We have to be very careful listening to political leaders who make wildly aggressive statements. Foreign policy is a game of poker not a game of chess. There’s a lot of uncertainty and thus a lot of room for playing with degrees of truth. Bold public announcements do not necessarily represent any real intent for action. It may be nothing more than a posturing for leverage in international relations or even just fodder for the internal propaganda machine.
Yesterday, North Korea has threatened a nuclear attack on the United States in the name of world peace. Hitler produced some of the same rhetoric in the mid and late 1930’s. He claimed that military power was a way to defend Germany of “evil” that was preventing a peaceful prosperous existence.
So, how can we tell the difference between Hitler and Kim Jong-un? It’s seems that the general public in the United States does not take the young North Korean leader seriously, much like the majority of Americans did not take Hitler seriously until the war began. I think that we have to (1) gather the best facts/intelligence and (2) use extreme caution in making any aggressive actions. We failed on both #1 and #2 in Iraq. We are failing on #1 and #2 in Iran. Pakistan is incredibly tricky because technically they are a “friend”, but the instability and tension in that part of the world means that of all the nations they are currently the most likely original spark of a nuclear war.
So we need to be very careful to get #1 and #2 right on North Korea. Arguments like the ones made in this report are a good start. It describes why North Korea is powerless to do what it claims. Much like in poker, that means there is some wiggle room for the game of diplomacy. Time for the carrots and the sticks…