Smuggled Nukes, the Ultimate Threat

Although it has dragged on for so many decades, it is hard to imagine that the impasse with North Korea can endure for another year. The fact that the Kim regime now has nuclear weapons, and is finalizing a missile delivery system, and is as unstable as it is, indicates a situation that will soon end, either in a bang or whimper. The newly-elected president of South Korea is currently visiting President Trump, speaking of unstable. These two have very different viewpoints in regards to the North.

North Korea, Dark Shape in Asia

North Korea, Dark Shape in Asia

The Trump administration is not big on diplomacy, not just in Korea but in general. Granted, North Korea is so extreme in its dysfunction it would be like trying diplomacy with ISIS. The best hope was for China to take a stand and reign it in. Since that doesn’t seem to be in the cards, we may eventually see an attempt at a decapitating strike against the Kim regime leadership, with the hope that it won’t instantly erupt into a larger, catastrophic war. The North has enough conventional firepower to wipe out Seoul and a big part of South Korea. The people of South Korea have been living under the shadow of annihilation for so long they have become inured to it, sort of like we were during the decades of Cold War nuclear threat.

A sense of being on borrowed time hangs over Korea. One has to wonder why it hasn’t blown up already. Some people say it is because the North hasn’t perfected their missiles yet. They have nuclear bomb capability, just not the means of delivery. But since they would never be able to strike more than one or two American west coast cities anyway, are missiles even required? Why would they not be able to smuggle the bombs in? These are bombs small enough to ride on a missile. They could be packed in a cargo container and carried right into a harbor in some small ship. Components of a bomb could be smuggled in as well, and assembled in a warehouse anywhere.

For all the talk of missiles, it sure seems that a smuggled bomb would be more certain to reach its destination. North Korean missiles crash all the time, and we have missile defense systems that may be able to shoot them down. A cargo ship might be stopped and inspected by the Coast Guard, but what are the odds? Drug smugglers apparently get away with it often enough. A rogue state like North Korea could increase the chances of a successful attack by smuggling multiple bombs. Again, one wonders why they have never tried it.

Maybe because only the threat of nuclear attack is of value to them, not the action itself. The Kim regime wants to perpetuate itself, as long as possible. Blowing up some city, and triggering a counter-attack, is not going to maintain them in their mansions and palaces. But as long as they can threaten, bluster, rattle sabers, and conduct nuke tests, they have a certain currency in this world. Their problem is the fact that their bluff cannot stand forever.

Our problem is their craziness. And if North Korea isn’t crazy enough to launch such an attack, there are certainly parties who are. Namely, theocracies and cults. Any organization that would fly jetliners into office towers would float a nuclear bomb into a harbor.   

In 1995, when Japanese police raided the Aum Shinrikyo cult compound, they found massive stockpiles of LSD and methamphetamines, live cultures of Ebola and anthrax, a Russian military helicopter, tons of conventional explosives, and enough sarin nerve gas to kill four million people. The group had been researching nuclear bombs as well.  

Hiroshima Peace Memorial

Hiroshima Peace Memorial

With modern weaponry, it may be that the human race has finally outsmarted itself. Painted itself into a corner. Committed a delayed, time-bomb suicide. There is no undoing it, and our good luck won’t last forever. What could be the way out? Do we simply have to continue on, with a vague hope that none of it will ever go wrong and burn us? Play the odds, whatever they may be? Hope that any blow-up will be limited, and we won’t be unlucky enough to have to endure anything worse than weeks of solemn memorial programs on TV?

With weapons of mass destruction, just as with environmental destruction, counting on good luck to hold forever is a dead-end. It is going to take a fundamental psychological revolution to salvage this situation. It has to be a popular movement, from the bottom up, and it has to be world-wide.

If that sounds unrealistic to you, ask yourself if it is any crazier than counting on good luck to protect us indefinitely. Then ask whether people can do extraordinary things if their survival depends on it. A big enough movement for peace and progress would shrink the pool of support for the kind of people who bring violence into the world.

This psychological revolution may only be a more widespread version of what many people are doing already. Allow simple kindness into your mind. Allow for a tolerant worldview. Place more value on life’s simple pleasures than extravagant stuff. Be a good citizen and a good friend, and then talk about it. Don’t boast about it, but speak up. Vote. Do business with socially responsible organizations. Encourage others to take a more humanistic stance in life.

Finally, reject the cynicism you will hear that says people can never improve, “life’s a joke and then you croak,” etc., etc. Reject tribalism, in all its many forms. And reject self-pity, despair and mindless rage.

Those are the minimum requirements. If you can offer more than that, you are needed.   

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