With the war of words between Trump and Kim Jong Un triggered by the successful missile tests, a very real, very pertinent question comes to mind. How can the rest of the world deal with the North Korean problem?
It brings up an interesting moral quagmire for the West who have over the last century positioned themselves as the shining beacon of democracy and morality for the rest of the world. However, this form of Western imperialism has caused more issues than solutions post-9/11. Which calls into question the efficacy of foreign-imposed regime change. Western leaders, academics and diplomats must carefully navigate the North Korean issue with a renewed morality and delicacy.
We can no longer ignore what’s going on in North Korea. In the last few months, decades of commitment to nuclear capabilities and tests have appeared to come to fruition, with Kim Jong Un’s aim very obviously set on the United States. Interestingly enough, Donald Trump’s base very much abhors the hawkism that has plagued post-9/11 US foreign policy. Indeed, the decision to send more troops into Afghanistan was denounced by his Bannonite, alt-right base, which makes Trump’s handling of the North Korean issue interesting viewing.
If we are to take any inference from Trump’s clumsy twitter diplomacy and possible misunderstanding of the issue, it could be reasonable argue that diplomacy is not at the forefront of the US agenda. Whilst Trump may be aware that he risks alienating his supporter base, his words of brinkmanship indicate and that war is something the Commander-in-Chief is considering.
The Santayana quote comes to mind – “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” There are lessons that have been learned from the last decade. Namely, that Western-imposed regime changes can often have the opposite effect of what was initially planned. Any moves need to be thought out, especially as we have little intelligence on the hermit kingdom.
Before any kind of military action is taken, questions need to be asked. What sorts of political issues may arise in a post-Kim Korea? What about unification? It is entirely possible that a foreign-imposed regime change is the preferable choice, but there are obvious moral deficiencies and political issues that arise out of this strategy that warrants a second guess.
There’s little chance, right now at least, of a diplomatic solution. China continues to supply the country with oil and remain a steadfast ally. Meanwhile, Jong Un’s disdain for the West is unlikely to be conducive to a diplomatic solution. So, is the only option military action?
Flashdrives for Freedom is a joint initiative run by a Silicon Valley non-profit. They partner with North Koreans and smuggle thousands of USB sticks into country. According to the Human Rights Foundation, one USB is shared between 10-15 people. It is likely that thousands of North Koreans have received a USB that contains Wikipedia entries, Hollywood films and information on the outside world. Extremely powerful in the repressive state. For the majority of North Koreans they haven’t any concept of a life other than that which exists within the so-called Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The year in the state is 111 and media outlets are state-run. Information is powerful and mobilizing. Such information can be a vehicle for change.
North Koreans have lived under authoritarian rule since the Korean war in the 1950s, and prison camps are filled with detractors and freedom fighters. Simply pumping information into North Korea and waiting would be naïve, for we have limited information on how much North Koreans know about the regime or the outside world. Knowledge doesn't always equate to power, especially when they are up against a seemingly all powerful despot and a large network of informants.
Truthfully, if changes are to be made, the solution isn’t as idyllic as a self-made revolution. The solution may military in nature, which will always have a degree of immorality. But is immorality the payment of Western safety and the freedom of North Korean citizens? In a situation where there can be no diplomatic solution, the nuclear option may be the only viable one we have.