At some point you’re going to have to deal with America. Since just past the middle of the 19th century, no country has so labored under the weight of other peoples’ lives. Truly, one must marvel at the burden American meddling compels it to bear. Perhaps the warfare and welfare of foreigners is a resource, which we greedily aggregate. While most of Earth’s occupants have to scrape by on only their own thin problems, we hoard the problems of everyone. Which leads back to the topic: whether you want it or not, we’re America and we’re here to help.
For those few not yet advised, the disencumbering of our exquisitely sensitive moral conscience doesn’t occur without certain mutual understandings. Primarily among these is the understanding that you will grant due consideration to American guidance in such matters as trade, finance, military facilities, human migration, and evolving leftist social fashion. That is to say, with a bit of awkward candor, you will become a vassal state. But it’s really up to you. We’d prefer to ask, but can be prodded to tell.
For most leaders that makes for an easy choice. Though for the more recalcitrant, the options can rapidly lead to autopsy producing events. And because this path has become so well littered with corpses, it is creating the perverse incentive for oppositional leaders to not walk down it, but rather to run.
One of America’s mutual understandings with prospective vassal states is that it will retain sole discretion over whose execution ends up on YouTube, and what irritants get reduced to rubble. Those who reject such sensual overtures face a poorly incentivized problem. If they don’t nuke-up, they will be helpless against a hostile superpower with a proven proclivity for regime change. If they nuke-up too slowly, regime change advances on America’s priority list. So the unintentional inducement is for a binary response that eschews moderation: submit or go break-neck for nukes.
NKorean defectors have stated this same calculus is now driving Pyongyang. To be a nukeless non-vassal is to live beneath the Carrier Strike Group of Damocles. If thumbing your nose at Washington earned nothing but a shrug, then nukes wouldn’t be an existential issue. That’s not to say they wouldn’t be enticing, but they wouldn’t be imperative. And if our military tactics of dissuasion had been utilized more economically, we could have held them out as viable nuclear deterrence.
But instead of we’ll crush you if you try to get them what we’ve said with our cruise missile profligacy is we’ll crush you if you don’t get them. And that changes the decision tree for everyone.
One of the less explored branches on this tree is the use of nukes in the battlefield. If our next Serbiairaqlibyasyria launched strategic nukes, they could be assured of complete retaliatory destruction. Though what if they destroyed an American invasion force with a tactical device? Would America use strategic assets to crystallize a country that used only defensive devices in its own area? I think the answer is probably but not certainly yes. Though that’s a question Kim is no doubt pondering as carriers convene off his coastline. I would imagine the entire flotilla could be scuttled with a blast or two, and then America would do what?
That ambiguity, to the extent it exists in the minds of North Korean generals, creates unpredictable decision creases that should make nuclear deterrence far more of a strategic priority than punitive strikes based on Ivanka’s bouts of foot stomping.
But, of course, that’s not the country we live in. Instead of being content with our own problems, we strut about the world stage trying on everyone else’s. That means foreign leaders have learned to nuke-up if they want to keep their issues in-house. Hey, we’ve got nukes, we should try that.