Mad Kim Jong-Un and MAD

One of the President’s responsibilties is to establish foreign policy, on a both a regional and global basis, as well as situationally. This is often termed “doctrine” which is defined as fundamental government international policy, long-term military principles,  or a set of situational strategies.

Since the middle of the last century, the United States government has held to the nuclear deterrence doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction, or MAD.

MAD is self-explanatory.

“You’ve got nukes. We’ve got nukes. If you launch a nuke at us, we’ll have enough of an early warning which will allow us to launch our nukes at you. We go down. You go down as well, and we’re going to hit you so hard you’ll be in nuclear winter for ages to come.”

MAD is basically a fail-safe solution banking on a nuclear strike actually end up being a lose-lose scenario.

There is one very very important caveat to this doctrine, without which, it becomes ineffective. MAD relies upon the assumption of sanity. The belief that government leaders are sane, with adequate concern for their citizens and nation so as to ultimately refrain from pulling that particular trigger.

Enter Kim Jong-un Supreme Leader North Korea. Crazy as an outhouse rat. Nuttier than a fruitcake. A giggling man-child who loves to play: (The Sun)

His seaside party pad – close to the port of Wonson – has its own marina and secluded bays patrolled 24 hours a day by heavily armed troops. Jet skis, yachts and speed boats are moored under covers at the marina. Kim also has a giant 200-foot super-yacht – fitted with its own array of water chutes and slides – on hand in a dock further down the coast.And a fleet of Mercedes cars is used to ferry guests to the complex across a private bridge after they arrive at a nearby airstrip.

Contrast his lifestyle to those of his subjects-slaves: (The Sun)

Tubby tyrant Kim Jong-un is well-known for his love of imported foreign cheese as millions of his countrymen struggle to put food on the table. Most of his 25million subjects earn less than £3 a day. A UN Food and Agriculture Organization report stated that North Korea remains one of the 34 nations in the world needing external aid to feed its people. The agency estimates around 2.8million “vulnerable’ people in the North face an ‘ongoing struggle with under-nutrition and a lack of vital protein and fat in the diet”.

According to Reuters, North Korea had a successful missile launch trial: (Reuters)

North Korea’s missile program is progressing faster than expected, South Korea’s defense minister said on Tuesday, after the UN Security Council demanded the North halt all nuclear and ballistic missile tests and condemned Sunday’s test-launch. The reclusive North, which has defied all calls to rein in its weapons programs, even from its lone major ally, China, said the missile test was a legitimate defense against U.S. hostility. The North has been working on a missile, mounted with a nuclear warhead, capable of striking the U.S. mainland.

South Korea’s Defense Minister added some details: (Reuters)

South Korean Defense Minister Han Min-koo told parliament Sunday’s test-launch was “successful in flight”. “It is considered an IRBM (intermediate range ballistic missile) of enhanced caliber compared to Musudan missiles that have continually failed,” he said, referring to a class of missile designed to travel up to 3,000 to 4,000 km (1,860 to 2,485 miles). Asked if North Korea’s missile program was developing faster than the South had expected, he said: “Yes.”

Just how successful was this launch and how could America be affected? (Newsweek)

North Korea leader Kim Jong Un warned Monday that his country’s new ballistic missile can carry a large nuclear warhead and that the United States mainland is now within “sighting range.” The test-fire aimed at verifying the tactical and technological specifications of the newly developed ballistic rocket capable of carrying a large-size heavy nuclear warhead,” a report said. The missile landed 60 miles from the coast of Russia’s Vladivostok region and flew 489 miles at an altitude of 1,312 miles, according to the KCNA. Kim warned that the U.S. mainland is in “sighting range for a strike” and that North Korea “has all-powerful means for a retaliatory strike.”

Our experts seem to agree: (Newsweek)

Aerospace expert John Schilling said that the missile, if launched at maximum trajectory, could have flown 2,800 miles, said that the test represented a “level of performance never before seen from a North Korean missile.” Such a distance would put U.S. territory in the Pacific within range. “It appears to have not only demonstrated an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) that might enable them to reliably strike the US base at Guam, but more importantly, may represent a substantial advance to developing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), that, fired at a standard angle, the missile may have a maximum range capable of reaching Alaska and Hawaii.” (Emphasis mine)

The U.S. response to this latest missle test seems to point toward more talk of sanctions:

Trump and new South Korean President Moon Jae-in will meet in Washington next month, with North Korea expected to be high on the agenda, the South’s presidential Blue House said. In a unanimous statement, the 15-member UN Security Council on Monday said it was of vital importance that North Korea show “sincere commitment to denuclearization through concrete action and stressed the importance of working to reduce tensions, To that end, the Security Council demanded the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea conduct no further nuclear and ballistic missile tests,” the council said, adding that it was ready to impose further sanctions on the country. The statement also condemned an April 28 ballistic missile launch by Pyongyang. Following that launch, Washington began talks with China on possible new U.N. sanctions. Traditionally, the United States and China have negotiated new measures before involving remaining council members.

However, there might a fly in the ointment with this sanctions thing: (NYT)

Despite seven rounds of United Nations sanctions over the past 11 years, including a ban on “bulk cash” transfers, large avenues of trade remain open to North Korea,  allowing it to earn foreign currency to sustain its economy and finance its program to build a nuclear weapon that can strike the United States.

Evidently, the profit motive is more important to some nations: (NYT)

Sanctions also do not cover the organized export of labor. The United States has urged countries to eject North Korean workers, saying their remittances benefit the military, not their families. But China, Russia and other nations continue to hire them. The North often circumvents banking sanctions using front companies and agents overseas, and North Koreans routinely send and receive payments using Chinese intermediaries who take a commission, despite the ban on “bulk cash” transfers. “We can and should go after these targets, but turning this into a game of financial cat-and-mouse will never achieve the level of pressure needed,” said Daniel L. Glaser, a former Treasury Department official involved in sanctions enforcement.

The important question at this moment is:

  • If sanctions aren’t working, and won’t substantially achieve their stated goals, what is America’s doctrine regarding North Korea’s nuclear capability?

Actually, this breaks down into two different scenarios/questions:

  1. What is our government’s doctrine regarding Kim Jong-Un’s stated goal and efforts toward obtaining a nuclear missile capable of reaching mainland America?
    1. Is there a point at which we will be forced into a pre-emptive strike?
    2. Will we go into alone even if the new South Korea government disagrees and refuses to cooperate?
  2. If the unthinkable were to happen, and North Korea launches a nuke strike what would our response be?
    1. Is nuclear retaliation a given, even if its against South Korea or Japan and not U.S. territory?
    2. How does the administration view the MAD doctrine given the fact Kim Jong-Un is so evidently unhinged and cares not one whit about his people?
    3. Is the administration comfortable going at this alone if necessary?

Given the chaos and tumult surrounding politics in our nation’s capital currently, it is doubtful any response to North Korea would gain even a semblance of bipartisan support. It would be wise for us to begin asking these questions now, rather than wade into that dreadful moment only to find the DC political landscape so gridlocked it is incapable of wise and reasoned decisions.

About the author

Wm. P. Fitzhenry

5th generation Texan, 2nd generation reformed Presbyterian, a twin and a serial entrepreneur.

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