President Trump may soon have to make a firm decision on how to best preserve U.S. interests abroad while also protecting American lives from the rogue state of North Korea. There is no easy way out of the North Korea crisis, especially in the wake of North Korea’s sixth nuclear test over the weekend, in which Pyongyang claims it tested a hydrogen bomb.
There are no perfect options, but President Trump may decide to utilize one or several of the options below to end the threat. These options can be combined and harnessed to form a grand strategy to defeat the enemy in Pyongyang.
The defensive war option is all but guaranteed in the event of North Korean kinetic aggression. Defense Secretary James Mattis has promised that the U.S. would respond to any North Korean attack on America with a “massive military response.”
There’s also the offensive war option, which would presumably involve preemptively targeting and destroying North Korea’s nuclear sites. A successful operation would almost completely eliminate the threat to the continental United States, but it comes with many risks.
For one, there’s no guarantee that U.S. intelligence has perfectly mapped out all of the nuclear sites in the Hermit Kingdom. Another issue involves whether North Korea would respond and launch an all-out war on South Korea, which would result in death and devastation for thousands, if not millions of Koreans.
The U.S. can also bolster its East Asian presence in a massive show of force, stockpiling both offensive and defensive assets in the form of missiles, carrier groups, and other military resources. (See Conservative Review Editor-in-Chief Mark Levin’s strategy for dealing with the regime, which gets into more detail about the resources needed for a Reaganesque strategy.) The White House may also encourage South Korea and Japan to build up its military to better deter aggression.
President Trump can rely on advanced cyber technology to disrupt the advancement of North Korea’s nuclear program, pointing to the U.S.-Israel developed Stuxnet virus deployed against Iran as an example. Our cyber warriors can also attempt to disrupt missile launches, as some Trump administration officials have alluded.
But it’s significantly difficult, if not impossible, to wage a cyber war against the North Korean regime. North Korea utilizes offline critical infrastructure, and un-networked, closed-circuit communications, presenting little opportunity for cyber teams to make a significant dent in North Korea’s military apparatus.
The United States can decide to implement a plan that strategically targets assets important to the leadership in Pyongyang, and attempt to overthrow the Stalinist regime there. But with a population that’s literally propagandized from birth to hate the United States, there’s no guarantee that someone even more hostile than the maniacal Kim Jong Un would assume his place.
The past three administrations have dealt with the North Korea issue largely by paying off the Kim dynasty with humanitarian aid.
As Pyongyang saber rattled, the Clinton, Bush 43, and Obama administrations appeased the North Korean regime with steady cash infusions. This approach kicked the nuclear can down the road to President Trump, who may also decide to continue rewarding the regime for its unhinged aggression.