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It could be any day now. Any minute, really. So I thought I might exhume this blog just long enough to document the situation. Right now, young airmen on Guam are shaking out a fleet of B-1 Bombers, and the view from the DMZ in Korea is just a little bit more special for the more than 10,000 US combat troops on the border there. Another 13,000 are stationed in the south, standing by for orders in possibly the longest cease-fire in recorded history.

And now there are nuclear weapons on both sides. Maybe it's inevitable. And of course, all the rhetoric from both sides has everyone considering the absolute worst-case scenario. But we've been here before, and a lot of people like to draw a comparison between this and the Cuban Missile Crisis, arguing that president John Kennedy did not back down and was able to get the Soviets to blink, and to remove their missiles from Cuba. The way Kennedy handled that crisis, some say, is the same as our current president's approach: Tough talk and bold action. But there is a difference between Kennedy's words and our current president's. Kennedy said, "Our goal is not the victory of might, but the vindication of right." 

That's a little bit different from, "North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen."

of course, the situations are not exactly identical. Kennedy was dealing with a relatively reasonable superpower, and contrary to the selective memory of some Americans, Nikita Khrushchev removed his missiles only after we removed ours from Turkey. That sort of compromise doesn't play well with the mythology that the United States was able to stare down the Russians and get them to back down. But now we're dealing with a hermit kingdom with a supreme leader in a Confucian system that elevates him to God-like status, and gives him divine powers of control over his people. Maybe our president is trying to meet his aggression with strength, to stand up to the bully and all that. But the result is really just two guys talking crazy to each other while dangling nuclear bombs. It's not helpful. One guy threatens to bomb the other, and the other counters with a threat of "fire and fury." And then the other one announces plans for a scheduled attack on Guam, and before we know it, we're going.

But here's the real trouble with the almost imminent thermonuclear hellscape we're walking into: It moves beyond the fact the United States would spank and destroy North Korea without really flexing its muscles. It is very possible that a showdown with Kim Jong Un that turns into a shooting war will set in motion a series of events that could very easily shift the global power structure, not to mention remove once and for all the United States from its position as a major power. 

Here's one scenario: North Korea decides to launch missiles even near Guam, and now our president has to make good on his tough talk, so we strike multiple sites in North Korea. If even one of those bombs on either side are nuclear, it's on. But even if it's conventional, China, a nation that has not been friendly to us since going communist in 1949, could seize the opportunity to jump a vulnerable and beset United States Military, possibly invading Taiwan and sending troops and equipment to North Korea. And then, what about Russia? it could be game on for them as well. We'd have Australia, France and Great Britain, and probably India, but then, while all that crazytime is happening, ISIS could ramp up and move on us too.

This is not a an argument for pacifist policy, but rather a blunt assessment of how things could go. And maybe we won't have a choice in the matter. The Cuban Missile Crisis involved the two biggest boys on the block, and in reality ended in a compromise, with both sides making concessions. The Korean Missile Crisis could very well be remembered, if anyone's left to remember it, as the moment when all the upstart nations finally swarmed the last big boy on the block, and finally knocked him down.

It was a good run. Two-hundred years and change.

 

Contact reporter Neil Zawicki at 541-812-6099 or neil.zawicki@lee.net

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