There comes a moment in every spaghetti western where two or more gunfighters size each other up in the main thorough fare. Hot sun beating down, they unblinking and unflinchingly stare at each other. Their hands are not even inches from their guns. This is the exact moment we are in with the North Koreans. With nothing but the DMZ and the Pacific Ocean between us we stare unblinking at each other. It doesn’t matter any more who started it or how it got started because there can only be one ending now. Our fingers are twitching, waiting to see if they are going to pull.
What comes next in the Eastwood flicks? The bad guy goes to draw and fire, and catches one or several before he can clear his holster. Some time in the not overly distant future this will be scene that next unfolds for us. The second Korean war is not going to be a very long one, in international terms it will only last as long as one of those pull and shoots that have periodically come across our screens for decades. Make no mistake the Koreans can hurt us, I severely doubt they’ve mastered the means to drop a nuclear war head on an American city. Even a Japanese one is probably out of reach for that matter. However you don’t need to drop it on a city to just get it in the low atmosphere over the general area and unleash a grid crippling EMP.
Next frame then, the bad guy collapses. The immediate danger is over. Depending on just what you are watching perhaps the hero was grazed, but maybe he was completely untouched by the villain’s lead. This is my expectation of how the now inevitable encounter with the Korean madman will go. They finally gird up enough to “draw down” on us, maybe via a successful missile test, maybe by an attack on Seoul. It is impossible to know what form this attack will take. What we can know for certain is that it will be the end of the North Korean regime as it stands now. Whether by surgical special forces strikes or by a hell storm of ballistic missiles, the hermit state will cease to exist as it currently does.
The only question left to consider then is what happens next? This is also impossible to know now. I would expect mass immigration in to China and South Korea in the short term. I’m sure the U.S. will end up playing some role in the stabilization of the Korean peninsula. We shouldn’t and have no right to though. We know the fight is coming and therefore we have the right to defend ourselves. This doesn’t extend however to a right to interfere with the free association of others. We can defend ourselves and end regimes that threaten our peace and well being but nation-building has never really ever served our best interests.
Nation building is a futile exercise. It never can possibly serve to inoculate us against future threats because cultures can not change that quickly. If the people do not like us or can not be convinced to like us then assembling their state and ordering the society for them certainly won’t help. Let’s go ahead and flatten people who threaten us. We should and we are about to. Let us also be wary of our own past however. In the westerns the cowboy never helped the villain back up and we should not be doing this on a international level either. End the threat and walk away.