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Congress Can Stop War with North Korea

We live in a world where North Korea presents the possibility of retaliatory strikes on the US mainland and our Republican administration is throwing around wildly bellicose and recklessly threatening words that risk all of us having to pay the price of a nuclear exchange. It is time for congress to fulfill their constitutional responsibility (Article I, Section 8, Clause 11) to be the only body in the US that may start a war. Congress now allows the President an emergency exemption to take action if they are told about it in 48 hours and the President gets Congress’s approval in 60 days (War Powers Resolution 1973). That is plenty of time for a nuclear conflagration to start. Congress must adjust the War Powers Resolution exemption by saying that no military action can be taken against North Korea with out prior written authorization by Congress.

North Korea has repeatedly made it clear that their nuclear arsenal is defensive. They have cited the lesson of Libya and Iraq where the US negotiated away their nuclear ambitions and then invaded them.  Kim Jung Un in explaining their nuclear program said, “no nuclear nation has been invaded.”

Those who are knowledgeable say there is not any feasible military option. One military action being floated would be a “surgical strike” to eliminate their nuclear capability before they could use it. People familiar with the area say a “surgical strike” will surely result in the annihilation of Seoul’s 10 million people and devastation in Japan and the rest of South Korea. And it will not eliminate North Korea’s nuclear capacity.  Instead it will almost surely result in the firing of any nuclear weapons they have. This scenario ignores that both Russia and China (both nuclear nations) have a deep security interest in not letting North Korea fall.  Another military action being floated would be a “decapitation strike” aimed at eliminating the leadership of North Korea so they could not launch a counter defensive attack. The resulting disaster will be the same as with a “surgical strike.”

Can we live with a nuclear North Korea joining the other 8 nuclear nations? We have been living with nuclear enemies since 1949.  In fact, we have lived most of that time with dozens to thousands of nuclear tipped weapons aimed at us 24/7.  And we have been living with an internationally recognized nuclear North Korea since 2006.

Some argue that dramatic military posturing will bring Kim Jung Un to heel.  For three generations, North Korea has lived under continuing US military threat, from the invasion and attempted occupation by the US in 1953, including repeated sanctions, with 3 annual joint US/South Korea massive military actions which North Korea sees as practice for invading North Korea again, and now this Republican administration has announced the stationing of nuclear equipped aircraft carrier groups and nuclear equipped submarines to within striking distance of North Korea. These military actions are counter-productive. They drive North Korea into a threatened defensive posture.  In this condition, a nation may misinterpret moves by other nations, they set all their armaments on hair triggers, they organize their defense on “fail-deadly” rather than “fail-safe” procedures all of which increase the chance of even an accidental war.  More seriously it dissolves the fabric of a relationship necessary for negotiations.

At another level, this military posturing by the US makes the Kim Jung Un government more stable and increases the public tolerance for massive military spending, neither of which we want.

Can we work with the “quixotic irrational North Korean dictator?” Kim Jung Un has been absolutely consistent. He has made it clear he believes the US is planning to attack North Korea. He has consistently done what he can to protect from those attacks even at huge cost to the country.  North Koreans have lived with deprivation and devastation for years for the good of the nation and there is no reason to think they will not continue to do so.

The more threats, the more saber rattling, the more bellicose posturing the US does, the more North Korea will feel at danger, besieged, and under threat of attack.  The more threatened they feel the more dangerous they become and the more likely we are to get sucked into a war unintentionally. Congress cannot stop what the White House says.  But they can change the situation.  If they use their Constitutional responsibility to say no military action maybe taken toward North Korea without their prior written consent it would send a clear message to the North Korean leaders that despite the bellicose words from the White House and aggressive posturing we are not poised to attack them.  North Korea knows that a preemptive nuclear attack on the US would be suicide, that is not an option they are considering. If North Korea were to attack South Korea, which they aren’t, we would have plenty of time to respond, they know we already have our 3rd largest military deployment in South Korea and much much more near by.

Call your Congressperson and Senator and ask them to act to limit the White House authorization to attack North Korea.

Elliott Adams was in South Korea while in the US Army and returned out of uniform. He was in the infantry as a paratrooper and was also deployed to Vietnam , Japan, and Alaska. He has maintained an interest in and continued to study the Korean conflict ever since.

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