To clarify the title (originally “War With North Korea is Inevitable”), within the confines of the current U.S. foreign policy, war is inevitable with North Korea. Since it seems extraordinarily unlikely that U.S. foreign policy is going to change very much, I’m reasonably confident that war with North Korea–even if it’s been avoided this weekend–remains inevitable.
First, Kim Jong Un and North Korea aren’t going to stop working out how to make an ICBM and how to lob it at the United States.
Second, they take so much pride in their nuclear program that they would all rather die than surrender it.
Third, the United States is not going to tolerate North Korea developing a nuclear warhead ICBM.
China doesn’t have the power over North Korea that we non-North Koreans like to think they have. It’s true that China is North Korea’s primary lifeline to the world, but North Korea is notoriously defiant, even of China, and if China could tell Kim to “Just cut it out” they would have done so by now–or around the time that we sent carrier groups into the Korean Peninsula. North Korea isn’t part of China, and they don’t like to be treated as though they are–the Sino-Korea Treaty takes great care to be a mutual defense pact, and not a case of “We’re going to protect our little brother.”
While we in NATO know that Montenegro isn’t going to come to the defense of the United States if we’re attacked–and, even if they do, they can’t contribute anything of any actual significance–this isn’t necessarily true with North Korea and China. While China can undoubtedly do more than North Korea, North Korea’s capabilities aren’t inconsequential, though they are limited to that region; North Korea would be almost no help in a war against the United States (except that they’d be able to decimate South Korea), but could contribute considerably in a war against Japan or India.
Our tendency to treat North Korea like China’s little brother, quite frankly, pisses off North Korea. And, realistically, it probably should piss them off. It’s supremely arrogant of us, first of all. North Korea came as close to “kicking our asses” as any nation ever has. It’s rather like getting beat up on a playground and limping away while telling the kid who beat you up that they should be glad they’re being protected by their big brother. They have a feather in their cap that few nations can claim: they took on and defeated the United States.
There are a lot of reasons for that. Our hearts were never in it, and we had to impose the draft to get people involved–and it’s a matter of record that draftees are motivated more by the desire to get back home than to win a “righteous” battle. We ended the Korean War after only three years, making it perhaps one of the shortest wars in American history. That’s how little we wanted to fight it. We were also constrained by UN policies and regulations that, like Vietnam, seemed more designed to make the war perpetual than anything. None of this really matters, though, because the fact remains: North Korea fought us, and North Korea won.
Compare it to our involvement in World War 2, where we were ready to throw anything and everything into the war effort, and against Japan. Then, for the Korean War, we could barely muster an entire regiment of volunteers.
I was relieved today to wake up and learn that we hadn’t started World War 3 in response to North Korea’s testing of a nuclear weapon, primarily because North Korea didn’t test a nuclear weapon.
What does it really matter, though?
It has merely postponed it.
For months, indications have been that North Korea was about to test another nuclear weapon. This is why tensions have been so high–the evidence is pretty clear that we are going to attack if they do so. Satellite images routinely show the “right” activity to indicate there is about to be a nuclear test, and it’s pretty likely that Kim Jong Un backed out at the last minute precisely because of pressure from the United States and China.
But this hasn’t changed anything.
It’s worth taking a moment to ask ourselves why we care whether North Korea tests nuclear weapons. The answer is that our actions throughout the last century have left us having to look over our shoulders constantly, and the only solution we’ve found for this is to continually look over our shoulder and attack anyone we happen to see–which, of course, means that we have to spend even more time looking over our shoulder.
In less than a week, we went from “Are we about to start World War 3 with Russia?” to “Are we about to start World War 3 with China?” One gets the image of a lunatic spinning wildly in circles firing an Ak-47 at every moving shadow he happens to see, paranoid and terrified that someone is coming to get him–and, honestly, is correct that someone is coming to get him, but only because he went around shooting people like a psychopath in the first place.
From what I can tell, this madman could really use some sleep. But he can’t sleep, because he’s created so many enemies that any one of them would sneak up on him in the middle of the night and slit his throat. So the only thing he can do is continue standing and spinning, firing missiles at anything that dares move in his presence while laughing and proclaiming to the world how secure and safe he is now that he’s gone through the world and shot everyone.
I was born on a planet alongside about six billion other people. For the first few years, things seemed pretty ordinary and sane, but then I noticed something odd. These otherwise rational and loving people had the strangest tendency to wantonly kill one another.
And then I noticed something even more bizarre.
Everyone acted like it was totally normal, and as though I was the crazy one for suggesting that we stop killing one another.
We’ve been killing each other for so long that we don’t know any other way. We’re set on that path, and the idea of getting off it, for some reason, terrifies us more than the prospect of nuclear war. God forbid we try to be friends with these people. No, we’d rather risk the possibility of annihilating life on the planet. The notion of just putting down the guns scares us more than nuclear war.
Something remarkable almost happened during World War 1. We came so close to putting war behind us permanently. It marks the most tragic moment in human history, when both sides of a war realized that they didn’t hate each other and that they were brothers being pit against one another by governments. On Christmas Day in the first year of the war, Central Europe forces and Allied forces put down their weapons and met on the battlefield for a day of celebration and peace.
War ends when the soldiers decide to stop fighting.
This posed such a threat to the powers that be–the states of the world–that it was forbidden from then on, and anyone who attempted it faced treason charges. They knew the danger it posed; they knew how close we had come to permanently putting down the guns. All we had to do was make one more decision–“When the sun rises tomorrow, we won’t resume shooting.”
The courage it took those soldiers to rise out of the trenches and walk toward the opposing side was more courage than anyone else had ever displayed in human history. There was every possibility that the other side would seize the opportunity to kill them. “They’re coming at us without weapons! The fools! Kill them! Kill them all!”
But that didn’t happen. They put down their own weapons, and the two sides met in a scene virtually guaranteed to bring tears to any peace lover’s eyes. We were right there. We had put down our guns and approached the other side, trusting that they would accept the gesture of peace and that it wouldn’t prove to be the dumbest thing anyone ever did. And our enemies rose and met the challenge. We came so close to learning it all right then–war is a racket of states. They can order us to kill each other all they want, but they can do nothing if we refuse to. And if we refuse to, we learned on that day, then the other side will refuse to.
It just takes that first courageous gesture of peace, that first person putting down the gun and stepping forward with a hand extended.
The next thing you know, generals and politicians throughout the world are freaking the fuck out because they’ve lost control of the minds of the soldiers and can no longer tell them to go and kill one another.
I challenge the United States to do this today.
If you expect to find a bogeyman pointing a gun at you in every shadow, then that is what you will find.
So disarm completely. Dismantle our warships, our jets, our bombs, our nuclear warheads. Disarm and dismantle everything. Show how courageous you are. Be like those soldiers in World War 1. It doesn’t take courage to continue maniacally shooting at everything that moves. What took courage is throwing up one’s arms, rising out of the trench, and approaching the other side without weapons drawn.
If we put down our weapons, they’ll put down theirs.
It’s time to end the worldwide Mexican Standoff.
And if our government doesn’t do it? Then American soldiers need to just go home. Just put down the weapons and go home. They can’t imprison all of you, because the only people who would imprison you would also have put down their weapons and gone home.
Is it unlikely? Perhaps.
Is it impossible?
The first Christmas of World War 1 suggests that it isn’t. It just takes courage.