Ed.: 011918 – Words: 2598 – Audio: N/A
I dunno about you, the reader who just happens by this blog, but I’m rather encouraged with recent events regarding North Korea. Actually.. I’ll allow myself a little gloating here because even armchair international policy prognosticators can get something right on occasion. Noo.. I’m not suggesting that the risk of conflict is totally suspended in favor of the recent warm fuzziness between the two Koreas. The unpredictability of future conflict still remains, which I attribute to the unpredictability of Trump.. not “Rocket Man”.
Back in April of last year I made a post regarding my own inclinations in handling the North Korea “challenge” if I were president. Essentially I stated at the time that the U.S. position in the area “grow up” and accept the responsibility that the entire 70 years since the Korean War has been our fault for failing over the changing decades in our strategic posturing toward Communism through the Cold War years. That crap has long been over since the birth of a more moderate and economic China, and the breakup of the Soviet Union. I simply ask the question.. why the hell are we still on that damn peninsula?
Of course the predominant threat right now is the North’s tinkering with nuclear weapon development. Let me toss some simple common sense into all this world-on-the-edge nonsense.
Point 1- The North vs. the South or the North vs. America?
Since the armistice was signed 65 years ago the various North Korean leaders have come and go, each government has been belligerent in their own way, saber-rattlers from time to time… and dabbling in border violations and seizing the occasional vessel on the high seas. Yes, they’ve even grabbed citizens from the South and Japan… and have done other overt and covert political acts. But at no time has North Korea ever gotten militarily aggressive or even engaged in conquering or invading the South. The South is not considered an enemy of the North, but rather America on the peninsula is considered the enemy; a leftover hindrance of the unfinished Korean War, that the North still thinks is going on.
Point 2- All Bark….
North Korea, to this day, threatens the U.S. with nuclear strikes and obliteration, yet there is no such talk against South Korea… ever. To me this suggests the real objective of the North is uniting with the South… not destroying the South. Kim knows full well that some military conflict with the U.S. will make a mess of the entire peninsula.
Point 3- Are We Still Fearing The Commies?
If there is economic misery in the North much of it is because we made them that way with decades of sanctions and trade embargoes (as a result of various treaty violations). While that has been a tool in trying to get the North to stop nuclear development for the last decade or two we have totally failed to think of the real reason for their current nuclear program… Kim doesn’t want to be removed from power, and he wants a measure of respect on the world stage to deal with the U.S. He likely fears some action to remove him like what happened in Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. There’s also the real feeling in the North that the Korean War is not over because of the presence of the United States. The North sees this “argument” that the unification of the Koreas has been, and is being, obstructed by U.S. policy. Before the nukes even became an issue we were in the middle of the Cold War.. when communism was considered bad everywhere… the Soviet Union, China, Vietnam, North Korea, yada, yada. All through that Cold War the West viewed communism as one big collective philosophy of eliminating democracy and world domination. In reality, communism was (and still is) as different as night and day within each communist country. There was never any “secret” bond in the world of communism. Also, pretty much each communist country had it’s own brand of communism that wasn’t at all pure Marxist or some Leninist-Stalinist Soviet bastardization. In retrospect, if it wasn’t for our comparatively close-minded anti-communist policies we could have likely reached some agreement before any of Kim’s chubby ancestors thought of playing with nukes. Yes, while hindsight is always 20/20, reflecting on what coulda happened if the stars were aligned differently is nothing but a history lesson for today. Nobody today even utters the word “communist” when they speak of North Korea. It’s a “totalitarian regime” these days. As a nation we truly need to change our mindset on North Korea from fear to real diplomacy.. creative diplomacy. Get some people on our side who can truly engage in solutions and not push old and archaic bias’s.
