As a thoroughgoing pacifist, I clearly disfavor the use of violence to resolve international conflict. How to respond to the growing nuclear capability of North Korea is rather complex, many experts say, and the options available to and being explored by the United States government are quite alarming in their destructive possibilities. I believe that the present crisis is the result of a longtime practice of dismissing potential tension until it becomes explosive.
What I mean to point to here is the fact that we consistently hesitate to engage in serious diplomatic efforts until a situation that could have been prevented is upon us. We watched as Korea’s singular goal to become a nuclear nation developed and flourished. Rather than engage in intense discussions with our allies and other nations in the area to suppress the mounting threat to peace and security in the region and the world, we refused to take the bold steps we needed to dismantle North Korea’s pursuit of their goal completely.
Part of the problem of lack of redress is that we are reluctant to negotiate with established or perceived enemies. When we do not communicate directly with opposing nations, we risk the escalation of conflict that seems almost irrevocable. Whereas I do not believe there ever comes a time when the violence of war is absolutely necessary, I do believe we do not help to divert such a catastrophe by circumventing direct conversation with all parties involved, including nations with different interests than our own.
What is challenging is persuading another nation, insistent on fulfilling their own interests, that their goals and objectives are destructive and ultimately inhumane. Who has ample authority objectively to make that claim? It is all the more difficult when we seek to disable another nation from having what we and other countries already possess! On what moral grounds do we stand, when having arsenals of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction to the level we do gives us superpower status that makes all other nations extremely vulnerable?
Of course, we cannot go back in time and change the fact that military might can wipe all traces of human existence on this earth. However, cases can be made that claim the introduction of another nation to the roster of those with nuclear weapons would significantly alter the balance of power that is already quite precarious. The devastating reactions of nations and populations around the world to the U.S. show of force on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 would be replicated, albeit not to the same degree because there is a level of deterrence since there are other countries able to execute nuclear strikes without the aid or support of the United States.
In my opinion, it would be both foolhardy and unconscionable unilaterally to attack North Korea without direct provocation. Too many lives would be lost, including those of U.S. soldiers and citizens in the region. In this day and age, it is morally indefensible to exercise first-strike capabilities of a conventional or nuclear means. The proximity of North Korea to contiguous nations as well as others at moderate nautical distances obviates any violent intrusions.
Regime change should always be off the table, since every country has subjective interests that militate against intervention into their own boundaries. Hence, it would be inconsistent to argue logically for the overthrow of another country’s leadership. Respectfully negotiating with opposing and threatening nations is preferable to violence, even if sometimes there is the belief that a particular leader, such as Kim Jong Un, is mentally and emotionally unstable.
At this juncture, imposing multilateral and multifarious sanctions against North Korea and other noncompliant nations seems to be the most feasible option to compel Kim to relinquish his testing exhibitions and his building stockpiles of nuclear weaponry. These sanctions should be severe encroachments upon Korea’s normal conductance of domestic and foreign business. Kim should get the message that anything short of full cooperation with shutting down its nuclear program would debilitate his country and its people.
Many have argued in the past that international sanctions are acts of violence, even though no military weapon is employed. I disagree. From my vantage point, there is a genuine difference between physical violence and international sanctions. For the most part, sanctioning a nation is not only avoiding directly killing soldiers and civilians, but also putting the fate of the country into the hands of its government. The nation’s leaders can preclude the possibilities of harm and death by agreeing to the demands of the sanctioning agent(s). It would take appreciably longer for sanctions to result in casualties than warfare.