by Jim Davies, 11/29/2010
Squabbles between the two governments in Korea have raised that question again, after being dormant since the 1980s, and 28,500 US troops stationed between them guarantee that ours will be involved.
Governments wage war whenever they think it's to their net advantage. That explanation fits the facts of history far better than any other. The assessments may be incorrect (and about 50% of the time, they are!) but that lies behind them. Ethical questions - whether a contemplated war would be "right" or "wrong" - hardly enter in to the decision; what matters is whether the initiator thinks he can win. Bush invaded Iraq in 2003 in the teeth of Papal warnings, for example.
For half a century, this hasn't worked out too badly. There have been many terrible wars, but the big one - a nuclear World War Three - has been avoided; because all the government people able to wage it have seen that it would be impossible to "win"; first, they themselves would be among the first to die, the government bunker in West Virginia nothwithstanding, and second, there would be nothing left worth acquiring among the ruins of a defeated adversary. Governments are irrational in their premises for existence, but quite often they behave rationally on the basis of those premises. It's tough to celebrate a victory when you just committed suicide.
Now, however, after bomb-building know-how has inevitably proliferated, that happy coincidence is breaking apart. Government (correctly defined as anyone who imposes force on somebody else, removing his absolute right to own and operate his own life) has sometimes shown its willingness to die in order to win. Every day, we hear of someone who has blown himself up in order to kill others. This isn't rational (hence the very strong religious overtones) but it's fact all the same. When people like that acquire nukes, the balance of terror - mutual assured destruction - will no longer hold.
Hence the problem of North Korea, whose leaders have long been recognized as being well short of a full deck. Very soon now, they will have the ability to fling nukes at their neighbor. The country has a per-capita GDP of $1,900 or fourteen times lower than its less-unfree Southern neighbor, and is ill-equipped even with street lights; but it can pose a nasty military threat. Per Bylund's perceptive recent article explained that anomaly by pointing to the role of the US in covertly supporting its government (I did say that government is irrational) and so being ultimately responsible for this mess.
Nuclear weapons exist; that's a given, unalterable. They are harmless, however, until a government puts them to use; so the danger lies in nukes plus government. Since we can't abolish the first, we must abolish the second. Otherwise, the human race will soon become extinct. The way to do so is already in progress.