War with North Korea Is Inevitable

In 1969, I was a U.S. Army soldier on foot patrol on the banks of the Im Jin River, just a rifle shot from North Korea.  Although the war in Vietnam was raging at the time, getting all the headlines, there were Americans being killed along the supposedly demilitarized zone between the Koreas.  Despite the armistice, North Korea was, in fact, in an official state of war with the United States and remains so to this day.

Little has changed since, except for the worse.  We are on a collision course toward a major war, and nothing short of a miracle will avert it.

To understand why war is inevitable, we must look at recent history.  The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor is recorded by many historians as a surprise attack, but a great many American leaders were not at all surprised.  The famous Army general Billy Mitchell was all but prophetic in his predictions of both where and how it would happen.  We can repeat his prognosis as it concerns North Korea.

The reasons for the Pearl Harbor attack are only partially understood, even by modern Japanese scholars.  Among the standard explanations are that Japan was emerging from medieval conditions onto the world stage without adequate natural resources to sustain a twentieth-century economy.   It needed to go outside its borders to obtain them.  Furthermore, having been an ally of Britain and the United States against the Germans in World War I, Japan felt disrespected in the 1920s and '30s, when arms limitations treaties restricted its naval development.  Finally, American and European exploitation of Asia was resented by Japan, which felt it had more of a right to establish colonies in China and elsewhere in Asia than did non-Asians.

The final straw was the U.S. embargo on oil to Japan.  This was seen as an intolerable threat to Japan's foreign ambitions, since American oil had fueled its invasion of China in the 1930s.  The only way for Japan to get oil after the embargo began was to expand its conquest of the Pacific region.  The U.S. Navy posed an obstacle to that conquest and therefore had to be sunk.  So Pearl Harbor was bombed, with the expectation that the U.S., having lost its naval power, would appease the Japanese much as the British and French had appeased Hitler.

That historical narrative has much to commend it, but it misses the most important point.  There is a much deeper reason why Japan embarked on war, and it is the same reason propelling North Korea toward making the same mistake.

From about 1930 onward, the Japanese government had become dominated by unspeakably brutal sociopaths, every bit as vicious in their methods as the Nazis who implemented the Holocaust. 

This fact is not a side issue; it is the main issue.  It cannot be over-emphasized.  Had the Japanese leaders had even a passing sense of compassion – not only for their subjugated populations, but even for their own citizens – they would have sought, and found, better ways to serve their own interests.  Instead, they committed atrocities so horrific that no depiction of them can reflect the agony and grief inflicted on millions of innocent men, women, and children.

It is the same with North Korea's leaders.  They live lives of luxury at the expense of millions of their countrymen, vast numbers of whom have been starved to death by the Kim dynasty's policies.  Kim Jong-un has one goal and one goal only: to preserve his power and perquisites, no matter the cost to anyone else.

Dictators must surround themselves with a ring of sociopathic murderers.  Only such people can be trusted to subject mass populations to hunger, disease, and lives of hopelessness.  Only such people can carry out the orders that imprison many thousands for the slightest hint of disloyalty and then torture them beyond description.

This inner circle will protect the "dear leader" so long as his ruthless rule benefits its members.  Kim knows that.  He knows that despite his best efforts to terrorize even those in his inner circle, they will turn against him the moment they perceive him to be too weak to preserve them in their positions.

Therefore, Kim has to bluster and bully the United States, and the threat he poses has to be real.  If the leaders fear they are about to lose their power, that threat must be carried out, regardless of the risks.  How else can they do that but to wield the threat of nuclear destruction against at least one major American city?  There is no other way.  The instant Kim is suspected (by his minions) of being willing to give up his nuclear weapons, his death warrant is signed.

Of all this, Kim is fully aware. 

Is peace possible?  Kim knows that the only way to truly make peace with South Korea and the United States is to do what they have done – to recognize basic human rights, including the right of people to change their governments at will, through a safe and orderly process of honest elections.

The Kim regime will never, under any conditions, do any such thing.  Those within it know that a liberated, just, and independent North Korea would try them for their crimes against humanity, convict them, and kill them.

