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North Korean Options
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It seems to me like we have no good options in dealing with North Korea right now.

Here are two I see:

1) Diplomacy -- As I blogged about recently, I only think this has a snowball's chance if the international community presents a complete front. The only way we going to talk N. Korea into destroying its existing nukes and not making more is if they know Russia, China, Europe, South Korea, and Japan are all with the U.S. in demanding it. This probably will not happen.

2) Sanctions -- North Korea has declared sanctions would be considered an act of war. They haven't worked in Cuba. They didn't work in Iraq. I don't hear most of the anti-war crowd advocating sanctions, and I very much doubt their effectiveness in doing anything more than hurting the people who are already suffering under the regime. Someone here pointed to the effectiveness of sanctions in dealing with South Africa, but they are a crude tool, mostly likely ineffective, and possibly worse than modern war in many ways.

3) Blockade -- This would be seen as an overt sign of aggression, and most likely would precipitate war. But North Korea has openly threatened to make as many nukes as it can and sell them to whomever the hell it wants to.

4) Limited Military Strike -- We try to locate their facilities and take them out from the skies. Most likely this would lead to all-out war, with the shelling of norther South Korea, missile attacks against S. Korea and possibly Japan, and possibly a ground invasion of South Korea.

There's evidence that their nuke programs are hidden in underground mountain facilities. We'd have to be able to find them and destroy them with bunker busters. Probably not easily done.

5) War -- A war with North Korea would probably be much bloodier than the one with Iraq. North Korea has a million troops, advanced weapons systems, tons of artillery within range of most of the top third of South Korea, short/medium/and possible long-range missiles, etc. It would most likely claim hundreds of thousands, if not millions of lives. But would the alternative, allowing North Korea to build as many nukes as it was capable of at will, only multiplying their destructive force, be better?

6) Do nothing -- Just let them build the nukes, and cross your fingers that deterrence alone will do the trick.

Bu how exactly does deterrence function if North Korea sells a nuke to a terrorist, who then detonates it in L.A.? The non-state actor is not deterred, because he doesn't belong to a state which can be retaliated against, and he doesn't fear death. Would this two-state deterrence work against North Korea? That is, if we say, "If you sell a nuke to a terrorist and they use it against us, we'll nuke you", is that a viable deterrence strategy?

I've argued here many times that deterrence is not a realistic option in the 21st century. I stand by that assessment, and argue that prevention, aggressive prevention, is the only sane course of action.

Personally I favor a hard line with North Korea. They've taken tons of food and fuel aid from us over the past 8 years, under the guise of dismantling their nuke program. They lied, and mostly use the food to maintain their army, letting millions suffer from starvation. I unfortunately have lost all faith in the U.N. to do anything substantive regarding crises such as this (what the hell are they doing about it right now?). And I would like to see more nations decrying North Korea's actions and standing up to them. But most are stupidly quiet and demure, wanting the U.S. to make the problem go away, but backbiting and criticizing every move we make with regard to North Korea.

Anybody got any substantive suggestions? Like any of the options above? Got any variations of your own?

I'm all ears.

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