From a reader:
Forgive me for this blasphemous idea, but shouldn’t we just accept the fact North Korea has nuclear capability and they’re going to keep it no matter what? In a perfect world, negotiations or the prospect of the use of force would force North Korea to acquiesce, but that’s not going to happen here. Kim wants the prestige that comes with a nuclear weapon and he’s not going to give it up, no matter the offer.
We can bend over backwards all we want, but nothing is going to change. We can beg China to help all we want as well, but what’s their incentive? I’m sure they love the fact the US is tied up in knots with North Korea. As for Kim, what’s he got to lose internationally? Nothing as far as I can tell. Condemnation doesn’t seem to affect him, or at least it hasn’t in the previous fifteen years of his rule.
Mutually assured destruction worked for more than forty years for a reason. As awful as North Korea and Kim are, self preservation is their goal. Do you really think they would risk nuclear war knowing what the consequences could be? Of course not. Thirty minutes after any attack, the US would annihilate the entire country. Nuclear weapons are just an avenue for North Korea and Kim to gain more “prestige” and power.
That’s just my view and I know it stands at odds with many of my conservative brethren, but there it is.
Me: Well, for starters, North Korea is a well-established proliferator and sells its wares to anyone willing to buy. Also, counting on that madhouse country to act rationally seems a bit risky. I don’t give a rat’s patoot about France’s nukes, because at the end of the day I trust that the French are sane, civilized people (even if they do put specially sewn huge berets on their warheads). Kim Jong Il is a different matter. I don’t care if Rich Lowry has a gun (No, really). I do care if escaped psychotics from hospitals for the criminally insane have them. That’s just how I roll.
There are other reasons. But those are my top two.
Update: The reader responds:
Thanks for responding. The question of whether Kim will act rationally is a good one, but maybe he his acting rationally. If his goal is to get a weapon, extort huge concessions from the West, and make himself look tougher in the eyes of the world, isn’t he succeeding?
The proliferation aspect is the weak part of my argument and that’s why I left it out! Still, I think they’re going to end up with a weapon for use or sale no matter what we do. Better to accept it and deal with it than pretend we can stop it. I know it’s an unpopular view, but thanks again.
Fair enough! Though I think I should reiterate how much I reject the supposedly “realist” position that leaders act rationally. The Holocaust wasn’t rational. Ordering the destruction of Paris wasn’t rational. Starving your own people, as in the case of North Korea, isn’t rational. Successful leaders may act “rationally” to fulfill their ambitions and assumptions, but those ambitions and assumptions are often all-too-human, which is to say unrealistic.