Dealing With a Dictator

It is always problematic when you have a megalomaniac who is nasty, belligerent, and a bully. It’s even worse if the same person has nuclear weapons at his disposal. The tyrant who rules North Korea has made life a living hell for his own starved citizens. He has made relations with his neighbours pretty unpleasant as well.

Now that he is defying the world community with the testing of nuclear weapons, his nastiness becomes an even more urgent matter for our consideration. But just what should be done? That is the million dollar question.

And it depends on who you are asking. The leftists get pretty upset when a nation like France tests nuclear weapons, or the US. But it has been quite silent on North Korea. Why is that?

More sober heads are talking about the various options: continued diplomacy, sanctions, the use of force, and the like. One commentator makes some salient points in a new (October 13, 2006) piece.

Charles Krauthammer (“Disarming North Korea”) begins by citing someone not usually associated with conservative or hawkish views: “It shall be the policy of this Nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union.”

“Now that’s deterrence,” says Krauthammer. And the author?: John F. Kennedy, Oct. 22, 1962. Interestingly, such tough talk actually helped to keep the peace. It’s known as deterrence. And for a half-century the Cold War was kept from going nuclear because of such a stance.

“Deterrence is what you do when there is no way to disarm your enemy. You cannot deprive him of his weapons, but you can keep him from using them. We long ago reached that stage with North Korea. Everyone has tried to figure out how to disarm North Korea. It will not happen. Kim Jong Il is not going to give up his nukes. The only way to disarm the regime is to destroy it. China could do that with sanctions, but will not. The United States could do that with a second Korean War, but will not, either.”

Thus the familiar echoes of the Cuban Missile Crisis. But things have changed over the decades. “We are in a new era far more complicated than Kennedy’s because his great crisis occurred before the age of terrorism. The world of 1962 was still technologically and ideologically primitive: Miniaturized nuclear weaponry had not yet been invented, nor had modern international terrorism. Yasser Arafat and the PLO gave the world that gift half a decade later with their perfection of the political airline hijacking. Terrorism has since grown in popularity, ambition and menace. Its practitioners are in the market for nuclear weapons. North Korea has little else to sell.”

Krauthammer suggests a new formulation of the Kennedy statement to meet the new challenge: “Given the fact that there is no other nuclear power so recklessly in violation of its nuclear obligations, it shall be the policy of this Nation to regard any detonation of a nuclear explosive on the United States or its allies as an attack by North Korea on the United States requiring a full retaliatory response upon North Korea.”

That is the only sort of language that a thug like Kim Jong Il will understand: “This is how you keep Kim Jong Il from proliferating. Make him understand that his survival would be hostage to the actions of whatever terror group he sold his weapons to. Any terrorist detonation would be assumed to have his address on it. The United States would then return postage. Automaticity of this kind concentrates the mind.”

Of course it is not just North Korea that is making things ugly. We also have another madman, the ruler of Iran, with the same unfortunate aspirations. “This policy has a hitch, however. It only works in a world where there is but a single rogue nuclear state. Once that club expands to two, the policy evaporates because a nuclear terror attack would no longer have a single automatic return address.”

Concludes Krauthammer, “Which is another reason why keeping Iran from going nuclear is so important. With North Korea there is no going back. But Iran is not there yet. One rogue country is tolerable because it can be held accountable. Two rogue countries guarantees undeterrable and therefore inevitable nuclear terrorism.”

It is at a time like this that the leaders of the free world need great wisdom and courage. Let us all pray that these qualities abound in them in the days and weeks ahead.

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