Austin Professor Thinks We Should Bomb North Korea Right Now

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Photo: Kim Kwang Hyon/Corbis

When North Korea announced that its missiles were now trained on specific U.S. cities a couple weeks, many were surprised to see Austin, Texas on the target list alongside Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. Kim Jong-un's reasons for wanting to destroy the Texas capital aren't entirely clear — the Samsung plant and provocative hipster population have both been floated as possibilities — but, either way, University of Texas professor Jeremi Suri isn't taking any chances. In a New York Times op-ed titled "Bomb North Korea, Before It's Too Late," Suri, who teaches history and public affairs in Austin, argued for a pre-emptive strike: 

The Korean crisis has now become a strategic threat to America’s core national interests. The best option is to destroy the North Korean missile on the ground before it is launched. The United States should use a precise airstrike to render the missile and its mobile launcher inoperable.

Further, Suri argues that an attack on North Korea would discourage "the mullahs in Tehran" from threatening the U.S. and their own region "with similar impunity." What could go wrong? Probably not that much, insists Suri:

The North Korean government would certainly view the American strike as a provocation, but it is unlikely that Mr. Kim would retaliate by attacking South Korea, as many fear. First, the Chinese government would do everything it could to prevent such a reaction. Even if they oppose an American strike, China’s leaders understand that a full-scale war would be far worse. Second, Mr. Kim would see in the American strike a renewed commitment to the defense of South Korea. Any attack on Seoul would be an act of suicide for him, and he knows that.

A war on the Korean Peninsula is unlikely after an American strike, but it is not inconceivable. The North Koreans might continue to escalate, and Mr. Kim might feel obligated to start a war to save face. Under these unfortunate circumstances, the United States and its allies would still be better off fighting a war with North Korea today, when the conflict could still be confined largely to the Korean Peninsula.

Luckily, this particular op-ed doesn't seem to have had a major effect on Secretary of State John Kerry's talks with Chinese leaders today. "We are able — the United States and China — to underscore our joint commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula in a peaceful manner," said Kerry. Meanwhile, Chinese foreign policy head Yang Jiechi repeated that, "China is firmly committed to upholding peace and stability and advancing the denuclearization process on the Korean peninsula." Though many levels of distrust between the two countries remain — Kerry also said that the U.S. had to "make sure" that China's promises are "real policy" and not just "rhetoric" — we still have much more faith in their current approach than we do Suri's suggestion.