Hornberger's Blog

Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
Here's the RSS feed or subscribe to our FFF Email Update to receive Hornberger’s Blog daily.

Just Come Home and Leave North Korea Alone


For more than 50 years, U.S. officials have been imposing sanctions on North Korea. Their objective has been twofold:

One, to bring about regime change in that country by making the North Korean people suffer so much economically that they either revolt against their communist regime or support a military coup that brings a pro-U.S. regime into power.

Two, to induce the North Korean communist regime to do what U.S. officials want them to do. The idea is: “Do what we want you to do and we will stop hurting your citizenry with sanctions. Don’t do what we want, and we’ll keep squeezing your people with ever-increasing sanctions.”

It has never worked. In fact, no matter how many different forms of sanctions have been imposed on North Korea, no matter how cruel and brutal they have been, and no matter how much suffering they have generated for the North Korean people, the result has always been the opposite of what U.S. officials have been aiming for.

The perfect example is North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. Each time the U.S. government has imposed a new round of sanctions on North Korea with the aim of causing it to cease and desist from developing nuclear weapons, the North Korean communist regime has responded with a more determined effort to develop nuclear weapons.

So, what is the U.S. government’s current policy on North Korea?

The same policy as always. It’s imposing a new round of sanctions on the country. The aim is to induce North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program.

Now, let’s review the classic definition of insanity. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Given that definition, can’t we reasonably conclude that either the U.S. policy of sanctions on North Korea is insane or that the U.S. officials who continue to impose sanctions on North Korea are a bit off-kilter?

There are all sorts of suggestions as to how to get North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program, but all of them involve one form of interventionism or another. A popular idea of late is for the U.S. government to pressure China to induce North Korea to comply with U.S. wishes. How can the U.S. pressure China? Well, maybe by threatening to impose sanctions on China or maybe by threatening a trade war.

I’ve got a different idea: How about just leaving North Korea alone for the first time in more than 50 years? How about immediately lifting all sanctions against the North Korean people and immediately bringing home all U.S. troops stationed in Korea?

No negotiations.  Just unilateral withdrawal. Just unilaterally lifting all sanctions? How about establishing normal diplomatic relations with North Korea and leaving Americans and the rest of the world to trade with and visit that country?

In other words, how about treating North Korea in much the same way that the U.S. government is now treating the communist regime of Vietnam?

No, I’m not suggesting that U.S. officials have to kiss, hug, and make nice with the North Korean communist officials, as they are currently doing with Vietnamese communist officials. And no, I’m not suggesting that the Pentagon plead with the North Korean communist regime to establish U.S. military bases there, as Pentagon officials are doing with the Vietnamese communist regime.

I’m just suggesting that the U.S. government leave North Korea alone. No more U.S. troops in South Korea. No more sanctions. No more B-52 flyovers. No more joint military exercise with South Korea. No more U.S. warships in the area. No more insults. No more provocations. Just come home and leave them alone.

After all, notice that hardly anyone mentions the principal reason that North Koreans want nuclear weapons. Whatever else might be said of the North Korean communists, they’re not stupid. They can look around and see that the only thing that deters the U.S. national-security establishment from effecting a regime change on a country is nuclear weaponry.

Think back to Cuba in 1962. The Cuban communists got the Soviet communists to install nuclear weapons in Cuba. The purpose? For more than 50 years, U.S. officials and the U.S. mainstream press have maintained that it was because the communists, being the assertive, aggressive people they  are, wanted to start a nuclear war with the United States.

Yet, nothing could be further from the truth. If that had been the case, they would have fired their missiles and started World War III. The communists installed those missiles in Cuba to deter further U.S. aggression against the island. Don’t forget, after all, that the U.S. government, operating through the CIA, had already invaded Cuba once, unsuccessfully. They had also tried repeatedly, in partnership with the Mafia, to assassinate Cuban president Fidel Castro. They had imposed an embargo against the country that was causing the same type of economic suffering among the Cuban people as the U.S. sanctions have caused the North Korean people.

The purpose? Regime change. U.S. officials wanted the Cuban people to overthrow the Castro regime or encourage a military coup that would bring into existence another pro-U.S. regime that would do what the U.S national security state wanted it to do, like the Batista regime that Castro ousted in his revolution. (See The CIA, Terrorism, and the Cold War: The Evil of the National Security State by Jacob Hornberger.)

The purpose of the Soviet nuclear missiles was to deter another U.S. attack on Cuba. Once President Kennedy agreed that the U.S. government would never invade Cuba again, the missiles were withdrawn.

Every North Korean citizen knows that there are few things the old Cold War-era U.S. national security establishment would still love more than to bring about regime change in North Korea.

Why isn’t it considered perfectly rational for the North Korean regime to oppose its own ouster with a U.S. regime-change operation? Why isn’t it also considered rationale that it would use any and all means at its disposal, including the development of nuclear weapons, to deter a regime-change operation?

Of course, U.S. officials deny that they have any regime-change wishes for North Korea. But look what they did with Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Chile, Guatemala, Iran, and many others and what they’re still trying to do with Syria and Cuba. Even paranoid regimes are not immune from U.S. regime-change operations. And don’t forget the U.S. national security establishment’s conviction that North Korea is part of an axis of evil.

If North Korea had wanted to continue the Korean War in order to unify the country under communist rule, it would have attacked South Korea a long time ago. The reason they haven’t is because they are obviously not suicidal. Even though they would have the element of surprise, they know there is no way they could ever defeat South Korea in a war. In any event, such a civil war would not be any business of the U.S. government, any more than the civil war in Vietnam was the U.S. government’s business.

How about trying something different for a change? How about just leaving North Korea alone, much like the U.S. government is leaving Vietnam alone?  The Cold War ended more than 25 years ago. How about coming home and developing a free, peaceful, prosperous, and harmonious society here at home? It’s really the only sane thing to do.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.