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North Korea Learned from Libya War to Never Give Up Nukes (theintercept.com)
72 points by user982 on July 29, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 68 comments

And they are correct. We encouraged quddafi to give up his program, lifted sanctions, and then pushed him into a corner at the first opportunity. He had no viable way to abdicate without being tried for war crimes.

The same policy has occurred in Syria. We need to encourage dictators to leave office, not indicate that they will be tried and imprisoned.

This isn't a humanitarian argument, it is game theory. But it will save lives and reduce conflicts. The outcome is superior. I'll take a horrible person escaping justice over thousands of human casualties any day.

> We need to encourage dictators to leave office

Easier said than done. At the core of a Dictator's dictatorship is sheer brutality and unimaginable cruelty. They rule using Fear.

What dictator in recent history (last 100 years) has willingly stepped down?

Juan Carlos I of Spain. (Not exactly the same, but he could have had absolute power and chose to give that up)


> Prince Juan Carlos initially remained in the background during public appearances and seemed ready to follow in Franco's footsteps. Once in power as King of Spain, however, he facilitated the development of a "constitutional monarchy".

Doesn't sound like he gave it up, just re-branded it to keep with the times. Like my father used to say "Death alone can remove them."

Lots of others had plans to step down (aka move out, when a new dictatory/ the military moves in) - as shown by very rich ex-dictators living well all around the world.

alternatively we should kill Kim now, then publicly inform the world that anyone threatening the us with nukes is subject to the same. Nk is not going to launch on the us today and any surviving generals are going to have to find a new leader willing to go with the plan.

The US regime has had nuclear missiles trained on a non-nuclear North Korea for decades, and has openly and seriously threatened to drop dozens of nuclear bombs at once on the populace and salt the land afterward with radioactive cobalt to prevent future human life.[1] Yes, how dare they bluster back, you'd better kill them for the insolence as an example to others.

[1]: http://www.nytimes.com/1964/04/09/texts-of-accounts-by-lucas...

NK does not respect the freedom and natural rights of its citizens, so we shouldn't respect the rights of that country.

Then get Seoul carpet-bombed by the artillery close to the border.

that prospect didn't stop the previous korean war.

THe US didn't start the previous Korean war.

Not if we nuke it.

I always say, just like revolvers are equalizers for humans, nukes are equalizers for countries. I think nuclear proliferation is a good thing.

Agreed. Of-course this also raises the possibility that somewhere, a perfectly rational actor would see no way out but to use one. There are historical examples where things were quite on the brink:

1. Israel threatened to use them in the opening days of 1973 war: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/10/06/opinion/the-last-nuclear-m...

2. Pakistan threatened to use them in 1986-87 during operation brasstacks: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1993/03/29/on-the-nuclear-...

3. North Korea today.

>Of-course this also raises the possibility that somewhere, a perfectly rational actor would see no way out but to use one. There are historical examples where things were quite on the brink

And, of course, the one time it actually happened.

you mean couple times.

and they didn't forget. they just internalize what that supposed rational actor would count on: that by wining, you get to be the good guy in history's eye.

I'm counting both as the result of a single "decision by a rational actor."

If a rational actor sees no way out but to use a nuke, then there is a much larger irrational actor that is tyrannizing the world and needs to be destroyed. And since the actor is rational, it will have carefully considered the choice and have come to the conclusion that the loss of life was worth it, for an end of tyranny.

Both actors could be perfectly rational and fighting over a scarce resource such as fresh water.

"I think nuclear proliferation is a good thing."

Except, you know, when we accidentally blow up the entire world:

Stanislav Petrov: The man who may have saved the world http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-24280831 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanislav_Petrov

Thank you Vasili Arkhipov, the man who stopped nuclear war https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/oct/27/vasili... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vasili_Arkhipov

oh god. you must have never heard the words INDIA, or PAKISTAN, OR BROKEN ARROW, or CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS, or FIRST STRIKE....

This is perhaps the most inanely dumb thing I've ever read. I am sorry. I need to remove my veneer of politeness. It will probably be fine with North Korea...but NUCLEAR PROLIFERATION is unquestionably, unquestionably bad. The chance for irrational behavior or mistakes or bad actors obtaining weapons or nation states losing control of events....

good god man. go douse your face with cold water. you need to get your head on right.

