What would happen if Kim Jong-il tested a Nuke and the United States Didn’t Notice?

Okay, President Kim, so you’re really ticked off at my failure to comment on your prior shinanigans on the SHAFR blog. You win. I’m finally going to advise the Obama administration on how to respond to your recent, alleged, test of a nuke, and in public on the SHAFR blog.

Darth Cheney to the contrary notwithstanding, it’s been no secret for some time that the initiation of military action by the United States against the North Korean homeland was not a serious possibility. Does that mean that the only alternative is U.S. compromise with a regime that perpetually alters its positions and actions once its agreements are tested by specific conditions and courses of action? I don’t think so.

One alternative is to count on China’s and Russia’s common interest in avoiding a nuclear arms race in northeast Asia to contain North Korea’s nuclear program. After all, do China and Russia really want North Korea to sell nukes and missiles to Islamic terrorists? Do they really want to see Japan, South Korea, and (omigod, China!) Taiwan  to develop nuclear weapons? I don’t think so.

As the United States experiences “relative decline,” or the “rise of the rest,” it only seems fair, not to mention practical, to expect rising powers to bear an increasing share of the burden of managing the least responsible actors in the international system. Surely the United States can (should) continue to maintain forces in South Korea and Japan, as well as its military alliances with those countries, and to strike militarily in any instance in which North Korea clearly seeks to transfer its nuclear capability to other parties. Beyond that, it is about time that others did their fair share to restrain North Korea.

North Korea is devilishly rational in acting upon the assumption that the United States is desperate that it not become a nuclear power, but not so desperate as to take military action against its homeland. It’s time to call President Kim’s bluff, and let China and Russia do their share. Absolute security is not a realistic option in the real world. If the United States can accept that fact, it has a far better chance of dealing with North Korea effectively than if it does not.

President Kim, do your thing! The United States has more important issues on its plate.