Small miscalculations create great wars, and the law of unintended consequences governs the way the unfold and how they end. In June of 1914 when the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo, nobody imagined that the greatest war know to that time would be triggered as a result, and that it would destroy an orderly world and lead to another eighty years of upheaval. Similarly, when Dean Acheson made a policy speech in 1950 that failed to mention that Korea was considered an ally by the US, nobody realized that North Korea would then start the horrific Korean war that has led to the situation we face today, with the possibility that a hot war could break out at any time.
The situation as it exists now and the one that existed in 1914 are disturbingly similar. There is a lot of misunderstood conflict energy. Neither side appears to realize how quickly a nuclear exchange could trigger a wider war. Both the US and Korea appear to be attempting to goad the other into shooting first, always a dangerous situation.
If there is a war, even if it doesn’t become nuclear, the United States is going to suffer a catastrophe. It will not lose it’s war, but the South Koreans will. With their largest city just 30 miles from the border and under siege from 5,000 North Korean artillery pieces, Seoul will suffer terrible damage. US prestige in the world, already at historic lows, will suffer an irreparable blow. What will happen to our alliances and partnerships then is completely unpredictable.
Now, I’m going to draw on something I learned a while back from the visitors. There was a time when I wouldn’t have brought them in to a journal llike this, but with Robert Bigelow stating frankly on 60 Minutes that aliens are here, and the To The Stars experts standing up and saying that UFOs are real, and behind the scenes efforts to understand the abduction phenomenon bound to go public sooner or later, I think it’s time to make more open use of what I have learned from them.
Back in the mid-nineties, I asked them to show me a world a little worse off than ours and one a little better off. The better off one had opened itself to what we are attempting to open ourselves to now, and had accepted responsibility for its own history and its future. The worse off one had divided into two great dictatorships and, very abruptly one day, experienced an annihilating nuclear exchange.
On the first planet, there was freedom, no overpopulation and a healthy environment. On the second, there was no freedom, the population was bursting at the seams, and the air was yellow with pollution.
I have thought long about these visions, and here is how I think they relate to our world. First, we are both sliding in the direction of the worse off planet and striving for goals that had been met by the better off one. I think, overall, we are in better shape than we realize. When I look back over the past century, I see a world torn by massive wars and trying to split into two worldwide dictatorships. There is nothing like that now.
What we do have now, however, is a country that is trying hard to get nuclear weapons, and may already posses them, and which cannot be trusted to handle them responsibly. The United States has gone to war with North Korea and has engaged in diplomatic dialog for more than 50 years, all without result. Now it is trying extreme provocation in an effort to provoke North Korea into firing first.
The way the conflict is likely to start is with a North Korean attack on an American plane or naval unit. This has happened a number of times under other presidents, but this one will almost certainly react violently, possibly using nuclear weapons.
From that moment on, the law of unintended consequences will apply. I always like to remain optimistic, but I have to say that, hiding behind the seeming impossibility that another world war could take place, is the unexpected and unanticipated.
In July of 1914, few people thought that the European conflict would escalate. A month later, the upheaval had started. The reason that it happened was really quite simple: a series of interlocking treaties committed various nations to support by allies if they were attacked, and once a country started mobilizing its rivals had to do the same. If one country mobilized and its neighbors didn’t, they risked being overrun.
If the United States or one of its carrier task forces or an important ally like Japan were to be struck by a North Korean nuclear weapon, the Russian and Chinese leaders will then be facing a desperately dangerous unknown. An unstable president has already made dire threats against North Korea’s trading partners. What might he do? Can they risk his finger on the nuclear button, or should they move preemptively to destroy his ability to attack them?
I hope neither power ever comes face to face with such a decision. The consequences are likely to be tragic.