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Why a US attack on North Korea is a terrible idea

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April 17, 2017 by Fiachra

It pains me to write a blog post with this title, as it should be self-evident to everyone – especially everyone whose opinion about this actually matters – that attacking a nuclear armed state is a terrible idea. Nonetheless, it appears that some very powerful individuals in the United States of America need convincing about this – and a depressing number of otherwise intelligent people are cheering them on. So these are the reasons that any US attack on North Korea would be a terrible idea:

  1. North Korea is not a threat to the United States. Certainly North Korea potentially poses a threat to many countries, most obviously South Korea and Japan, but it is not in a position to threaten the United States in the manner that is being portrayed. We are being asked to believe that half-starved North Korea, which is unable to provide a dependable supply of electricity to its capital city, has the requisite military R&D to produce nuclear ICBMs that can cross the Pacific Ocean and strike Hawaii or Los Angelas. Even if this were the case (and I repeat it is definitely not the case – North Korea is dirt poor, under UN Security Council Sanctions and isolated from the rest of the world), it ignores the very real investments that the US has made in its anti-ballistic missile defences. If North Korea did manage to launch such a missile, it would be intercepted and destroyed mid-flight – far from any population centre. Now this would still impose massive collateral damage on the environment, but not enough to justify the amount of damage that would be caused by an attack on North Korea… which brings me to my second point.
  2. While the US is not threatened by North Korea, US allies such as South Korea and Japan certainly are. The best way to provoke North Korea into attacking South Korea is – guess what – to attack North Korea. While the US can intercept ballistic missiles tossed essentially blindly from the far side of the Pacific Ocean while avoiding most of the fall out, any nuclear missile fired into South Korea from the North is bound to cause massive loss of life somewhere. The best case scenario for South Korea (and this is ignoring the right to life and health of millions of innocent North Koreans trapped under the most despotic regime the world has perhaps ever seen, who neither want nor deserve any of this) is that the missile is intercepted right after launch over North Korea. In this case, it will almost certainly cause significant damage to cities near the DMZ such as Cheorwon, Yeoncheon, Paju, Gimpo and possibly to Seoul itself.
  3. Indeed, the victims of the hypothesised (hopefully short) war between North Korea and the United States are bound to be primarily Norea Koreans followed by South Koreans and then the Chinese and Russians living near the border with North Korea. Japan is likely to avoid immediate casualties. This also assumes that the war won’t suck in China and/or Russia. However, by this stage any arguments that would be expected to convince them to stay out of the fight would have already failed to convince the Americans. Hence, we could be looking at a full scale nuclear war.

Little has been heard or seen from South Korea (the primary losers from such a conflict, other than North Korea) in western media. It could be that the domestic political crisis that brought down former President Park Geun-hye has weakened the voice of the South Korean government. In that case, when the new President is elected in three weeks time, you can expect that s/he may have strong opinions of his/her own about the wisdom of this military stand-off.

Edit: there has been a great deal of talk about the US sending a crack team of Navy SEALs “take out” North Korean nuclear weapons storage facilities. This sounds great, until you realise that these are the same Navy SEALS who crashed a Black Hawk helicopter while trying to assassinate a crippled old man in Abbottabad, who had no bodyguards and was probably under house arrest by the Pakistani ISI. Even if this operation could be carried out, it would be immensely risky and partial failure could still lead to unacceptable los of innocent life.

 

 


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