Apr 27 2013
A month ago, when the image of stealth bombers over South Korea (below) graced the front page of the Wall Street Journal, it was hard not to be impressed, although I suspected that — due to the irrational leaders in Pyongyang and the tentative ones in Washington — it would probably backfire.
And sure enough, just a few days later Lignet (4/4/13) reported that the Obama administration was “reconsidering” their “decision to stand up to North Korea’s recent provocations with displays of U.S. military force…”
However, our purpose here is not to evaluate the Obama “playbook”, but to marvel at the extraordinary spike in international tensions stoked by current nuclear-related confrontations, especially in the context of what appears to be a rapidly approaching 1960s-style “critical state.”
Over the last 200+ years the international system has displayed punctuated equilibria by self-organizing into twice-per-century, transformative “critical states” whose approach is typically signaled by major economic (e.g., Panic of 2008) and geopolitical (e.g., Spanish-American War) precursors.
Given their potential to rapidly destabilize their regions, accelerate nuclear proliferation, and threaten millions of lives and the global economy, ongoing nuclear-related confrontations involving North Korea and Iran remind us of the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. During the 1960s “critical state” their nuclear-related crisis was resolved almost as soon as it began when the Russians removed their missiles from Cuba, however the incident intensified the Space Race to the Moon and a major technology boom during this most recent Maslow Window.
Because of their strategic significance, Iran and North Korea have the potential to approach the seriousness of the Cuban Missile Crisis; key evidence that they are becoming CMC-level precursors for the approaching critical state includes:
1) A Pre-Emptive Strike?
In response to North Korean threats of a nuclear attack against the U.S. and other nations, Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe suggested on April 3 that the U.S. should be prepared to attack North Korea “now” in a “pre-emptive strike” to stop the “deranged” president Kim Jong Un. A few days later on “Meet the Press” South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham said a “major war” with North Korea is possible.
Although there is disagreement among national security experts, Dr. James Carafano (Heritage) warned on April 5 that North Korea “has the technical capability of attacking the west coast of the United States,” (Newsmax) with nuclear missiles, as well as places like Guam, Hawaii, Japan, and of course, South Korea.
His assessment was buttressed a week later by the errant revelation from a classified DIA report that concluded with “moderate confidence” that North Korea can arm a ballistic missile with one of its nuclear warheads. Although immediately downplayed (as you would expect) by top DoD and IC officials, the U.S. accelerated plans for deployment of an anti-missile system to Guam and, reversing a 2009 decision by Obama, decided to beef up the anti-missile interceptors stationed in Alaska and Vandenberg AFB, California by 2017.
2. Is it Now or Never?
Because North Korea and Iran have reportedly been sharing nuclear and missile technology with each other for many years, the two crises are linked and the formerly secret DIA assessment of North Korea’s advanced status is highly relevant.
For example, Jerusalem Post defense analyst Yaakov Katz points out that,
If the North Koreans are much more advanced than we assumed … your window of opportunity (to attack) is becoming smaller.
Yesterday Joel Rosenberg reported that earlier this week a close confidante of PM Netanyahu indicated that “It’s now or never…” for a military strike on Iran. And according to Tzachi Hanegbi, a close, trusted, long-time personal friend and confidante of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “… the option of never does not exist.”
This comes on the heels of remarks by former four-star USAF general and former director of the CIA Michael Hayden who recently predicted military action against Iran (Lignet, 4/5/13).
I am doubtful and pessimistic that we’re going to be able to solve this without someone taking some sort of kinetic action against the Iranians.
3. The Coming Nuclear Breakout.
On their editorial page recently, the Wall Street Journal (4/8/13) noted that as Iran develops its nukes, others prepare “for their own nuclear breakout,” including Saudi Arabia which is planning to build 16 nuclear reactors. We should keep in mind that,
The world’s largest oil exporter does not need nuclear power for electricity.
Likewise, because “the U.S. has acquiesced in North Korea’s weapons program”
South Korea and Japan are edging toward developing their own nuclear capability.
WSJ concludes that,
As the U.S. (nuclear) deterrent fades … (we are) setting the stage for the greatest (nuclear) proliferation since the dawn of the atomic age.
The bottom line is that current nuclear-related confrontations are unprecedented since the 1960s and appear to be developing into Cuban Missile Crisis-style precursors signaling the rapid approach of a new 1960s-style, transformative “critical state” known as a Maslow Window.