To the dismay of much of the liberal sphere and despite stoking fears that he will "initiate World War III," U.S. President Donald Trump has moved a naval strike team, including the USS Carl Vinson, to the Korean Peninsula. The press also confirmed that this team is capable of firing Tomahawk cruise missiles, as well as conducting cyberattacks and deploying special operation forces on the ground. This has undoubtedly put the world in an uncomfortable situation that it might need to confront in order to save future generations from a situation that makes our current ordeal look a molehill rather than the mountain we perceive it to be.
Trump's aggressive move, although some use arguments as intellectually vapid as "he's having fun with the big toys" to deny the president any credit for his actions, including the much-needed reality check on our favorite Syrian despot, comes on the back end of a decade-long struggle with North Korea.
Nuclear testing began back in 2006. Barack Obama's unsustainable culture of appeasement to the extreme — as confirmed in the P5+1 nuclear deal, his lack of response to the illegal Russian annexation of Crimea and his flip-flop on the red line with Bashar Assad — as well as China acting as North Korea's guardian angel, have made these moves inevitable unless the Trump administration wishes to allow a rogue state that has no accountability to acquire functioning nuclear weapons.
Now that the Trump administration has rather hawkishly brought on a sense of accountability to the world, and North Korean officials have stated that they will go forward with nuclear testing, the possibility of a clash with North Korea seems inevitable.
The problem with striking North Korea is that China, which has used North Korea as a political buffer zone and an ally that is immune to American influence, could viscerally recede to North Korea's side in the face of an U.S. strike in order to avoid Western control of an economically.
The risk of World War III is low, however, because it implies the need for Russia and Iran to jump in on the North Korean side. This would require an incredibly strong bond between North Korea and a strong bond between China, Russia and Iran. Trump's meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping did confirm the gradual weakening of the Sino-Korean alliance. This is indicated by China's rhetoric whereby officials seem to speak to both sides as equals, asking both sides to step down, as well as the globalizing Chinese economy that is no longer an advocate for protectionism and, therefore, no longer relies as heavily on North Korea.
Despite the potential ramifications involved, the best option, it seems, is for North Korea not to be allowed to continue developing its nuclear arsenal, whether through military force or through a harsh regime of inspection and sanctions in cooperation with China. The Iran Nuclear deal is a perfect example of how the solutions of well-intentioned liberals habitually tend to only exacerbate the problems over the long term through what is, quite frankly, a mistake from which we cannot learn despite our appalling recent history: Appeasement. Placing more sanctions on North Korea, as Barack Obama surely would have done, would not stop, but only delay North Korea from attaining nuclear weapons and leaves the inevitability of a fight against North Korea for future generations against a much better equipped North Korea and an unprepared Western leadership.
This all comes back to fundamental differences in liberal and realist political ideologies, and the seemingly morally superior idealism that is often associated with liberalism. As wonderful as it would be to take the utopian idea of constantly striving for ultimate good no matter what, history teaches us that this is ineffective and, therefore, would be immoral. Of course the ideal option would be to make a deal with North Korea, open up their economy to the rest of the globalized world in order to incentivize it away from its current goals, but this is ultimately nothing more than donning a rainbow blindfold and taking a much greater risk for the future because North Korea's leadership, and its intentions, will not be changed by the forces of globalization — in fact, the regime is based on ideas that contradict this directly.
Advocacy for war is never my preference, but it might be necessary to face the uncomfortable truth that if the North Korean threat is appeased rather than tackled as of this very moment, the inevitable fight against the behemoth might take a far uglier form in the future than if it is dealt with immediately. If we continue to delay and run from the truth in the hope that a sickeningly oppressive regime will change its mind through positive incentives, we all but ensure that a future war on an unimaginable scale, a war so great it won't have a winner, will be our ultimate reality. The difficult reality that we must face now has only been brought to us through delaying the situation in past years, taking half-hearted actions and trivializing a growing threat. Let us not repeat our mistakes.
* U.K.-based analyst