Yes, it’s serious. Damn serious. Not just because a hostile country ruled by an unstable dictator either has, or is on the verge of having, ICBMs and nuclear warheads. But also because North Korea is just one of many tyrannies preparing to do mean things to the United States. And our friends.
Mr. Kim is backing away from the threat to bomb Guam, which gives us a breather to ask some basic questions and craft a winning strategy. Alas, we have neither reliable answers to the basic questions, nor anything approaching a winning strategy.
First up: how did the NORKs get the missiles that now threaten us? The New York Times calls it a mystery:
… the mystery of how North Korea began succeeding so suddenly after a string of fiery missile failures, some of which may have been caused by American sabotage of its supply chains and cyberattacks on its launches. After those failures, the North changed designs and suppliers in the past two years, according to a new study by Michael Elleman, a missile expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
The Times’ reporters focus on a factory in Ukraine, implying the Russians are involved. Other stories say no, the NORKs are good enough to have done it by themselves.
Let’s color it mysterious.
Next up: anyone else involved? Well there’s always Iran, which has worked closely with North Korea for years. There was a NORK official, maybe the #2 rogue of Pyongyang, at Rouhani’s presidential confirmation ceremony, and he stayed for ten days. Plenty of time to discuss nuclear matters.
As luck would have it, while the party was on in Tehran, the Germans (!) blew the lid on a secret Russian/Iranian smuggling operation running from Iran to Russia via Syria The story appeared in Die Welt. The Germans thought it was a big deal, threatening the nuclear deal and also Germany’s substantial trade with the Iranians:
Russia and Iran are violating the UN Resolution 2231 that prohibits the delivery of heavy and offensive weapon systems. This was revealed by the Welt am Sonntag, citing Western intelligence agencies. In June, aircrafts flew twice from Iran to Khmeimim airport, the most important Russian military base in Syria, in order to bring military supplies that were destined for further transport to Russia — the reports says. The military equipment was then carried on trucks to the Mediterranean port of Tarsus, and loaded on board the Russian ship Sparta III. After couple of days, the ship sailed to Russian port of Novorossyisk on the Black Sea.
The resolution [passed in] June 15, which replaced existing sanctions and resolutions [against Tehran] as part of the framework of the Nuclear Deal with Iran, obliges [UN] member states to disclose certain weapon deals with Iran to the Security Council till 2023. Thus “supply, sale or transfer [of] … all type of battle tanks, high calibre artillery, fighter planes, attack helicopters, war ships, rockets or rocket systems” require an approval of the UN. This ban also covers the “manufacture or maintenance” of these weapon types.
It’s a global network, you see. And it’s very discouraging to see our deep thinkers pondering the single components instead of the enemy alliance as the frightening global threat to our survival. Even Henry Kissinger devotes his considerable talent to figuring out how to make a deal with the Chinese that would denuclearize Korea and reunify the country. But China is part of the enemy alliance, and not likely to be helpful, even with the NORKs.
So what to do? The smartest guys in town, albeit narrowly focused on Korea, have the winning answer to the big problem: regime change. Lake rightly says that revolution is much more attractive than nuclear war. And Bryen, who was one of the smartest Pentagon officials under Reagan, has a useful suggestion: empower a government in exile:
The first step is to treat the North Korean government as a danger to world peace and explicitly sponsor a government in exile intended to replace the Kim regime … Congress should appropriate significant funds to support the activities of a government in exile, including political support and military training of volunteers.
A government in exile recognized by the United States will openly threaten the North Korean regime. There are enough North Korean defectors to form such a government, and no doubt there will be plenty of volunteers.
Yes indeed. There’s nothing like taking the fight to the enemy, rather than constantly playing catchup with them. Just the other day the Iranians proclaimed they were sending warships into the Atlantic. It’s part of their big military buildup, courtesy of the many billions Obama bequeathed them. They seem pleased that we haven’t sunk any of their ships in the Gulf (so far we only fire “warning shots”) and so they’re pushing forward.
Instead of little tactical expressions of our displeasure, we should do to the Persians what Lake and Bryen want to do to the NORKs: mount a direct challenge to the Tehran regime. Iran is at the center of the enemy alliance; if the regime came down, it would change the world.
For the better.