North Korea: Time to Think Beyond Denuclearization

 Article by rajan menon REPost from

Article by rajan menon
REPost from

In September, the United Nations Security Council imposed, unanimously, its toughest economic sanctions yet on North Korea. The goal: inducing Pyongyang to dismantle its nuclear weapons program, including the warheads it has accumulated, which are estimated to number between a dozen to 30, perhaps more. Laudable though the goal of “denuclearization” may be, and President Donald Trump’s promises notwithstanding, it has become a pipedream. Kim Jong-un will never part with his nuclear weapons cache, which the regime has developed doggedly, and despite international condemnation and pressure, over decades. It’s time to accept this reality.

It was one thing to try and terminate Pyongyang’s nuclear arms program when it had yet to produce warheads and long-range ballistic missiles capable of delivering them— the goal of the ' negotiated between the Clinton administration and the government of Kim Jong-il, Kim Jong-un’s father, as well as of the 2003-2007 Six-Party Talks under President George W. Bush— but now that North Korea has nuclear arms, neither pressure nor rewards will work.

Kim Jong-un takes the possibility of the United States attempting “regime change” by military means seriously—and all the more given Trump’s rhetoric. Kim and his senior officials point to the fate of Saddam Hussein and Mu'ammar Gadaffi as proof that North Korea needs the ultimate deterrent. Pyongyang is doubtless adept at propaganda, but that is not a reason to dismiss everything it says as false, especially because North Korea no longer trusts China to defend it and probably hasn’t in decades—and Saddam and Gadaffi, the latter after he agreed to dismantle his nuclear arms program, are history.

Furthermore, no state that has developed nuclear weapons has been willing to part with them. Pyongyang certainly won’t be the first to do so. Instead, it will weather the economic sanctions and political condemnation: think of India and Pakistan. Moreover, China and Russia cannot be counted on to increase the pressure to the point that Kim’s regime could collapse, leading to unpredictable consequences on their borders.

And for all of President Donald Trump’s rants directed at “Little Rocket Man,” there’s no way to destroy North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile sites without courting the calamity of Kim attacking South Korea with his numerous artillery pieces and short-range missiles, killing tens of thousands of South Koreans (as well as Chinese and Americans living in Seoul) in minutes. Greater Seoul, let’s remember, has a population of over 25 million, making it the world’s fifth largest conurbation.

Managing a nuclear North Korea means, concretely, maximizing the probability that deterrence will work—that Pyongyang will not use its nuclear arms because it understands that if it does the United States will respond in kind, eviscerating the North Korean state.

Despite the shibboleth that Kim is irrational and thus beyond the realm of deterrence, he has never done anything that suggests that he is prone to suicide. What conceivable political goal would be achieved by launching a nuclear attack on South Korea and Japan, to say nothing of the United States?

One way to strengthen deterrence is to create a hot-line-like system that links North Korea, Russia, and China. It would enable instantaneous communications among the leaders of these countries and reduce the probability that a military crisis on the Korean peninsula could careen out of control and lead to nuclear war.

An additional measure—which would certainly be politically controversial in the West and challenging given Pyongyang’s obsession with secrecy—would involve providing North Korea the technological assistance it needs to avert the possibility that its leaders, fearing a decapitating first strike, might launch their nuclear weapons because North Korean early warning systems falsely reported an incoming nuclear attack. If you think this is the stuff of sci-fi novels and movies, peruse Scott Sagan’s Limits of Safety, a chilling account of the erroneous warnings from American detection systems about a Soviet nuclear strike.

As a third step, the United States would make clear that, while it will not pursue regime change, any attack launched by North Korea on Japan, South Korea, or an American territory would be met with an overwhelming military response.

These three measures could be supplemented with an end to patrols over South Korea and international waters off North Korea by American nuclear-capable B-1B bombers, a reduction in the frequency of U.S.-South Korean military exercises, the normalization of political relations between Washington and Pyongyang. The timing and sequencing of these steps would, of course, be hammered out in negotiations and can’t be formulated a priori. To set the stage for the difficult talks that achieving all this will surely require, calming the now-stormy waters by accepting the Chinese and Russian freeze-for-freeze (Pyongyang suspends its ballistic missile tests in exchange for Washington and Seoul suspending their military exercises) would make sense: It is hard to see a downside.

