On January 29, 2002, then-president George W. Bush used the term ‘axis of evil’ when he grouped together three countries: Iran, Iraq, and North Korea. This axis was used to describe three countries that, to the Bush administration, possessed a grave threat to the free world, either by seeking out weapons of mass destruction, sponsoring terrorism, or committing human rights violations.
For a while, Iran and Iraq dominated the headlines, and it seemed like North Korea, while dangerous, was not an imminent or a true threat.
However, in recent years, North Korea has become increasingly more bellicose and unstable, if that’s even possible. Recently, global alarm bells have been blaring as North Korea continues to make significant progress in launching or firing a long distance nuclear weapon. North Korea’s dictator, Kim Jong-Un, also continues to make threats to the United States, South Korea, Japan, and any other country that crosses its path.
“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States,” U.S. President Donald Trump told the media at his golf club in New Jersey, where he is spending much of the month on a “working vacation.” “They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”
To the history buffs out there, this pronouncement by Trump sounds similar to a statement made by the 33rd President Harry Truman to the American public about Japan near the end of World War II.
Truman’s exact words were, “If they do not now accept our terms they may expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth. Behind this air attack will follow sea and land forces in such numbers and power as they have not yet seen and with the fighting skill of which they are already well aware.”
While the scenarios are different, Trump’s message is ominously clear: the U.S. would take major action if the North Koreans continued to threaten its or its allies’ interests.
While it’s unclear exactly what Trump will do if the North Koreans continue to “mess around”, one thing is for certain, an attack, or a possible invasion, to topple the Kim regime, unprovoked, is not a good idea.
Unless North Korea initiates an attack on the United States, or a close ally, there’s just simply too much to lose if the United States gets bogged down in a big conflict with North Korea.
Here’s why the United States should, for now, not take military action against North Korea.
First, there’s the issue of China.
It is no secret that the U.S. is in the midst of a “Cold War 2” with Russia and China. A U.S. invasion of North Korea could unnecessarily provoke China, who, for better or worse, remains an ally of North Korea, mainly for economic reasons. China also has many reasons for not supporting an invasion of North Korea, one of them being the possibility of a North Korean immigration influx that could occur in China if thousands of North Koreans chose to flee their country. While the United States certainly doesn’t like the current scenario with North Korea, a far worse scenario might be starting a conflict with China.
Second, there’s the mass “human loss” that would occur if the U.S. invaded North Korea. Because North Korea will throw their entire country behind the war cause, the conflict, while winnable for the U.S., would be protracted and would likely result in millions of lives lost. No one wants that. Especially after the Iraq War, there is no stomach for a war, especially if North Korea hasn’t made the initial attack. Right now, North Korea is no worse than Iraq before 2003, which had made threats to the U.S., but had not carried them out. There’s just no reason to risk lives of millions when the North Koreans haven’t initiated an attack.
Finally, there’s the issue of post-Kim North Korea itself, which in reality, is just too uncertain to solve. There would be humanitarian aid and reconstruction effort to rebuild not just North Korea, but other parts of the world affected, which would be so massive, it would likely take decades to complete. The use of nuclear weapons in the conflict, which is highly likely, would like decimate millions, and the fallout would take years to clean up.
Also, as I touched on earlier, there’s the issue of a refugee crisis with millions of displaced North Koreans, largely poor and unskilled. Where would they go, and how would they adjust to their new lives, after having been brainwashed by the Kim regime? There would also be issues involving what to do with North Korea itself. Do we reunify the Koreas, or do we keep North Korea as is, and if so, who would govern? There are no easy answers.
As of right now, North Korea represents no bigger threat than the 2003 Iraq. The United States should avoid getting involved into another unnecessary armed conflict, even if it means keeping Kim Jong-Un in power. While the threat from North Korea seems untenable, the threat is still not close to where it needs to be for preparations for an invasion, or even a war, to begin.