The possibility of a warning shot
From our Expert Voices conversation on war with North Korea.
It would be wrong to say there are no military options for dealing with North Korea. But it is fair to say that no military option is without risk to U.S. and allied interests. What we — and Kim Jong Un — need to keep in mind, however, is that his nuclear ICBM program, combined with his refusal to negotiate, are narrowing the risk gap between doing nothing and taking action.
What types of military actions might precipitate compromise, not catastrophe? Perhaps one is a sharp, short "warning shot" fracturing North Korean complacency while discouraging retaliation — the equivalent of the horse's head on the pillow that "makes Kim an offer he can't refuse". Perhaps another would be the demonstration of a game-changing new military technology. (Think DARPA's special "liquid lasers" — essentially a Sci-Fi Ray Gun capability so advanced that it could neutralize Pyongyang's missiles, rockets and artillery.) Negotiations might look better to the Young General at that point.
Bottom line: Such options are a bit far-fetched and neither is risk free. Remember: although the immensely capable U.S. Military is ready to "fight tonight," its mission is to prevent war, not to start one.
Read the other experts:
- Du Hyeogn Cha, visiting research fellow at Asan Institute for Policy Studies: Keeping the military option open
- Jonathan Pollack, senior fellow at Brookings' Center for East Asia Policy: There are no easy answers
- Adam Mount, senior fellow at Center for American Progress: Don't start a war