A lot of people living in the United States might have a hard time trying to figure out why a tin-horn dictatorship in Asia might be of any consequence for an otherwise great way of life. The truth of the matter is that how things go in North Korea has a lot to do with our future, so we ought to be paying attention.
This latest dust up, like a lot of the events revolving around the Koreas, is as much about capturing the news cycle as it is poking South Korea and the United States in the eye. The long-term problem is that as long as North Korea exists as a nuclear rogue state, the less secure is our economic and military security. Though the outcomes of negotiations with North Korea’s elitist despots are predictable, the consequences of leaving in place an armed nuclear power that borders a strong military and economic ally to the south and is a stone’s throw from another great ally in the Pacific is more than problematic.
This administration, like so many before it, will likely want to sit down with the North Koreans, beg them to behave and will then offer outlandish bribes to control behavior. Those bribes will be money, food and otherwise good will to make sure the people don’t starve and the crazed lunatics that run the country will play nice with others.
This latest fix will last a shorter time than the last one and we will be back in this cycle again. Is this all bad? Probably not, but in the long run, tough love is going to have to come into this sooner or later. Nuclear weapons, worth billions to terrorist organizations, become very unpredictable bargaining chips in this game of high stakes chicken. Sooner or later, a regime change will be necessary in North Korea. Hopefully, such actions come before there are tens of thousands of casualties that can be traced right back to Pyongyang.
One also has to be concerned with the timing of this latest episode. President Obama is trying hard to convince the Senate that we, as a nation, need to lower our stockpile of nuclear weapons. The means to this end is the latest strategic arms treaty. However, when one examines the innards of the treaty, one finds that Russia gives up nothing and we give up a lot more than just warheads.
We are being asked to give up any development of defensive capabilities. Let’s see, we reduce our warheads, the vehicles to deliver them and then reduce our defensive capabilities—just the kind of thing we need when we have dictatorships developing weapons and delivery systems that will challenge the security of the world. North Korea, Iran and non-state actors change the equation of arms limitations. We now have gone from a solvable, though difficult, algebraic problem to one that contains too many unknowns to be solved with nice talk and candy bribes.
The key to successful operations in the business world is reducing the level of uncertainty that lies in the future. There are many ways to do this, some of which are more effective than others. Rather than using the spoiled, noisy child as the analog, perhaps we ought to move to a medical model. We have potential cancerous tumors growing. Perhaps we need to have an operation or two to eliminate these problem areas.
If we think things are tough right now, just imagine a world where reckless regimes control devices of great destructive power and the means to deliver them anywhere in the world. Of course, this world already exists. The consequences of kicking this can down the road could be devastating to Iowans and the rest of the country. Perhaps it’s time for us to use Teddy Roosevelt’s big stick. Any bets on how this administration will behave? I thought not.
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