Stop Beating the Drums For A “Preventive” War with North Korea
The last few weeks, all I could think was, “please, not again. We can’t do this to our country, our soldiers, again.” As a former Army recruiter and mother of two Afghanistan veterans, the warmongering language the White House is spewing around North Korea is beyond alarming. Instead of advocating for talks, de-escalation, sanctions, or other diplomatic measures like the rest of the world, our government is laying out the public message justifying another war.
Understand there is no existing scenario where the U.S. nukes North Korea and that is where it ends. In briefings to U.S. military personnel they were told, upon entering North Korea, one million people on both sides will die within the first week, including sixty percent of the U.S. military personnel stationed there. In testimony to the Armed Services Committee this spring U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley said, “The levels of violence would be immense, the likes of which the world hasn’t seen since the Second World War.” Is this what we want? Are we “all in” for yet another war? I am quite certain the global arms trade is all for it, but they would likely be the only winners here.
Even as I was working on this article tensions between the U.S. and North Korea continued to escalate when President Trump made a statement in reaction to an intelligence assessment of North Korean nuclear capabilities. President Trump vowed that any threat to the United States would be met with “fire and fury, the likes of which the world has never been seen before.” Not one to be upstaged, the North Korean government quickly raised the stakes, indicating they were considering the use of ballistic missiles against the U.S. territory of Guam.
During the Korean War, we bombed the North Korean peninsula with 635,000 tons of ordnance including 32,557 tons of napalm,the result of which was the armistice we are still engaged in to this day. This is the historical reason they react the way they do. This is trauma; no amount of military exercises or threats of war will de-escalate this situation. Perhaps it is time to find another way, this time with South Korea at the helm.
For months, American leaders have been demonizing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, imposing economic sanctions, and making a variety of increasingly threatening statements toward North Korea. We do not need to be led down that same path toward “preemptive” or “preventive” war;. Whatever you call it, going to war based on a theory that the leader of another country might commit an act of war is never justified.
Foreign policy and military experts indicate that such a war would be horrific. We have been in a cease-fire with North Korea since 1953, why are we so quick to dismantle it now? Our leadership’s attitude is what is driving the retaliatory response by the North Korean government.
Last week on the Today Show, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) called for a United States military response if North Korea continued testing their nuclear missile program, stating “There is a military option: to destroy North Korea’s nuclear program and North Korea itself.” He then went further, describing a conversation with the President, saying“If thousands die, they’re going to die over there. They’re not going to die over here— and he [President Trump] told me that to my face.”
This statement, combined with other Trump officials’ public statements on the possibility of war with North Korea, including UN Ambassador Nikki Haley and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, lays the groundwork required to build citizen support for war.
But why would we need to build this kind of patriotic support for a war with North Korea? One reason: recruits. As a former Army recruiter I’m intimately aware of how our government convinces young people to sign up to fight in our wars overseas. Language referring to “the enemy” helps convince young people and their parents that our nation is in a perilous position, so they must do their patriotic duty and help “defeat the bad guys.” If we fail to convince them, our troop numbers will become too low for yet another war.
By convincing everyday Americans that thousands will die “over there” instead of in America, Trump perpetuates the idea that their lives don’t matter. But they do. Just because the North Korean government is pursuing nuclear weapons, like ours, does not mean that the millions of innocent North Koreans deserve to die any more than we do. And don’t be fooled, it won’t just be North Koreans who die— the 51 million South Koreans, the 28,500 U.S. service members stationed in South Korea, will also be at risk. And that’s not all: the people of Japan—including around 50,000 American military personnel—are also in danger if we go to war.
Make no mistake, it will be another war.
I, on behalf of mothers of veterans everywhere, call on the United States government to moderate their tone and engage in any diplomatic talks headed by North and South Korea. I caution the American people to be wary of politicians trying to manipulate us into supporting yet another unjustified war.
Gina Bua is a retired U.S. Army First Sergeant and mother of two Afghanistan veterans. Although not an Iraq Veteran herself, she is on the Board of Iraq Veterans Against the War, an organization comprised of post 9/11 veterans.