Historically, the best time for an international crisis to develop into a major all-out war has been around the summer holiday season in the northern hemisphere. The Franco-Prussian War of 1870, the Great War, and the Second World War started in July, August and September respectively. Now that the instigator of all these wars, Prussia, is no longer with us, there is room for another bad boy on the block. Enter North Korea.
It may not seem clear other than to the student of international events, but the Korean War still goes on. Wars are ended by treaties, not armistices or surrenders, which is only when the major fighting stops. The final treaty to end the Second World War in Europe was signed in 1990. Although the fighting had ended with Germany's unconditional surrender in 1945, the state of war in the west came to an end in 1955 with West Germany's admission to NATO. A single German government capable of acting in the name of the entire German nation at the conference table did not exist until the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe. If World War I is seen as running from the invasion of Belgium in 1914 until the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, World War II's closing treaty was signed some 51 years after the invasion of Poland.
While the Korean Armistice was agreed in 1953, there is no peace treaty. During this armed truce, there have been a development of international engagements between the belligerents, but there is still a front line in the vicinity of the 38th parallel. Deaths still occur. All-out-war has only been postponed.
This does not stop North Korea's hereditary Stalinist monarchy from committing belligerent acts. There have been kidnappings, assassinations, bombings, sinkings and artillery duels. The antagonist is always North Korea. Had these outrages been committed by another country, then there would be cause for diplomatic action, possibly punitive military assaults. However, in Korea, this is not possible.
It is widely understood that the military situation is always on a trip-wire, and has been so for decades. Any military action against North Korea runs the risk of triggering a response including the shelling of the South Korean capital Seoul, that lies just 35 miles away from the front line in this frozen conflict. The South Korean people are held in perpetual hostage by their northern neighbour's ambitions.
North Korea has announced it is to launch ballistic missiles that will land in international waters a similar distance from the American island of Guam. To put this into perspective, imagine that Russia was test-firing missiles from Murmansk that would impact near the Orkneys. This is the kind of crisis that is under way.
The rational response of the USA would be to shoot down the missiles before they impact, either in the boost phase or during descent. The problem is that using anti-missile technology in anger may reveal its operational functionality and limitations, something that might be better to conceal until a more pressing test of its abilities occurs. Also, the North Korean missiles would be landing in international waters. Shooting them down before they do so would ratchet up the crisis. But the USA has to respond to such a provocative act. This is shot across the USA's bows. It cannot go unchallenged, certainly not by the Trump administration.
What would North Korea do after an American military response? Would there be more bluster, or another military action?
Donald Trump indicates that speaking softly to a communist dictatorship has not worked. Despite international sanctions and public condemnation, nothing ever stops North Korea from trying to achieve its ambitions to become a nuclear power with the ability to strike the American mainland. However, if Trump was to order a strike against North Korean military installations using precision-guided munitions, would he be responsible for the consequent civilian deaths in South Korea?
Most liberal commentators would say yes. Despite any mass deaths being caused by North Korean shelling, Trump would be held responsible for triggering such a response. This is typical muddled socialist thinking that always tries to blame America for deaths directly caused by other actors capable of conscious rational actions. North Korea's leader, who looks and behaves like Eric Cartman, would actually be responsible. Trump cannot be responsible for the actions of any country apart from his own, and especially not the murderous gangster dictatorship of North Korea.
The broadcast media is letting down the viewer once again by reducing any action of North Korea to being a reflexive response caused by the USA. They project North Korea as being some kind of automaton. Any deaths caused by North Korea are actually the responsibility of North Korea, not the USA. North Korea is more than the fabled scorpion, who stings because it is his nature to do so. This is never made clear. Instead North Korea is portrayed as a country to be feared and not provoked in any way, allowing it to literally get away with murder for decades.
The media are already blaming Trump for matching North Korea's rhetoric. It is distasteful how those on either side of the camera give Stalinists a free ride. North Korea is a prison state, a centre for evil that needs to be eliminated. It is an unwelcome brake on human progress. History has demonstrated that such regimes cannot be dealt with using conventional diplomacy. Confrontation is the only solution.
Kow-towing to King Kim III is simply always giving in to the overweight, big-mouthed thug for fear of being hurt by taking him on. Standing up to North Korea's belligerence may cause casualties, but it is better than going along with the death of a thousand communist cuts while a small bully becomes a big bully. The responsibility for any devastation caused by North Korea will be with North Korea for persisting in waging this war without end when everyone else wants peace in Korea.
It is time to fight fire with fire, not with marshmallows. Trump is simply doing to North Korea what North Korea has been doing to the USA and the rest of the world for far too long. There has to be a time to put down the olive branch and pick up something a bit sharper, and this cannot keep being postponed. One day soon, it will be far too late.
(Image: Jim Mattis)