We are now in the worst nuclear crisis since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.
While we will look at the likelihood of war in a subsequent post, here we will consider the argument (or warrant) for war. That is, for USG and its allies to carry out military strikes to, at least, destroy or sufficiently degrade North Korea’s nuclear weapons capability and even remove and replace the regime itself.
The Warrant for War.
While we will not discuss every principle of jus ad bellum, we will build the warrant out of just cause (or right intention).
The paramount reason for going to war is none of the following reasons:
A: Kim is an evil tyrant. (Though one forced to be so by circumstances.)
B: The North Korean regime is evil and crazy.
C: The North Korean regime is objectively unjust in that it has failed to keep its agreements.
D: The North Korean regime never signed a peace treaty with South Korea or with America – it only agreed to an armistice and has carried out numerous violent acts that would justify a war against it.
E: The regime will likely threaten and seek to extract “payment” from other countries with impunity if it is allowed to get away with having nuclear weapons.
F: Letting North Korea have nuclear weapons is a major defeat for USG and a big win for China; it will destabilise relations between these two nations and increase the risk of war between the two in the future.
G: If North Korea is allowed to continue to possess its nuclear program, then the risks of accidental or intentional nuclear strikes directed against the American homeland increase.
H: The risks that terrorist groups will one day obtain nuclear material (from North Korea) to make a nuclear dirty bomb increase.
We argue that all of these reasons, while valid, are not the paramount reason for war.
The warrant for war is the principle of non-nuclear proliferation.
If North Korea is allowed to have a nuclear weapons arsenal, then this raises the risk that Japan will develop its own nuclear program; if this happens, then the chances that South Korea will develop its own program also increases. If this happens, China will likely accelerate the build-up of its military and its nuclear arsenal. If that happens, then Taiwan may develop its own program in response to this new environment where China, the two Koreas and Japan all have nuclear weapons. Furthermore, Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand, as well as Indonesia, may feel the need to follow suit. Australia, New Zealand and Canada may then decide, in the face of this new nuclear environment, to develop their own programs – especially if they continue to perceive that America is in decline or unable to provide defence.
Nevertheless, this is only one theatre.
The second theatre is the Middle East. If North Korea is allowed to get away with its belligerence, then Iran is likely to go for a “breakout”. If this happens, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and even Egypt are likely to build their own programs in response. If Turkey build their own program, then Greece, Italy, Poland and even Germany may also want to develop their own program.
If this happens, then we have increased risk of a nuclear exchange not only in the Middle East among the Sunni-Shia powers but between Sunni Turkey and Europe. Secondly, if Greece, Italy, Poland and Germany obtain their own nuclear weapons (of even if it is the EU), then this raises the risks of an exchange with Russia.
Once again, the risks of nuclear terrorism increase if numerous Muslim states are allowed to have their own program.
Our claim is that these risks are unacceptable, not only for USG but for the world as a whole. While it is true that more states have nuclear programs than are desirable, with the exception of India and Pakistan, the past nuclear dynamic was two major states in a mostly stable standoff. The result was that we just about escaped nuclear conflagration. We may and will likely not be as lucky going forward in this environment.
If, however, numerous countries of varying degrees of development, political structure and ideological derangement come to possess these weapons, then the somewhat simplistic but easily graspable game theoretic pay offs become unmanageably complex.
The whole thing is, as Nick Land described it, a “nightmare generator.”
It is for this reason that USG has sufficient reason to degrade and destroy the North Korea nuclear weapons program.
When one takes this into account, along with the other reason given above and reasons not given, sufficient reason exists to destroy and replace the Kim regime.
There are two restrictions here on this claim.
Firstly, if Kim cannot be reasoned with or pressured to give up his nuclear weapons program, then the last resort is resort to war.
Secondly, at least with respect to regime change, the Chinese must play a major, if not decisive role, in any North Korean regime change. The best solution, perhaps, is for North Korea to become a vassal state of China.
In a subsequent post, we will look at how likely war is on the Korean peninsula.