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North Korea now making missile-ready nuclear weapons, U.S. analysts say (washingtonpost.com)
46 points by rbanffy on Aug 8, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 95 comments



For those unfamiliar with how intractable this problem really is, this article provides an excellent summary: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/07/the-wor...


A useful link. Boiled down, there are really two options: attack NK or leave them to slowly but surely advance missiles and warheads. The former is a bad idea because it is likely that millions of people will die, most of them in South Korea. The latter is a bad idea because it may mean that millions will die in the future.

But war is not inevitable, anymore than it was with the Soviet Union, and it's possible that the regime will eventually collapse. So rather than pursuing the near-guaranteed path, we delay and hope.


Seems strange to not mention leaving 25M people in abject poverty under a dictatorship for half a century.


My conviction is that, in about 20-40 years, the rest of the world is going to find a mass grave of what used to be a nation in the Korean Peninsula. When asked about this, world leaders will scratch the backs of their heads and stare at their shoes.


That's unfair. As the other comments have noted, this is a difficult situation with few options, all of them bad. It's easy to say we should do something about the people suffering there, but what can be done without either war or the regime's cooperation?


I would probably start by giving non-negligible weight to the 25M people who are currently suffering. Essentially every analysis I hear is about preventing hypothetical attacks in the future on the wealthy countries making the decisions.


You're dodging the point. What, exactly, would you have done for these people? Invade to free them? Sparks a war of mass death across the peninsula. Try to convince the Kim regime to close the prison camps and end the totalitarian brutality? They don't seem very keen on doing that anytime soon.

So what's your plan?


Im dodging nothing. I have no expertise on any of this, so I can't possibly have an informed opinion. But if I'm listening to people who claim to have such opinions weigh various plans and they never once mention the North Korean people, I can reasonably infer they don't much care about them. Given that the North Korean probably fare better under military intervention, I suspect that military intervention is a better option than most people think.


You've summed it up nicely--it is basically a nation-size concentration camp.

There are all kinds of wonderful realpolitick reasons for not invading or assassinating or taking direct action. It suits China, it suits the US, it suits the UN, it probably even suits South Korea. And the maintenance cost is just a bunch of dead nork civilians.

Those reasons will make a fine plaque at the memorial for the dead. Our children will wonder how we could let such a thing happen.

EDIT: If somebody would like to explain how the combined armed forces of China and the US couldn't forcibly remove the malnourished and undertrained folks cannibalizing their own country, I'd love to hear the theory.

Least of all since any proper insurgency requires food and support of the locals, which it sounds like may not exist.


Of course we could remove them. That isn't the question. The question is, at what price?

Would it be less than 25 million dead?

The answer to that question is not obvious. That's how bad the problem is.


I can't tell if you're just pretending to be this stupid.

The ability to defeat North Korea isn't the question, the question is what the cost would be. North Korea, before being inevitably defeated, could do enormous damage to South Korea and Japan.

You make smug comments about "plaques at the memorial for the dead"; what will you put on the memorials for the people of Seoul or Tokyo if they're destroyed in the war? "Sorry you had to die in a conventional/nuclear attack, but I'm sure you'll agree your deaths were worth it! Thanks for your sacrifice!"


With a navy group next door and the massive amount of anti-missle and anti-artillery stuff that's doubtless setup on the peninsula, I don't think the risk of a strike on Japan or S. Korea doing any significant damage is that high.


>I can reasonably infer they don't much care about them.

No, you can't. You can infer that there are other factors that you are, bizarrely, ignoring.

>Given that the North Korean probably fare better under military intervention, I suspect that military intervention is a better option than most people think.

It's possible that military intervention may be better for the people of North Korea. But you're not thinking of the total costs of such intervention: the devastation of South Korea, possibly even nuclear attacks on major Japanese cities.

This is why the situation is so difficult: all of the options have titanic costs.


What in this thread makes you think I am ignoring those obvious factors that were discussed immediately in the comment I originally replied to?


How many general secretaries of the Soviet Union fed their opponents to dogs or blew them up with missiles? Short of somebody poisoning Kim Jong-un while he sleeps, I don't see a conflict free regime change or collapse.


How many mass graves are there in Siberia?


After Stalin? Not that many.


What about getting Trump and Kim in a room together to hash it out? Seems like the best option for all parties.


That sounds like the most terrifying option available.


Not if we can lock them both in there then forget about them.


and wouldn't a regime collapse mean looser controls on who has access to said nuclear weapons, and where they end up? like the Soviet Union.


... for loose interpretations of the word summary ;-)


The author of the article, Mark Bowden, was interviewed by Sam Harris on his podcast: https://www.samharris.org/podcast/item/must-we-accept-a-nucl...