As well they should.

In 1969, I was a U.S. Army soldier on foot patrol on the banks of the Im Jin River, just a rifle shot from North Korea.  Although the war in Vietnam was raging at the time, getting all the headlines, there were Americans being killed along the supposedly demilitarized zone between the Koreas.  Despite the armistice, North Korea was, in fact, in an official state of war with the United States and remains so to this day.

Little has changed since, except for the worse.  We are on a collision course toward a major war, and nothing short of a miracle will avert it.

To understand why war is inevitable, we must look at recent history.  The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor is recorded by many historians as a surprise attack, but a great many American leaders were not at all surprised.  The famous Army general Billy Mitchell was all but prophetic in his predictions of both where and how it would happen.  We can repeat his prognosis as it concerns North Korea.

The reasons for the Pearl Harbor attack are only partially understood, even by modern Japanese scholars.  Among the standard explanations are that Japan was emerging from medieval conditions onto the world stage without adequate natural resources to sustain a twentieth-century economy.   It needed to go outside its borders to obtain them.  Furthermore, having been an ally of Britain and the United States against the Germans in World War I, Japan felt disrespected in the 1920s and '30s, when arms limitations treaties restricted its naval development.  Finally, American and European exploitation of Asia was resented by Japan, which felt it had more of a right to establish colonies in China and elsewhere in Asia than did non-Asians.

The final straw was the U.S. embargo on oil to Japan.  This was seen as an intolerable threat to Japan's foreign ambitions, since American oil had fueled its invasion of China in the 1930s.  The only way for Japan to get oil after the embargo began was to expand its conquest of the Pacific region.  The U.S. Navy posed an obstacle to that conquest and therefore had to be sunk.  So Pearl Harbor was bombed, with the expectation that the U.S., having lost its naval power, would appease the Japanese much as the British and French had appeased Hitler.

That historical narrative has much to commend it, but it misses the most important point.  There is a much deeper reason why Japan embarked on war, and it is the same reason propelling North Korea toward making the same mistake.

From about 1930 onward, the Japanese government had become dominated by unspeakably brutal sociopaths, every bit as vicious in their methods as the Nazis who implemented the Holocaust. 

This fact is not a side issue; it is the main issue.  It cannot be over-emphasized.  Had the Japanese leaders had even a passing sense of compassion – not only for their subjugated populations, but even for their own citizens – they would have sought, and found, better ways to serve their own interests.  Instead, they committed atrocities so horrific that no depiction of them can reflect the agony and grief inflicted on millions of innocent men, women, and children.

It is the same with North Korea's leaders.  They live lives of luxury at the expense of millions of their countrymen, vast numbers of whom have been starved to death by the Kim dynasty's policies.  Kim Jong-un has one goal and one goal only: to preserve his power and perquisites, no matter the cost to anyone else.

Dictators must surround themselves with a ring of sociopathic murderers.  Only such people can be trusted to subject mass populations to hunger, disease, and lives of hopelessness.  Only such people can carry out the orders that imprison many thousands for the slightest hint of disloyalty and then torture them beyond description.

This inner circle will protect the "dear leader" so long as his ruthless rule benefits its members.  Kim knows that.  He knows that despite his best efforts to terrorize even those in his inner circle, they will turn against him the moment they perceive him to be too weak to preserve them in their positions.

Therefore, Kim has to bluster and bully the United States, and the threat he poses has to be real.  If the leaders fear they are about to lose their power, that threat must be carried out, regardless of the risks.  How else can they do that but to wield the threat of nuclear destruction against at least one major American city?  There is no other way.  The instant Kim is suspected (by his minions) of being willing to give up his nuclear weapons, his death warrant is signed.

Of all this, Kim is fully aware. 

Is peace possible?  Kim knows that the only way to truly make peace with South Korea and the United States is to do what they have done – to recognize basic human rights, including the right of people to change their governments at will, through a safe and orderly process of honest elections.

The Kim regime will never, under any conditions, do any such thing.  Those within it know that a liberated, just, and independent North Korea would try them for their crimes against humanity, convict them, and kill them.

As well they should.