If ever there was a foreign policy issue around which our nation should be united, it’s the nuclear threat from North Korea.
Many regimes deserve to be called “criminal,” but few more so than Kim Jong Un’s. Human Rights Watch calls North Korea “one of the most repressive authoritarian states in the world.” It seeks “fearful obedience by using public executions, arbitrary detention, and forced labor.”
The group points to a United Nations report documenting “systematic, widespread, and gross human rights violations” that included “murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortion, and other sexual violence.”
North Korea’s actions constituted “crimes against humanity.” They entail “effectively enslaving hundreds of thousands of citizens, including children, in prison camps and other detention facilities” and involve “beatings and torture by guards, and forced labor in dangerous and sometimes deadly conditions.”
There is a savage madness to this government, and the prospect of its utterly unstable leader getting his hands on usable nuclear weapons is terrifying.
There is also a kind of tragic consensus among students of international relations that the United States lacks any obvious good options. Of course the U.S. has the military power to take on a small and economically miserable country, but the costs of such action could be enormous. They would likely fall first on South Korea, a loyal and prosperous U.S. ally. Seoul, its bustling capital, is home to some 10 million people and lies just thirty-five miles from the Demilitarized Zone that separates the two Koreas.
Confronting these horrifying realities, the vast majority of Americans, I suspect, would prefer to suspend our acrid politics in dealing with this issue and support President Trump if he pursued a tough but serious and carefully orchestrated policy. Trump may be given to hyperbolic (and often fact-free) attacks on those he perceives as enemies, but it’s hard to be hyperbolic where Kim is concerned. He’s about as scary and cruel as they come.