The media and the commenterati are constantly blasting the public with hysteria about North Korea. But what if the US refused to acknowledge the saber-rattling?
I’m trying to decide what’s more hysterical: the foreign policy (using the term “policy” very loosely) of President Donald Trump as his administration-via-tweet continues; or the hand-wringing near-panic of the mainstream media over escalating tensions with North Korea, as they wait with bated breath to have screaming chyrons and Wolf Blitzer shouting, “LIVE BREAKING NEWS” as The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists‘ editors soon sprint to change the “Doomsday Clock” to 11:59:59.
To that, we can couple one of the supposed “adults in the room”, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, backing up the President’s rhetoric that we’re mere seconds from the next finely-coiffed hair-driven “threat” from Kim Jong-Un; leading to whoever happen to be the alert crews at F. E. Warren, Malmstrom, and Minot Air Force Bases “turning keys” on their Minuteman IIIs and their 350-kiloton packages of “Make America Great Again”.
Or then we have Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, trying to play the diplomat, just keeping things all “Sleep well, America.”
Honestly, I’m beyond caring what they wind up doing, mainly because whatever this Executive Branch clown show comes up with will fail just as surely as everything else the three previous administrations have failed trying. No, make that four, as it was President George H. W. Bush who first had the boneheaded idea that it was a good idea to remove American nuclear weapons from South Korea in 1991, and then he went ahead and did it.
Diplomacy isn’t going to work, because we have absolutely zero leverage in the situation with anyone who can influence it. A military strike isn’t going to work, because even with conventional weapons, if the North Koreans retaliate against South Korea (and they will), hundreds of thousands of civilians will probably die and the 11th largest economy in the world (and the source of many products and components used here and elsewhere) will be mostly destroyed.
So what to do?
Here’s a novel approach: ignore the whole thing.
Seriously – what is to be gained by panicking on the whole Korea situation? Ultimately, the United States’ response is governed by one of two eventualities:
- North Korea attacks South Korea or Japan, in which case we’re honor-bound by mutual defense treaties to annihilate North Korea, or Kim Jong-Un attacks us, and then we’ve got free-rein to annihilate them.
- North Korea does nothing, and there’s no difference from the situation today, yesterday, or years ago – and we’ll just continue making a pig’s breakfast of policy as before.
Now, by “ignore the whole thing”, I mean politically and publicly. From a military readiness and intelligence perspective, North Korea should be watched very closely, but nothing need be said about it unless they actually do something beyond everything they are doing now that causes “OMG! PANIC!” reactions.
Kim Jong-Un is the classic playground bully, and right now, our Korea policy is bully vs. bully. One bombastic threat gets over-the-topped by another, and so on. It’s about as substantive as the “triple dog-dare” ultimatum from A Christmas Story. (Aside: can’t you just picture either President Trump or Kim Jong-Un with their tongue stuck to a freezing cold steel pole?)
North Korea craves the attention. Deprive them of it, and they’ll go continually batty until either above scenario (1) happens or – without us having to beg or give up something we don’t want to – China and/or Russia will bring them to heel before actually becoming a problem to either of them.
Ignoring North Korea is probably the best way to get China or Russia to act anyway; they don’t do anything because it occupies us when we could be otherwise focusing on China or Russia.
If an administration official is asked about North Korea, the response should be, “Who?”. They launch a missile that lands somewhere harmlessly, just say, “What missile?”
Sadly, the hardest part of this approach and likely its fatal flaw, is that President Trump also has to ignore North Korea. Ignoring things he interprets as directed at him personally isn’t in the cards.
Which just leads us back to tongues stuck to poles…in other words, policy towards North Korea situation normal, and unsolved.
Image: By Bjørn Christian Tørrissen (Own work by uploader, http://bjornfree.com/kim/) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons