Today, without China's help, America has no other choice but to respond militarily to North Korean provocations. War will be catastrophic and bloody, but inaction may be even more so.
Progressives are always talking about Barack Obama's legacy. Well, this is his true legacy: the needless deaths of perhaps hundreds of thousands of innocent people because he refused to take action before the clock ran out.
Obama wanted to be known as the president who stopped wars and not one who started them, which he did anyway when he thought it would enhance his stature. Because of this, he withdrew from Iraq, birthing ISIS; waffled in Syria, resulting in the death of a half a million people; and did nothing about North Korea. He played golf and threw parties in the White House. With North Korea, it is now probably too late for effective action short of war. Wait a couple of years, when the bill for his appeasement of Iran will come due.
Small leaders like Obama don't understand that we live in a dangerous world. This is not new; it has always been that way. As treacherous as it may be, it is not really that complicated. The Democratic Republic of North Korea (DPRK) has a visceral loathing for the United States of America. The destruction of America has been official policy for decades, and regardless of how much "strategic patience," Obama's non-strategy, we show the DPRK, that will not change.
Nevertheless, until recently, there has been very little the DPRK could do that would existentially threaten America, despite their past serial promises of Armageddon. However, when a child gets a toy he has always wanted, you can be sure he is going to play with it. North Korea has long craved nuclear weapons along with the prestige of being a member of the world's most exclusive club, the "nuclear club." In fact, that seems to have been the Kim dynasty's entire foreign policy for many years. It is a stretch to believe that they will not use what they have worked so hard to attain.
When someone tells you he is going to kill you, you should believe him. Presidents since before Clinton have played kick the can with respect to the DPRK's nuclear program, leaving it to their successors. However, the last chance we had to stop Kim Jong-un with much needed pre-emptive action was during the presidency of Barack Obama. It was one thing when the Mount Paektu Bloodline (Kim Jong-un, his father, and his grandfather) could only threaten their neighbors, but with recent advances, they now can comminate America soil as well.
Recently, North Korea launched two intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), which some experts say are capable of hitting mainland America. It is also believed that the DPRK has mastered the miniaturization of nuclear warheads to fit on its new ICBMs. In fact, in 2013, the DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) released a report saying North Korea had already accomplished this feat of engineering prowess. The report was buried by the Obama administration because it would have shown the utter uselessness of the Obama "strategic patience" policy, which in essence was doing nothing and waiting to see what would happen. Well, now we know: the DPRK has more than likely reached the point of technological advancement where it can directly threaten the American mainland.
The world, as usual, is flummoxed by how to respond to this revelatory new reality, and thus, another round of the U.N. sanctions. Sanctions didn't work the last few times, but hey, they are sure to work now – yeah, right.
On August 5, the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 2371 to impose the strictest and most damaging sanctions yet on North Korea. China and Russia joined the United States in voting for sanctions. Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said the sanctions were a "gut punch to North Korea."
These new United Nation sanctions ban North Korean exports of coal, iron ore, lead ore, and seafood. The sanctions also target banks and joint ventures with foreign companies as a means of reducing hard currency available to the rogue regime for its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. It is estimated that the new sanctions will cut export revenue by more than $1 billion.
China, the DPRK's only ally, may have voted for the sanctions, but it is hard to tell how serious the Chinese are at stopping the DPRK's provocations. North Korea's belligerence and unpredictability have long been essential tools in the exercise of Chinese foreign policy. China uses the DPRK as a means of keeping America occupied and at bay. For instance, China has opposed the deployment of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system (THAAD) in South Korea because it would give America and its allies the potential means to intercept a North Korean missile. They also fear that the advanced radar system would hinder the effectiveness of their own offensive capabilities. In public, China always maintains that it is against the DPRK possessing nuclear weapons and ICBMs, but then the Chinese oppose a strictly defensive system designed to counter that very eventuality. It has been hard to tell whether they are really against Kim Jong-un's belligerence or not. Perhaps with this vote, they now see that they have created a monster.
In a statement issued through the official DPRK mouthpiece, the Korean Central News Agency, the DPRK declared the U.N. sanctions a "violent violation of our sovereignty." Pyongyang proclaimed that it would take "righteous action" in response. The statement also averred, "Packs of wolves are coming in attack to strangle a nation," and "[t]hey should be mindful that the DPRK's strategic steps accompanied by physical action will be taken mercilessly with the mobilization of all its national strength."
The statement also asserted, "The US mainland will sink into an unimaginable sea of fire on the day when it dares to touch our country by stupidly causing mischief and brandishing its nuclear and sanctions clubs," and "[t]here is no bigger mistake than the United States believing that its land is safe across the ocean."
At the of Southeastern Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum in Manila, South Korean officials met with their North Korean counterparts in an attempt to open a dialogue as a means of lowering tensions in the area. Their offer to hold bilateral military talks was met with this North Korean rejoinder: "Given the current situation in which the South collaborates with the US to heap pressure on the North, such proposals lacked sincerity."
In an attempt to intimidate America, the DPRK has announced a plan to launch four missiles targeted to land near the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam. The missiles are meant to land 18 to 25 miles from Guam itself, which would put splashdown just outside Guam's 12-mile territorial waters.
The DPRK has a tradition of antagonism toward America. It regularly threatens the United States with a "sea of fire." President Trump borrowed the DPRK vernacular when he promised, "North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. ... They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen."
This response was both bellicose and deliberate. Despite condemnation in the media, it is not easy to see how Trump could have responded otherwise. Obama probably would have called them the J.V. (junior varsity) team and told Americans not to worry. This would have accomplished exactly what it did when he called ISIS the same thing, and his "strategic patience" is one of the reasons we are where we are today.
What the media don't understand is that Kim Jong-un is like that little boy in that episode of The Twilight Zone where people must do as he says, or he will use his mind to send them out to the cornfield.
The DPRK responded that Trump's bellicosity has "let out a load of nonsense about 'fire and fury.'" They also accused Trump of "failing to grasp the on-going grave situation" and that "sound dialogue is not possible with such a guy bereft of reason and only absolute force can work on him."
With Trump borrowing from the North Korean patois, he was not only sending a message to Kim Jong-un, but also sending a message to China, because it is hard to imagine a way to avoid war without China's help. Yet there's no guarantee that even a miraculous confluence of Chinese and American interests can fix this, either at this point.
There is also no certainty that China is even willing to take the steps necessary to reel in its client state, despite the fact that a nuclear or even a non-nuclear conflagration on the Korean Peninsula would be disastrous for business – and China is all about business.
Is it better to "jaw, jaw, than war, war," as Winston Churchill once put it? Apparently, Obama took that advice to heart, because all he ever did was talk, and now the DPRK has not only nuclear weapons, but the equipment necessary to use them against the American homeland – something that wasn't the case in 2008.
Kim Jong-un, unlike the various Russian leaders during the Cold War, is unstable and may even be insane. Can he be trusted not to commit national suicide by attacking America? It would be foolish to believe so.
Talk will no longer cut it; it is time for action. A bully will not listen to reason; he is going to take your lunch money every day until he gets that punch in the nose.