The measures should be supplemented by efforts to reduce the chances of a non-nuclear war between North and South Korea. These could include verifiable agreements under which each side pulls its forces further back from the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), refrains from deploying armaments in the vacated zones, provides advance notification for military exercises and troops movements above a certain size, reconfigures its forces so that initiating standing-start attacks becomes more difficult, and reduces the number of tanks, artillery pieces, and short-range missiles. Given that the numerical balance (though not when it comes to the quality of weaponry) favors the North, it would undertake steeper reductions, save in combat aircraft (and frigates and destroyers, but the focus of the cuts would be on land and air forces), where South Korea has the quantitative edge. But other parts of the deal should provide Pyongyang incentives to accept deeper cuts in its forces.

To be sure, getting talks going on implementing these measures, let alone actualizing them, won’t be easy, not least because of the longstanding animosity between North Korea and the United States. Yet Washington has conducted talks and normalized relations with more than one dictatorship before (think of Mao’s China in the early 1970s, when the blood-drenched Cultural Revolution has not yet concluded), so it is senseless to refuse negotiations with North Korea on the grounds that its human rights record is appalling.

North Korea has advanced toward an operational nuclear capability much faster than experts had anticipated. True, it needs to take additional steps, such as the miniaturizing its warheads and ensuring that they are not destroyed by the heat and vibration they will encounter upon reentering the earth’s atmosphere. But it is a safe bet that Pyongyang will clear these hurdles, so it is more realistic to abandon the objective of getting North Korea to renounce nuclear weapons and to ensure military stability in a world that, like it or not, will feature a nuclear-armed North Korea.

To coming around to this strategy, Washington will have to abandon the maxims that have long governed official thinking—under Democrats and Republican administrations alike. That will be tough, but then we are in a tough spot and the stakes are high—and the old remedies just won’t work.

Powell: Nation Will Overcome Hostility Toward Immigrants

 Colin Powell, former secretary of state under President George W. Bush, said the United States will “come through” its struggle to fully accept immigrants in a speech Wednesday.  Repost from

Colin Powell, former secretary of state under President George W. Bush, said the United States will “come through” its struggle to fully accept immigrants in a speech Wednesday.

Repost from

Colin Powell, former secretary of state under President George W. Bush, said the United States will “come through” its struggle to fully accept immigrants in a speech in the Fisher Colloquium on Wednesday.

“Right now we’re having some diversity problems because of certain political issues we can go into, but we’ll come through that,” Powell said. “We are a nation of immigrants. We are a nation of diversity. And we’ve had trouble with diversity over the years, and we still have trouble.”

He added that political circumstances will not stem the tide of an increasingly diverse society.

Whether the political system likes it or not, it’s happening. It’s going to continue to happen. We are a vibrant economy because of immigration.

He also alluded to problems with U.S. immigration policy by comparing citizenship requirements in the United States to the strict policies in Switzerland and Sweden.

“You can go to Switzerland, and it’ll take you forever to become a citizen, and you probably won’t make it. Same thing with Sweden: Look at the trouble they’re having with their immigrants. We have trouble with our immigrant policy, and I wish we could get an immigration policy that makes sense,” Powell said.

Powell’s remarks came in response to an audience question at an event titled “Leadership Without Authority,” the first in a McDonough School of Business speaker series of distinguished leaders. His speech included anecdotes from his 2012 book, “It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership,” and tips on effective leadership that he learned through decades of public service.

A retired four-star general who served in the Reagan, Clinton and Bush administrations after 35 years of military service, Powell was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army in 1958 as a member of the first generation of recruits to serve in a fully desegregated army.

Though America has a historically complex relationship with immigrants, Powell told the packed crowd that his own personal story is a testimony to the American dream. Born in Harlem to Jamaican immigrant parents who first arrived through Ellis Island, Powell went to school in the South Bronx and attended the City College of New York, a public university where 84 percent of students are nonwhite.

Most people were the first in their family to go to college, or even finish high school,” Powell said. “There ain’t no legacy students they have to take care of.

In 2013, the college opened the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership in Harlem. Powell said he was proud to start as a “street kid” and achieve as much as he did. When he visits his alma mater, he tells graduating students not to send their own children there, too.

“Go find somewhere else to send them,” he recalled saying. “This school is for the Ellis Island kids.”

On leadership, Powell said good leaders do not gain authority through titles or formal powers, but through building relationships of trust.

You don’t get authority from above, you get authority from the people whose lives you control. You can’t be a good leader if your followers don’t believe in you. If you’ve created that bond of trust, they’ll do anything you ask of them.

