President Trump is now threatening another destructive war against the North Korean people and their society. He must not be allowed to do this--there is another way to deal with the problem. As a matter of policy, Trump can redirect his energy and efforts onto the person of Kim Jong-un, the country's dictator, who not only threatens the safety of other nations, but who holds his own people in slavery. Why should the United States make war against a captive nation and its helpless people when there is a more effective solution?
The Failure of War as an Instrument of Public Policy
Making war against nation states and their people no longer works. Unstable and undemocratic countries, such as North Korea, are usually controlled by individuals and cabals against whom military force ends up harming their own domestic victims more than the entrenched leadership. The wrath of the people is directed against the outsiders who slaughter their children and helps solidify the rule of their domestic despots.
Destroying the infrastructure of a nation to turn its people against their "leadership" fails--as in Iraq--resulting in the deaths of thousands of innocent children. Targeting "insurgents" using drones and violent nighttime home invasions fails--as in Afghanistan--resulting in "collateral" deaths and injuries to children and noncombatants. Imposition of economic sanctions fail--as in Iran--resulting in the destruction of the middle class and small businesses that are essential to a free society. Support of "rebels" against their government fails--as in Libya--when the new government is controlled by hostile and undemocratic forces. Direct military strikes fail to make a difference--as in Syria--for all of these reasons; and the threat of violent war--as in North Korea--is simply stupid against an immature dictator who has nuclear weapons and nothing to lose by using them.
The use of war as an instrument of foreign policy fails in all of these situations because it does not produce the desired change. It primarily injures the innocent victims of their unrepresentative governments and results in their hatred of the aggressors, rather than their oppressors.
In addition, the use of war by the United States also harms its own people through the wasteful diversion of scarce tax resources to the military-industrial complex, the compiling of massive and unsustainable public debt, a reduction of personal freedoms by the intelligence-security complex, and a loss of respect by other people and nations around the world.
Moreover, continued use of aggressive--yet undeclared--wars by the United States has resulted in an undemocratic shift of power from the legislative branch to the executive branch of government. The Constitution provides that "The Congress shall have power . . . To declare War . . . ." For the past 50 years, however, American presidents, rather than Congress, have repeatedly unleashed military force against far weaker nations and their people--who do not have the means or ability to fight back, except through acts of terror.
In addition to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and Syria, the United States is also currently conducting military operations in Somalia and Yemen. Not only are these wars undeclared by Congress, their extent is largely concealed from the People. Moreover, in "fighting" these wars, the president, as Commander-in-Chief, claims the right to kill and detain "unlawful combatants," including American citizens, anywhere in the world, without trial.
Americans no longer want to militarily intervene in other countries. A CBS/NYT poll found that 72 percent of Americans are opposed to removing dictators where it can, and a CNN poll found more than six in ten Americans desiring a more "non-interventionist" foreign policy. Part of President Trump's electoral support resulted from his campaign promises to avoid military action in foreign nations. He said the United States. should "stay out of Syria and other countries that hate us."
Yes, there is violence and repression in the world, some of which may threaten the security interests of the United States, and it would be naive to deny it. It is equally foolish, however, to believe that launching undeclared aggressive wars against nation states and their people can resolve each and every one of these threats. There has to be a better solution, one that is both legal and effective.
An Alternative to War
Let us, for a moment, think "outside the box" about an alternative public policy to deal with these dangerous geopolitical situations--one based on commonsense and the law.
Assuming that the Trump administration can make the case that Kim Jong-un and his regime pose a risk of danger to the People of the United States, shouldn't President Trump present that evidence to Congress and allow it to decide what to do? Rather than an authorization to launch a violent military attack against North Korea--essentially a declaration of war--Congress could pass a resolution along these lines:
"The Congress of the United States declares that Kim Jong-un and his administration of the government of North Korea pose a danger to the United States, and he is hereby declared to be an outlaw. Congress directs the President of the United States to file a legal proceeding against the government of North Korea in the International Court of Justice and to take all necessary and reasonable steps to compel the personal attendance of Kim Jong-un to defend his government and its conduct."
As a member of the United Nations, North Korea is automatically a party of the International Court; however, it must consent to jurisdiction in a specific case. The congressional resolution would, however, be directed against Kim, personally--as the dictator of North Korea--instead of the people of North Korea. It is narrowly designed to compel him to personally leave North Korea and to accept jurisdiction of the Court on its behalf. As a practical matter, once Kim leaves the country, the chances of his ever returning are very slim.
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