North Korea is a story that will not go away. Pat Buchanan’s March 10, 2017 column on President Trump’s derision to send bombers to Korea, has an interesting take. But it blurs the real issue of American interest, and so misses the problem. And the real coming terror.
Any conservative will recognize that Buchanan has made a serious contribution to American Conservatism over the years. We expect a certain collection of policies from him: Less aggressive toward a Christian Russia, less interventionist, a prickly relationship with Jewish neo-cons, and an affectionate nostalgia for isolationism.
So his attitude toward Korea falls within his general attitude arguing for a more modest military role. His concluding riff sets the problem within the paradigm that we expect. He is willing to support our allies with equipment, but the foreign nations will have to provide the troops themselves.
Well, what does he think the problem is here? What caused the problem? “It is Kim Jong Un . . . who brought on this confrontation.” He is clear on the point, the American deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile shield , THAAD, and American bombers in South Korea, is an understandable defensive reaction to North Korea’s attempt to develop a nuclear weapons system.
The Chinese do not like the idea of a missile shield so close to their homeland; as it weakens their deterrent. So the Chinese foreign minister has a suggestion to both Koreas and the U.S. : The U.S and South Korea should cancel their planned military exercise and North Korea should suspend its nuclear weapons tests. Now he does not deal at length with the suggestion because, I suspect he does not takes it seriously. North Korea has not been intimidated by a rabbit warren of threats going back over a decade.
Buchanan quotes President Bush’s threat made in 2002; a long 15 years ago. “The United States . . . will not permit the most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most destructive weapons.”
Yet here we are.
Now, I predicted that we would get here. Read my posts on North Korea. When the mainstream media was laughing at North Korean missile failures, pointing out how short and funny looking they were, and labeling them “the gang that couldn’t shoot straight”; I was saying “they can shoot straight.” Nuclear weapons reflect engineering talent. Koreans, like their cousins, the Japanese and Chinese, do very well on quantitative IQ tests. Just give them time. Time is what they got.
Pat Buchanan is not entirely consistent. He seems to echo George Bush’s statement that the North Korean effort to develop an INTERCONTINENTAL missile is intended to intimidate the U.S. Which it certainly is. North Korea does not need an intercontinental capability to threaten South Korea.
So his conclusion that South Korea troops, without the help of U.S. troops, should handle North Korea’s military misses the point. If the risk is pointed at the U.S., the U.S. has to be sure that the INTERCONTINENTAL capability is destroyed, or otherwise neutralized.
The terror becomes real terror if the struggle involves China, which claims that it has a second strike nuclear capability against the U.S. Now Buchanan sees this, and says
“Beijing cannot sit by and let her North Korean ally be bombed, nor can it allow U.S. and South Korean forces to defeat the North, bring down the regime, and unite the peninsula, with U.S. and South Korean soldiers sitting on the Yalu as they did in 1950 before Mao ordered his Chinese army into Korea.”
I suspect that Buchanan is wrong on this. There are two facts that radically change the situation from 1950. 1. The Chinese have nuclear weapons. 2. The U.S. experience in Vietnam. The two facts have conspired to make America more modest. A good thing.
It might be possible to take out the North Korean missile program without threatening the geographical integrity of North Korea. I think that Trump is a realist on foreign policy. He might be able to obtain China’s assent to American action, if Trump, the great deal maker, can convince China that he does not want to change North Korea’s political structure.