The U.S. Should Overthrow Kim Jong Il
Things on the Korean peninsula are heating up by the hour. This latest round of nuclear and missile tests should come as no surprise, given President Obama's non-response to North Korea's missile provocations several weeks ago. This time, however, Pyongyang detonated a 20-kiloton device -- the ground shook 130 miles away -- which is an estimated 20 times more powerful than the nuclear bomb North Korea tested in 2006.
Predictably, the international community bemoaned with platitudinous reprimands -- Obama: "gravely concerned"; the United Nations: "deeply worried" -- and even more predictably, North Korea responded by threatening war against South Korea, disavowing the 1953 armistice, and swearing to continue production of nuclear weapons. Surprise, surprise.
What should the United States do? The Obama administration seems satisfied with a continued policy of diplomacy and lethargy. Retired Gen. James Jones, President Obama's national security advisor, claims North Korea is not "an imminent threat." White House spokesman Robert Gibbs states these actions "won't get North Korea the attention it craves." While it is true that North Korea's escalations often serve the purpose of garnering international attention, the gravity of Kim Jong Il's behavior should not be downplayed. Each escalation brings with it greater technological advancement and thus a higher likelihood that Kim's destructive technology will end up in the wrong hands.
Rather than continue the same bilateral and multilateral diplomacy that has failed since 1994, the United States should adopt a much tougher approach. Three ideas come to mind.
First, we should reestablish deterrence with a statement or doctrine of "nuclear culpability." We should say to Kim: "You've been caught proliferating nuclear know-how in black market networks and to our enemies in Iran, Syria, Libya, and elsewhere. As long as you continue this behavior, be forewarned: should a nuclear bomb go off in an American city or that of our allies, we will hold you responsible -- along with the culprits. We will assume you were involved somehow, either directly or indirectly."
This would seriously mess up Kim's feng shui. It would change all cost-benefit ratios he's ever concocted inside that tiny, warped brain of his. The little guy is obsessed with maintaining power and by putting him in a position where events would be outside of his control -- where he would wake up unsure if someone else's hostility to the U.S. would lead to his own downfall -- we could (and I emphasize could) go a long way in altering Kim's immediate behavior. This is not a long-term strategy, however: "behavioral change" and "Kim Jong Il" do not belong in the same sentence for any sustained period of time.