How long must the U.S. pretend that it and only it may have nuclear weapons and its allies must rely upon it for protection? This policy may have made sense in the years immediately after World War II when there was some reason to hope that few nations would learn the "secret" to building the bomb and, even if they did learn it, they would not have the industrial capacity for a nuclear weapons program. Furthermore, the world’s so-called strategic thinkers believed that the world would be safer the fewer nations that had "the bomb". The entire nuclear non-proliferation industry revolves around this false premise. Thus, we are witnesses to the charade and utter futility of all the major nations—once again!—calling on the United Nations Security Council to pass resolutions condemning North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, as if any half-wit expected such a resolution to accomplish its intended purpose.
Japan is the world’s second largest economy. Let me repeat that…Japan is the world’s second largest economy, and yet it relies upon the U.S. for protection from a country that does not have the GNP of a major American (or Japanese) city! South Korea’s economy is many times that of North Korea’s. Both Japan and South Korea have the technological capability of defending themselves from all comers, provided that they possess nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them. It is the absence of this capability that emboldens North Korea to believe that it can accomplish through intimidation what it could never accomplish otherwise. North Korea believes that it can drive a wedge between Japan and South Korea and their protector, the United States, by calling our bluff that America will sacrifice its troops and possibly a major American city in order to defend its allies. Well, maybe we will and maybe we won’t. Who can say?
The template for proper national security response by a nation that is less than a superpower is that established by Charles de Gaulle of France. Regular readers of my columns previously read why de Gaulle formed an independent atomic deterrent for France. De Gaulle, one of the clearest-minded of the post World War II statesmen, understood that, in the final analysis, a country must rely upon itself for its own survival. The possession of nuclear weapons made it possible for France to face the mighty Soviet Union on its own, relying upon neither the U.S. nor other European nations in NATO. As de Gaulle so clearly articulated at the time to President Eisenhower, France’s experience in both world wars showed that even friendly nations might refrain from going to war on behalf of an ally, either due to internal political opinion of the time or because a lightning war settled matters before friendly nations could sway the outcome. France cooperated militarily with NATO, but the France of Charles de Gaulle always retained its independence of action, as it does even today.
No nation need fear either Japan or South Korea. Both are friendly, non-aggressive, democratic countries. China and Russia may fuss and fume at a nuclear Japan, especially, but such protests will be purely for internal consumption. Furthermore, more self-reliant allies would secure many peaceful benefits, both to themselves and the U.S. For example, a nuclear-armed Japan and South Korea would allow the U.S. to scale back its military empire at a time of budgetary crisis. Of course, we may maintain security agreements with both countries. But the new arrangements will become more of agreements among equals, at least in the sense that each is free to pursue its own foreign policy in its region of the globe. Reciprocal military support would be clearly defined and not an open-ended and nebulous security pact.
Also, the calculation of our allies’ enemies will have changed. Now North Korea would not be able to manufacture some crisis whereby an irresolute American leader might abandon its less-than-perfectly-stated defense commitments. An attack upon either country would exact a horrific response from the very country attacked. This was the lesson that de Gaulle gave to Eisenhower—that there is no substitute for purely national self-interest. It is vitally important that one’s enemies clearly understand that each nation will fight for itself, without being required to call upon the help of a more powerful ally, and is capable of inflicting serious and unacceptable damage. This is the very essence of peace through strength.
When President Kennedy and British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan suggested that the allies might be required to come to some new accommodation with Khrushchev’s Soviet Union over Berlin, de Gaulle told them to stand firm…that the Soviets did not want war but rather the fruits of war. It was all bluster and threats. The several Berlin crises came to nothing. Thus will be the case when North Korea faces a nuclear-armed Japan and South Korea. Then its bloodthirsty regime will crumble as surely as did the once mighty Soviet Union.
Our insistence upon keeping our two allies in the Western Pacific nuclear weapon-free and dependent upon us for sovereign protection has resulted in the opposite of what we both intended. The weak but bloodthirsty enemy of our allies has become emboldened to military blackmail and, to our shame, we have paid. It’s time for our allies to protect themselves; the world will become a much safer place.