To call this problem intractable is an understatement.


For those who want more of this "analysts' insight", I can heartily recommend the blog and podcast, Arms Control Wonk [0]. The researchers and experts there work to perform analysis into most new missile launches in the interest of non-proliferation.

Since the recent ramp-up of NK missile tests, I've found their writing and (largely less formal) podcasting extremely interesting and valuable both as an expert opinion on the capabilities of NK (and other proto-nuclear states), and as a look into the research that feeds journalism like this piece.

[0] http://www.armscontrolwonk.com/


The uncomfortable conclusion I've come to recently: the world (and especially the US) has come to terms with a nuclear-armed North Korea being the least bad option in this whole ordeal. Sure, we still need to pass sanctions and throw around words like "unacceptable" a lot for PR purposes. But we've ultimately accepted that there's nothing we can do to stop Kim from getting nukes that doesn't involve laying waste to most of the Korean peninsula, a massive refugee crisis, and the potential that the conflict will already go nuclear.


I frankly doubt so. The same problem will happen with Iran within 10-20 years. Either USA resigns on maintaining its own safety/defense or it will use NK as a beta-test for all future wars. With SU you could have still expected rational actors; these days it seems like insanity is the new normal and future looks unstable.


The Economist has a piece in the current issue about how war with North Korea could develop without either side wanting it. It's worth a read:

https://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21725763-everyone-wo...

> Mr Trump, however, was undaunted. He tweeted: “Nuke attack on Seoul by evil Kim was BAD! Had no choice but to nuke him back. But thanks to my actions, America is safe again!”


It is strongly in N. Korea's interest to develop nuclear weapons. NK is acting highly rationally in every respect.

I simply can't handle the statements from US officials accusing Kim Jong-un of being "insane" or "irrational". That sort of nonsense is an indication that there is a propaganda story being told.

The real question is why the US keeps blustering about N. Korea and why US hawks keep fanning the flames.

US sanctions have helped NK become an insular place where reality is distorted and basic famine prevents much dissent from occurring.

There is absolutely zero reason to have any trust/faith in US leaders who are calling for the same hawkish nonsense that they did about Iraq, Lybia, Syria, etc. It simply doesn't work and it costs the US tremendous amounts of money to effectively genocide those populations with "pre-emptive strikes".

Like playground bullies, US politicians need small countries to push around to make themselves feel powerful. Sadly the real message that is being sent is that if you want the US to back off nukes are an absolute necessity.

We in the US need to realize that when we allow our leaders to do wars, sanctions, and bombing campaigns we are complicit in the massive amount of suffering those policies cause.

We should be truly confident that such policies are sensible and not get caught up in the simplistic narratives they offer us. Just say no!


North Korea is highly rational? If they get a nuclear missile we'll really find out. Their overblown threats can be tolerated as long as their capabilities remain conventional, as US/South Korea has substantial conventional defenses in the region. If they start making the same threats with viable nuclear missiles, how can we not take them seriously? Or should we just normalize countries threatening to nuke each others' major cities?

Also, the US committed genocide in Iraq/Lybia/Syria? Just goes to show you how little people know of history. I'm pretty sure the US killed many times more Germans and Japanese in WWII and no one accuses us of "Genocide" there, because by the definition of the word it wasn't. And it sure as hell isn't in Iraq/Libya/Syria. Hell what have we actually done in Syria besides provide support to some native factions, launch a few cruise missiles, some air strikes, and some special forces operations? If that's genocide then we're going to need a new term for the holocaust.

Reminds me of the BBC broadcast talking to the Somali ambassador about recent US drone strikes against Al-Shabbab and civilian casualties. The interviewer seemed aghast that the ambassador actually supported the strikes in the face of civilian casualties. The ambassador responded that they were at war, and if they'd sent in conventional ground forces the civilian casualties would have been much worse.

People in the west seem to have forgotten the nature of war. I sometimes wonder if western populations would have the will to fight Russia if they invaded Lithuania or something.


> I sometimes wonder if western populations would have the will to fight Russia if they invaded Lithuania or something.

Let's hope not. I certainly don't think it's worth anyone I know dying to protect Lithuania from Russian aggression. But anyone in Lithuania who wants to immigrate to the US should be welcomed.

> People in the west seem to have forgotten the nature of war.

We haven't forgotten, it's kept hidden from us by officials who do drone strikes and secret raids. War should be abundantly obvious. What we are doing is more appropriately called terrorism because it's focused violence intended to instill fear in people to achieve a specific political outcome. In many cases the desired outcome is removing a leader from power so that one of the militia groups who oppose him can take power, but with little thought to the consequences.

