The State Sponsor of Terror List needs more teeth. In its current form, the list only leverages three elements of national power (diplomatic, informational, and economic). It is time to discuss changing this reality by adding the fourth and final element of national power.
On November 2nd the State Department failed to meet a congressional deadline. Their task is to determine whether the United States should relist North Korea on the State Sponsor of Terror List. President Trump will announce a decision at the end of his current Pacific diplomatic visits.
It may come as a surprise to most Americans that North Korea is not currently on this list. They were removed by the Bush administration in 2008 in a forlorn hope that the North Korean dictatorship then under Kim Jong-il would honor new denuclearization options in exchange for their removal from the list. As anyone with common sense and a rudimentary understanding of that region’s history should know, that did not work. Also unchanged is the Kim dynasty’s sponsorship of international terrorist movements who actively target the west, especially the United States and its interests.
This discussion, however, provides an opportunity to reconsider the usefulness of the State Sponsor of Terror List in its current form. There are three countries identified on the current list: Iran, Sudan and Syria. They have all been on this list for many years, and they have not changed their behavior in any tangible fashion. In fact, one could argue that all of them, and most certainly Iran, have accelerated their support for terrorist organizations.
Why? Listing a nation as a state sponsor of terror results in automatic diplomatic and economic sanctions, and such actions have next to no impact on leaders of nations who simply don’t care. Certainly, adding North Korea to this list will do almost nothing to them we are not already doing. Can we impose further diplomatic or economic sanctions than those already imposed due to their withdrawal from the United Nations Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and their pursuit of ballistic missile delivery systems for their nuclear warheads? The obvious answer is, “No.”
The United States must alter its current policy to include the military element of national power. We must include the stated right to immediately, and without warning, retaliate against any state sponsor of terror in any fashion the US deems appropriate, up to and including the use of our own nuclear arsenal. Such an attack will be triggered as a response to a terrorist attack against our nation, its people, or our allies so long as the terrorist organization is shown to receive any support (arms, money, training, safe harbor, etc.) from a state sponsor on the list. This will provide a level of deterrence that currently does not exist.
Some may argue such a change would be extreme. I, however, would argue it is in our survival interest to do this quickly. Technology has progressed to where even third world dictators like Kim Jon-un are able to acquire weapons that can kill tens of millions, destroy hundreds of billions of dollars of infrastructure, contaminate our food sources, attack our economic infrastructure, shut down national electric grids, etc. Our enemies are all pursuing some or all of these technologies. It is very possible, and arguably probable, that at some point one of these nations will consider providing such a weapon to a terrorist organization they believe they can control. We need to insure they think long and hard before doing so.
This is a narrowly defined policy change. It would only apply to those nations who we place on the list. The State Sponsor of Terror List will then have a level of importance it currently does not, both for nations added and for those who are removed.
We need to stop giving the state sponsors of terror a pass while they conduct war by proxy against the US and its allies. Change our policy, and place North Korea on this list.