There is a difference between something being rational in the context of one nation's foreign policy...and "GOOD"

Sure, the US and Russia should go first in ridding themselves of nuclear weapons since they seem to have the most. Then we can really talk about non-nuclear proliferation. There's really no reason anyone should have these immensely dangerous weapons, other than for MAD. But should these nuclear-armed-to-the-teeth states push others around while largely keeping their own nukes, what kind of message does that send?

the US and Russia will never disarm fully. never. don't even bother discussing it. Russia will never disarm because without nukes they believe they could be crushed at will by the conventional weapons of the west. they feel encircled by NATO. The united states will never disarm fully because russia will never disarm. the best we can hope for is reductions in forces and greater transparency and communication to reduce the risk of misinterpreting the other's intentions or some terrible accident. The reason states have nuclear weapons is deterrence (aka MAD) which is quite a compelling reason... Honestly I don't really think you and I have any disagreement? It is hard to convince people to disarm when they have seen the consequences thereof- see Iraq, see Libya, see Ukraine. As for nuclear armed to the teeth states pushing people around, this is because the United States and Russia have large conventional militaries. The nuclear option is more a constraint on the aggression of others- since any offensive use of nuclear weapons could induce a massive chain reaction. Nuclear armed-to-the teeth states push others around (by this I assume you mean the US and Russia) because they have the conventional means.

Do you also always wear a suicide vest in case anyone wants fight you?

Nice strawman, but in reality you can punch back at someone who wants to fight or run away. When all you have is one planet and there exists a few cunning and belligerent actors with immense resources and oversized military budgets, you don't have the same options when you're cornered.

In cease "someone" overpowers you and threatens to kill you with knife up in the ass, then yes - you better wear suicide vest.

I only bring a metaphorical suicide vest when I am being honest on hackernews. I have spectacularly unpopular opinions.

Actually the Ukraine is a much better example. When they gave up their nukes they got promises from other nations to come to their defense if Russia attacked. When it happened not only didn't they get help the other nations refused to even sell them weapons!

Sadly, there was no such promise of defense if the treaty was breached:

Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Budapest_Memorandum_on_Securit...

According to the memorandum, Russia, the U.S., and the UK confirmed, in recognition of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine becoming parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and in effect abandoning its nuclear arsenal to Russia, that they would:

1. Respect Belarusian, Kazakh and Ukrainian independence and sovereignty and the existing borders.

2. Refrain from the threat or use of force against Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine.

3. Refrain from using economic pressure on Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine in order to influence its politics.

4. Seek immediate United Nations Security Council action to provide assistance to Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine, "if Belarus/Kazakhstan/Ukraine should become a victim of an act of aggression or an object of a threat of aggression in which nuclear weapons are used".

5. Refrain from the use of nuclear arms against Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine.

6. Consult with one another if questions arise regarding these commitments.

by your (flawed) logic, US and UK should return all (or 1/3 to be extra fair in your twisted analysis) nukes to Ukraine after the russian invasion.

the more sane interpretation is that they should help them against the party gone rogue on the treaty. otherwise all their other treaties will be assumed to be void by other nations. which is what is happening, and every state in those areas are already siding up with either russia or china, who they fell have more skin in the game to uphold their word later on. dependable terms are better than good terms on those things.

What do you mean, "by your logic"? The agreement clearly lays out the obligations of all the parties involved, and nothing says they have to help Ukraine defend itself against a non-nuclear attack. That's not logic, just reading.

if we agree to sell my house for you and another party, and the other party fails to come up with their 50%, then you can't expect to live in the house. and that's exactly what US and UK just did.

either they help uphold the sovereignty over russia actions, or return the nukes. it's also basic reading.

your flawed logic is thinking that two other parties can benefit fully from a contract where one of the parties failed to uphold the agreements.

"Return the nukes"? Like, somehow convince Russia to give them back?

exactly. since that outcome B (well actually the other parties returning the nukes), is batshit insane and completely crazy to even think about. that's why everyone assumed the other option was implied (the protection against the rogue Party).

option C, not doing anything, is equivalent to stealing.

So wait, if I agree not to invade you, and then later on you get invaded by someone else and I do nothing, that's equivalent to stealing? What did I steal?

It's "Ukraine" not "the Ukraine". Please and thank you.

Weird comment. Is there specific political contention between "the Ukraine"/"Ukraine" that made you post this?

There are many non native English writers on HN, and I could see how some could write "the Ukraine". Obviously it's grammatically incorrect, but posting a comment just to point out a single grammatical fault/typo is typically not seen on HN.

