Is the naivete and willful blindness that helped begin World War II on September 1, 1939, being repeated in the response of the U.S. and its allies to North Korea's nuclear missile program, that apparently tested a thermonuclear H-Bomb warhead on September 2, 2017?
Parallels are striking between what psychiatrists describe as "denial behavior" by western elites that contributed to the Second World War, and "denial behavior" toward the North Korean nuclear threat.
As everyone used to know, when history was taught in schools, prior to 1939 Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan ruthlessly violated international treaties to arm themselves for a major war of conquest, that would become World War II. Berlin and Tokyo were ineffectually opposed by the League of Nations and the western democracies, who would become their victims.
Less well known is that Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan were helped, unwittingly, by western statesmen, military experts, academics and the press, who could not believe any rational actor would risk replaying the holocaust that was World War I, still recent in many memories. Complex rationalizations were invented to explain away the words and deeds of Adolph Hitler and Imperial Japan, including their treaty violations and aggression.
Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan's growing military strength, when it could no longer be denied, was dismissed by confidence that the horrors of a new world war would be sufficient to deter. Mutual Assured Destruction was an article of faith before World War II, expressed in different words, as when British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain opined, "The bomber will always get through."
Underestimation of German and Japanese military capabilities set up the allies for near defeat when war came.
North Korea's successful test of an H-Bomb on September 2 has been preceded by many years of denial behavior by U.S. statesmen, intelligence experts, academics and the press about the sophistication of Pyongyang's nuclear missile program:
--Just six months ago, most experts thought North Korea's nuclear arsenal was primitive and tiny, perhaps as few as 6 A-Bombs. Now the intelligence community estimates North Korea has 60 nuclear weapons.
--Just six months ago, many experts thought North Korea's ICBMs were fake missiles, only for show, and most experts thought, if they were real, they could not strike the U.S. mainland. Now the intelligence community estimates North Korea's ICBMs can strike at least as far as Chicago, and probably hit anywhere in the United States.
--Just six months ago, most experts thought North Korea was many years away from developing an H-Bomb. Now the U.S. intelligence community assesses that North Korea has the H-Bomb, with a yield tested at 140 kilotons (Japan estimates160 kilotons), about 14-16 times more powerful than the A-Bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, comparable in power to sophisticated U.S. two-stage thermonuclear weapons.
--Just six months ago, most experts claimed North Korean ICBMs could not deliver a nuclear warhead, because Pyongyang had not yet "demonstrated" it could miniaturize an A-Bomb to fit inside a reentry vehicle, or design a reentry vehicle capable of penetrating the atmosphere. Now the intelligence community assesses North Korea has miniaturized A-Bombs and H-Bombs, and reentry vehicles for missile delivery, including by ICBMs that can strike the United States.
Perhaps the most extreme denial behavior is over North Korea's capability to make a nuclear electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack-that could destroy the United States with a single weapon. The blue ribbon Congressional EMP Commission has warned for years that North Korea probably has Super-EMP weapons.
North Korea confirmed the EMP Commission's assessment by testing an H-Bomb that could make a devastating EMP attack, and in a public statement: "The H-Bomb, the explosive power of which is adjustable from tens of kilotons to hundreds of kilotons, is a multi-functional thermonuclear weapon with great destructive power which can be detonated even at high altitudes for super-powerful EMP attack according to strategic goals."
Pyongyang also released a technical report accurately describing a Super-EMP weapon.
Just six months ago, some academics dismissed EMP Commission warnings and even, literally, laughed on National Public Radio at the idea North Korea could make an EMP attack.
Amazingly, Sig Hecker, a respected scientist and former director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, is still in denial about the North Korean EMP threat, claiming it must be disinformation. But since their H-Bomb is undeniably real, so too is North Korea's EMP threat.
Amazingly, some academics are still bending over backwards to deny North Korea has miniaturized warheads, reentry vehicles, and ICBMs that can strike the U.S., inventing preposterous theories to escape reality, just like their brethren who paved the way to World War II with denial.
Just as the Neville Chamberlains of 1939 were so paralyzed by fear of a replay of World War I that they preferred to ignore or explain away Nazi Germany's rearmament and Imperial Japan's naval build-up, their U.S. counterparts in 2017 are so fearful of facing a nuclear-armed North Korea that some would like to pretend a nation that has the H-Bomb cannot build a simple reentry vehicle or make an EMP attack.
Another factor that helped bring on World War II was the western democracies were undergoing a civilizational crisis, as we are today.
