By Kurt Vetters
The U.S. maintains a military ring surrounding North Korea of more than 60,000 troops. Twenty thousand of them sit right on the Korean Peninsula. Yet the headlines point to the ongoing war of words between our president and the dictator of North Korea. Ultimately, however, this crisis will not be solved by our military but by economic sanctions that cripple North Korea and cause their own people to revolt or change the regime.
We are seeing it now in Iran. The only way a government like Iran or North Korea can change without massive U.S. or world-wide intervention is by internal uprising. Iran might be moving in that direction now.
Past sanctions have made a difference in Iran. The Iranian people are pointing fingers at their own government now instead of the world. The Iranian government has not helped its cause by investing fortunes in stirring the Middle East’s power structure with funds that could be better used at home.
There might be room for further sanctions on North Korea. According to Gov. John Kasich’s 2020 presidential campaign literature, our sanctions on Iran are much stronger than those currently imposed on Pyongyang. That appears to be where our energies should focus.
Ultimately, the difference between Iran and North Korea is that Iran and its people want a better relationship with the world. They have seen a 50 percent rise in tourism this year alone; and openness and exposure of their citizens to the world typically brings a desire to join the world.
We will see if this trend continues.
North Korea still has a huge benefactor in China. More 90 percent of their trade is with Beijing, and as long as that relationship remains strong, there might be little the U.S. can do except stay strong and keep mum.
Escalating a war of words does little to solve the problem. It only exacerbates the tension.
When I was a boy, we had a bully in our schoolyard. He was tough to deal with, caused us much consternation, but ultimately, life moved on, we grew to be as big as he was, and the problem went away. By not making a federal case out of his excesses, we waited him out, confident that time would solve the problem. In our childhood rationalization, we struck just the balance needed for the situation.
The U.S. projects power into the region that Korea occupies. Our allies are minutes away from North Korean missile launches. We don’t have to prove to their regime that we are powerful. We just are. Bragging about it or stirring controversy does not add to our power.
I suggest we follow President Teddy Roosevelt’s advice: “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”
Kurt Vetters, a longtime resident of Greenfield, is a U.S. Army veteran, author and local businessman. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.