Tags: North Korea | Russia | Ukraine | gorbachev | pence | soviet union

Pressure on NKorea Won't Speed Political Reforms

Pressure on NKorea Won't Speed Political Reforms

Tuesday, 13 February 2018 02:00 PM Current | Bio | Archive

In his State Of The Union address, President Trump proposed to "modernize and rebuild our nuclear arsenal, hopefully never having to use it, but making it so strong and powerful that it will deter any acts of aggression."

Deterrence policy has effectively prevented attacks on the U.S. by the Soviet Union and by its Russian successor for two thirds of a century.

Later in his address, however, Trump worried that "North Korea's reckless pursuit of nuclear missiles could very soon threaten our mainland." He did not explain why policy that has prevented attacks by a major world power could not deter an attack by a minor league country like North Korea.

Trump promised to exert a "campaign of maximum pressure" (his emphasis) to prevent North Korea from attacking us. Since his administration often says that nothing is "off the table," I would like to put on the table a different possible strategy — also involving pressure — for dealing with Kim Jong Un's regime.

Increasing pressure won't persuade North Korea to relinquish its bombs and missiles. On the contrary, it will reinforce the regime's belief that atomic weapons are necessary if it is to survive. Top leaders have seen how giving up atomic weapons worked for Libya's Muammar Gaddafi, who is now dead, and for Ukraine, now suffering from Russian aggression.

Water boils when internal vapor pressure, which increases at higher temperatures, exceeds the pressure placed on the water by the atmosphere. Like water, governments are subject to internal and external pressures. Regimes threatened by domestic political pressures often protect themselves by starting a war so their people feel threatened by a foreign enemy —increased external pressure.

In the movie "Wag The Dog" a president manufactures a war scare to deflect attention from a sex scandal. Vladimir Putin has wagged the dog with great success. Likewise, North Korean leaders have exploited unpleasant memories of the Korean War, along with Trump's recent threats of "fire and fury," to protect themselves. As long as the perceived pressure from outside exceeds the pressures from within, the political "pot" will not boil and the North Korean regime is secure.

To encourage reforms in North Korea, we should therefore eliminate the economic sanctions with which we have been trying to pressure its leaders to abandon their atomic and missile ambitions, embedding withdrawn sanctions in a general change of foreign policy which would be desirable even if North Korea did not exist.

We would announce that we are willing to exchange ambassadors and trade with any government willing to do business with us. We would declare that we will no longer promote regime change in countries we consider badly governed; that progress in these countries will be most likely if their own people implement peaceful reforms of existing governments rather than overthrowing them by revolutions.

We should do business with North Korea, encourage other countries to do so, and welcome improved relations between South Korea and North Korea like those associated with the Olympics. Vice President Pence's recent refusal to greet the sister of North Korea's leader may have been a missed opportunity and was certainly not an example of good sportsmanship. President Trump should stop hurling insults at Kim Jong Un.

We should not be naive. North Korea's regime is indeed terrible. But there is no evidence that Kim Jong Un is crazy or acts irrationally. No matter how many weapons it may develop, North Korea can be deterred from attacking the U.S. or our allies. Our military retaliatory capability allows us to abandon economic pressure — maximizing chances for peaceful reforms — without endangering our national security.

Ultimately, perhaps North Korean leaders would feel secure enough to cut back on producing atomic weapons. But if they continue to waste money on weapons they won't dare use, that would be their problem, not ours.

We should remember that Kim Jong Un did not create the current regime. He stepped into leadership of a going concern and even if inclined to reform his government, he would need to go about doing so slowly and cautiously. As Mikhail Gorbachev's sad experience in the Soviet Union indicates, the old saying that no good deed goes unpunished is too often true.

An improving economy and more contact with other countries often fuel popular demand for political reforms. Our government should not put economic pressures on North Korea that would isolate it and make reforms more difficult.

Paul F. deLespinasse is Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Computer Science at Adrian College. He received his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 1966, and has been a National Merit Scholar, an NDEA Fellow, a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and a Fellow in Law and Political Science at the Harvard Law School. His college textbook, "Thinking About Politics: American Government in Associational Perspective," was published 1981 and his most recent book is "The Case of the Racist Choir Conductor: Struggling With America's Original Sin." His columns have appeared in newspapers in Michigan, Oregon, and a number of other states. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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Kim Jong Un did not create the current regime. He stepped into leadership of a going concern and even if inclined to reform his government, he would need to go about doing so slowly and cautiously.
gorbachev, pence, soviet union
Tuesday, 13 February 2018 02:00 PM
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