Peace in our Time

Prime Minister Chamberlain holding Treaty with Hitler, 1938

It now seems as though the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un, is ready to make peace and set aside his nuclear and ICBM ambitions.  I hope this is true.  But, given the history of negotiations and agreements with North Korea, I fear that this is just another ploy.

Adolf Hitler was an expert at international diplomacy.  He knew his potential adversaries wanted to avoid a repeat of World War One at almost any cost.  By being belligerent and then signing a treaty promising to “back off”, Hitler was able to grab foreign territory, rearm his military, and become an even greater threat.

The apex of Hitler’s international diplomatic career came when he got the leaders of the United Kingdom and France to let him take over large portions of Czechoslovakia in 1938.  They did this in return for a paper promise from Hitler that he would stop there.  This treaty was proclaimed by the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, as securing “Peace in Our Time”.  Less than two years later, a much stronger Germany invaded Poland and the war Chamberlain was trying to avert started anyway.

We have had agreements with North Korea before.  As recently as 2008 they agreed to “De-Nuclearize”.  And now we have a North Korea with even more nuclear weapons and even better and longer range rockets to mount them on.  Personally, I don’t think we can trust Kim Jong-un any more than Hitler.

I do, however, believe that every diplomatic means should be used to avert conflict.  But in the case of powers with a history of not keeping their agreements, we have to ensure that there is teeth any agreement.  There must be concrete PROOF of De-Nuclearization.  This proof must exist prior to providing North Korea with any of the “benefits” they seek in return.  The same kinds of things need to happen with their ICBM program.

There also need to be concrete consequences for North Korea not abiding by the conditions of any such treaty.  These should include the resumption of any threatened sanctions, or even by action to physically remove what the North Koreans have promised to remove, but have not.

I am hoping for the best, but I am rather skeptical.  Frankly, I think that talk with North Korea is cheap, and this is all just a ploy to buy more time while getting additional concessions from South Korea, Japan, and the United States.  I also think the Chinese are pressuring the North Koreans to tone things down, not because they want the world to be a safer place, but because they don’t want war to start unexpectedly and throw off their own time tables.

What to Do

We should negotiate to avert potential conflict whenever possible.  Military force, especially entering into an actual war, should be the last resort.

As I explained above, any negotiated deal with a regime of North Korea’s history, must have TEETH.  There must be concrete proof, as in unfettered on site inspections and destruction of development and manufacturing facilities, before we can even begin to trust that they are keeping their end of the agreement.

There must also be consequences if they fail to keep the bargain.  Consequences that we actually carry out.  All too often, we just let the bad guys get away with it, just like Hitler in Czechoslovakia.  And this leads to the bad guys getting stronger, and becoming even bolder.  And then we have a real war.


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