War is obvious and any brave citizen would likely be happy to fight in an actual war that was necessary to defend his or her homeland! What we do today is simply not war, it's high tech terrorism and political meddling.

> I'm pretty sure the US killed many times more Germans and Japanese in WWII and no one accuses us of "Genocide" there...

This is a straw man. Even if we assume WW2 was perfectly justified it is perhaps arguable that the US used "just enough" force to win. But if you consider the many civilians killed in Japan both through nukes and fire bombing of the mainland, is it really fair to say that the US killing of civilians weren't war crimes? We spend extra money (smart bombs, etc.) to make our war morally clean. But we didn't do that in WW2, we killed as many civilians as we could to break the will of the Japanese to keep fighting.

That sort of moral/economic tradeoff is why we consider a $50 suicide vest morally abhorrent and a $1M smart bomb acceptable, so by that standard the US committed massive war crimes in WW2. To win the war without crimes, kill only soldiers, period.

We've had decades of propaganda telling us that the US was heroic in that war, but war is ugly and men had to be drafted (mostly poor people) to fight a war they didn't consent to.

The difference with the modern stuff is that the US foments political chaos in countries and intentionally escalates violence. The net effect of this is that more and more fighting age people die off. It's hard to say that the massive number of Iraqi civilians killed isn't a useful byproduct of the US invasion. Sooner or later the people are simply psychologically broken from all the loss of life and chaos around them. The US strives to create this situation around the world. It has nothing to do with American values, freedom, enlightenment values, etc., and is simply about creating compliant people in oil producing regions.

The worst part of all this is that oil is likely to decline so much in importance in the next 30 years that US "investments" in all this middle east chaos is perhaps the most outrageous misallocation of capital in the history of the world. If you believe oil is going to be highly relevant and extremely scarce for 1000 years then perhaps the invasions are economically prudent, but we've got at best a few decades during which to reap the spoils of Bush and Obama's war escapades. Money doesn't grow on trees, lots of people's paychecks and future security is being raided to pay for these wars, which are only weakening the US and propping up oil regimes and dictators, all for only a few years more internal combustion dominance.

Why does NK make threats? Because they work. That's rational. They are keeping the US at bay. Obviously if the US could launch a few hundred missiles on NK and make the problem go away it would have done so long ago.


Lithuania is a NATO country. For NATO to mean anything it has to have teeth, and I don't think collapsing in the face of Russian aggression would set a good precedent. If they sensed weakness and gained momentum I doubt they'd stop no matter how many Baltic countries we fed them.

So what, you'd have us return to the traditional "obvious" war and fire-bomb cities to the ground, with long-term and oppressive occupational forces? The Russians tried that in Afghanistan in the 80s. Didn't work out so well for either side. Many more innocents and soldiers died. Why resort to those tactics when drones/special forces can arguable be more effective with less blood on both sides?

It's not a straw man. Genocide has a very specific meaning: the intentional, total destruction of a particular ethnic group or nationality. Not all war crimes are genocide. We can debate whether US strategy in WWII constitutes war crimes, but by definition it did not involve genocide. Nor have any of our actions in the wars since. We were not trying to wipe out all Germans, all Italians, or all Japanese.

I'm not even going to get into the "war for oil" conspiracies. The Iraq war was a mistake, but if we did it for oil then we did a really shitty job.

And North Korean threats don't keep the US at bay, their massive conventional forces stacked along the border do. Their threats merely inflame the situation and make their own position worse. They come off as childish temper tantrums at best and invite direct retaliation at worst, and only serve to make it clear that North Korea has zero desire to peacefully co-exist with the rest of the world.

I wouldn't be surprised at all if, upon obtaining a reasonably large nuclear stockpile, they threaten to use it in order to extort food aid among other concessions.


> I'm not even going to get into the "war for oil" conspiracies.

The only reason the middle east is relevant whatsoever in US politics and world affairs is because of the large concentration of petroleum beneath the sand. Once oil loses relevance the middle east will essentially cease to exist as we know it.

Middle Eastern life has been dramatically influenced by Western intervention for generations, so it's hard to imagine what it would be like if allowed to settle into a stable state. Pan Arab movements are a force of progress in the sense that they create a solidarity movement that is less vulnerable to manipulation on the basis of ancient ethnic and religious distinctions.

> The Iraq war was a mistake, but if we did it for oil then we did a really shitty job.

We wanted to control Iraq, the most important land mass in the middle east, both to project power throughout the middle east and to prevent Russia from taking it. At the time of the invasion, Russian and German firms had extensive oil extraction and refinement contracts with Saddam's government, but the Bush administration redistributed the spoils to US and coalition firms.

