Polytechnic School: Dr. Bruce Bennett of RAND Corp. Discusses US-North Korea Relations

Published : Tuesday, November 14, 2017 | 12:53 PM

This past week, the Global Scholars Program hosted a Global Initiatives Program event, in which Dr. Bruce Bennett of the RAND Corporation spoke to a group of Poly guests. Bennett is a senior international and defense researcher at the RAND Corporation, a research organization that develops solutions to public policy challenges to help make communities throughout the world safer and more secure.

Before his time at RAND, Bennett studied economics at Caltech. He went on to receive his Ph.D. in policy analysis from the RAND graduate school. He is a currently leader in his field, focusing primarily on Northeast Asian military issues while applying deterrence-based strategy, military simulation and analysis, and competitive strategies. Having visited the region more than 100 times, Bennett is incredibly well versed on issues regarding Korean security, and those in attendance were able to hear this first-hand. He went on to discuss the history of the escalation, citing the development of the Kim regime as one of the primary catalysts for the current crisis. After giving a general overview of the history of the modern North Korea, Bennett went on to discuss the Kim family in depth.

One of his primary talking points was how Kim Jong-un has taken the Kim regime to a level of paranoia that had not been previously seen. He cited Kim Jong-un’s killing of his brother as a primary example of this, which transitioned the evening’s conversation to China’s relationship with North Korea. This instance was one of the primary reasons for the deterioration of the relationship between North Korea and China. Bennett explained that China has now put strict sanctions on North Korea, cutting off coal exports out of North Korea into China. This led the conversation into discussing the economy of North Korea and the growing practice of capitalism there among elites. Bennett described the growing dissatisfaction among elites with the Kim regime and suggested that there might be a possibility of new leadership among the elites if the Kim regime were ever to transition out of power.

At the end of the presentation, Bennett assessed the current threat from North Korea to the United States, and the general consensus is that we don’t truly know what North Korea is capable of. While their ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles) program is advancing quickly, they still do not possess a missile capable of hitting the mainland United States. However, he did explain that the threat posed toward South Korea is still of great concern and is another reason that military action should not be the answer with regards to the crisis in North Korea.

Bennett said that the best option is to incrementally show the North Korean people the benefits of the outside world, like the drastically better living conditions found in South Korea. The Kim Jong-un does not want anything to flow in or out of the country. Bennett presented a plan in which he believes the greatest threat to the Kim regime is to saturate the “Hermit Kingdom” with information about life in the west — not propaganda but rather show the contrast between the DPRK and the rest of the world in the areas of standard of living and opportunity. He said that this could slowly convince the people that the Kim regime cares little for its own and that perhaps a change of leadership is necessary. Bennett approached the crisis with an optimism and truly articulated creative solutions to the crisis.

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