The Korean Situation

Last week, North Korea attacked South Korea. This is an old story: it happened in 1950 as well, which led to a three-year war [police action?] that ended in a truce, but not a real solution to the dilemma.

The North has never given up its original intent—to take over the entire Korean peninsula. It remains one of the most hardline communist governments in the world, and continues to be supported by China. When it chose to fire missiles at a South Korean island, killing civilians, it blamed South Korea and the United States for conducting military exercises. These have been conducted for the past 57 years. What makes them an incitement to action now? The North’s attempt to cast blame on the South is ludicrous, but that’s the nature of the regime. What is America’s response to this outrage?

Well, at least we are blaming the right nation. But are we willing anymore to act on what we know to be the facts of this case? What military options do we have that will show our resolve?

I wonder if that’s one of the options currently under consideration? What will it take before we really get tough with this rogue nation?

That’s much better.

Back in the early 1950s, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who was in command of the U.S. troops in Korea, promoted the use of nuclear weapons to end the conflict. He believed we could use them strategically on North Korea and its ally, Communist China, to resolve the military impasse. I don’t know if he was right in this view or not; I tell my students that I’m not sure it was the best option. Yet there are times when one longs for decisiveness. MacArthur was wrong in going against Truman publicly, since the president was his commander-in-chief. But one can be forgiven for speculating what might have been if his plan had been followed. Perhaps we wouldn’t have this situation facing us today.

Regardless, this is a test of the Obama administration. How will it handle this ongoing tension? What actions will it take to deal with North Korea’s development of nuclear missiles? Will it be firm or will it wilt under pressure?