Should the USA Nuke North Korea?
A commenter recently suggested that the obvious solution to the North Korean “problem” would be to simply nuke them out of existence. Well, maybe not those exact words, but the basic suggestion was to attack North Korea using nuclear weapons. The North has a huge well dug-in conventional military, which is the main obstacle to outright conquest, much of which would be vulnerable to nuclear attack. And any country’s infrastructure and industry is easily destroyed by nuclear attack, so would it make sense to nuke North Korea?
Well, the basic attack plan is sound. North Korea has no defence against such an attack, virtually all (if not all) of the warheads would get through. Such an attack would essentially destroy North Korea’s infrastructure, transportation net, industry, and much or most of their conventional military. It would also leave millions of people wounded or homeless, putting a huge strain on the survivor’s ability to wage war. And with any luck at all, key leadership positions would be destroyed or at least hopelessly isolated. And this can all be done with say, less than ten percent of the USA’s nuclear arsenal. And since most of these would be air bursts, there would be relatively little fallout.
So why not? What’s stopping the USA from nuking North Korea? Well, off the top of my head, in no particular order, I can think of ten reasons why it might be a very bad idea:
1. While most of the Korean military are exposed, tens of thousands of special forces and fanatics would be in very deep bunkers. And they would be in no mood to surrender. The USA could use more nukes, but making craters with nukes does create fallout. And, well, we don’t have limitless numbers of nukes, when one starts using nuclear weapons to blow up a few hundred guys in a bunker, well, a bunker with a few hundred guys is cheap compared to a nuclear weapon. It’s not an insolvable problem, but it’s one not solved by the initial nuclear barrage.
2. Chinese reaction. Well, yeah. What are the chances China (or all of the other nuclear powers) will decide the best course of action is to fire all their nukes at the USA now, before we nuke them? Would any sane person really want to risk this? To me this is why we haven’t used nukes in Asia yet, but I’m no China expert. At the very least this would sour US relations with China into the foreseeable future, we wouldn’t look too kindly an a nation that nuked Canada or Mexico, would we?
3. World reaction. Pretty good bet this is going to go down very very poorly in some quarters. It might even trigger a world wide depression. And of course it would be a propaganda bonanza for our enemies.
4. Korean reaction. Oddly enough, a lot of South Koreans don’t actually want to see their friends and relatives in North Korea vapourized by US nukes. Some of them might react very badly.
5. Nuclear retaliation. North Korea has nuclear weapons. A nuclear weapon weighs less than a ton. Thousands of tons of drugs and contraband are smuggled into the USA every year. Do I need to connect the dots? How many US cities being nuked is acceptable collateral damage?
6. Domestic reaction. While the left and anti-war movements have been eviscerated and emasculated in the post Vietnam world, nonetheless there would be a lot of Americans who would view nuking cities as beyond the pale. At least I hope so.
7. Cost. Nuclear weapons are very expensive, we only have so many of them. What percentage of our arsenal are we going to use on this problem? What if it’s not enough?
8. OK, now that we’ve pulled this off, Russia nukes Georgia and Chechnya? Israel nukes Iran? Iran nukes Israel? India nukes Pakistan? Any one of these has ghastly potential repercussions, including the possibility of world nuclear war. Do we really want to usher in a world where it’s OK to use nuclear weapons in war?
9. Another commenter said that in a war with Korea we at least wouldn’t have to worry about suicide bombers. FAIL. Asians invented suicide attacks, and North Korean special forces have in practise killed themselves rather than be captured. Not only could North Korea use suicide bombers, they might very well invent new ways to use suicide bombers that will make al-Qaeda look like amateurs.
10. I know this doesn’t matter to a lot of people, but such an attack would mostly kill civilians, people who are utterly innocent and if anything, the victims of the North Korean regime. I don’t see how anyone who professes to believe in a just and merciful God could possibly sanction such slaughter, and the atheists I know are some of the most pacifistic anti-war people around.
In conclusion, anyone who would sanction a nuclear attack on North Korea either hasn’t really thought this through, or they have a almost sociopathic indifference to the human costs and possible consequences. I mean, the fact that nation states haven’t used nuclear weapons is a pretty good indication that they are a political weapon, not a practical one. If one has nukes, one can threaten other nations, or at the very least largely ignore their threats. Which is of course why almost every nation state on Earth probably has at least some contingency plan for getting a hold of a few nukes if need be. And why some nation states would be almost desperate to do so. I don’t begrudge the Israeli nuclear arsenal, I just think every ethnic group should be so armed. Then we can all finally sit down and actually talk instead of making threats.
Yeah, I’m a dreamer. I’m going to go dig my bunker deeper, have a great weekend everyone.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit and it’s use here in no way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image. I’m not sure of the actual copyright holder, but I believe it originated in North Korea. Since I’m urging the us to not nuke North Korea, I’m hoping they won’t object to my use of the image. It’s a war memorial in North Korea. I used it to express the view that other people have different perspectives, the North Koreans regard the war and ongoing confrontation with the US as a defence of their homeland against foreign aggression. And people defending their homes against foreign invaders generally put up a hell of a fight.)