The experts scratch their heads and wonder, “Why would the dictator of North Korea want a war?”
My question is: Why wouldn’t he?
From a dictator’s point-of-view, the overriding goal is always: Power. That is, power for its own sake. For a century, the United States has been a world power. The United States stood for freedom and individual rights, and acquired a great deal of moral and military power because of that fact.
Today, it’s different. The United States has lost much of its economic power, and loses more every day. The United States is not inevitably and permanently in decline, but on its current course is most definitely in the midst of a significant decline. To a dictator, this is a wonderful time to act.
The current Commander-in-Chief of the United States armed forces — the man the dictator of North Korea will confront in conflict — does not believe in use of the word “war.” He seeks to reduce military spending, in favor of unlimited domestic spending, and his whole political stardom arose from his opposition to the war in Iraq. He has been on several “world apology tours” since taking office, making it very clear that the United States brought terrorism on itself by being too “arrogant” for all of its history. He ignores and insults our historical allies, such as Israel and Great Britain, while repeatedly extending an olive branch to one of our biggest foes, Iran, who proceeds to laugh in his face. He condemns the prior administration for daring to treat known terrorists as war criminals, instead subjecting them to normal criminal trials in which acquittal (on technicalities) is often likely.
Is anybody stupid enough to think that the dictator of North Korea hasn’t been watching all of this?
America, even in its decline, is still a fabulous place to live. It’s still the best place on earth to live — by any standard — and it’s still the greatest society in all of human history. This is perhaps why most Americans don’t grasp why the dictator of a poor, rotten and miserable place like North Korea has nothing to lose. All dictators — like all psychological abusers more generally — count upon the uncertainty and hesitation of their victim in order to exploit and attack them. Dictators, even ones with significant weapons, tend to back down when confronted. But when they have reason to believe they won’t be confronted, they know their opportunity is at hand.
One “expert” on television expressed his frustration that North Korea’s dictator would dare to start a war that he’s sure to lose. The expert meant to imply that because the United States, who would back South Korea, has overwhelming force, it could never lose a war with North Korea. This is correct — assuming the United States would ever fight a full-fledged war with North Korea. In fact, no such thing ever will or could happen under Obama, unless he changed his mind on a scale never before witnessed in human history. I’m not implying that Obama is on the side of North Korea. But I am stating that he might as well be. Like all liberals and even many conservatives, nuclear weapons are off the table in any conflict, even in a retaliatory context. Harry Truman, the liberal Democrat of his time who did what he had to do in the war against Japan, would be too much of a warmonger for even most conservative Republicans today. That tells you something about what has happened to the United States.
I’m being blunt, but honest. It matters little that we have nuclear weapons if we would never use them. George W. Bush would not, I believe, have ever used them, and Barack Obama certainly will never use them. I’m not suggesting that I like the idea of using nuclear weapons, or that I’d ever want to see any kind of nuclear war. But I am wondering what good our nuclear weapons are if our enemies have every good reason to believe that there’s no possibility we’d ever use them. If you think the world is a dangerous place now, just wait until countries like North Korea and Iran get them. How will the United States fight nuclear weapons with pacifism?
Most Americans cannot — or will not — see the bigger picture. The bigger picture is that the United States is a gigantic power who experienced the worst attack in its history back on 9/11/01, a decade ago. The United States never responded to this attack, other than to send soldiers to Afghanistan and Iraq to fight largely undefined (and unrelated) military missions that will do nothing to prevent future acts of terrorism, and obviously did nothing to prevent North Korea from going on its current rampage.
“Peace through strength” is not merely a phrase. It’s a concept with powerful meaning, and life-or-death consequences for every one of us. Tragically, our political and intellectual leaders have yet to learn that powerful weapons and a competent military alone will not do the job. You have to be willing to use that power, and know that you’re justified, in self-defense, to use it. And the dictators of the world have to know that you’re willing to do it.