Restraint the wrong approach, Re: North Korea Will Never Play Nice, International Herald Tribune/New York Times, November 25, 2010

North Korea has committed two major acts of war against South Korea so far this year, last March when it torpedoed a South Korean naval vessel in international waters destroying the ship and killing 46 sailors and last Tuesday (November 22) when it launched a missile attack on South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island which killed two soldiers and at least two civilians. Just prior to that the North Koreans unveiled a modern up-to-date nuclear facility they constructed which will enable them to enrich uranium and produce more powerful nuclear weapons than the 10 or so they already have. Governments and pundits around the world have been counselling restraint to this latest attack because it is felt that a military response could lead to all out war between the two countries, a war which could involve nuclear weapons and drag in the United States, China and others.

Restraint is precisely the wrong approach to take, at least if you’re South Korean. North Korea is going to continue to commit acts of war against the South and sow death and destruction until she is stopped and the only thing that is going to do that is a strong, unambiguous, targeted military response by Seoul. Its either that or suffer the death of a thousand cuts. Since South Korea is not willing or able to undergo that and North Korea will not stop attacking a targeted military response makes a great deal of sense. It may lead to all out war to be sure but then again it may not…no one except the North Koreans seems to want war and cooler heads may prevail once the firing commences. In any event South Koreans have to protect themselves and prevent further attacks and using their military is the only way to do it, unless of course committing slow national suicide is part of their equation.

All of which begs several questions. How much restraint would the United States show if China purposely sunk an American navy ship and killed 50 0dd U.S. sailors? What about vice/versa? What if the United States or China launched non nuclear missiles at the other’s territory and killed soldiers and civilians alike? What good would restraint do then? What would a failure to respond tell either nation’s antagonists and how would that prevent further attacks and loss of life? How have President Obama’s policies of conciliation, appeasement and containment towards North Korea contributed to the situation and how do the lessons learned pertain to the Middle East and Iran? Etc. etc. etc.

Yes, South Korea has to respond militarily. The United States and China have to restrain North Korea and perhaps themselves once that occurs, but South Korea has to respond.

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