How Seriously To Take North Korea?

Anti-American propaganda from North Korea from Bob Jones

Anti-American propaganda from North Korea from Bob Jones

I’m not sure how seriously we Americans take the North Koreans. I think our general attitude is, “They can huff and puff, but in the end we’ll blow their house down.”

I’m not sure how seriously we should take North Korea’s intermittent threats to “nuke” the United States or whether it even has the ability to do that.

I do think Pyongyang can create a whole lot of headaches for us and our allies by even resuming limited artillery attacks on South Korean territory and not recognizing the country’s partition at the 38th parallel.

Whatever happens, we need more education that we originally separated the Communist North and non-Communist South back in 1945, much as we joined the French in 1954 in separating North and South Vietnam. Our fear of communism set the stage for civil wars in both those countries.

North Korea’s leadership is erratic, but its fear and loathing of the United States is based on some solid historical facts. We ravaged the North with fire-bombings of 22 cities and killing 2 million civilians during the Korean War, where we intervened as we would do later in Vietnam, mainly driven by the fear of evil communism defeating our good-guy allies.

There’s a worthwhile book about this, North Korea, by war historian Bruce Cummings. He’s a little too apologetic about the Kim family’s regime for my taste, but he’s an eye-opener about our Korean War activities and the root of Pyongyang’s dislike of America.

Things were not going well for our side in late 1950, and some Chinese troops had entered the war on the North’s side. That’s when Gen. Douglas MacArthur asked for “commander’s discretion” to employ nuclear bombs. He wanted 26 of them.

Moreover, he proposed an expanded plan to end the war in 10 days.

“I would have dropped between 30 and 50 atomic bombs … strung across the neck of Manchuria,” he wrote after being fired. He would have “spread behind us – from the Sea of Japan to the Yellow Sea – a belt of radioactive cobalt … It has an active life of between 60 and 120 years. For at least 60 years there could have been no land invasion of Korea from the North.”

Our Joint Chiefs of Staff and U.S. Rep. Albert Gore (Al’s father) liked “a radiation belt dividing the Korean peninsula permanently into two.”

On April 6, 1951, President Truman signed the order to use A-bombs against North Korea, but for some reason it was never sent out. We did destroy most of North Korea’s dams, and the memory of that runs deep in the country’s psyche. We bathed the place in napalm dropped by fleets of airplanes.

We did not win. So the North Koreans see themselves as survivors and us as monsters.

I’m hoping it all works out, as it finally did in Vietnam. But I’m not especially confident it will.