Don't tell me you think the US invaded Iraq for terrorism related reasons. At the time of the first US invasion (GW1) the US had normal diplomatic channels with Iraq and the US ambassador didn't think the US would care if Saddam annexed Kuwait. The US allowed diplomatic relations to degrade simply because doing so made selling the war easier. But no serious person would think that Saddam would step down just because GWB demanded it in a blustery (and humiliating to the US) speech.

> the intentional, total destruction of a particular ethnic group or nationality

This was done to Baath party members in Iraq, who mostly happened to be Sunni muslims. The US looked the other way after the forces we armed decided to do it. Sunni are a minority in Iraq.

> We were not trying to wipe out all Germans, all Italians, or all Japanese.

I have not argued otherwise. I focused my comments on WW2 to war crimes.

The US has created conditions in many countries that have led to tremendous loss of life of fighting age people. This may not technically be genocide, but the distinction doesn't really matter.

We go in and destroy infrastructure and create a cesspool in which we arm and pay people to kill each other. It's a sick way to thin a population, and we have all sorts of justifications and silly terms for aspects of it, but it is abhorrent.

As we should have learned over the past few decades, nation building rhetoric and "regime change" rhetoric is nonsense. We destroy infrastructure and then blame the victims when they don't all turn out to be Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, or when they or their injured or grieving family members are less enthusiastic about more suffering after the US-funded regime change effort leaves them in chaos.

It's not just stupid and ineffective foreign policy, it's morally abhorrent conduct that has cost the US significant respect around the world, and (quite ironically) created a reality distortion in the minds of many Americans where American actions are considered somehow appropriate or normal. It's reminiscent of the sort of absurd beliefs posited to N Koreans.


> At the time of the invasion, Russian and German firms had extensive oil extraction and refinement contracts with Saddam's government, but the Bush administration redistributed the spoils to US and coalition firms.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petroleum_industry_in_Iraq#Ser... seems to contradict you. US companies only control two oil fields, and in terms of gross revenue China actually receives more than any other country. Russia, Malaysia, and China have more service contracts than any coalition nation.


This is almost North Korean propaganda.

>The real question is why the US keeps blustering about N. Korea and why US hawks keep fanning the flames.

North Korea fans the flames by its continued, calculated provocations. You're right in that they aren't crazy: this periodic activity is designed to elicit a response from the international community, and up until the 2000s this worked. Their provocations used to result in more aid being sent their way. They've become less effective in recent years.

>US sanctions have helped NK become an insular place where reality is distorted and basic famine prevents much dissent from occurring.

No, the brutal and monstous Kim regime did that by establishing a totalitarian police state. It's wrong and frankly somewhat racist to strip every non-US actor of their agency.

>Like playground bullies, US politicians need small countries to push around to make themselves feel powerful.

North Korea created the current situation when it attempted to conquer its southern neighbor and was forced back. It has created a nightmare state of total control explicitly built on a "military first" policy. It has routinely and repeatedly threatened to attack and destroy its neighbors South Korea and Japan. The idea that the US is just "bullying" this dangerous state is simply mad.

That's not to say they must be attacked. It's a very difficult situation where either the world attacks North Korea and millions die, or they let it stand and millions of North Koreans suffer while the regime builds up a nuclear arsenal.

And this ridiculous idea that North Korea needs nuclear weapons to keep the US out is equally absurd. The US doesn't invade North Korea today for the same reason it didn't do so for the 60 years since the end of the Korean War: NK doesn't need nuclear weapons to wreak massive devastation on South Korea. It has enough conventional weapons to make a war with North Korea, however short, utterly deadly. Nuclear weapons changes the game in that North Korea can now threaten Japan more fully, and can possibly even sell them.

If you're not a paid propaganda agent, you should be. You do good work.


> That's not to say they must be attacked.

So then what's the point of all the bluster and outrage?

> up until the 2000s this worked.

It's apparently still working. The past administrations have each come into the picture claiming to finally be ready to do something about NK, but have simply continued the stupid bluster of their predecessors.

My prediction is that the US will offer to re-establish improved relations with NK if KJU steps down. This is the GWB strategy that worked so beautifully with Saddam Hussein.

Then, when KJU doesn't step down the US will have an excuse to do all the horrible stuff that should never have been seriously considered as an option, such as additional intervention, arms sales, surveillance, etc.

> Nuclear weapons changes the game in that North Korea can now threaten Japan more fully, and can possibly even sell them.

I think you are forgetting about the mutually assured destruction that nukes offer. If NK uses a single nuclear weapon in an aggressive way its entire land mass would be obliterated within minutes. A rational leader (such as KJU) would simply not do that. He'll say all sorts of outrageous, Trump-like hyperbole, but he won't actually do anything. FWIW we all know that is how a rational leader would behave which is why US hawks try to convince us he's irrational or mentally ill.

