Obama Sends Aircraft Carrier to South Korea

Read about it here.

The New York Times reports:

President Obama and South Korea’s president agreed Tuesday night to hold joint military exercises as a first response to North Korea’s deadly shelling of a South Korean military installation…

The exercise will include sending the aircraft carrier George Washington and a number of accompanying ships into the region, both to deter further attacks by the North and to signal to China that unless it reins in its unruly ally it will see an even larger American presence in the vicinity.

It’s a strategic move that looks like the right thing to do, but I am unsure of how a single American aircraft carrier poses significant enough deterrent to. Certainly we do not want to overreact and escalate this by sending in our entire Pacific fleet, but one lone aircraft carrier seems a little on the low side. It seems that officials in the Obama administration seem to think this decision is one of many bad ones, including those who are carry-overs from the Bush administration:

A former national security official who dealt frequently with North Korea in the Bush administration said… [that] North Korea is “the land of lousy options.”

Mr. Obama is once again forced to choose among unpalatable choices: responding with verbal condemnations and a modest tightening of sanctions, which has done little to halt new attacks; starting military exercises that are largely symbolic; or reacting strongly, which could risk a broad war in which South Korea’s capital, Seoul, would be the first target.

Agreed, not much of a choice, but on the other hand, perhaps a small-scale conflict is the preferred option if resolution is truly desired. Having a egotistical dictator with a bloated militaristic ambitions just across from a prosperous democratic nation isn’t exactly the natural state of things. Something’s going to give eventually; better now than never.

This is unlikely to happen though. The most likely scenario is that North Korea backs down but Kim Jong-Il continues tiptoeing the line between being inflammatory and instigating actual conflict. China continues to waffle, South Korea watches North Korea warily and builds itself up for the eventuality of conflict, and the United States continues to wave its finger at Kim Jong-Il with mild sanctions and public denouncements, with the occasional military demonstration.