Let us not whitewash events surrounding Sony’s now-canceled film The Interview: The North Korean government apparently perpetrated multiple acts of war against the United States, its people, and their liberties, waging cyber warfare against Sony (of which Sony Pictures is headquartered in California) and threatening to blow up American theaters full of people.
Not only did North Korean-tied hackers substantially destroy “Sony’s computer network,” Politico reports, they also threatened to commit mass murder of Americans. The hackers wrote:
We will clearly show it to you at the very time and places “The Interview” be shown, including the premiere, how bitter fate those who seek fun in terror should be doomed to. The world will be full of fear. Remember the 11th of September 2001.
Although not all U.S. officials have publicly recognized that North Korea is responsible for the attacks and threats, the AP reports, available evidence strongly suggests it is. Reuters reports that North Korea may have had help from Iran.
In response to these threats, Sony pulled the film, which is about a (fictional) CIA plot to assassinate North Korea’s “supreme leader” Kim Jong-un, from theaters.
So far, the response by the U.S. government has been anemic; White House spokesman Josh Earnest said any U.S. response would be “proportional.” What on earth does that mean in this context? Obviously, the U.S. government did not offer Sony sufficient protection for the company to feel comfortable moving forward with the film in the face of credible threats issued by a murderous dictatorship. It’s not as if Sony has an arsenal at its disposal to do battle with North Korea.
If the North Korean government indeed committed these acts of war against the United States, as seems all but certain, the U.S. government should respond in the only way that acts of war by a pissant dictatorship deserves: by wiping that pissant dictatorship from the face of the earth.
Of course, the fact that the U.S. government allowed North Korea to develop nuclear weapons now creates considerable strategic complications in responding appropriately to North Korea’s acts of war against the United States—and it illustrates why the U.S. government should not allow other dictatorships to develop such weaponry. But the fact that the U.S. government allowed North Korea to become a more-dangerous dictatorship does not excuse the U.S. government from its responsibility to defend Americans. If U.S. intelligence determines that North Korea is in fact responsible for these acts of war [update: “the FBI now has enough information to conclude that the North Korean government is responsible”], the U.S. government now has a moral responsibility to its citizens to respond to North Korea’s acts of war by eliminating the threat by whatever means necessary.