The recent flare-up between the United States and North Korea has many pundits and politician on the verge of a nervous breakdown. The thought of using nuclear weapons should cause the world to pause and think and do all that is in the power of nations to stop it, but it cannot be unthinkable. Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) was a doctrine used during the cold war that kept both sides from striking the other. With-in this, the most important part is ASSURED. There was no doubt on either side that the other would respond to an attack with a devastating counterattack. President Trump is returning the military option to diplomacy and it is not a new or radical idea.
In his book in 1532, “The Prince” Niccolo Machiavelli asked “… is it better to be loved then feared or feared then loved…” The answer obviously was feared. Am I endorsing Machiavelli, of course not, but sometimes he does make a good point. Now let’s move a little forward in time to 1832. Following his death, the book, “On War” by the Prussian General Carl von Clausewitz was published, one point he made was that war is a continuation of foreign policy by other means. There are many interpretations of what he meant, but all agree that at a minimum when diplomacy fails, the state still has the military option. How does all this tie in. In 1966, Thomas Schelling an American economist and professor of foreign affairs, national security, nuclear strategy, and arms control wrote “Arms and Influence”, in the first chapter he wrote about the “diplomacy of violence.” The diplomacy of violence states, among other things, that regardless of the size and capability of your military, should your enemy perceive that it will not be used then the deterrent effect is nullified. In other words, if the military option is off the table then the bad guy has nothing to fear. This is the lesson the leaders of today have forgotten. That what has been passed down to us by all the above and others is that without the military option there is no diplomatic option.
Recent actions by the United States over the last few administrations indicate to the world we will not use the full strength of our military. Iraq and Afghanistan notwithstanding, we have failed to react to most major crisis’s in the world with the military option in the background. Russian activity in Georgia and Ukraine had sanctions put in place. In Iran, a very bad deal was made that will allow them to have nukes in a short time. In Iran both President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry told the world without the Iran Deal the ONLY other possibility was war. This then took the military option off the table and made for a one-sided solution that will have serious negative consequences.
Today we are facing a rogue state that has been allowed to progress to the point of being able to attack the United States mainland with nukes. The leader of North Korea has shown he has no moral compass or world view. What sanctions will work on Kim Jong-un? He lets his people stave and believes himself to be a god, as do the people in North Korea.
If the world is made to understand the US has placed the military option back on the table and is willing to use it then that fear may move those nations that can force a change in North Korea to do so. Hopefully it will not take long for the world to understand that Donald Trump will use the military and that if that is truly a terrifying thought then they will act to eliminate the threat of a nuclear North Korea. If not, the United States must do what is necessary to protect itself and its allies.