Should the U.S. take military action against North Korea?
Viewpoint 1: The Perils of Military Intervention
As North Korea’s nuclear arsenal seems to strengthen by the minute, President Trump’s tweets become dangerously provocative, with constant hints at resorting to military options. Although military action might sound like an appealing decision when playing the board game “Risk”, the dynamics that dictate the complex relations between North Korea and the United States render any form of armed intervention futile, and more importantly, detrimental.
Let us not forget that North Korea already has nuclear weapons at its disposal. The reason why North Korea has fought so hard to obtain these dangerous weapons in the first place is fundamentally to protect the sovereignty of their state (or of leader Kim’s throne) in the wake of the American hegemonic rule that threatens their autonomy. This means that military action from the United States will most definitely be perceived as a threat to their sovereignty, and North Korea will certainly not hesitate to use its nukes. Moreover, we can all agree that North Korea will never win a war against the United States, which only means in the eventuality of an actual war, North Korea has nothing to lose, making them all the more dangerous. Thus, we can conclude that any form of armed intervention in North Korea from the US will lead to a guaranteed nuclear disaster.
Granted, it is fair to be skeptical about whether or not North Korea’s nukes truly have the ability to hit mainland US. However, it is unfair to assume that there is only two actors in this international relation – i.e. North Korea and USA. In fact, North Korea is neighbour to two important countries: South Korea and Japan. Both countries are American allies, have a total population of 170 million, and play a prominent role in the world economy. Hence, based on the premise that North Korea, just like any rational country, will most definitely defend itself if the US were to attack, there is much cause for concern for the safety of these neighbouring countries, especially when nukes are at play. The number of potential collateral civilian casualties is extremely high and can lead to an unprecedented humanitarian crises. Furthermore, economic ramifications will certainly befall the world stage as Japan, sporting the world’s third biggest economy, will be devastated by the havoc. That being said, an armed intervention from the USA will unquestionably lead to a series of destructive repercussions.
Finally, a group of interest we hear very little about is the North Korean people themselves and what would be to happen to them if they were embroiled in a bloody war. Would they be forced into even harsher living standards? Mandatory conscription for everyone? They are completely innocent and have absolutely no power whatsoever. American led interventions have a history of bloody civilian casualties, as seen in the Korean War and the Syrian Conflict. During the Vietnam War for example, American bombings alone killed over 60,000 innocent civilians. On top of this horrible potential for large numbers of civilian deaths, the power vacuum that will follow the fall of Kim’s regime will be another obstacle to peace and stability in the region, with civilians being, once again, the main victims suffering from the ramifications. In fact, the struggle for power will cause further divide and clashes as the United States, South Korea and China each push for their own agenda. We do not need a repeat of the 38th parallel line. Another resounding example of the unreliability of American intervention is the Libyan civil war. After NATO helped overthrow Qaddafi in 2011, Libya was left into a muddle of instability. Today, there is still a lack of a central government as multiple parties continue to fight for that power, which means the country is basically an anarchy and civilians experience inhuman living standards. We cannot allow another battle royal for power in North Korea.
American military action in North Korea will lead to catastrophic consequences for the whole world. Nuclear war will be inevitable, leading to a devastating humanitarian crises. Neighboring countries such as South Korea and Japan will crumble and the world economy will suffer as a result. Most importantly, innocent North Korean civilians will be left abandoned into an ever more unstable and harmful region. If history has taught us one thing, it is that we need to learn from our mistakes and not foolishly repeat them.
-Written by MWR writer David Cao
Viewpoint 2: The Time To Intervene Is Now
Over the past year, the touchy topic of North Korea and its Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-un, has dominated the media. Every month, we have at least three headlines concerning the unpredictable country and its irate leader. The alarming tension between the United States and the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) seems to grow exponentially day after day. Inevitably, panicked discussions on the matter have risen: chilling talks of a potential Third World War are circulating. The sanctions, threats, and negotiations are failing to bring Kim’s nuclear menaces to a halt. In the meantime, stories of North Korean defectors are spreading like wildfire. The victims of the cruel, authoritarian regime are calling for action against the tyranny in their homeland. As the possibility of nuclear violence seems to become more palpable every day, it is clear that this conflict needs resolution, and as recent events demonstrate, the diplomatic approach is fruitless and increasingly dangerous. In order to bring peace and stability, a military intervention in the DPRK is required.
To begin with, one must understand the North Korean agenda. Their government aims to preserve the country’s historic authoritarian regime. Over time, consistent U.S. military presence around their nation has proven to North Korean leaders that the United States is poised to intervene in their country. Consequently, nuclear war, or at least the threat of one has become a possible solution for the DPRK’s government. Their nuclear missiles exist not necessarily to be used, but to assure the safety of the political elite. North Korea’s nuclear arsenal creates a threat to the whole world, as launching any nuclear attack would doubtlessly cause the deaths of millions. Naturally, this could lead to the conclusion that the isolation of the DPRK and the implementation of a non-interference policy of could calm the political storm. There is one glaring problem: the repression and cruel treatment of the North Korean people.
