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There Are Several Major Problems With Lindsey Graham’s North Korea Plan

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter

South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham’s believes the U.S. should destroy North Korea, but there are some serious problems with his plan.

North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un tested another intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) Friday, demonstrating the ability to strike targets across the continental U.S., and defense intelligence analysts assess that North Korea will be able to field a reliable, nuclear-armed ICBM as early as next year. The escalated threat has alarmed many in the U.S., including Graham.

The U.S. needs to “destroy North Korea’s program and North Korea itself,” the senator told NBC News Tuesday.

“If there’s going to be a war to stop [Kim Jong-un], it will be over there. If thousands die, they’re going to die over there. They’re not going to die here,” he explained. “That may be provocative, but not really. When you’re president of the United States, where does your allegiance lie? To the people of the United States.”

“[President Donald Trump] is not going to allow this madman to have a missile that can hit America,” Graham added.

He did, however, acknowledge the president’s unwillingness to go to war.

There are several serious problems with Graham’s thinking on this particular issue.

Experts assess that a preventative military strike on North Korea would be “dangerously provocative,” leading to a conflict that would exact a heavy toll.

“When I was in government, when we ran war games, the estimates were hundreds of thousands of casualties, and that was before we thought North Korea had nuclear weapons,” Bruce Klingner, the former chief of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Korea branch and now a senior research fellow for Northeast Asia at the Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center, previously told The Daily Caller News Foundation. A renewed conflict on the Korean Peninsula would likely lead to exponentially higher casualties, especially for America’s allies.

Graham is essentially offering to sacrifice the lives of American allies and partners for the security of American citizens.

North Korea has a massive artillery force designed to wreak havoc on its southern neighbor, as well as reliable theater missiles that observers assess could be armed with conventional, nuclear, chemical, and biological warheads.

For deployed weapons systems, the destruction of North Korea’s program is difficult given that the U.S. is not confident it knows where North Korea’s deployed weapons systems are located.

“I’m ‘reasonably confident’ in the ability of our intelligence community to monitor the testing but not the deployment of these missile systems. Kim Jong-un and his forces are very good at camouflage, concealment, and deception,” Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Paul Selva told the Senate Armed Services Committee in July.

North Korea also has over 7,000 underground bunkers scattered across the country.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis has repeatedly warned that a war in North Korea would be “catastrophic” and “tragic on an unbelievable scale.”

“We would win at great cost,” Mattis told the House Committee on Appropriations in June, adding that “It would be a war that fundamentally we don’t want.” The defense secretary, like most other members of the Trump administration, has been pinning his hopes on a diplomatic solution.

Another issue is that most leading experts on North Korea do not agree that Kim Jong-un is an irrational madman who would launch a nuclear strike at random. Pyongyang has been developing nuclear weapons to ensure the survival of the regime; an attack would be suicidal.

“I think they would only use this particular weapon in a Hail Mary — the state is collapsing, the regime is gone kind of situation,” Melissa Hanham, a senior research associate at the East Asia Nonproliferation Program, previously told TheDCNF. North Korea would probably only fire off its nukes in the event of a conflict, if a conflict appeared imminent, or if some external factor posed an immediate threat to the country’s survival.

In the event of a military conflict, though, the North would probably use its weapons quickly before they could be destroyed by the superior military capabilities of the U.S. and its allies.

“Even a limited strike could be seen as the beginning of a more concerned military effort, leaving the North needing to use its WMDs quickly or risk having its capability knocked out,” Rodger Baker, Vice President of Strategic Analysis at Stratfor, a geopolitical intelligence platform, previously told TheDCNF.

North Korea is not Syria, and the situation is much more dangerous than Graham appears to comprehend.

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