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A Few Words on the North Korean Crisis

I've been closely following the news surrounding North Korea's test missile launches a few days ago, and I've been very disappointed by some of the arguments being put forward. There are a few simple things that people need to know that clearly narrow down the set of acceptable options.

First of all, the diplomatic process must be multilateral to have any chance at all of success. It is not correct to view the option of bilateral negotiation from the perspective of "North Korea wants to talk to the United States directly, so why don't we sit down and chat?" No one is going to be friendly and giving — this is a negotiation, not a conversation. Each side is trying to exert influence and leverage over the other.

The United States would have a very weak bargaining position in bilateral negotiations. We aren't providing them with much (any?) humanitarian aid, so we have nothing to threaten to take away! It's the other members in the six-party talks who have this kind of leverage because they're the ones providing North Korea with resources. (Particularly China.) In bilateral negotiations we could offer the carrot of new aid or threaten the stick of a military response, but that's essentially it. Other countries could threaten to withdraw aid that North Korea desperately needs. That's a much stronger negotiating position. Bilateral negotiations could only result in our giving North Korea something it wants in exchange for a promise that they'll immediately break, just like they did in 1994. We can only lose by participating in bilateral negotiations.

Secondly, it's not a coincidence that China and Russia are blocking our efforts at the United Nations regarding both North Korea and Iran. Both countries wrongly believe that they benefit from a weaker United States. Their strategy is to make the United States spend its political capital on these crises instead of getting their own hands dirty. They want us to appear to be the aggressor in all things, so they can sit back and criticize and stymie us on the world stage.

Japan has the right idea, taking immediate unilateral action to impose sanctions. They're on our side and we can count on them.

The United Nations Security Council is an ineffective body. But more than that, it has to be ineffective. Its structure virtually guarantees it because its permanent members are rivals. You shouldn't be surprised that they don't cooperate and instead use the Council as a means to bully each other. It happened with Iraq, it's been happening with Iran, and it's starting to happen now with North Korea. Enough is enough!

The United Nations doesn't work. It can't work. It's an exercise in futility, a total farce, and we're wasting valuable time by involving ourselves with it. The United Nations building should be burned down and its smoldering embers dumped unceremoniously into the Atlantic Ocean. If the building were replaced by a hole in the ground filled with the unpaid parking tickets of the corrupt diplomats, that would be a large improvement over what we have today.

Thirdly, the diplomatic angle not the right way to deal with this situation anyway — either in North Korea or in Iran. The proper response to North Korea's missile launches is to destroy its launch facilities. The proper response to Iran's continued nuclear ambitions is to destroy its uranium enrichment facilities. North Korea and Iran have illegitimate governments, are hugely oppressive to their people, and are an objective threat to their neighbors. They are still part of the Axis of Evil, and they must be stopped.

If direct attacks create too great a risk of immediate war, there's an adequate alternative: use bombs with inert warheads, full of concrete instead of explosives. This would fully demonstrate our resolve and capability to destroy the targets while doing very little direct damage. It would send the message that needs to be sent. Insofar as the goal is to send a message, there are other good targets besides the military facilities. Drop a concrete bomb on the ruler's vacation home, for example. Nothing says "we mean it" like a concrete care package.

My favorite option, actually, would be for some other country to attack the facilities. But Russia and China wouldn't do it, South Korea is probably too afraid of provoking a ground war, and Japan is probably constitutionally prohibited because North Korea hasn't committed any recent overt acts of war. (I don't think its recent missile launches reached Japanese airspace.) I wish this were a realistic possibility, but it doesn't appear to be.

In any case, we should immediately eliminate all aid of any kind to North Korea and Iran. Resources are fungible; aid merely strengthens the ruling regime and allows it to pursue military capabilities to a greater extent while prolonging the suffering of the people.

Assassination attempts would be helpful, too.

Tiny Island