COMMENTARY I’ll say it again – we should avoid war with North Korea

  • By Carl Haberl
September 23, 2017

I reiterate from my Aug. 27 op-ed piece in the Observer-Reporter that a new war on the Korean peninsula should not be an option.

The rather flippant manner in which Steven Wolf dismissed this premise in his Sept. 12 letter to the Observer-Reporter is cause for concern. Free from a “Fox & Friends” filter, I present these facts: A military attack on North Korea by the United States would most certainly provoke an overwhelming response from Pyongyang. Kim Jong-un’s goal is the survival of his regime. He believes that the key to remaining in power is the development of his nuclear arsenal. As the North Korean government has repeatedly stated, it will never give up these weapons.

Kim need only point to the fate of Libya’s Muammar Gadhafi after he voluntarily gave up his nuclear ambitions, or Saddam Hussein, whose weapons-of-mass-destruction bluff led him to the hangman’s noose in Iraq. The inhabitants of Seoul, the capital of South Korea, would suffer a massive artillery barrage from North Korean guns just 35 miles away. Thousands would die as the city is quickly reduced to rubble.

A new Korean War would not be limited to the use of conventional weapons alone. Conflict on the peninsula would rapidly escalate to the use of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons by North Korea. At some point, the United States would be forced to use tactical nuclear armaments to try to stop a massive invasion from the North into the South. Twenty-five thousand American troops now defend that border, and would immediately be drawn into the conflict, facing an overwhelming North Korean military attack. The slaughter of our brave soldiers would make Custer’s Last Stand pale in comparison. Japan, a close American ally, would also be at the mercy of Kim’s ballistic missiles.

In short, the consensus of the top military brass at the Pentagon is that war would be a lose-lose situation in Korea. President Donald Trump has exacerbated this tense situation with his words and tweets. For all his bluster and hyped-up rhetoric of “fire and fury,” Kim Jong-un has not been deterred in the slightest. He continues to test his nuclear devices in defiance of Trump. In fact, North Korea has done more testing in the last eight months than in any other period.

I would hardly consider Trump’s strategy a successful one. Instead, he pours gasoline on an already smoldering fire with his words. Diplomacy is a lost art with this commander in chief. He has gutted the State Department budget and important appointments to key diplomatic posts remain unfilled. For all Trump’s whining about predecessor, many holdovers from the Obama administration continue to serve in unfilled positions. The he-can-do-no-wrong crowd needs to take the blinders off. This is the same president who, as a candidate in 2016, said he would be “honored” to meet Kim Jong-un. He went on to compliment the “dear leader” for taking on the task of ruling his country at a young age.

In a recent speech, Trump said he thought that Kim now respects us. Shortly after, Kim proved him wrong with additional missile testing. Trump needs to understand that his words, in whatever form, do matter. The world, composed of our allies, friends and enemies, are paying attention. War by miscalculation is too risky a proposition.

I would suggest that Wolf read “The Guns of August” by Barbara Tuchman. It details how miscalculation played a significant role in the events leading up to the first World War in Europe. President John F. Kennedy, for all his acknowledged faults, saved the world from nuclear war in October 1962. He just happened to have read Tuchman’s book that summer. Perhaps Wolf should mail a copy to the White House.

Haberl is a retired teacher and a resident of South Strabane Township.

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