THE MEDIA IS NOW filled with headlines about North Korea’s missile test on Friday, which demonstrated that its ICBMs may be able to reach the continental U.S. What isn’t mentioned in any of these stories is how we got to this point — in particular, what Dan Coats, President Donald Trump’s Director of National Intelligence, explained last week at the Aspen Security Forum.
North Korea’s 33-year-old dictator Kim Jong-un is not crazy, said Coats. In fact, he has “some rationale backing his actions” regarding the country’s nuclear weapons. That rationale is the way the U.S. has demonstrated that North Korea must keep them to ensure “survival for his regime, survival for his country.”
Kim, according to Coats, “has watched, I think, what has happened around the world relative to nations that possess nuclear capabilities and the leverage they have and seen that having the nuclear card in your pocket results in a lot of deterrence capability.” In particular, “The lessons that we learned out of Libya giving up its nukes … is, unfortunately: If you had nukes, never give them up. If you don’t have them, get them.”
This is, of course, blindingly obvious and has been since the U.S. helped oust longtime Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2011. But U.S. officials have rarely if ever acknowledged this reality. Here’s the timeline:
In December 2003, Libya announced that it would surrender its biological and chemical weapons stockpiles, as well as its rudimentary nuclear weapons program.
In celebrating Libya’s decision, President George W. Bush declared that the rest of the world should take away the message that “leaders who abandon the pursuit of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, and the means to deliver them, will find an open path to better relations with the United States and other free nations.” Paula DeSutter, Bush’s Assistant Secretary of State for Verification and Compliance, explained that “we want Libya to be a model for other countries.”
In 2011, the U.S. and NATO conducted a bombing campaign to assist Libyan rebels in overthrowing the Gaddafi government. Gaddafi himself was captured by one rebel faction, who apparently sodomized him with a bayonet and then killed him.
You would definitely expect this to get the attention of North Korea’s ruling clique — especially given that Iraq had also disarmed and then been invaded, with its dictator executed by a howling mob.
And, indeed, North Korea said this explicitly at the time. Its foreign ministry stated, “The Libyan crisis is teaching the international community a grave lesson,” which was that the deal to rid Libya of weapons of mass destruction had been “an invasion tactic to disarm the country.”
Yet the Obama administration shamelessly denied this. A reporter told State Department spokesperson Mark Toner that “North Koreans are looking at this” and it didn’t “give them a lot of incentive to give up their nuclear weapons.” Toner replied that “where [Libya is] at today has absolutely no connection with them renouncing their nuclear program and nuclear weapons.”
Moreover, North Koreans and other countries can read, and so understand what America’s foreign policy elite has repeatedly explained why we want small countries to disarm. It’s not because we fear that they will use WMD in a first strike on us, since nations like North Korea understand that would immediately lead to their obliteration. Instead, our mandarins explicitly say the problem is that unconventional weapons help small countries deter usfrom attacking them.