- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 6, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

A combined statement from the top U.S. and South Korea military leaders said North Korea’s aggressions may very well prove the match that lights a war — and if so, they’re ready and willing.

Another empty threat? Nobody wants war — nobody sane, that is. But throwing out threats and failing to back them with action will only embolden the target of the threat. Particularly when that target is a bully like Kim Jong-un.

Truly, it’s hard to say which is worse: sending in the U.S. military, or simply threatening to send in the U.S. military — but failing to do so. The first is a sad situation; but the second, a national security situation.

Emboldening crazy is not a solid strategy.

“Self-restraint, which is a choice, is all that separates armistice and war,” said Gen. Vincent Brooks, the commander of Combined Forces Command. “As this Alliance missile live fire shows, we are able to change our choice when so ordered by our Alliance national leaders.

And he then added this: “It would be a grave mistake for anyone to believe anything to the contrary.”

In other words — hey, North Korea, don’t mess with us. We will use military force, if necessary.

Gen. Lee Sun-jin, chairman of the Republic of Korea Joint Chiefs of Staff, weighed in as well, with this: “Despite North Korea’s repeated provocation, the ROK-U.S. Alliance is maintaining patience and self-restraint. As the combined live fire demonstrated, we may make resolute decisions any time, if the Alliance Commanders in Chief order. Whoever thinks differently is making a serious misjudgment.”

It’s a thin thread — this self-restraint — that America’s walking, given the power-lusts of Pyongyang’s Kim Jong-un. Kim, with the eyes of the world watching him, isn’t likely to back down from his missile tests. Sanctions, bluntly put, are a finger flick.

So next up? Slapping countries that do business with North Korea, like China, with trade punishments.

“There are countries that are allowing, even encouraging, trade with North Korea,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told the Security Council, adding that if these nations want to keep their favorable trade status with America, as well, “that’s not going to happen.”

Well and good. But honestly, haven’t we walked down this road before? Sanctioning North Korea, talking tough on trade, trying to form coalitions with other nations to press Pyongyang to comply with international resolutions — all said, all done in past administrations.

What we need most at this point is not to offer up any sort of red line to North Korea.

Haley may say this: “We will not repeat the inadequate approaches of the past that have brought us to this dark day.”

And that leaves this, as even she acknowledged: Tapping America’s “considerable military forces.”

There are those who think regime change is the only viable solution to dealing with North Korea. They have a valid point — that being, Kim has nothing to lose by continuing to flagrantly violate international law, while America and U.S. allies have everything to lose by allowing the regime to achieve its missile ends. What’s worse than military action, however, is threatening military action — and then doing nothing. Doing that only strengthens the propaganda machine of North Korea, and emboldens Kim to behave even more aggressively, even more irrationally — and that’s an outcome that will likely lead to war, anyway.

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