Recently President Trump has been talking a big talk about North Korea but the bravado and bluster is little more than empty rhetoric designed to appeal to a US domestic audience that wants to perceive America as “strong” in a confusing and chaotic era in which we struggle to find our place in the world. While alluding to “fire and fury” in regards to North Korea perhaps the more appropriate Donald Trump quote would be “It’s just words,” as he commented during one of the debates in regards to some past inappropriate comments he made.
North Korea is a tough nut to crack, and one that six decades of American policy makers have grappled with. The reasons for not attacking North Korea, or provoking open war, are complicated and require study. Simplistic arguments about good and bad or strong and weak simply do not fill the knowledge void that inexperienced politicians and commentators represent. Could America fight North Korea and win? Yes, certainly, but at great cost. South Korea is known as the Tiger of Asia for a reason and is one of the region’s economic centers of gravity. Are we prepared for Seoul to be completely destroyed so that we can dismantle North Korea? How many ballistic missiles are we okay with Japan getting pounded by during this offensive? Are we as a country prepared for a nuclear detonation on the De-militarized Zone which precipitates an invasion from the north? Are we prepared for the North Koreans to sail a nuclear device into a harbor at Pusan?
Beyond the tough talk and empty words, what costs are we willing to incur and for what gain?
President Trump chooses to talk tough on North Korea for one simple reason: it’s easy. North Korea has already isolated itself from the global economy. When people refer to North Korea it often followed by terms like “pariah state” or “hermit kingdom.” Trump does not talk about fury and fire in regards to China, Russia, Syria, or Iran because there could be actual consequences for using these words.
A few months ago, while the American news media was working the public up into a frenzy about North Korea, I was visiting Seoul and made a trip up to the DMZ. The South Korean people were jaded to say the least. For them it was business as usual. The reality on the ground was the polar opposite of the one being represented to Americans. So when people ask me what is going to happen with North Korea, my answer is often clipped and cynical.
Not a damn thing.
Featured image courtesy of DoD