Should We Push for Regime Change in North Korea?

Nicholas Guariglia thinks so:

Things on the Korean peninsula are heating up by the hour. This latest round of nuclear and missile tests should come as no surprise, given President Obama’s non-response to North Korea’s missile provocations several weeks ago. This time, however, Pyongyang detonated a 20-kiloton device — the ground shook 130 miles away — which is an estimated 20 times more powerful than the nuclear bomb North Korea tested in 2006.

Predictably, the international community bemoaned with platitudinous reprimands — Obama: “gravely concerned”; the United Nations: “deeply worried” — and even more predictably, North Korea responded by threatening war against South Korea, disavowing the 1953 armistice, and swearing to continue production of nuclear weapons. Surprise, surprise…

…Having spent way more time in “diplomacy school” than anyone’s mental health should allow, I can personally attest: active diplomats, retired diplomats-turned-professors, and aspiring would-be diplomats refuse to recognize that some things in this world fall outside of their professional purview. Could we imagine any other profession — say, anesthesiology or lumberjacking — making that same bold claim about itself?

Kim has made a mockery of our diplomacy with him for nearly two decades. He soaked President Clinton for all he was worth, clicking champagne glasses with Madeleine Albright all the while perfecting the art of plutonium production. During the Bush administration, Kim reneged on every preliminary agreement before the preliminary agreement could get its trousers off. And now he’s manhandling Mr. Obama to the point of embarrassment…

…Enough is enough. Kim Jong Il has proven he will stop at nothing to produce and proliferate nuclear weapons, and that is a no-no. Diplomacy has failed. Talking for the sake of talking is not working. Serious powers ought to be emphasizing results, not process. “Soft power” is a problem cured by Cialis — not a national security strategy for North Korea. It’s time we started working to bring that twisted, Lilliputian, Chia Pet miscreant down.

Within the linked article are suggestions on ways and means of bringing Kim down – including allowing Japan to build nuclear weapons, a course of action which does not commend itself to me (call me paranoid, but I like a rich, powerful Japan which lacks nuclear weapons and aircraft carriers…just makes certain there’s no desire in Tokyo for a re-match). My view is that Kim’s regime is moribund already and we don’t need to push it to extinction – it totters that way, already. With Kim’s apparent selection of his youngest son as successor, we see the opportunity for a change…will the third Kim be able to exercise the ruthless power necessary to keep a starving population under subjection? I’m betting he won’t be able to do it – the sort of sick inhumanity required to maintain a Stalinist regime is very hard to transmit from one generation to another, and I’m figuring it can’t be done to a third generation in North Korea.

While I don’t expect the NK regime to collapse immediately upon the elder Kim’s demise, I do believe that the NK leadership will take stock and try to figure out a way to feather their nests, and then allow the regime to fall. It will be a complicated dance which will require the cooperation of China (and, likely, a complete US withdrawal from Korea), but the thing can be managed – once the elder Kim is dead. We hope, of course, that Kim will be sent for final judgment in a short span of time – but that might still be years away. Meanwhile, our job is to ensure against NK exporting nuclear capability or thinking that it can blackmail us with nuclear and ballistic missile tests.

This does call for diplomacy – but not the way Obama and Co view diplomacy. Diplomacy isn’t just talking and making nice. At the Congress of Berlin in 1878, Russia and England were at loggerheads and war was imminent. England had various demands which Russia had to accept or war would result. Russia was thinking that England was bluffing. The German Chancellor, Bismarck, wanted to find out if England really was – and so Bismarck went to meet with the British Prime Minister – Benjamin Disraeli – and talked and talked for hours…just relentlessly pressing Disraeli to come clean and admit that it was all a bluff, that England wouldn’t go to war…over and over again, Disraeli carefully and patiently kept re-stating the British position – Russia backs down, or there will be war. After a long while, Bismarck was 100% convinced that England wasn’t bluffing and advised the Russians – who couldn’t sustain a war against Britian – to back down. Peace secured – but only at the forthright and stout assurance that if one side didn’t back down, there would be war. We must tell NK to back down, at the threat of war, and make China understand that we are serious – NK gives up the nukes, or we fight. Once China is convinced we are deadly serious, they’ll get NK to cool it. End of crisis – and then we just wait for Kim to kick the bucket.

We’ll find out swiftly if Obama has any real sense of diplomacy – or whether he’s just another Chamberlain who thinks you can shake hands with barbarians and get them to love you.