The solution is for the US to offer unconditional carrots to facilitate engagement. Totalitarian regimes are aided by factors that make them more insular, and weakened by things like trade and foreign entanglements associated with it. The goal should not be to weaken KJU but to strengthen enough factions in NK who have peaceful long term interests.

US policy puts way too much emphasis on "regimes" and a black and white (frankly stupid) moralistic view. As the US abolitionist movement and other humanitarian movements should attest, regimes improve over time when economic activity creates many powerful interests to counteract the backward ones.

If we continue the horrible status quo on NK, we are much more likely to have accidents due to brinksmanship which could trigger nuclear war.


Honestly there have been efforts to bring north korea back into the fold (in regards to keep fanning the flames)..see the Sunshine Policy see the Kaesong Industrial Region see the Six-Party Talks. These have been largely ineffective and in some cases ended in North Korean military action (see Cheonan). It hasn't been all sanctions and war and bombing. It sometimes takes two to tango...


It’s also “highly rational” for the NK leadership to run a autocratic dictatorship, brutally crack down on dissidents, leave the nation’s people starving, and shut off most contact with the outside world. The regime seems unlikely to survive any dramatic change in political order.

Bill Clinton’s administration tried a much more conciliatory approach, but it’s not like the North Koreans have been especially cooperative partners in renormalizing relations and deescalating the conflict over the past few decades. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agreed_Framework

Overall it’s a very tough situation for the US, because NK could do catastopic damage to South Korea and maybe Japan in the event of a war, but in their current political position NK has little reason to negotiate in good faith.


> It’s also “highly rational” for the NK leadership to run a autocratic dictatorship, brutally crack down on dissidents...

Maybe it is rational. NK situation is very fragile. To keep it they need to minimize risks of some riots or disobedience to the government. I think you are confusing terms "moral behaviour" and "rational behaviour". One can be completely immoral and at the same time highly rational.

> Bill Clinton’s administration tried a much more conciliatory approach, but it’s not like the North Koreans have been especially cooperative partners in renormalizing relations and deescalating the conflict over the past few decades. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agreed_Framework

Maybe I misunderstood something but article you are referring to claims that US take their part in breaking the agreement. I reason from that, that blaming NK in breaking an agreement and marking NK as uncooperative and unwilling to deescalate is just wrong.

> in their current political position NK has little reason to negotiate in good faith.

NK has a lot of reasons to negotiate. But NK cannot let itself to show weakness in initiating negotiations and taking one-sided deescalation steps. Its the rules of deescalation. Peaceful process of deescalation can be initiated by strongest side only, and at least first steps should be reciprocal and reciprocal not on the paper but in reality too, judging by results of that steps. If weakest party try to start it would be the sign of weakness, sign of relying on mercy, and the result of such a try might be the reverse -- futher escalation from strongest in hope that weakest just die from terror and drops all his claims. If weakest party start deescalating it would bury all his hope for some sort of compromise.


There are two options:

#1: Do not intervene. Continue to trust that NK changes course, but in all likelihood NK will continue to build up its arsenal.

#2: Destroy NK. Any arsenal that NK's built up will be unleashed.

It's a game of chicken. If option #2 were to come to pass tomorrow, that means heavy loss of life in South Korea and Japan. In a few more years, it might also mean a nuke in Los Angeles or San Francisco (though it's likely they have that technology even now). It seems possible that, eventually, NK gets to the point where it could become an existential threat to the United States, though this is probably a long way out.

If we never pull the trigger on option #2, would NK ever attack the United States or our allies? That's the big question. NK certainly threatens us, and our allies, all the time. If we're to believe their words, they will eventually strike. We're hoping that they're lying.

Would they respond to lifting sanctions, as you seem to suggest? So far, no, not really. We've lifted sanctions and improved relations in return for promises to turn away from their present course, and time and time again NK betrays their agreement and continues on anyway.

I'm all for doing whatever we can to have a prosperous future for Korea, the United States, and the rest of the world for that matter -- but I'm not so sure it's as black and white as you suggest. There are few good options when it comes to North Korea. Intervening now means an incredible amount of destruction. Yet if we wait, it means even worse destruction down the line. Then again, if we wait, perhaps NK changes course.

It's a horrible, horrible game.


One of the reasons the US keeps "blustering" about N. Korea is S. Korea and Japan are extremely worried about a nuclear armed N. Korea. Likely because N. Korea has been conducting low level military actions against them over the last 50 years, abducting and killing civilians, firing artillery barrages, attacking and sinking military ships, all with the intent of blackmailing ransom payments.