In this case while it seems like a simple grammatical fault, it's definitely worth pointing out, though the post doesn't really explain why.

> "The Ukraine is the way the Russians referred to that part of the country during Soviet times … Now that it is a country, a nation, and a recognized state, it is just Ukraine."


Useful context, thanks!

It is a huge pet peeve of most Ukrainians abroad. Somehow Ukaine was specifically cursed with this issue and now we are stuck trying to correct the world with regard to this problem.

To add onto what /u/spraak said, it's not just a Russian thing. English uses "the" as a way to indicate a region that is part of a larger whole. I'm not from the America, but I can be from the Midwest and enjoy hiking in the Catskills, and reminisce about that time I worked in the Bay Area.

To refer to Ukraine as part of a larger whole, that larger whole is implied to be Russia.

So you're not from the USA?

States is not a proper noun. America and Ukraine are.

Ukraine got promises to respect their territorial integrity, not promises to come to their defense. Russia broke that promise, and the others are still keeping it.

I've read this 3 time and I still don't get it. So you're saying the other Europeans have kept their promise by not invading Ukraine. Umm that sounds like the status quo not something you go through the trouble of writing a treaty for.

Most of Europe was not involved, but basically yes. In exchange for Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan giving up nuclear weapons, Russia, the US, and the UK agreed to respect their independence and sovereignty, not use military or economic force against them, and ask the UN Security Council to intervene if they are attacked by nuclear weapons. See:


The idea that the US was obligated to defend Ukraine against Russia is a common one, but as far as I can tell traces back to a misunderstanding of what that memorandum actually says.

I thought the invasion of Crimea was to prevent Ukraine from getting too close to NATO. It appears to have worked.

I agree. There's no way NATO would bring Ukraine in now, since it would inevitably mean war with Russia for the whole alliance. Defensive alliances are tricky that way: the goal is to deter aggression, but if such an alliance looks to be coming but hasn't been set up, it can encourage aggression instead.

Meta: I noticed my original reply above got downvoted. I wonder why. I just stated facts, with no real tone of any kind that I can tell.

The statement looks technically correct. The closest obligation of the Budapest Memorandum to a collective defense is the stipulation to go to the UNSC should the region "become a victim of an act of aggression". The US did so, fulfilling its part of the agreement, and the motion was of course instantly vetoed by Russia.

Note that the clause which says they must go to the UNSC only applies if Ukraine is victim of an act of aggression in which nuclear weapons are used, so even that clause doesn't apply.

That's true. There seemed to be some ambiguity in the statement, but the full text of the memorandum makes clearer that that clause is solely in a nuclear context.

Libya, Iraq and Ukraine are all good examples of places where possession of WMD would have kept wolves at bay.

Yeah if keeping a dictator in power is what you desire, then by all means let dictators have nuclear weapons. If not, it should be of global interest to crush the dictators.

The problem with Libya and Iraq (as well as Afghanistan!) is that there never has been a coherent post-war plan. Which means: what is to be done after the troops are finished?

There has been no plan about

- how to disarm the various militias enlisted to fight

- how to transition countries to democracy without kleptocrats and other opportunists abusing and hijacking the system

- how to actually rebuild all the destroyed infrastructure (roads, bridges, water, electricity, communication)

- how to actually unite and pacify the various ethnic/religious communities and prevent them from fighting each other: this is what fucked up former Yugoslavia, and now Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan, and will likely drag out the Syria conflict.

>how to actually unite and pacify the various ethnic/religious communities and prevent them from fighting each other

That is exactly what dictators do! Not perfectly, but a lot better than what has happened in the countries you've noted where the dictators were ousted or attempted to be ousted. So, I'd disagree that it should be a global interest to crush dictators. So far, this has caused much greater harm than good.

> So, I'd disagree that it should be a global interest to crush dictators.

Dictators usually enrich themselves and defraud incoming money (and food aid) by pocketing it in their personal or their families' coffers, also most dictators resort to brutal violence to maintain their rule; as a result people will attempt to flee these countries. And this causes harm - first of all for the fleeing people who are often enough abused as slaves or prostitutes, but also by funding criminal networks (e.g. the Mafia, which has discovered that people-smuggling and involvement in refugee operations is way more profitable and riskless than drug trading).

Also, when we as the Western world fail to provide basic human rights to any person on this planet, when we fail to even TRY and instead make "deals" with those violating human rights, what are the human rights then worth?