Elites and peoples lost faith in themselves and their institutions as a result of the Great Depression and World War I. Many believed the false narrative that the First World War resulted from a conspiracy by "merchants of death" among the industrial and political elites to become wealthy by war profiteering. Nationalism was condemned by many as the root of war. Globalists of the 1920s and 1930s fantasized that a Kellogg-Briand Pact and League of Nations could outlaw war, just as globalists today fantasize that the United Nations, international treaties and sanctions can achieve a world without nuclear weapons, while doubting the nationalist values and institutions that made the United States, and the Free World, great and free.
Indeed, economic sanctions against Imperial Japan, viewed as a peaceful way to stop Tokyo's aggression against China and Manchuria, instead resulted in Japan's surprise attack against the U.S. Navy at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
Most dangerous, the Neville Chamberlains of 1939 believed that because "the bomber will always get through" they could deter World War II. The Neville Chamberlains of 2017 are so fearful of nuclear weapons that they are ready to surrender to the fantasy that we can learn to live with a nuclear-armed North Korea.
Those like Susan Rice, former national security advisor to President Obama, who are willing to make the world, in President Kennedy's famous words about protecting freedom, "pay any price, bear any burden" to stop Global Warming, are all too eager to surrender our children to a future of Mutual Assured Destruction with Kim Jong-Un.
The new rationalization for doing nothing militarily is it is too late, would cost too many lives, and we can learn to live with nuclear North Korea as we did with the USSR during the Cold War. But North Korea is not the USSR, and the nuclear-armed Caligula in Pyongyang is not Moscow's Politburo, dangerous as it was. And the Cold War is no good paradigm for survival. The world barely escaped a thermonuclear holocaust at least a dozen times. (See my book “War Scare: Russia and America on the Nuclear Brink.”)
The U.S. and allied elites have so educated themselves about the horrors of nuclear war that we are self-deterred, and will not act militarily to save ourselves.
Our elites cling to the fantasy that China and economic sanctions can save us, that North Korean denuclearization can be achieved peacefully. But the evidence is now overwhelming that China and Russia have helped build the North Korean nuclear threat as part of their New Cold War to force the United States out of the Pacific and out of its role as the world policeman.
When the U.S. and its allies must seek security from North Korea by appealing for help from Beijing and Moscow, as we are doing now, the world order is already being transformed. The Nuclear Axis seeks our acquiescence to their domination, peacefully if possible, if necessary through war.
If Russia and China's North Korean nuclear gambit works in the Pacific, look next to Iran going nuclear, creating another nuclear crisis for the United States and its allies in the Middle East and Europe. Iran's nuclear missile program has been and is being helped by Moscow, Beijing, and Pyongyang, because Tehran is part of the Nuclear Axis waging the New Cold War against the still unwitting democracies of East and West.
U.S. abject surrender to a nuclear-armed North Korea by accepting Mutual Assured Destruction with Kim Jong-Un for ourselves and our allies, after proclaiming for 25 years that this is impossible, will destroy our credibility. Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran will see such weakness as an invitation to aggression in Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and against the United States.
Just as the Neville Chamberlains of 1939 brought World War II on themselves, the Neville Chamberlains of 2017 are on the verge of bringing on World War III.
Most historians agree that World War II could have been prevented and 60 million lives saved if the Allies had crushed Hitler when his military was still weak in 1936, but he seized the Rhineland anyway to test their political will.
Right now, North Korea has two satellites and fewer than a dozen ICBMs that could threaten the U.S. homeland. These the U.S. could assuredly destroy in a very limited surgical strike using conventional weapons.
Kim Jong-Un would not likely retaliate massively as his regime would remain in power and retain nearly 1,000 short and medium-range missiles armed with conventional, chemical, biological, and nuclear warheads. Nonetheless, the U.S. should be prepared to promptly launch a large-scale disarming strike against North Korea using all means necessary-including nuclear weapons.
If Kim is so aggressive that he would bring on himself a nuclear holocaust over the loss of a dozen missiles and two satellites, we had better deal with him now, before he has 100 ICBMs.
North Korea's nuclear Hitler has entered the technological Rhineland of H-Bombs and ICBMs. We must strike.
Dr. Peter Vincent Pry is Executive Director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security and Director of the U.S. Nuclear Strategy Forum, both Congressional Advisory Boards, and served on the Congressional EMP Commission, the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission, the House Armed Services Committee, and the CIA. He is author of Apocalypse Unknown: The Struggle To Protect America From An Electromagnetic Pulse Catastrophe and Electric Armageddon, both available from Amazon.com
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