Morning clouds. Mild.
A file image of a missile launch by North Korea. (Ahn Young-joon, AP)
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In the last chapter of the book Games Foxes Play published in April 2005, Chantell Ilbury and I
included ‘The Ultimate Gameboard’ contrasting global peace with the next big
world war. One of the scenarios we played on the board was entitled ‘Boom!’
which painted the possibility of a nuclear conflict involving North Korea and
South Korea among others.
The first two incidents of the use of nuclear weapons were
in 1945 when atom bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan with
devastating results. A record number of civilians were killed in a split second
and many more died of radiation sickness thereafter. The strategy was justified
by the Americans on the grounds that the alternative of continuing the war
would have resulted in even greater casualties, particularly on their side.
Combining the latest announcement by North Korea of a
successful test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of
reaching Alaska with the announcement by Donald Trump that he has lost patience
with North Korea, the chances of the scenario we depicted in the book happening
within the next year must now be at least 50/50.
There is no way that North Korea is going to relinquish its
continuing programme to have a modern nuclear arsenal, whatever demands and
sanctions China or America will impose on them. They will merely state the
obvious that if other nations are entitled to have nuclear weapons for
self-defence, they are entitled to have them too.
So the logic of the brilliant mathematician, John Nash, who
was the subject of the movie A Beautiful
Mind, no longer applies. He said that games played in a co-operative
fashion can lead to a higher level of equilibrium than pure rivalry.
In this case, we have a straight confrontation between two
individuals - Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump - neither of whom are likely to back
down or seek any compromise with one another. They are both headstrong
individuals with unlimited power in military matters. Trump would seek approval
from Congress after a military strike, arguing that an effective
commander-in-chief must have the element of surprise up his sleeve.
Moreover the MAD principle, which states that nuclear war
between America and Russia will never happen because of it leading to the
mutually assured destruction of both nations, does not apply in this case. If America attacks North Korea, North Korea
will attack South Korea with millions of deaths in Seoul and far-reaching
consequences for the South Korean economy. Japan might suffer too for a second
time. Again the Americans will justify this attack by saying that holding back
would have increased the odds of an even higher death toll in the long run.
According to latest estimates, North Korea has up to ten plutonium
bombs and maybe twenty if you include uranium bombs as well. They also have
chemical and biological weapons. America would have to eliminate all these in a
first strike and inflict considerable damage on the enemy’s conventional forces
in order to avoid an Armageddon in South Korea.
Perhaps America will use some of its most powerful nuclear
missiles in a surprise first strike to try to disable North Korea completely.
Pyongyang and other known military sites will be vaporised. The other option of
the mass evacuation of Seoul ahead of any assault will immediately put the
North on the alert. Furthermore, given the proximity of Seoul to North Korea’s
border, the anti-missile system recently planted on a golf course in South
Korea by the Americans is unlikely to knock out all incoming missiles and
shells from North Korea. It certainly will not help against a ground invasion.
The ‘Boom’ scenario has not yet been raised in detail by any
major news network in the world and the markets are not reflecting any potential
disruption to the global economy caused by a war in the Far East. But neither
did anyone in the conventional world of breaking news anticipate Brexit and the
election of Donald Trump as US President.
The whole point of being a futurist is to be ahead of the
crowd with breaking futures of an unusual kind. I wonder what is going on in
Trump’s mind right now and how his meeting with Putin will go later this week.
Watch the flags!
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