A correspondent writes:
There is a time to hit the bear and a time to run. We’ve had many opportunities to hit the North Korean bear and have not, and are now left with poor choices.
I agree that the U.S. now seems to be left with poor choices, having failed to act decisively in the past.
I doubt that any U.S. president, even including Trump, wants to be responsible for the devastation that would follow a preemptive attack (of any kind) on North Korea. Therefore, I believe that an ICBM-equipped North Korea is probably in our future.
Does that mean a nuclear exchange with North Korea is in our future? It depends on whether Kim Jong-un is actually crazy or just a canny loudmouth. (I suspect the latter to be true.) However, if Kim does get trigger-happy, the resulting war will be a short one. North Korea will be devastated; South Korea will suffer greatly; and there may be collateral damage to Japan, Guam, Hawaii, and even the U.S. mainland.
How far the damage spreads will depend on how soon Kim pulls the trigger. The sooner he does, the less time there will be for the installation of effective missile defenses, but the less time there will be for Kim to deploy effective long-range missiles. So if he is going to pull the trigger, it’s probably best (at least for mainlanders) if he pulls it sooner rather than later.
But if Kim is really canny, as I suspect, he will never pull the trigger. Instead, he will use his growing offensive capability as blackmail in any military or economic confrontations with his Asian neighbors. The fact that he seems crazy gives him an advantage in such situations; it leads people to believe that he will actually pull the trigger.
A Grand Strategy for the United States
The Folly of Pacifism
Why We Should (and Should Not) Fight
Rating America’s Wars
Transnationalism and National Defense
The Folly of Pacifism, Again
Patience as a Tool of Strategy
The War on Terror, As It Should Have Been Fought
Preemptive War and Iran
Some Thoughts and Questions about Preemptive War
The World Turned Upside Down
The Old Normal
My Defense of the A-Bomb
Today’s Lesson in Economics: How to Think about War
Much Ado about Civilian Control of the Military
Presidents and War
LBJ’s Dereliction of Duty