- - Friday, September 29, 2017



et us honestly admit it. Despite the blistering rhetoric of President Trump, there are no good options to resolve the North Korean crisis. Even the traditional hawks who do not see any war they do not like this time are of the same opinion.

Moreover, even the hawk in chief, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, has said that such a war would be “catastrophic. … A conflict in North Korea … would be probably the worst kind of fighting in most people’s lifetimes.”

The most detailed analysis of all possible scenarios ranging from a “crushing U.S. military strike to eliminate Pyongyang’s arsenals of mass destruction, take out its leadership, and destroy its military” to “removing chairman Kim Jong-Un and his inner circle, most likely by assassination,” is provided by Mark Bowden in The Atlantic. His conclusion: All these options not only will carry huge human and material costs, but their end results will turn both the regional and the global situation from bad to worse.

Gregory Treverton, the former chair of the U.S. National Intelligence Council, agrees that “military options against the North’s nuclear arsenal suffer from two problems: they might not succeed, and Pyongyang has devastating retaliatory options.”

A former FBI agent, Eric O’Neil, who helped to capture the spy Robert Hanssen, advises on the danger of North Korea’s advanced abilities in cyberattack operations to disrupt its enemies. He mentions several spectacular operations by the North Korean spy agency, the Reconnaissance General Bureau, including the global WannaCry ransomware attack from earlier this year.

One can continue with similar quotations, but the main question remains: What to do?

The most obvious answer is to follow Mr. Trump’s pre-election pledges and concentrate on his “America First” agenda. Given the spectacular failures of his predecessors in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen, why not take a pause and, for a change, let the regional powers around North Korea, including China, Russia, Japan and South Korea, take the lead?

These countries have enough economic and political resources to reach an acceptable agreement and, due to their geographic location, they have vital rather than hegemonic interests to make a deal.

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in never concealed his desire for reconciliation and remains committed to opening a dialogue with the North, so why not let him try?

Japan, which during World War II committed heinous crimes against Koreans, can and should provide a solid financial and economic assistance package as a part of this agreement. The Japanese government officially accepted the requirement for monetary compensation to victims of war crimes, as specified by the Potsdam Declaration. South Korea did receive some reparations, but so far the North got nothing.

China has the largest clout as it controls about 90 percent of North Korea foreign trade, and Russia can offer additional economic incentives, which might work much better than threats and insults. For example, Russia’s proposed gas pipelines to South Korea could generate substantial transit fees for the North.

Europeans do not like the war rhetoric at all. French President Emmanuel Macron called for more cooperation with Beijing and Moscow to settle this crisis, and newly re-elected German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated that she would be willing to step in if asked. Even Switzerland and Sweden offered their help to mediate.

During his election campaign, Mr. Trump strongly condemned George W. Bush’s and Barack Obama’s military adventures, which did not bring too much glory to the United States. Instead, they brought huge misery and devastation in the Middle East, the rise of ISIS, tens of thousands of Americans dead and wounded, plus trillions of dollars wasted.

So why not make a spectacular turn around and prove your credentials not by starting another war with even more dramatic and devastating results but by building a new world order where other willing powers take part and share the risks to maintain the regional security.

All those who are on Mr. Trump’s mailing list, including myself, are getting daily appeals from him to help with his “America First” mission, which is “being challenged by deep pockets of our government and winning the liberal establishment that is fighting to destroy us from within.”

If Mr. Trump were to implement the aforementioned North Korea scenario, not only his base but the overwhelming majority of the American people would applaud him and assure not only his victory over internal enemies but the creation of a solid foundation for a new and more peaceful world order.

⦁ Edward Lozansky is president of the American University in Moscow.

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