Jeremi Suri Gets His War On

This weekend in The New York Times, Jeremi Suri offered a simple solution to solve the escalating war of words and actions on the Korean Peninsula – bomb them, bomb them now.

“The best option” according to the University of Texas professor, “is to destroy the North Korean missile on the ground before it is launched. The United States should use a precise airstrike to render the missile and its mobile launcher inoperable.”

The op-ed comes in response to reports that North Korea has moved two Musudan missiles near the coast and readied them for testing that could potentially take place this week.

For a historian, Suri seems oddly intent on forgetting the past decade of US history. He is absurdly comfortable in predicting the US can engage in a bombing campaign in North Korea with little cost in either US lives or dollars.

Suri’s ludicrous game of Risk plays out in the following way:

1. The US informs regional powers, China, South Korea, Japan etc. it plans to launch a limited preemptive strike to destroy the one or two Musudan missiles North Korea Plans to test.

2. All of these powers give the green light or at least do not strenuously object to such an action.

3. We bomb North Korea destroying only one or two of Kim Jong-un’s missiles but make no real dent in his arsenal.

4. Kim Jong-un decides to put his toys back in the box and the world returns to normal.

To agree with Suri’s rationale you would have to believe that a preemptive strike by the United States would result in no response by North Korea. And if Kim Jong-un choose to respond, it would result in no loss of life to the US or its allies.

Furthermore if there was a response and it cost the lives of, for example, servicemen stationed on the Korean Peninsula or elsewhere in Asia, that the US would not counter leading to an endless spiral. Even Suri acknowledges that such a spiral “is not inconceivable” yet he sees no reason to articulate the costs of such a conflict.

Suri proposes we risk a war against a nation with a standing army of more than one million to eliminate a threat that is not “particularly scary for the United States” because its range does not include the US mainland or Hawaii and is unlikely to even include territories such as Guam.

Suri also glosses over the unfortunate detail that the Musudan missle is mobile, so another could be prepared for launch in rapid succession. The proposed strategy only lasts until the next truck leaves the garage. Are we to believe we could continually launch strikes against North Korea with no repercussions?

Clearly there needs to be a resolution to this latest standoff with North Korea and ultimately war might be the result. The American people are owed, by both the government and the media, a realistic accounting for the costs of such a conflict.

A decade ago we launched a preemptive war that was partially sold on the notion of simplicity in accomplishing its objective. Few media outlets are without blame for hawking this false notion to the American people. And Jeremi Suri seems determined to help make that same mistake again.