Now N. Korea can only go so far with artillery barrages or sinking military ships before they face military retaliation. But once they are nuclear armed, they could bombard the suburbs of Seoul until a ransom was paid. Without fear of retaliation. Because they've already made it quite clear they really want to use their nuclear weapons, so pay up or get nuked.

So if the US backed off, S. Korea, Japan and likely every other country in the region would immediately acquire nuclear weapons. And either N. Korea stops its blackmail programs or a nuclear war breaks out.


Regardless of whether our nations are corrupt, it makes no sense to consider NK "rational" with all the... executing an official with an anti-aircraft gun because he fell asleep, the cult of personality... Un is volatile. But yeah, the sanctions are useless and just make everything worse. We should've already learned from WW2. Sanctions only helped the Nazi regime succeed.


Watch me make a grand jury disappear.


I am just wondering - if this were a computer game, it would be like the last moment when I still could strike the enemy to wipe out their capabilities before they acquire the capability to hit me and cause unreasonable damage.

So this looks to me like war is unavoidable as after NK manages to get ICBM/MIRV/submarine launch done, nobody would be able to stop them ever again (baring some virus) and they could ramp up their requirements. While having nuke capability as means to prevent an invasion is understandable, the question is if other nuclear powers would like to invite another member (I doubt so).


This is going to end in a war again.


No it won't. The united states will never put boots on the ground against a nuclear capable state willing to use them. maybe it will end in a nuclear exchange by mistake..but if we (the human race) survived the cold war with a vastly more threatening posture this will be fine in the end.


The big difference is that back in the day, the opposing side was consisting of fairly reasonable people.


North Korea is erratic but I don't think it is erratic enough to be willing to turned into glass when it could otherwise keep doing its thing. The regime is not suicidal ( I think...)


I think the unreasonableness of the North Korean regime has been blown far out of proportions by Western governments and their media.


Who's to say the OP was talking about North Korea's regime? I certainly don't trust Trump to deal rationally.


This is also a good point.


No it's not. Even if you despise Trump this isn't reasonable. This is just hyperbole and nonsense.


How so? Trump has shown time and again that he acts out against sound advice. I could see things spiraling out of control with reactions and counter reactions to nuclear/ICBM testing.

Obviously I don't think he's going to wake up one day and obliterate NK, but what happens when NK does another test--maybe an aerial test to really flout the world and show off a mushroom cloud--and Trump's reaction is to lob some missiles at their known nuclear sites? Lobbing missiles is what he did when he got angry seeing dead kids on cable news, it's not out of the realm of possibility. Is that when Seoul starts getting shelled? What do we do if thousands of people in Seoul start dying?

Update: This is Trump's statement about the news...

https://twitter.com/AP/status/895003246372294657

> If NKorea escalates nuclear threat, 'they will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.'

Still want to bet on his rational reaction thought process?


Yes. Just because he's taking a tough stance doesn't mean it's irrational. What else should he say? Nothing? Maybe "well if they Lee threatening us we will just do nothing"? What exactly is an appropriate response? Does it even matter anymore? You're paranoid and you don't understand the political nature of this discussion. Saying "he got mad and launched missiles because he saw dead kids on TV" just highlights this.


JFK almost launched off a nuclear conflagration and is considered one of the best american presidents. Donald Trump isn't even near average. These are impossibly stressful decisions in which literally millions of lives lie in the balance. I trust McMaster and Mattis..but at the end of the day the President makes the decisions. During the cuban missile crisis THE JOINT CHIEFS pushed HARD for a full out attack on the cuban mainland. JFK was almost swayed. I think it is very reasonable to ponder whether or not a 71 year old reality television star who is very clearly quite emotional...is capable of winning bets of this nature. Decision making under uncertainty is hard for even the best of us. I do not believe he is the best of us.


Then what I'm wondering is why you trust the generals? Or anybody for that matter?


@AP — BREAKING: Trump: If NKorea escalates nuclear threat, 'they will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.'

Great!


For some reason HN isn't letting me respond to your next comment. I trust mattis because I have listened to him give many speeches and he struck me as a sober thinker willing to grapple with hard questions. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKIJKQRb53o

My approval of mccmaster was originally based on his reputation stemming from his book "dereliction of duty" about how american generals mishandled vietnam. So that's why I trust them a little bit. But I do not trust them that much. I think they are intelligent people but...I think the pentagon induces a lot of group-think and intellectual momentum and suppression of dissent. When all you have is a hammer..the world looks like a nail. This is part of why I prefer having civilian Sec-Defs..and why it is important to have a president who is willing to cast aside the advice of his advisors..since in the past 15 years (though I liked ash carter and gates) a lot of that advice has been hawkish drivel. I really recommend a book called "The generals" by Thomas E. Ricks (on this topic). Tldr: don't trust the generals that much but more than trump.

