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Trapped in the age of Nuclear Deterrence

North Korea and the US: Trapped in the age of Nuclear Deterrence

By Mark Rais

The standoff between nuclear giant United States and newcomer North Korea is a remarkable reflection of a past age. It is the quintessential example of the cold war era ideology where nuclear weapons were foundational to power and deterrence.


The North Korean leadership appear to be conducting military and diplomatic actions that are a reflection of their past 1950s ideology, where nuclear weapons are essential to the survival of a nation in the new world order.

North Korean military advisors and its leader Kim Jong Un are trapped in a past mentality that is both dangerous and self-destructive. The nation which fought a frantic and brutal war in the 1950s became isolated in the thinking and mentality of that era. It is a nation comprehensively buried under the cold war era belief system that possessing nuclear warheads and applying sabre rattling diplomacy are the correct manoeuvres in a world where communism and capitalism are at odds.

North Korea actually believes in the philosophy of mutually assured destruction as a method by which to operate on the international front. Moreover, the leadership are in a time stasis, where they perceive that should their nuclear ambitions fail, it is ultimately and inevitably the end of their existence as leaders.

They believe the lie perpetuated in the 1950s that the key method to survive is through military might. That is why these leaders have throttled the North Korean economic engine to focus substantive resources to successful implementation of such a nuclear deterrent. They believe it to be a matter of self-preservation, a concept deeply entrenched an antiquated cold war mentality.

Were the North Korean leaders more aware of the actual state of the world, they would see the weakness in their paradigm, and perhaps consider alternative options.


The United States, very similarly, has an administration in the white house that is deeply entrenched in the ideology which they grew up with, an ideology that has embedded itself in the American psyche for decades.

Most of the current leaders of the administration in the United States are white Anglo-Saxon men who grew up during the cold war era. This was an age where family nuclear bunkers and every Wednesday air raid drills were common practice. These leaders believe strongly in the concepts that formed America post-World War II.

These men believe in the fundamental need to show military might as a key aspect of their personal self-image and self-worth. It is important to note that this is not a reflection of the whole of leadership in the United States, as the division even in the GOP demonstrates.

Unfortunately, the administration’s leaders who are behind much of the current rhetoric and military manoeuvres around the Korean peninsula are these archetypal men of the cold war age. This antiquated mentality and ideology manifests itself in a form of bullying arrogance that we see in some of the current foreign policy methods used by the United States.

It relies on the deeply flawed concept that overt shows of force and dramatic rhetoric improve the image and the standing of a country in the eyes of the world and its key enemies.


This holds fast to a false notion that subtle, Machiavellian actions where special operations and unconventional warfare are employed are not solutions to current problems.

Instead, ideology is based on concepts formulated in the United States of the 1950s where methods of warfare that came directly out of massive successes in World War II are the keys to triumph.

The United States saved the world from a brutal enemy in World War II. As such, the leadership in the administration sees itself as a great victor. As morally right.

This message carries itself beyond the walls of the white house. Many times within the educational and media messaging, the populace is told that they are the greatest nation on the earth, and a last bastion of morality among nations.

These concepts grew directly out of both a puritanical foundation and the post-World War II era. And this mode of thinking remains deeply entrenched in the cultural identity of its current administration.

Nuclear power and the age of global détente drive the current decision making and methodology of many of the leaders in America. Furthermore, the ideology that nuclear weapons are useful, valued assets is indicative of this cold war era thinking.

South Korean leadership and the United States military command are already preparing the movement of nuclear assets to the battle lines in the Korean peninsula. They are preparing plans for the deployment of tactical nuclear warheads at the kiloton level.

Bear in mind that the United States is the only nation in earth’s history to have used nuclear weapons on an enemy. Moreover, in so doing it validated that it is ready and willing to utilise such weapons on a civilian populace for the end goal of victory.

Right now the two nations of North Korea and the United States of America, both mired in the ideology of the past age of nuclear détente, appear to be following the guide book of the 1950s.

Unfortunately, they have both failed to assess the world situation in the scope and reality of the new world order, where nuclear deterrence and sabre rattling are no longer effectual.

Let us hope that before these two nations press on with actions that are based on antiquated military and political notions, they learn what the rest of the world already knows.

There are no winners in a nuclear conflict.

Other Scoop articles by Mark Rais:
Clash of Super Powers in an Age of Global Conflict
Op Article: Oil Rules the World
Op Article: War for the Hearts & Minds of Our Children

Mark Rais is a writer for the technology and science industry. He serves as a senior editor for an on-line magazine and has written numerous articles on the influence of technology and society.


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