The Boundaries on the Peninsula are Cracking
The Washington Post broke the news today that United States intelligence may have discovered that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) have obtained missile ready nuclear weapons. Tension between the two nations is now growing expeditiously — with just cause. The world is left to watch the chess game unfold between the world’s largest, and most influential, military and a nation that many consider an irrational actor.
Mutually Assured Destruction
As is the case with much of modern phenomena, today’s quagmires can often be traced back to similar points in history. Following the aftermath of World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union engaged in a military arms race, known commonly as the Cold War. They fought economically — devaluing the price of essential Soviet oil revenue — and endured a race to the top of the military spending ladder.
The arms race culminated in the long-enduring international relations concept of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) when both powers were at their nuclear peak. The idea fed on fear. While both parties continued to increase their military arsenal, neither were willing to fire a nuclear missile as it would result in a devastating retaliatory strike. The game, obviously, is only played with high stakes. One misstep and the rest of the international community is left to suffer.
Mutually Assured Disaster
While the United States — North Korea feud may have many similarities to the Cold War period, the two scenarios are distinct. The United States and the Soviet Union were comparable in power and their ascent was similar in trajectory. Both countries began in similar economic and military situations while riding the tide of World War II victory and could hold each other militarily accountable. Additionally, it is imperative that mutually assured destruction — and the détente associated with it — are predicated on rational actions by their respective countries.
The United States and the Soviet Union clearly had disparaging viewpoints on essential issues, but at least both side’s intentions were clear and rational. Each wanted the military advantage while the United States hoped to contain communism while the Soviet Union desired to spread it. North Korea’s intentions are blurred by their ruler’s rhetoric and countless human rights violations. The United States and North Korea’s mutual disdain of their counterpart is no secret. However, if North Korea acts irrationally in a game as high stakes as Mutually Assured Destruction, the world could witness Mutually Assured Disaster.
North Korean nuclear advancement has severely weakened (at a minimum) the United States’ ability to preemptively strike the nation. President Donald Trump has asserted that nuclear military advances by the North Korean Regime would be met with “fire, fury, and power.” However, those threats fall under the all-encompassing umbrella of some type of retaliation that is unpredictable in scale. While it is unlikely that President Trump would use the nuclear football, all options seem to be on the table to mitigate any further advancements by the, likely, irrational regime. The choices range from further, crippling economic sanctions to war with boots on the ground. Once again, a United States President has drawn a line in the sand, let’s see if this one will be upheld. The world is watching.
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