Time to lose your illusions on North Korea

Illusion #4: Military Force Can Fix It

Some observers still see a viable military path to eliminating North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs. Yet, as numerous analysts have noted, Pyongyang maintains an arsenal of artillery, rockets and bio-chemical agents on its side of the de-militarized zone, well within striking distance of Seoul. A strike on facilities in the North risks a catastrophic attack on the South’s capital city and U.S. forces on the peninsula – with Japan also at risk in the bargain.

There is a two-stage military approach that could, theoretically, eliminate the North’s nuclear and missile sites. In this concept, the United States would strike only those sites (assuming all could be located) and would telegraph to Pyongyang the limited nature of its attack. Washington would further signal to the Kim regime that any retaliation – would lead to its forcible destruction. It is theoretically possible that the regime would passively absorb the attacks without striking South Korea or Japan, for fear of incurring a far broader American campaign aimed at ending the regime.

Such an approach, however, carries intolerable risk in light of the regime’s seemingly genuine paranoia about American regime change efforts.