For why I trust people (in general), I trust people who are willing to seriously consider the possibility they are dead wrong and people brave enough to seriously consider opposing views. I trust people who try to be rigorous in all things.


McMaster is also currently persona non grata around the WH and alt-right which is not comforting. If he gets the axe things get more tense.


Trump: If NKorea escalates nuclear threat, 'they will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen'.

But sure, Trump will certainly be 'rational' only because it just seems too crazy that he wouldn't be.


I agree 100%


Lesson 2 from Robert McNamara and the Cold War: "Rationality alone will not save us."


Also, "our" side.


And so was ours.


I read a bit about North Korea and it seems that no one wants to do something because should the regime fall, you'd have to deal with North Korea's population that is largely uneducated and believes in all Kim's propaganda.

I wonder if Kim will be able to obtain what he wants (money ?) by threatening other countries.

Still, I hope I'm wrong and that China, South Korea and the US will cooperate to put an end to Kim's regime.


> largely uneducated

To be fair, according to Wikipedia, "Education in North Korea is universal and state-funded schooling by the government. The national literacy rate for citizens at age of 15 and older is 100 percent (approx.)."

> believes in all Kim's propaganda

How do you know?


This will be a very convenient narrative for the faltering Trump


why does it need to end in a war, to be frank I think the we in the west; ( particularly USA) should stop getting involved in every bodies business. The west is under a sorry ass illusion if we think other regions are not interested in acquiring their own nukes seeing as we have them, and thanks to our constant intervention around the world e.g Libya, non-allied world leader see nukes as their get out of western intervention ticket.


Well, with so much effort to isolate North Korea and bring them on the path of war with repeated threat, I would not expect less from them. And knowing the past history of the USA in deescalating conflict, I would expect war at some point.


Well, North korea has been working on nukes for like 40 years and there hasn't been a war yet so I don't think the US is as eager as you think.

You don't see anything wrong with a madman in a country always on the edge of collapse that's constantly threatening to turn the USA into a crater having nuclear weapons?

Kimmy is over there threatening to bomb out the US and Japan and put everyone's heads on pikes pretty much weekly. I don't recall even our crazy fucker president Trump saying anything remotely close to that.


Yeah, but they're always just threats, that's kind of the point for him. Its always for the audience at home.

Prevailing wisdom seems to be that Kim treats nuclear weapons as an important deterrent from invasion, not a first-strike weapon. The US doesn't have much appetite for invasions atm, so the chances the missiles will ever be fired is pretty remote even if he does have them.


It's different if you have baby nukes you can't launch, and if you have MIRV ICBMs with mastered launch from submarines; i.e. one submarine capable of wiping out the whole west coast. There was recent noise that NK is testing (so far unsuccessfully) submarine launch for their new ICBMs; once they are successful, it stops being kindergarten stuff but a global issue.


They have nukes and working ICBM's... It's not that hard to put the two together.

Submarine launch is harder and the warheads must be smaller, but ICMB's are already considered unstoppable so it doesn't matter.


The question is will it be much of a war?


It will be to South Korea. Millions would die.


Which is why I think South Korea should ultimately be the one to decide if there should be a strike/war. The US is probably more protected based on distance and that the US has shown (granted provisionally) that it can shoot down an ICBM.


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While the nuclear weapons are in flight, north korea could level Seoul.

Furthermore the citizens in north korea have a right to not be summarily executed because they had shitty leaders.


The effort to isolate North Korea is mutual. They're not exactly itching to join the global community.


"The Libyan disarmament issue was peacefully resolved on December 2003 when Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi agreed to eliminate his country's weapons of mass destruction program, including a decades-old nuclear weapons program."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disarmament_of_Libya

US foreign policy has shown that the only leverage you have is nukes. Libya disarmed and the government was still overthrown because Gaddafi threatened to start a new gold-backed African currency.


Actually US foreign policy is demonstrating right now that large conventional forces are an equally effective deterrent. If they weren't we would have overthrown North Korea by now, given the continuous threats they've made over the years.

Also perhaps I'm just a "sheep" but I'm pretty sure the Libyan people didn't rebel over a theoretical currency change. Or was that a CIA job like 9/11? /sarcasm


>Actually US foreign policy is demonstrating right now that large conventional forces are an equally effective deterrent.

I don't understand your point. North Korea has had nuclear bombs for over a decade.

>Also perhaps I'm just a "sheep" but I'm pretty sure the Libyan people didn't rebel over a theoretical currency change.