I agree that the last few ousted dictators went badly, but more because the Western countries failed to provide an exit strategy, not because they attempted to oust the dictators.

Perhaps the best refutation of your argument is none other than South Korea, once a pathetic half-country saved by America, at the cost of many American lives.

The first South Korean leader, propped up by America, wasn't your average local warlord: Rhee Syngman was a prominent figure in the independence movement, and had a PhD in International Politics from Princeton.

He went on to kill some 200 thousand Koreans for being communist, terrorized the country for twelve years, and finally ousted by Koreans and fled to Hawaii, where he died later. His reign is remembered by corruption, blanket pardon to national traitors, and mass execution of people accused of being communists.

If you think you "only" need an exit strategy to liberate a country from bad dictators, you don't understand how much luck you need.

> If you think you "only" need an exit strategy to liberate a country from bad dictators, you don't understand how much luck you need.

I'm German. Germany is only at it's current position as European power house and "leader of the free world" (at least many people name Angela Merkel als such, since Trump became president) due to the incredible efforts of the US, UK and France (and to a lesser extent the Soviets) after WW2. And Germany was bombed to shreds basically.

You don't need "luck" to succeed. You need political will, power and the ability to look further in the future than $time_until_next_election. Not very many politicians (no matter if in the US or in the EU) seem to possess these traits any more.

> He went on to kill some 200 thousand Koreans for being communist

Then, he IS a typical result of US intervention: everyone who is against "communists" is good.

Crushing dictators has wrecked unspeakable havoc in the middle east. No dictator and no government has proven to be the seedbed for countless civil and religious wars- genocide and failing societys perpetual in war.

Please stop with this nonsense, we in europe get to see the mess piling up in waves of refugees and terrorism. Your freedom is chaos, your peace is war, your truths are lies. Enough, i rather equip every dictator myself with nukes, if it makes this delusional madness end.

>>If not, it should be of global interest to crush the dictators

As a species, we have evolved institutions such as the UN to effectively convey and act upon those global interests in a civilised manner. This happened after humanity suffered the horrors of two world wars. If anyone, anywhere decides to wage a war supposedly to guard global interests, they should at least get a global consensus, no? That democracy that you speak of.

Because other wise self defence would be justified, honourable even. The problem with Iraq and Libya isn't what you described post-war, it is that they got invaded in the first place. A perfectly good country would turn into Iraq and Libya if you invaded and dismantled its government.

The UN is an empty paper tiger, I am afraid. As long as the veto power of China and Russia in the security council stands, there will be no ousting of any dictator, no matter how brutal he acts.

The Russians will continue to veto anything that might endanger their claim to Crimea or their naval base in Syria. The Chinese will continue to veto against anything that might impact North Korea (due to their land border), and also likely against anything that might disrupt their infrastructure and other investments in Africa. The US will veto anything that endangers whatever business interests Trump has or what could endanger Israel (and, IMHO, rightly so).

Also, there are no consequences for failing to adhere with UN resolutions, as the UN does not have an independent standing military force, so as long as you as violating country have one supporter in the SC (it usually is either US, China or Russia), you don't have to fear anything.

What's worse is that the UN is not at all democratic. The representatives are not elected democratically, they are not bound to the will of the people, and there is no proportional voting according to population size.

The artillery that can reach Seoul and the buffer the nation offers China from the U.S. military there is all they need to prevent invasion. Then they can do what they want.

Also quite possibly from the Russian aggression against Ukraine (see Budapest Memorandum).

And from Ukraine, as a prominent Ukrainian was saying just the other day, on WBEZ's "Worldview" radio show.

P.S. I took a quick glance at their programming list, and I'm guessing it was this interview. I was listening a bit out of one ear while about other stuff:


Legislating Peace And Reform In Ukraine

July 24, 2017

20 min

To discuss how Ukraine is inspired by Western Europe to reform, and how the war in Eastern Ukraine is holding, Worldview joined by Ostap Kryvdyk, a senior foreign policy advisor to the Speaker of Ukraine’s parliament.

Crazy how humanity's "advancement" involves a world-wide practice of game theory with nuclear bombs. We're all complicit...

Only as long as all actors in play are rational.

Not exactly. NK is protectorate of China and has zillions of conventional weapons aimed directly at Seoul. Nuclear wasn't necessary.

They don't want to rely on China to secure their regime, they know how precarious that position can be.

yeah, Ukraine learned that hard way too, you know... after Russian invasion

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