When Jocko Willink, a former U.S. Navy SEAL, author, and occasional Business Insider contributor, was asked on Twitter how he would handle the North Korean crisis, he gave an unexpected answer that just might work, according to an expert.
Willink’s proposal didn’t involve any covert special operation strikes, or military moves of any kind. Instead of a bombs, Willink suggested the U.S. drop iPhones.
“Drop 25 million iPhones on them and put satellites over them with free wifi,” tweeted Willink.
While the proposal itself is fantastical and a bit far fetched, Yun Sun, an expert on North Korea at the Stimson Center says the core concept could work.
“Kim Jong Un understands that as soon as society is open and North Korean people realize what they’re missing, Kim’s regime is unsustainable, and it’s going to be overthrown,” Sun told Business Insider.
For this reason, North Korea’s government would strongly oppose any measures that mirror Willink’s suggestion.
Sun pointed out that in the past when South Korea has flown balloons that drop pamphlets and DVDs over North Korea, the Kim regime has responded militarily, sensing the frailty of its regime when compared to prosperous liberal democracies.
For this reason, North Korea would turn down even the unbelievably generous offer of 25 million free iPhones, one for every man, woman, and child in the country.
But, “if we do that, we would be criticized for rewarding a illegitimately nuclear dictatorship,” said Sun. “We would be working and cooperating with a government that we know has committed massive human rights against its people.”
Further more, as North Korea puts the Kim regime above all else, any investment or aide “will be exploited first and foremost by the government,” said Yun. “We will have to swallow the consequence that of $100 investment, maybe $10 would reach he people.”
North Korea harshly punishes ordinary citizens who are found to enjoy South Korean media, so there’s good reason to think that providing internet access or devices to North Koreans could get people killed.
But in a purely practical sense, what other options does the US have? War with North Korea would be unspeakably disastrous and deadly, and allowing them to go nuclear in defiance of the US could open the world up to a more longterm proliferation risk.
“They’re not going to denuclearize until their regime changes and society changes,” said Sun. “This approach may be the longer route, but it has the hope of succeeding.”