Dean Acheson (President Truman’s Secretary of State) once advised President Kennedy that he – Kennedy – needed to carefully consider when he would use nuclear weapons, and once having established his threshold, he should tell absolutely no one. (Hopefully, every President since then has engaged in that most serious of efforts).
There are two key pieces to this consideration: identification of your threshold for use of nuclear weapons; and telling absolutely no one. The second piece is important because once two people know, that threshold will find its way “out.” And once the threshold was known, others would be tempted to work right up to the edge. And that would seriously threaten our security.
This is important because North Korea launched another missile. There’s so much going on, here and around the world that will affect all of us for decades. But this particular capability needs to be addressed now.
As you may recall, on July 4th North Korea launched a missile that was assessed to have the range to reach Alaska. Some were quick to point out that the missile couldn’t reach the “lower 48,” as if somehow Alaska (or Guam) counted just a little bit less.
In any case, to prove the point, on the 28th North Korea fired another missile in a high loft trajectory that appears – depending on the warhead weight (soon a nuclear warhead) – to have a range of approximately 6000 miles. 6,000 miles means Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North and South Dakota, and parts of Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota.
It’s been noted, by me and others, that China isn’t going to help solve this problem. After all, they helped create it. Russia is also more than willing to let us struggle with this problem, and cause us to expend assets that might be best used elsewhere.
They are well aware that we don’t want a war and a consider it a horrible idea.
But we need to make it clear to all that, horrible or not, war isn’t inconceivable. We need to make it clear to all, especially to Pyongyang and Beijing, that we have every intention of defending ourselves and our allies: the Republic of Korea and Japan.
How exactly we do that is an excellent question. We’ve tried all the standard concepts: move additional military forces to the region; place sanctions against the country and individuals; work to strengthen our allies; and further sanctions in the UN. In each case North Korea continues their weapon development programs. And China continues to find ways around all our efforts, supporting the North, both economically and technologically. We’ve even engaged in talks and offered help to the North, going so far in 1995 to begin building two nuclear reactors to ensure the North had adequate electric power.
And at each stage the North has continued to work on its various weapons programs.
This is no intelligence failure; we’ve been aware of Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear development programs for more than two decades. Like the frog in cool water sitting on the stove, we’ve watched and yet haven’t changed our strategies or policies even as those policies and strategies have failed to stop North Korea’s efforts.
Several weeks ago Charles Krauthammer noted that one of the pillars of US foreign policy since World War II ended, the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, has failed. North Korea has nuclear weapons, Iran may also have them within several years (perhaps purchased from North Korea), and we need to now look at new strategies and policies to keep the peace.
One suggestion is that we consider moving nuclear weapons back to the Western Pacific, perhaps moving them into South Korea. Perhaps we might even begin talks with South Korea and Japan suggesting they consider building their own nuclear arsenals.
It’s worth noting that we could begin such talks today, even if President Trump has no intention of actually proceeding down that path. No one needs to know; just as with Acheson’s advice to Kennedy, Trump need tell no one.
We’re entering a much more dangerous world. Policies of the past have failed; we need new policies, new approaches. Thoughts that were inconceivable just a few years ago must now be considered. But we must do so now.
We’ve run out of time.
Copyright 2017 Arrias