Readers who don’t go as far back as February of this year may be interested in the post “North Korea’s Plutonium, Iran’s Uranium / Suitcase Nukes”.
Our obvious worry is that it seems increasingly probable that North Korea will field a viable ICBM, capable of hitting the U.S. Psychologically, this takes us back to the time prior to the Nixon/Kissinger visit to China. Back then, both popular and informed opinion took seriously Mao’s boast that China had no fear of nuclear war. As Kissinger discovered, Mao, in his own words, was “firing an empty cannon.” It was all a bluff.
Now we are required to judge the sincerity of Kim Jong-un on the subject of bluff. His murderous instincts seem more gratuitous than Mao’s. But when in 1949 Mao was taking control from the bourgeoisie, his instructions were to kill one landowner in each village. Yet in the study of the mathematics of murder, Mao at his worst does not compare to the current situation in North Korea.
To us, the Chinese seem amazingly blase. They are convinced that the North Koreans would never use nukes against them. Their confidence may be more the result of familiarity with the culture, such as it is, of North Korea, rather than the shared border. China has a better lens for observation.
Our choices are difficult:
- To put our faith in an ABM system about which Theodore Postol’s skepticism hasn’t really been debunked. Postol used a seemingly bulletproof argument based on the required energy of a control system to prove that an ABM cannot work. I am neither seconding nor refuting. But the question is 30 years old, and still up in the air.
- To literally starve, as in deprive of food, North Korea to the point that it loses all societal function.
- A sanctions regime that actually works. The current one has at least one serious deficiency, allowing continued activity by North Korea flag carriers. By the of nature of shipping in general, this is a hole.
- Temporize, kick the can down the road, in the hope that nothing will happen “on our watch.”
As a direct threat, the ICBM exerts an hypnotic monopoly. More concerning is delivery by stealth, as described in “North Korea’s Plutonium, Iran’s Uranium / Suitcase Nukes”.