The worm has turned, and it is now Pyongyang that controls when discussions regarding the Korean peninsula will be held and what those discussions might entail. Washington has lost control of the situation by dithering away years of opportunities.
Admittedly, those were not optimal opportunities, but as it has been said in a number of cultures since 1600 AD, perfect is the enemy of the good.
As pundits comb through materials on North Korea trying to glean some tiny bit of new insight, such a focus implies trying to increase our understanding of Pyongyang, something the West has yet to accomplish at even the most basic level.
FACE THE FACTS
This is equivalent to paralysis by analysis. We already have – and have had for some time – actionable intelligence on what is required to resolve the North Korean problem permanently. Much to our discomfort and discredit, politics and a collective lack of will to do what was necessary have defeated us.
The result is independent of whether the latest nuclear test by the North was a true hydrogen bomb or merely a 1.5 version. In reality, it doesn’t even matter whether the bomb was an “old-fashioned” atomic bomb of either the Little Boy or Fat Man variety. It doesn’t matter because North Korea is on the verge of having a delivery system for whatever kind of weapon it does have.
This is equivalent to paralysis by analysis
More to the point, the world knows that Kim Jong Un has the bomb and the world knows that he has missiles capable of delivering that bomb. The only question is how far can the bomb be reliably projected. Such a question does not diminish the undeniable fact that the world has another full-fledged nuclear power.
WAR AROUND THE CORNER?
Before hitting the panic button, however, let’s take stock of the situation. Does this mean that war is imminent? No, not at all, for despite all the raving by some Western commentators that Kim Jong Un is of unsound mind, he was, is, and likely will continue to be, a very rational person who has managed to outwit his bumbling opponents.
U.S. sanctions – designed to bring Pyongyang to its senses – are destined to fail in achieving that stated objective simply because the regime is being sensible. It is the Americans that are being illogical, for the North patently has no reason at this point to negotiate away the very thing that keeps the West at bay.
Our thinking has been constricted by the conventional wisdom of the Occident, and thus doesn’t work because North Korea is anything but conventional or Western. Diplomats and politicians just don’t get that. Lamentably, there are almost certainly a number of proficient analysts below the partisan level in governments throughout the world that have been screaming this for years, but to no avail. Politics, it seems, trumps everything but death. The chickens have come home to roost.
With a multitude of North Korean artillery and multiple rocket launchers on the DMZ in hardened and protected positions, pre-emptive strikes against the North are now all but impossible. The range of options available is limited, and the choices that remain do not rank high on the list of preferred courses of action.
The North patently has no reason at this point to negotiate away the very thing that keeps the West at bay
One option is to continue the political fiction of “strategic patience” while doing nothing until the North Korean version of Armageddon hits South Korea or the West Coast. It is part of the status quo.
Another aspect of the current state of affairs is all the high-level jibber-jabber about how North Korea is not a nuclear power and that the U.S. will not engage in talks with the regime unless and until it agrees to discuss getting rid of the weapons that the world refuses to acknowledge it already possesses. Do you see the irony here?
In the absence of a decisive military strike, however, what is likely to eventuate is that the West will cave into Pyongyang’s demands for some form of relief in exchange for a nebulous promise of future good behavior.
Already, critics are calling for reengaging North Korea in diplomacy by offering to merely freeze nuclear and missile programs at their current levels, rather than eliminate them as was the stated objective.
The question thus becomes what price the U.S. and its allies will have to pay to get a verifiable agreement on this. The conclusion is that Kim Jong Un is now able to call the tune and the U.S. will have to pay the piper. There is only one thing left to say: Well played, Washington, well played indeed!
Featured image: Rodong Sinmun
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