There seems to be a growing consensus among Serious Foreign Policy Intellectuals that the time is now ripe to mount a military operation against North Korea, much as in 2012 when the Obama took heed of the wise men counseling war and obliterated Iran’s nuclear program. Over at Foreign Policy, Edward Luttwak has captured the zeitgeist with a blunt piece under the modest title, “It’s Time to Bomb North Korea.”
The challenge, of course, is what precisely we ought to be bombing. Luttwak is rather silent on this important issue—most likely, I presume, the fault of careless editors who have in an effort to preserve column inches for advertising seem to have deprived us of his wisdom on this crucial point. Nevertheless, I may have a helpful suggestion.
The central challenge, as we contemplate a “bloody nose” option for a limited military strike, is finding a suitable target that represents Kim Jong Un’s nose—a target that will allow our strike to be intimidating and humiliating to Kim, but not the sort of broad assault that might prompt him to retaliate with his growing stockpile of nuclear weapons. We are a modern-day Goldilocks looking for the perfect bowl of high explosive porridge, neither too hot nor too cold, but just right. It is challenging problem, but perhaps we are looking at it from the wrong end. Luttwak, is willing to write off the several million denizens of Seoul by pointing to lax civil defense efforts on the part of the shifty layabouts running the country. There is, however, the prospect that any North Korean retaliation, which will presumably be aimed at U.S. forces in South Korea and Japan, would also kill some number of brave Americans serving their country abroad. And while some might say they know what they signed up for, it may yet make sense to manage the risks of escalation.
In any event, finding the right target is the key here. Like many problems involving nuclear weapons, we need to get inside the head of our adversary, in this case North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, and determine what he values and what he fears. As it turns out, thanks to some pioneering open source analysis here at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, we think we have just that insight.
We go to great effort to geolocate every North Korean missile launch, compiling the locations and other information into a database tracking North Korea’s missile testing. Time and again we have discovered something interesting about Kim Jong Un—he deeply values creature comforts. Kim has observed missile launches from a number of luxurious locations, including atop the Masik Pass Ski resort and from the luxurious new international terminal at Kalma International Airport in Wonsan. North Korea, however, is quite poor and Kim cannot always ensure that the local facilities are up to snuff. And therein may lie a solution.
Consider the launch that Kim Jong Un observed from Sunan Airport, just outside Pyongyang in September 2017. Although Sunan Airport is Pyongyang’s major international airport, it is not so nearly as luxurious as the airport at Kalma. Moreover, so as to not unduly interfere with international flights in and out of the capitol, the launch was conducted from the military runway, which has far more Spartan accommodations. In closely examining images released by North Korea, we think we identified a potential target.
Most analysts would see very little of interest in this image of Kim Jong Un beyond the location and the coterie of missile program managers around (from left to right: Kim Jong Sik, Ri Pyong Chol, Jang Chang Ha). But look closely and something else is visible, something important and yet widely overlooked.
There it is. Kim Jong Un’s port-a-potty.
We can use a 2,000 pound, satellite-guided bomb to punish his porcelain.
It’s perfect. Destroying the port-a-potty will deny Kim Jong Un a highly valued creature comfort, while also demonstrating the incredibly accuracy of U.S. precision munitions to hold Kim and his minions at risk. It will send an unmistakable message: We can kill you while you are dropping a deuce.
At the same time, destroying a port-a-potty is unquestionably hilarious. I defy you to watch this clip from the Swedish dynamite channel of a port-a-potty being blasted into smithereens and not double over in laughter. There is every chance that, as Kim Jong Un watches his throne room go kablooie that, instead of ordering a nuclear retaliation, he will just say “THAT WAS AWESOME. YOU GUYS TOTALLY GOT ME.”
Better still, this is the sort of humor that doesn’t distract from the overall seriousness of the deterrence message we want to send. This is a tricky balance to strike—and only crushing his crapper will do. That’s why, after all, Lethal Weapon 2 had a scene with a toilet bomb. It’s a comedy and an action movie—both at the same time. If it’s good enough for a genius auteur like Richard Donner, then it’s good enough for Donald Trump.
So yes, it is time to bomb North Korea. We can start showing Kim we mean business by stopping him from doing his.