Editor’s Note: In the context of a broader discussion, M.I.T. Professor Emeritus Noam Chomsky, speaking in April in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was asked by Democracy Now news anchor Amy Goodman: “Do you think there is a possibility that the US would attack North Korea?” Chomsky’s answer is instructive in view of the ongoing US/South Korean wargames off the Korean coast which now involve two US aircraft carrier battle groups.
Noam Chomsky: I doubt it very much. The reason is very simple.
An attack on North Korea would unleash … a massive artillery bombardment of Seoul, the biggest city in South Korea and right near the border, which would wipe it out including plenty of American troops. As far as I can see, there is no defense against that.
Furthermore, North Korea could retaliate against American bases in the region where there are plenty of US soldiers. They’d be devastated; North Korea would be finished; so would much of the region. But if attacked, presumably they would respond, very likely. In fact the responses might be automatic. [National Security Advisor, General Herbert Raymond] McMaster at least, and [Secretary of Defense, General James] Mattis understand this. How much influence they have, we don’t know. So I think an attack is unlikely.
But the real question is: Is there a way of dealing with the problem? There are a lot of proposals. Sanctions. A big new missile defense system—which is a major threat to China and will increase tensions there. Military threats of various kinds. Sending an aircraft carrier, the [USS Carl] Vinson to North Korea…. Those are the kind of proposals as to how to solve it.
Actually there’s one proposal that’s ignored. It’s a pretty simple proposal. Remember: the goal is to get North Korea to freeze its weapons and missiles systems.
So, one proposal is to accept their offer to do that. It sounds simple. They have made a proposal—China and North Korea—have proposed to freeze the North Korean missile and nuclear weapons systems and the US instantly rejected it. And you can’t blame that on Trump. Obama did the same thing. A couple of years ago the same offer was presented, I think it was 2015, the Obama administration instantly rejected it.
And the reason is that it calls for a quid pro quo. It says in return the US should put an end to threatening military maneuvers on North Korea’s borders, which happen to include, under Trump, sending of nuclear-capable B52s [and B1 and B2 bombers] flying right near the border.
Maybe Americans don’t remember very well, but North Koreans have a memory of, not too long ago, when North Korea was absolutely flattened, literally, by American bombing. There were literally no targets left.
I really urge people who haven’t done it to read the official American military histories, the Air Quarterly Review, the military histories describing this. They describe it very vividly and accurately. They say there just weren’t any targets left. So what could we do? Well, we decided to attack the dams, the huge dams—a major war crime. People were hanged for it at Nuremberg, but put that aside. And then comes an ecstatic, gleeful description of the bombing of the dams and the huge flow of water which was wiping out valleys and destroying the rice crop, “upon which Asians depend for survival”—lots of racist comments—but all with exaltation and glee. You really have to read it to appreciate it. The North Koreans don’t have to bother reading it. They lived it.
So when nuclear-capable B52s [etc.] are flying on their border, along with other threatening military maneuvers, they’re kind of upset about it. Strange people. And they continue to develop what they see as a potential deterrent that might protect the regime, and the country in fact, from destruction. …