still preferable to an all-out war.

 

Nor should China be exempt from accompanying stiff trade restrictions. Almost every weapon component in the hands of North Korea either came directly from China or was purchased by cash earned through Chinese trade and remittances. Certainly, China would not allow South Korea to send missiles its way along with promises of nuking Beijing while the U.S. kept still about the provocation.

 

Australia, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and the U.S. need to coordinate a massive missile-defense project aimed at ending North Korean assumptions that even one of its missiles has a chance to reach its intended target. Such a Marshall Plan–like investment would also send a message to China that its own nuclear deterrent could be compromised and nullified by the defensive efforts of its immediate neighbors. China has made life difficult for the U.S. and its Asian allies, and it should learn that the allies could make things even more problematic for China.

 

None of our allies in Asia and the Pacific wish to develop nuclear weapons, both for historic and economic reasons. But the United States should inform Russia and China that allied democracies in the region may choose to develop a nuclear deterrent to stop North Korean antics — a development that would prove disastrous to both Russian and Chinese strategic planning.

 

Asia is already a dangerous place, with both Indian and Pakistani nuclear missiles and a likely nuclear Iran in the not-so-distant future. Do Moscow and Beijing wish to add three or four more nuclear powers near their borders?

 

The current danger is not just limited to North Korea. Iran, a beneficiary of North Korean nuclear assistance, is watching how far Kim can go. It will certainly make the necessary strategic adjustments if he succeeds in shaking down the Western world.

 

We are nearing an existential showdown, as failed efforts at bribery and appeasement have run their course.

 

Only a tough, messy confrontation now can prevent a disastrous war later on.

http://www.nationalreview.com/article/449404/north-korean-nukes-west-deterrent-insufficient

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About victorhanson

Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester courses in military history and classical culture. He recently published an historical novel The End of Sparta (2012), a realistic retelling of Epaminondas invasion and liberation of Spartan-control Messenia. In The Father of Us All (2011), he collected earlier essays on warfare ancient and modern. His upcoming history The Savior Generals(2013) analyzes how five generals in the history of the West changed the course of battles against all odds. He was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 and the Bradley Prize in 2008. Hanson, who was the fifth successive generation to live in the same house on his family’s farm, was a full-time orchard and vineyard grower from 1980-1984, before joining the nearby CSU Fresno campus in 1984 to initiate a classical languages program. In 1991, he was awarded an American Philological Association Excellence in Teaching Award, which is given yearly to the country’s top undergraduate teachers of Greek and Latin. Hanson has been a National Endowment for the Humanities fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford, California (1992-93), a visiting professor of classics at Stanford University (1991-92), a recipient of the Eric Breindel Award for opinion journalism (2002), an Alexander Onassis Fellow (2001), and was named alumnus of the year of the University of California, Santa Cruz (2002). He was also the visiting Shifrin Professor of Military History at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland (2002-3). He received the Manhattan Institute’s Wriston Lectureship in 2004, and the 2006 Nimitz Lectureship in Military History at UC Berkeley in 2006. Hanson is the author of hundreds of articles, book reviews, scholarly papers, and newspaper editorials on matters ranging from ancient Greek, agrarian and military history to foreign affairs, domestic politics, and contemporary culture. He has written or edited 17 books, including Warfare and Agriculture in Classical Greece (1983; paperback ed. University of California Press, 1998); The Western Way of War (Alfred Knopf, 1989; 2d paperback ed. University of California Press, 2000); Hoplites: The Ancient Greek Battle Experience (Routledge, 1991; paperback., 1992); The Other Greeks: The Family Farm and the Agrarian Roots of Western Civilization(Free Press, 1995; 2nd paperback ed., University of California Press, 2000);Fields without Dreams: Defending the Agrarian Idea (Free Press, 1996; paperback, Touchstone, 1997; The Bay Area Book reviewers Non-fiction winner for 1996); The Land Was Everything: Letters from an American Farmer (Free Press, 2000; a Los Angeles Times Notable book of the year); The Wars of the Ancient Greeks (Cassell, 1999; paperback, 2001); The Soul of Battle (Free Press, 1999, paperback, Anchor/Vintage, 2000); Carnage and Culture (Doubleday, 2001; Anchor/Vintage, 2002; a New York Times bestseller); An Autumn of War (Anchor/Vintage, 2002); Mexifornia: A State of Becoming (Encounter, 2003),Ripples of Battle (Doubleday, 2003), and Between War and Peace (Random House, 2004). A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War, was published by Random House in October 2005. It was named one of the New York Times Notable 100 Books of 2006. Hanson coauthored, with John Heath, Who Killed Homer? The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom (Free Press, 1998; paperback, Encounter Press, 2000); with Bruce Thornton and John Heath, Bonfire of the Humanities (ISI Books, 2001); and with Heather MacDonald, and Steven Malanga, The Immigration Solution: A Better Plan Than Today’s (Ivan Dee 2007). He edited a collection of essays on ancient warfare, Makers of Ancient Strategy (Princeton University Press, 2010). Hanson has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, International Herald Tribune, New York Post, National Review, Washington Times, Commentary, The Washington Post, Claremont Review of Books, American Heritage, New Criterion, Policy Review, Wilson Quarterly, Weekly Standard, Daily Telegraph, and has been interviewed often on National Public Radio, PBS Newshour, Fox News, CNN, and C-Span’s Book TV and In-Depth. He serves on the editorial board of the Military History Quarterly, and City Journal. Since 2001, Hanson has written a weekly column for National Review Online, and in 2004, began his weekly syndicated column for Tribune Media Services. In 2006, he also began thrice-weekly blog for Pajamas Media, Works and Days. Hanson was educated at the University of California, Santa Cruz (BA, Classics, 1975, ‘highest honors’ Classics, ‘college honors’, Cowell College), the American School of Classical Studies, Athens (regular member, 1978-79) and received his Ph.D. in Classics from Stanford University in 1980. He divides his time between his forty-acre tree and vine farm near Selma, California, where he was born in 1953, and the Stanford campus.

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