How Dealing with Nuclear Powers Isn’t A Simple Fix: Iran and North Korea

On Monday, October 2nd, the Reiff Center hosted Dr. Michael Poznansky and Dr. Rachel Whitlark, both experts in political science dealing with topics related to security. The entire room was packed, all intent to listen to what the experts had to say.

Opening Statements

Each speaker was allotted between five – seven minutes of talking time to make some opening remarks to the topic as well as provide some background to the situation that has grasped the attention of many Americans and dominated American news media today. Dr. Whitlark discussed the history of both nuclear situations, outlining the ways in which Iran and North Korea created deals with the United Nations and the United States but then later reneged them. Dr. Poznansky spoke on ways in which countries could prevent nuclear war but also assert dominance as the more powerful country with the prevailing ideology.

Photo Courtesy of Unsplash
Photo Courtesy of Unsplash

Questions

The speakers were then asked questions by two moderators and a few audience members. These questions actually ended up pertaining to the North Korean situation, which moderator Dr. Matt Scroggs commented at the end of the program was interesting because the talk was meant to give equal weight to both countries but, since North Korea has been the country most talked about recently, that situation dominated the conversation.

When the speakers were asked about what some of the successes of the nuclear programs were, Dr. Whitlark was quick to say that success was relative in the sense of preventing the number of countries that have nuclear weapons lower. Dr. Poznansky was quick to agree, citing how the deals have shaped the future of relations between countries.

Photo Courtesy of Unsplash
Photo Courtesy of Unsplash

Additionally, when the speakers were asked about what the consequences of doing nothing might be, both professors agreed that it could risk American credibility amongst other countries, as well as prove to be a bit hypocritical. On top of that, if they used a ransom approach (as opposed to economic, diplomatic, or instituting a regime change), it could backfire because the countries could just break the assurances made to the United States and instead use the money given to further the nuclear weapons program or something else that takes away from the people.

Dr. Poznansky was very clear about this: “There’s nothing that we can give North Korea that is more important to them than nuclear weapons.” On the same token, Dr. Whitlark cautioned Americans to start thinking in a different way than before: “America needs to move on from the fact that North Korea has nuclear weapons.”

The question about what possible solutions might be was not discussed as in depth as one might expect; however, there are options. Both speakers agreed that, while the diplomatic approach would be the best to try, it doesn’t seem like the current administration is suggesting that’s the route they’re going to try when it comes to Iran and (especially) North Korea.

In two weeks, the Iranian Nuclear Deal, which President Trump repeatedly claimed was one of the worst deals made while on the campaign trail and in office, is up to be revisited. Whether or not anything diplomatic comes of it is still up in the air. At the same time, we are in a state of unknowing when it comes to North Korea: all we really have to rely on are daily sound bytes from news reels and Tweets from the Commander-in-Chief.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Reiff Center For Human Rights and Conflict Resolution or Christopher Newport University.