In a 2012 Foreign Affairs article, Kenneth N. Waltz made the case for Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. He argued that a nuclear Iran could bring peace to the Middle East, because it would make Iran more secure while balancing Israel’s nuclear arsenal. The fault of the Waltz argument is, of course, that he relies on the short history of the Cold War as proof that a nuclear war would never happen. More countries with nuclear weapons translates into a higher probably that a nuclear conflict with occur, creates greater opportunities for terrorist to acquire nuclear weapons, and empowers rogue states ruled by tyrannical governments to act as they please.
With that in mind, Kim Jong Un’s comments on the quick resolution of the August 2015 flare up in the Korean War does more to raise concerns than alleviate fears of war. The young North Korean leader credits his country’s “tremendous military muscle,” which includes its “nuclear deterrent for self-defense.” Not only did Kim discount the impact of diplomacy by stating the deal “was by no means something achieved on the negotiating table,” he chose to purge members connected to the incident from the so-called Central Military Commission. Where Pyongyang sought out diplomacy instead of war in this case, Kim’s embrace of military might and rejection of diplomacy raises concerns that the more restrained elements within the North are being purged.
North Korea is overly aggressive and provocative toward its neighbors, because the government is terrified of the International Community overthrowing the regime. North Korea uses its military might to intimidate its neighbors and the rest of the International Community, which has too often pursued peace and stability to a fault. The North has learned the West will shy away from direct conflict. In turn, North Korea relies on its nuclear arsenal to compensate for the inability of its traditional armed forces to match the power of the United States, South Korea, China, and the rest of the International Community.
That said, the world had been able to largely break the vicious cycle of violence and threats of war the Kim Jong-Il regime used for decades to extort International cooperation and humanitarian aid. For much of the Obama Administration’s tenure, however, the Korean conflict had gone dormant with the occasional news update on the rise of the Kim Jong-Un regime. Unfortunately, Kim Jong Un’s response to negotiations suggests he sees the situation as a chance to force the world to appease his regime. Instead of peace and political change, the world is likely to see the North using this incident to justify further aggression aimed at forcing the International Community to concede to the demands of Pyongyang.
With the Ukraine Crisis in mind, hardliners within Putin government have been acting less like the rulers of a world power and more like the leadership of an insecure rogue state. What makes Putin so much more dangerous than his predecessors, who were constantly at odds with American leadership during the Cold War, is that he and his narrowing inner-circle appear to have no respect for the devastating power of nuclear weapons. Recognizing the Kremlin’s efforts to strengthen ties with North Korea, as the North’s relationship with China weakens, it would appear Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-Un intend to use their nuclear arsenals and rogue behavior to dominate the International Community instead of seeking diplomatic resolutions to conflicts.
Where people, such as Swiss Ambassador Giulio Haas, are technically correct in saying things like Iran is a "pole of stability" in the Middle East, they fail to recognize that Iran’s internal stability comes from the brutal oppression of its people. Just as much of the Middle East suffers from instability following the Arab Spring revolutions, Iran will eventually face those same forces. Meanwhile, Iran has used its military might to shield itself from the consequences of the instability it promotes throughout the region. A nuclear Iran would have even greater impunity. Just as Russia and Iran are actively using their military might to force the International Community to appease their domineering behavior, Kim Jong-Un can only be expected to mirror their behavior, which is particularly problematic for South Korea and China.
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