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Outsiders vs. Insiders: Could the best option on North Korea be to simply do nothing?

On the sixteenth anniversary of the Osama bin Laden-inspired Islamic terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon we consider another international crisis that could change the world forever.

While the American media was trying desperately to find fault in President Donald Trump’s response to the flood disaster in Texas inflicted by record-setting Hurricane Harvey a week ago, events across the globe quickly Kim Jong unstole attention away from the plight of our fellow citizens in the Lone Star State and neighboring Louisiana.

A sizeable earthquake was felt in North Korea which was believed to be the testing of another nuclear device by the rogue Kim regime. The perpetrators subsequently bragged that they exploded a hydrogen bomb capable of being mounted on a missile.

World reaction was of the typical variety to the latest developments in what appears to be an escalating situation in the western pacific region.

Claudia Rosett of PJ Media wrote last week, “All this has provoked repeated rounds of sound and fury from U.S. superpower, and inspired multiple rounds of emergency meetings at the United Nations. Serious high-level officials of the world's great powers have spent plenty of time debating and discussing and pronouncing on North Korea -- evidently all of them either unable or unwilling to stop Kim's trajectory.

“What ought to be clear by now is that North Korea's Kim regime is not going to be stopped by any niceties at the diplomatic bargaining table -- even if Kim agrees at some stage to parley. For North Korea, deals in the past have amounted to nothing more than pitstops, a chance to refresh and refuel…”

In observing the back-and-forth over the most recent North Korean bomb test, missile firing or Kim Jong-un intimidation concerning Guam or other U.S. interests, I can’t help but think if you asked a hundred different people off the street for a detailed opinion and analysis on what to do about the situation you might get a hundred different answers.

Or, in reality, you’d probably get 99 truthful responses of “I don’t know” and maybe get lucky and stumble across one individual who’s truly familiar with what’s going on over there and can suggest some nuanced retorts.

The average American citizen (including myself) isn’t knowledgeable enough about North Korean capabilities, South Korean attitudes, potential Chinese interventions, Japanese reactions or greater Asian history and motivations to offer an intelligent response as to what can and should be done to eliminate the threat posed by the rotund cheese loving Nork dictator.

It’s often humorous to watch politicians pontificate about foreign policy in candidate debates because until the moment when a weapon is pointed at yours or your loved ones’ heads no one can say for sure what their comeback could or should be. We can talk about bigger topics like the American military’s role in the world or whether the United States should still have troops quartered in Japan, South Korea or Europe (among other places) decades after those conflicts ended, but what to do in time of crisis…? Does anyone truly get it?

People like Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham pompously feign to know after a lifetime spent in elected office receiving intelligence briefings, listening to “experts” testify in wood paneled committee rooms and visiting every country in the world whose title begins and ends with one of the letters of the alphabet. As if meeting with President X from a small mid-Asian nation provides one some sort of special wisdom to determine whether pressing button A or button B is going to achieve result C or result D.

It’s nonsense. America rushed into war in the Middle East in the early 90’s with the idea of finally solving the multi-millennium-old turmoil that’s plagued the region mostly due to irreconcilable differences between three of the world’s major religions (and in the case of Islam between its two eternally warring factions). Bringing democracy and the concept of liberty to these people would solve everything, right?

Wrong. In the case of Islam, neither the populations of these countries nor their leaders give a hoot about the noble ideas of natural rights and freedom as introduced by Western enlightenment. The result was to draw the United States into wars that appear to have no mid-point let alone an end in sight.

A thorough knowledge of history is the only criteria one needs to hedge a bet on whether some aspect of foreign policy will work or fail. Otherwise people don’t comprehend what events led to others and resulted in today’s conditions on the ground.

But the one thing all Americans understand is their own willingness to go to war. Simply put, wars are expensive and they are costly. Put another way, it takes billions or trillions of dollars to pay for wars including expenditures for weapons, military pay, intelligence gathering, logistics, deployment, reimbursing foreign allies, etc… and in today’s “feel good” day and age, a big chunk of change to fix whatever damage we’re inflicting on foreign peoples and territories.

It used to be that the best thing a country could do to improve its lot would be to get into a war with the United States and lose. If you don’t believe it, ask the Germans and Japanese. Is the same true today?

Wars are costly because people are wounded and killed, including our own military personnel. The societal consequences of such happenings are measured in lifetimes, not in days or weeks. Is this something our leaders even think about?

While the average Joe doesn’t appreciate what’s going on along the demilitarized zone in Korea, they do know they don’t want their kids going to fight North Korea and possibly dying for something that has little connection to the security interests of their towns or even that of the United States. Americans also grasp that getting into a shooting war with another far-off land will possibly mean the bankrupting of the entire country.

America’s success in destroying fascism in World War II and halting the communists in Korea led to overconfidence that similar victory would follow in Vietnam and Southeast Asia. It didn’t. Similarly, eliminating the menace of Saddam Hussein in the two gulf wars only led to the region’s vast destabilization and the rise of international terrorism.

Donald Trump realized this during the 2016 GOP primaries and presented a view completely at odds with nearly all the other party candidates (Ted Cruz and Rand Paul also articulated some degree of restraint). At the same time Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and the balance of the establishment candidates spoke passionately in favor of using American military power in similar ways to Bush presidents I and II, Trump promised to be more thoughtful and reserved in his deployments if he were elected president.

Trump said he would beef up the armed forces, just as Reagan did. But use them? That’s another matter.

Some claim more sanctions are in order, but would they work? Pete Kasperowicz of the Washington Examiner reported, “Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton said Sunday that economic sanctions against North Korea is a useless gesture, because North Korea is more like a huge prison than a real country that can be hurt by sanctions.

“’It's a 25 million person prison camp,’ he told Fox News.

“’The sanctions simply give people a warm and fuzzy feeling that we're doing something about North Korea. We are not,’ he said.”

Bolton apparently didn’t specify what he would do to magically cure the situation.

For his part, President Trump tweeted on last Sunday, “The United States is considering, in addition to other options, stopping all trade with any country doing business with North Korea.”

Sounds like a good idea, right?

Isn’t China “doing business” with North Korea? Can we cease trade with China? I don’t think it’s even possible given that country’s dominance over the consumer products industry in this country. Nobody would be able to buy anything at Walmart or Costco if we cut off trade with China.

But in the larger sense, why is it necessary to do anything in response to North Korea? There’s a good argument to be made that good old fashioned nuclear deterrence is the only option left. With everyone agreeing that our practical military options are limited at best (with tens of millions of South Koreans and Japanese within easy reach of the Nork military), what can possibly be done?

The South Koreans apparently have a very capable conventional military as does Japan. There is plenty of incentive for Kim Jong-un to remain in his own little hole in the world. Bolton is right, further sanctions won’t have much effect because he’ll still personally have as much cheese as he can eat and the North Korean citizenry will starve.

So what’s wrong with doing nothing? Or turning the matter over to North Korea’s regional enemies (aka our allies) to contain them? Or concentrating on the defensive aspects of protecting the homeland? Isn’t that America First?

If some politician out there has a better solution than the man on the street to the North Korea situation, we’d all like to hear it. In the meantime Americans simply want their towns and cities protected and their sons and daughters to remain safely away from any military conflict.

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