Every day, millions of Koreans suffer from inhumane conditions and hunger. Since the establishment of the DPRK, in under 75 years the health of North Koreans has dramatically worsened in comparison to the health of South Koreans. However, politicians and journalists prioritize and place a greater emphasis on the country’s nuclear threat. The regime’s blatant abuse of human rights seems to almost be an afterthought. This is absolutely unacceptable. The general indifference towards the ailing North Korean population is completely immoral, especially after the numerous appeals of North Korean defectors, pleading governments to take action against Kim Jong-un and his heinous regime, including the speech of Yeomni Park in Geneva. As the leader of the free world, the U.S. is morally obligated to act in the defense of both future Western generations and tyrannized North Koreans alike, making military intervention not a deus ex machina, but in fact a required course of action.
Aforementioned, North Korea is not looking for war. However, we cannot rely on this perceived North Korean ‘prudence’ forever. While ideally all nuclear states could cooperate with each other in order to prevent nuclear war, it has become obvious in the past few years that the DPRK is in no way willing to join forces with other countries. Instead, it is pitting itself against other powerful governments. Kim ignores threats and uses terrorizing demonstrations of power, such as nuclear launches over Japan and the public execution of the defense chief, to spread fear and panic around the world.
The absolutism in North Korea means that such power is concentrated in one man’s hands, making the DPRK dangerously unpredictable. As North Korea’s nuclear capabilities grow, the eventual consequences of any future military conflict will become increasingly dangerous and devastating. If statements made by North Korea are to be believed, their nuclear arsenal will keep growing, despite sanctions and any other diplomatic measures put forward by other countries. The DPRK has gone so far as to state that sanctions will only accelerate the nuclear program. Today, Kim Jong-un’s plans are to achieve the “capacity for the nuclear counterattack the US cannot cope with”. What will come of tomorrow?
The North Korean government poses a threat not only to the world’s stability, but also to its own people. Treaties, sanctions, and threats have proved to only aggravate the situation – not resolve it. North Korea is an unpredictable, unreasonable, and inhumane regime that does not wish to cooperate with other countries, and that freely and publicly abuses and deprives its people of basic human rights, replacing food and freedom with propaganda. The existence of such a backwards and cruel regime contradicts all of humanity’s progress. Their unwillingness to cooperate with other countries is a ticking time-bomb that will eventually explode. That is why we need to take real action, a military intervention, before it is too late.
Written by MWR writer Dima Romanov
Pro Military Action
Heesu Lee, Sohee Kim.”Kim Jong-un executes two North Korea officials ‘using anti-aircraft gun.”
Independent, Tuesday 30 August 2016,
Song Jung-a. “North Korea vows to accelerate nuclear programme.” Financial Times, SEPTEMBER 13, 2017,https://www.ft.com/content/303595e8-9836-11e7-a652-cde3f882dd7b
James Griffiths, Zachary Cohen and Joshua Berlinger. “North Korea launches missile over Japan.” CNN Politics,September 15, 2017,http://www.cnn.com/2017/09/14/asia/north-korea-missile-launch/index.html
Wendy Sherman, Evans Revere. “HOW TO STOP KIM JONG UN.” Time, http://time.com/north-korea-opinion/
Sarah Zheng. “What military options are open to the US in tackling North Korea?” South China Morning Post, 22 September, 2017, http://www.scmp.com/news/world/united-states-canada/article/2112309/what-military-options-are-open-us-tackling-north
Barbara Starr. “Latest North Korea missile test renews US talk of military option” CNN Politics, September 16, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/09/16/politics/north-korea-missile-test/index.html
Con Military Action
Bajpai, Prableen. “The World’s Top 10 Economies”. Investopedia, July 7th 2017, http://www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/022415/worlds-top-10-economies.asp.
Starr, Barbara. “Trump warns of ‘devastating’ military option as North Korea moves jets”. CNN, September 27th 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/09/26/politics/trump-north-korea-moves-fighters-missiles-fuel-tanks/index.html.
Valentine, Tom. “How Many People Died In The Vietnam War”. The Vietnam War, April 11th 2014, https://thevietnamwar.info/how-many-people-died-in-the-vietnam-war/.
Hall, John. “Why the collapse of the North Korean regime may pose a bigger threat to the world than any hydrogen bomb test”. Independent, January 6th 2016, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/why-the-collapse-of-the-north-korean-regime-poses-a-bigger-threat-to-the-world-than-any-hydrogen-a6799506.html.
Tierney, Dominic. “The Legacy of Obama’s ‘Worst Mistake’”. The Atlantic, April 15th 2016, https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/04/obamas-worst-mistake-libya/478461/.