Of course not, but it was a reason for us to care. Lose the attitude. It's obvious you're not familiar with this topic:

https://news.vice.com/article/libyan-oil-gold-and-qaddafi-th...

http://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2014/09/20/349549267/w...

http://www.salon.com/2014/03/08/35_countries_the_u_s_has_bac...


>I don't understand your point. North Korea has had nuclear bombs for over a decade.

The point is they didn't have them for 60 years after the Korean War and weren't attacked. They've long had enough conventional forces to make war with them a guaranteed disaster for the Korean Peninsula.

The idea that nuclear weapons are what's keeping them from being attacked is simply stupid.


>The idea that nuclear weapons are what's keeping them from being attacked is simply stupid.

I guess you think the top experts are "simply stupid" then:

http://www.npr.org/2017/03/29/521909787/the-u-s-has-an-activ...

https://www.samharris.org/podcast/item/must-we-accept-a-nucl...


I'm not sure what your point is, since neither of those links espouse the position that nuclear weapons are the only reason North Korea hasn't been attacked.

No one is saying NK having nuclear weapons isn't a threat or a danger. It's just simply an oft-repeated idiocy that you have to have nukes or the US will attack you. The US didn't go to war with NK for the 60 years prior to them having nukes, either, because other deterrents exist in the situation.

It's a childish understanding of what's going on.


Who has the US attacked with nukes?


Besides Japan twice?


> The idea that nuclear weapons are what's keeping them from being attacked is simply stupid.

You don't seem to be too familiar with this topic. Look into nuclear game theory and the vast, vast efforts undertaken to stop countries like Iran developing nuclear weapons.

When all other offensive strategies are stripped away, the core function of nuclear weapons is to prevent an invasion of your country. Possession of advanced nuclear weapons puts you in a situation where the costs of invasion are so high, it would take a Highly irrational actor to pursue.

The fact that NK already has nuclear capabilities of a sort is extremely bad and seems to be a failure of the international community. It means that if NK was not being so threatening, the prospect of invasion now would be near nil. You do not invade a country that has nukes. The problem is NK IS threatening Japan/US with nuclear destruction.


>You don't seem to be too familiar with this topic.

No, you're just repeating this stupidity without thinking.

America didn't attack North Korea for 60 years after the Korean War because North Korea's conventional forces were a deterrent. NK doesn't need nuclear weapons to devastate the South. This has been true for decades, and is still true. Yet morons still repeat this fallacy that North Korea must have nukes or it will be attacked.

The idea that having or not having nukes is what's preventing an invasion is idiotic. Please try just thinking before responding.


China would never allow it. A massive influx of SK/NK refugees would absolutely destroy their economy. They also do not want to give the US a reason to gain a stronger foothold in the East, especially with Trump, who has been very critical of China, as the current president.


And here it goes... Someone (guess who) definitely needs a new war to distract people from his own problems.


The Washington Post usually is the official voice the USA Gov. Can someone tell my why the allegations this time are different than Saddam's WMD?


North Korea proudly talks about their nuclear program and has tested it extensively. Nuclear tests are globally verifiable in ways that chemical weapons are not.

https://www.sciencenews.org/article/earthquakes-north-korea-...


In the runup to the Iraq war there was a mountain of evidence that Saddam Hussein did not even have an active WMD program, or stockpiled WMDs, and had not since probably the mid-90s. In contrast, there is universal agreement that NK has a highly active WMD program and the ambition to possess a big threatening nuclear arsenal.


A very worthwhile thing to question. I think I am more likely to believe the accusations as they have been reaffirmed by those who are "on NKs side". China and Russia have confirmed the various missile and nuclear tests, despite having a strong incentive to dismiss them.


Well externally measurable events such as actual nuclear tests are easier to verify that allegedly covert operations. And it helps when NK publicly documents successful tests in their media.


I wonder if there are geosynchronous orbital strike platforms aimed at North Korea you know those God's rods. Maybe they are more effective when in low earth orbit higher kinetic energy.

Edit: seeing that one autonmous vehicle that landed after being in orbit for 2 years wow.

Edit: I will admit I am ignorant to politics, in general a dim, barely lit bulb. I don't get the whole thing, not care about his people, yet they get aid from outside. I could understand the "bully" or "ominous threat" the outside world nuclear threat. Wanting your own to be sure you're safe. But the thought that you'd risk your own country but hey what does he have to lose. I saw that copy of OSX.

Also sound conspiracy but I've never been there myself. I'd like a real time satellite stream of North Korea or something. I just see what is in the media/assume it is true. Not much of a "deep web" user to "find the truth" haha. I don't know I'm a sheep. Nothing.




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