October 21, 2006


What Will Stop North Korea (Charles Krauthammer, October 13, 2006, Washington Post)

It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union .
-- President John F. Kennedy, Oct. 22, 1962

Now that's deterrence.

Kennedy was pledging that if any nuke was launched from Cuba, the United States would not even bother with Cuba but would go directly to the source and bring the apocalypse to Russia with a massive nuclear attack.

The remarkable thing about this kind of threat is that in 1962 it was very credible. Indeed, its credibility kept the peace throughout a half-century of the Cold War.

Deterrence is what you do when there is no way to disarm your enemy.

Deterrence is the craven way you take when you don't care about the Cuban people, the Koreans, the Russians, or whomever enough to disarm the enemy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 21, 2006 11:05 AM

Deterrence is hardly craven. It involves an entire people living in the cannon's mouth, day-in, day-out.

Beyond mere physical courage, it extends to saying yes to apocalyptic destruction. The policy of deterrence is a decision to be better dead than red and better dead than incarcerated in the spiritual jailhouse.

There is a serious defect in the Krauthammer article, namely the implication that the "retaliatory response," to a failure of deterrence might be limited or proportional.

This is not deterrence. An aggressor might be only too willing to trade one of his penitentiaries for one of our or our allies' cities. Deterrence involves massive, utter destruction: the fate of the Amalekites, without the sin of Saul.*

Deterrence is a form of terror. It is a countering of terror with superior terror.

There is a mystery to deterrence, for is is at once the least force and least destruction and at once the most. There were many who could not, and even today, cannot, accept the mystery. Fortunately for humanity, enough of us could and did accept it to see our side through to final victory.

Strategic deterrence is no more cowardly than is driving an airplane into a building. One might think it wrong, or immoral, but not craven.
*Fundamentalist code words again. King Saul, after conquering the city of the Amalekites, killed all the men, women and children as ordered, but neglected to dispatch all the domestic animals, for which sin he lost his kingdom. Nuclear warfighting omits the sin of Saul.

Posted by: Lou Gots at October 21, 2006 2:54 PM

None of this is rocket science. Make the Chinese an offer they can't refuse, and Kim is gone in days (not weeks).

Posted by: Bruno at October 21, 2006 3:53 PM

The problem with Krauthammer's extolling of Kennedy's Cuban Missile Crisis strategy, was
that it came to late. A cursory examination
of the National Security Archives record of
that crisis, would show there were reports
of Soviet men, materiel and ultimately
missiles going to Cuba, as early as August
of the previous year. Ignoring these reports
until a month before the midterm, left us
playing nuclear chicken, the results of which
were envisioned in Brendan Dubois's alternate
dystopian tale, Ressurrection Day.

Posted by: narciso at October 21, 2006 4:04 PM

No, the problem was that we could have easily defeated the Soviets and were handed the pretext, but instead accepted Castro in perpetuity.

Posted by: oj at October 21, 2006 4:43 PM


Except that no onme can harm us, while we can destroy them. Deterrence is us saying you can have whatever anti-human system you want, just leave us alone. It's evil.

Posted by: oj at October 21, 2006 4:51 PM

...Deterrence is us saying you can have whatever anti-human system you want, just leave us alone. It's evil.

Very true statement, Orrin, but you're basing Russian as easy pickings on what we learned after the fall. The place was in total disarray then. It was not like that in their heyday. We would have had a bruising go at kicking butt back then and not so much their expertise as the amount of good equipment they once had.

Posted by: Tom Wall at October 21, 2006 8:31 PM

But exactly whom is Krauthammer suggesting we deter? The Norks are psychos, kept alive only by Chinese oil and food. The general population of North Korea isn't even part of the equation, as the Soviet population presumably was.

The message to the Chinese is quite simple - if you don't want nuclear weapons going off across the Yalu, then get with the 21st century. Do the right thing.

There is nothing wrong with Krauthammer's "message" to the Norks, except that it really isn't strong enough. There have already been lots of exchanges of nuclear materials and know-how between the Norks, the Pakistanis, and the Iranians.

Start sinking all North Korean shipping. Check. If the tubby wacko does anything - checkmate.

Posted by: jim hamlen at October 21, 2006 9:54 PM

Jim, I have to assume nothing goes in or out without our permission.

Posted by: erp at October 21, 2006 10:40 PM


That's simply false. richard Rhodes Dark Sun is excellent on the topic of Curtis LeMay demonstrating to the high command how easily he could do the USSR and even as late as the mid 60s --see Michael Beschloss Mayday and Crisis Years -- they couldn't do much if we attacked them. They didn't become weak--they were weak.

Posted by: oj at October 22, 2006 9:47 AM


I would like to believe that, but the AQ Khan network ran for years and evidently the CIA knew nothing of the particulars. Sure, we know where their ships are, but has the Navy ever sunk one? Just for practice? And who knows what happens across the Yalu? A couple of years ago, there was a mysterious explosion, a big one, in a railroad yard near the Chinese border. A munitions accident? An assassination attempt (apparently Kim went through there a day or so previous)? A provocation from us? Never heard any more about it.

With respect to 1962, OJ is exactly right. A full-scale war would have meant (at most) probably a handful of bombs here at home but hundreds (or more) there. It would have been messy in Europe, but the Soviets would have been lucky to get over 5 detonations here. Of course, their 50 megaton monster would have destroyed an area 20 or 30 miles in diameter. The 1970s and early 1980s were the danger zone, because we had become so weak.

Posted by: jim hamlen at October 22, 2006 9:34 PM

Jim, you're right that we don't know that our Navy has sunk any ships -- ditto the Chinese. I'm thinking what we don't know for sure can't be exploited by the traitors in the media, the Dem party and the Bush haters in our state department. I've gotten really comfortable calling them traitors because that's what they really are as is becoming more and more apparent.

What was happening pre-Bush is too horrible to contemplate and what would start happening immediately with the return of the Dems to power is even more horrible given the event since 9/11.


Posted by: erp at October 23, 2006 10:51 AM