According to Powell, these bonds of trust give leaders power up and down the chain of command, whether they have formal authority or not. He shared an anecdote from his time as national security adviser to President Ronald Reagan, when he was in the Oval Office briefing the president about a troubling situation. As Powell expounded on the complexities of the issue, the president remained silent, irking Powell, who expected the president’s input.

Then, finally, the president hopped up out of his chair.

“And then he said, ‘Colin, Colin, look: The squirrels came and got the nuts I put out in the Rose Garden,’” Powell said. “He was telling me he trusted me, he hired me, he knew I could handle it.”

To work effectively with followers, Powell said strong leaders must first discover what their deputies are capable of handling on their own.

“Your job as a leader is to make sure you’ve identified that range, and then give it to them,” Powell said. “Trust them.”

Interim President Vince Boudreau's DACA Statement


Dear CCNY Community,

We have 6 months. Let's not waste a single day merely bemoaning the stubborn and cruel decision to end DACA and throw the lives and families of nearly 800,000 Americans into chaos and insecurity. We have 6 months to develop a plan of action to defend our Dreamers, and that means we must get busy from day one.

DACA recipients came to this country as children – over 50% before they were 10 years old. Most have no real memory of, or connection to, any country besides the US. To receive DACA status, they passed tests of lawfulness, courage and industriousness that native born Americans need never face. They have paid taxes, bought homes, served their society. They are among our best neighbors and brightest hopes. They belong in this country and we should be proud to have them here.

CCNY and CUNY stand resolutely in opposition to the repeal of DACA, and to any measure, taken by government or individuals to curtail the liberty, dim the prospects, or undermine the integrity of the new Americans that work, learn and live among us. Our college is utterly unconcerned about where you came from or how you got here. We care about the future of our society, as embodied in the dreams and potentials of every student on our campus. We are not neutral on this question, and so I do not write in the spirit of neutrality. On this issue, our campus is a partisan campus. Period.

The question we now face is what are we willing to do in the face of this terrible decision? The DACA repeal came with a caveat: that the legislature has 6 months to work out a humane and forward-looking alternative to DACA. (Never mind that DACA was a safety net to protect people precisely because congress repeatedly failed in that task.) So, how will we spend the next 6 months?

Vince Boudreau Headshot.jpg

"We need now to join our voices to those of people around the country, in our writing, with spoken words, and in the assemblies we choose to join." 

We have three avenues for action, and at CCNY, I suggest we advance down each of them.

First, we speak out in protest. We have marched on this campus and spoken our good intentions into microphones, and will do so again. But we need now to join our voices to those of people around the country, in our writing, with spoken words, and in the assemblies we choose to join. We need to keep one another abreast of protest actions in support of Dreamers, and be willing, as CCNY bodies, to join those assemblies.

Second, we must apply pressure. As individuals and as a campus, we must exert as much pressure on our elected officials as we possibly can. In the very recent past, we have seen how massive public resistance and pressure on government turned the tide against the Affordable Care Act repeal by making the electoral stakes of the decision crystal clear. Five years of DACA has strengthened the interests in our society for finding a way to provide security to our Dreamers—because even immigration skeptics have grown accustomed to the benefits that followed from bringing Dreamers into the light of legal standing. Those interests, and the costs of violating them, need to be made explicit, to encourage those who carry our fight forward, to give pause to those who stand in opposition to Dreamer security, and to convince those who may waver on the issue.

Third, we must safeguard our Dreamers. On this campus and in our city, we must offer protection, encouragement and support. We must all learn the rules of engagement with immigration officials, the first and most important of which is this: if at any time an immigration officials enters our buildings, calls one of our phone lines —inquires in any way after any of our students- every single one of us must respond only by referring the inquiry to Executive Counsel to the President, Paul Occhiogrosso (; 212-650-8276). And, when a Dreamer needs help, we must be prepared to offer it, via the City College Immigration Center, in our capacities as CCNY employees or students, and as a personal commitment. We must think carefully and plan well what we shall do when the security of any member of our community is threatened by the repeal of DACA.

So now it is time to plan. In the days and weeks ahead, I will convene a series of meetings, some small, some large and public, to plan the concrete ways in which we can advance this agenda. I ask each of you to think hard and pay attention. I firmly believe that in the years ahead, we will each be asked what we did when our neighbors came under this heart wrenching threat. Let's make sure we can answer with pride.


Vince Boudreau
Interim President