In my previous column, I argued that, given his aim of maintaining absolute power, Kim Jong Un's nuclear weapons are actually a rational response to America's aggressive foreign policy.
We've got to stop fooling ourselves. Kim won't back down from developing full nuclear deterrent capability. The only way we can prevent this is by initiating war on the Korean peninsula. Such a war would probably become nuclear and would be an unthinkable disaster for humankind. Thus we must accept a ninth member of the nuclear club.
A nuclear North Korea will not attack the United States unless we break the nuclear club's basic rule by attacking Kim's central interest, which is maintaining himself in power. This unsavory standoff, called "deterrence" or "mutually assured destruction (MAD)," has prevented nuclear war for 72 years.
Kim developed nuclear weapons because he observed U.S. regime-change operations in Iraq, Libya and elsewhere and concluded we would change his regime unless he developed nuclear weapons to deter U.S. aggressiveness. Having attained most of his goal, he's not going to give up his arsenal. The world must learn to live with Kim's new weapons, just as the world lives with the nuclear arsenals of the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France, India, Pakistan and Israel.
This outcome is a failure of U.S. foreign policy. We must ask: What are we doing wrong?
The answer is, plenty. We have foolishly supported the present MAD status quo. That status quo is dysfunctional for us and the world. As North Korea shows, nuclear weapons are "levelers" because small nuclear nations can seriously threaten large nations, even nuclear nations. Continued threats against North Korea will only increase such threats and could trigger a nuclear response.
As nuclear weapons expert Michael Klare puts it in The Nation, the bomb is back with a vengeance, thanks partly to our own mistakes. But we can work longer-term toward a safer world by cooperating, especially with Russia and the United Nations but also with the other nuclear nations, to rid the world of nuclear weapons. This is not a far-fetched proposition. Leading establishment figures such as Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, William Perry, and Sam Nunn have called for a world free of nuclear weapons. In July, 122 nations backed a UN ban on nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, the nuclear weapons nations were not among them.
The U.S. is currently a big part of the world's security problem. We are armed to the teeth and we have lots of ideas about how other nations should conduct themselves. At $773 billion this year, our military spending is greater than the next eight military powers combined. We could buy more security by spending most of that money solving America's own problems at home. We are over-armed and too pushy. From the world's perspective, the U.S. acts like a hammer, and when you're a hammer, everything else looks like a nail.
As documented by Middle-East expert Fawaz Gerges in his book "ISIS: A History," our regime-change attack on Iraq was a fundamental mistake that destabilized the Mideast. This mistake helped create al-Qaeda-In-Iraq, ISIS, broken government in Baghdad, religious strife, Iranian domination of Iraq, and half a million civilian and military deaths, including thousands of Americans.
Our eternal war in Afghanistan only further destabilizes the Mideast, creates anti-American fervor, and supports corrupt government. Our pressure for regime change in Syria helped create and sustain a disastrous civil war that has killed nearly half a million, created 4.8 million refugees, and displaced another 6.3 million. Our regime-change operation in Libya and our counterproductive tinkering in civil wars in Somalia and Yemen has only made those bad situations worse. Read military historian Andrew Bacevich's account of these misadventures, "America's War for the Greater Middle East."
Iran could easily become another North Korean-type standoff if we continue treating them as an enemy. Far from questioning the U.S.-Iran nuclear weapons agreement, we should enthusiastically support it. Now we are toying with militarily involvement in the struggles between Russia and Ukraine, and sending U.S. troops into Venezuela.
Who are we to try to run the world? We need to back off and learn to cooperate with our supposed enemies. Regardless of our disagreements with nations such as Russia, Iran, and Syria, we should cooperate with them and with the United Nations in defeating ISIS and in other worthy endeavors.
We must stop trying the remake the rest of the world in our own image. We have quite enough problems here at home, without involving ourselves in everybody else's business.
Commentary on 08/29/2017
Print Headline: Cooperate with enemies