Yes, you read that right.
This analysis has rightly focused on the negative consequences of each decision; however, it is necessary to also assess potential benefits. With Option One there are none. But war would: prove that nuclear weapons do not confer unfettered license to threaten world peace, unify an artificially divided people, and extinguish a regime that is an affront to the human race. Moreover, depending on how it progressed, the war could bolster America’s long-term position in Asia by proving America’s ability to sustain high-intensity operations in the Western Pacific and giving China pause.
This analysis recommends war.
It is shocking to put to print. However, with North Korea’s inexorable advance towards developing a nuclear-tipped ICBM, we enter the realm of bad choices. On balance, war on the peninsula is the least bad alternative. There are some months left for a brilliant diplomatic breakthrough that turns North Korea from the brink – these avenues must be energetically and exhaustively pursued. This analysis is presented on the fair assumption that such initiatives will fail.
This strategic assessment assumes one of two possibilities. First, that the U.S. accepts North Korea developing nuclear-tipped ICBMs capable of reaching the continental homeland, thereby allowing Pyongyang to achieve a stable deterrence relationship. Second, the U.S. seeks to disarm North Korea with a major military strike. Related possibilities such as a limited strike are ignored, as this overcomplicates matters and escalation should be assumed in any case.
In each scenario, I provide a range of consequences. Not all futures will come to pass, but some combination of these are a certainty and have a direct cause-and-effect relationship with the chosen course of action.
The United States chooses not to act militarily to destroy North Korea’s nuclear program. North Korea successfully conducts a long-range atmospheric nuclear test, conclusively proving its ability to deliver a nuclear weapon to the American homeland. The U.S. is deterred from further intervention, and over the next five to ten years North Korea continues to expand, diversify, and protect it’s growing nuclear arsenal.