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The Korean War — Cont’d

November 24, 2010

Yesterday’s skirmish on the Island of Yeonpyeong is bad news in all respects except one: it draws attention to a conflict that so far didn’t get as much of it as it should have. North Korea was and is a ticking time bomb that’s not only relevant in the potential for damage it can inflict directly, but also for what it can put into motion indirectly. Most notably, the regime is happy to collaborate with other anti-American nations in their quest to acquire nuclear weapons.

Technically, of course, the Korean War has never ended and the North’s aggression in the past has been frequent and unprovoked. Nevertheless, the attack on Yeonpyeong is on a new level. It’s probably true that, these days, North Korea is especially emboldened because of a US President who looks weak. But the French Cowboy doesn’t believe this to be the only factor, maybe not even an important one. Like with every cruel and paranoid regime, a defining trait of North Korea’s leadership is that it produces acts of irrationality.

The French Cowboy is hopeful that President Obama will be calling the right shots (also literally) regarding this affair. It’s absolutely vital that he send a strong signal of undeterred resolve to stand by America’s ally South Korea. It’s fortunate timing that the USS George Washington is on its way to South Korea and that joint exercises will take place, even though those drills had been planned before the Yeonpyeong attack. This must be only for starters.

The key player on this map is China. The Obama administration has made many public complaints about China’s monetary policy, mostly to give the impression that the US economy is as bad as it is because of the value of the renminbi. Now Obama gets a chance to take on China on an issue where it actually makes a difference. When China decides that it will fare better with a North Korea reduced to a no-threat level, it will act accordingly.

This is why the French Cowboy likes Monsieur Krauthammer’s suggestion: begin equipping South Korea and Japan with their own nuclear weapons and you will have China’s attention. But in the real world, hélas!, the current US President is committed to the Cold-War mentality that believes in the reduction of nuclear arsenals — disregarding that this means that the friendly nations begin disarming first and that it leaves the bad guys with the only pistols in the room.

How likely Obama will decide for the strategy that furthers nuclear arsenals even if it might be the best way to preserve peace? I’d say this idea is dead on arrival. Either Obama will have to act against his strongly stated policy preferences (and he showed no such inclination on any issue so far) or he’ll have to come up with another solution. Passivity is not an option.

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