Since the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) chose to threaten the United States with a “preemptive nuclear attack” on Thursday, it might be time to consider alternative options to sanctions and official statements equivalent to “shame on you.” It might be time for action.
But it’s not that simple. An article in The Independent outlines 13 major threats against the US or the Republic of Korea (ROK) between 1951 and 2012, and those are just the major ones. The fact of the matter is the DPRK often makes threats and they are almost never credible.
On the other hand, it’s not as if the DPRK is a stable nation incapable of violence. In 2011 the ROK Ministry of Defense released a report counting 221 separate provocations by the DPRK including 26 actual military attacks since 1953. Recent high profile attacks include the sinking of a ROK naval vessel in the Yellow Sea in May 2010 by a DPRK torpedo, in which 46 sailors were killed. In November 2010 the DPRK without warning fired artillery rounds at Yeonpyeong Island, ROK, killing four and injuring 16 others.
The answer to how to deal with the DPRK is not an easy one. Long-term analysis would indicate that DPRK leadership is unwilling to commit to open warfare, but they are certainly unpredictable. The answer may lie in the past.
In recent decades the US, the UN, and the ROK have reacted to provocations by DPRK with sanctions, harsh condemnations, and declarations of intolerance to DPRK actions. But this has not always been the case.
In August 1976 DPRK soldiers murdered two United States Army officers and wounded 11 others including ROK and US enlisted personnel in the Joint Security Area (JSA) of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). The US officers were in charge of a work party that had been tasked with trimming a poplar tree on the ROK side that was blocking the view of a guard post. The trimming had been previously scheduled and DPRK personnel had been notified according to procedure. Part way through the trimming, a DPRK Lieutenant ordered the work party to stop, and when he was ignored he ordered the 15 or 16 soldiers that were with him to kill them. DPRK soldiers crossed the bridge to the ROK side of the river, killing the US officers and injuring the 11 enlisted personnel.
Instead of condemnation or tightened sanctions the UN Command decided to conduct a massive show of force and cut down the tree rather than trimming it. In a meticulously planned and coordinated operation three days later a convoy of heavily armed US Army Engineers, ROK Marines, and ROK Special Forces supported by aircraft entered the JSA and without warning to cut down the tree. Though DPRK troops did show up during the removal of the tree, they chose not to act though ROK Marines stood on the bridge with claymore anti-personnel landmines strapped to their chests, yelling for the DPRK soldiers to come over.
After the operation the DPRK leader Kim Il-Sung sent a message expressing regret, but not accepting responsibility for the axe murder incident. Though not the ideal response, “regret” is preferable to outright defiance.
Basically we called their bluff. This unstable, unpredictable, violent nation supported by China, the USSR, and Cuba in the middle of the Cold War had committed an unacceptable action, and US/ROK forces responded swiftly and appropriately. World War III did not ensue. Nuclear missiles were not exchanged.
The DPRK is a little shorter on friends today. The USSR no longer exists. China still supports the DPRK, but openly condemns their actions.
Clearly this is still an incredibly difficult decision. But when your crazy neighbor tells you he is going to kill your entire family, you don’t just say, “I want nothing to do with you, and I strongly condemn those words,” and then shut yourself in your house, peeking out from behind the curtains. You call the police and have them confront him face to face, and if you live in a land without police you do it yourself. And you make sure you bring the means to defend yourself should he get violent.
I am not saying we should cut down a tree in the DMZ, but maybe a show of force would be appropriate. A fly over, or a carrier group parked off their coast might change their perspective. In any case, the US should not limit itself to the alternatives of doing nothing or conducting a direct assault on the DPRK preemptively (effectively igniting another full-scale war). What would you do if someone threatened your family? Because, just FYI, they have.
Paul Brown is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom who served in the Marine Corps for five years and now writes about second amendment rights and other issues in his blog, why2a.blogspot.com.
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Joseph Hammond
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Emma Elliott Freire