Point 4 – Let’s Compare Apples to Oranges
If one looks at this nuke issue with the North one might see an interesting comparison to all the bemoaning about our own Second Amendment. On the world stage, the U.S. is leading the cry… “No nukes on the Korean peninsula!” Well.. why? Because Kim has used harsh language in threatening to obliterate the U.S., and he is running that “totalitarian regime” that keeps our troops there watching his every move and keeping him from being aggressive. Compare it this way…. “No guns for people who aren’t capable of handling the responsibility of using them!”, one side says. The other side says, “Guns don’t kill people.. people kill people.!” You get where I am going with this comparison? Our nation and our allies decided that individual nations that have not already developed/obtained nukes should not be allowed to ever have them… in spite of the fact that technically a sovereign nation has that right (like our Second Amendment gives us American citizens the right to own weapons). While the world is concerned about nuclear proliferation around the world and the risk of such weapons falling in with unreliable or belligerent governments, the world seems to think keeping nukes away from everyone not a superpower (or who snuck development under the wire and undetected before the agreements), regardless of friend or foe, will protect the world. Much like in America’s gun “world”, the movement is not to prohibit guns or certain guns that might cause great damage.. but rather you watch and determine an individual’s ability to own a weapon based on that person’s criminal record. In our nuclear world perhaps rather than making some arbitrary determination that the only countries who can have them are the one’s that already have them.. and no one else is invited to join the club.. that perhaps the proper diplomatic course of action is NOT spending decades with back and forth threats, but rather negotiating with a country into NOT developing any nukes by understanding their threat and helping them ease the desire of wanting to pull the trigger… or in this case, press the button. Perhaps with a little change in objective the end result can be far more effective. Nukes don’t launch themselves.. people launch nukes. Right? (Well, unless, of course, the launch capability is assigned to computers.. and Skynet takes over the computers to terminate man.)
More Point 4 – What Works For Iran….
Consider Iran’s nuclear ambitions. I think the Obama treaty was a fair move… and I know Trumpian conservatives think the U.S. got took on the deal… but there’s NO facts that it isn’t working according to the inspection plan. But let’s look deeper here. Iran wants a nuke. Rather than threatening to blow their nuke capability all to hell and back (thus making ourselves best buds with the Iranian people – not) as favored by brain-starved conservatives… we negotiate whatever it takes to reduce the threat that caused Iran to do such development. By getting a little closer we can also monitor more effectively. If they insist on going ahead maybe we actually assist.. not in development… but in safety, storage and containment. Thereby we have some understanding that their nukes don’t fall into terrorist hands and certain basic safety features are in place to avert any accidents that might contaminate the region. But the real key is negotiating a country into NOT wanting to have a nuke.. not threaten them with military consequences if they don’t listen to us. We diplomatically arm-twist the hell out of them to not want one to begin with. That’s how we should have been handling North Korea. The goal is NOT keeping them from developing a nuke, but rather keeping them from wanting to press the button. Oddly, that should be easy because I firmly believe Kim doesn’t want button pressing one bit either. Want an example? Read the next point.
Point 5 – If It Walks Like A Duck…
Just look at the recent interest Kim has taken with wanting to schmooze the South in order to participate in the Olympics. Oh for sure it’s an overt ploy politically to try and separate the South from U.S. policy. But it’s Kim who is taking the lead here in communicating his intent. In fact, the North and South Korean Olympic contingent will engage in the opening ceremonies parading under one flag of a united Korea. Propaganda stunt? Of course. This is Kim’s effort to declare to his people his legitimacy to the world. Will this “détente” continue after the Games? Maybe.. and maybe not. But the fact is, the South is eating this up.. as they should… and word will spread to the North. The United States has no business being in Korea. That takes us to Point 6.
Point 6 – North Korea Is No One’s Puppet
When the Korean War was in full swing the conflict did end up being a bit of a proxy war. We aided the South in fighting against the communist North… which also included the regular Chinese Army. The Chinese have long since vacated the North and even though they are the North’s primary trading partner and has provided some military assistance over the decades, the North is autonomous. That being the case we should slowly reduce our presence there and allow the South… who has far greater military prowess, manpower, and capacity… to carry on with their own defense. With the honest peace brokers of America and our allies (and the Chinese), let the natural desire of the peoples of both Koreas to incite and inspire their own level of political process with their respective governments. Strategically we can draw a U.S. military response from Japan and Guam should the South require some backing, especially from the air and sea.
Point 7 – Whatever Happened To Human Rights?
There’s no question the various regimes that have evolved inside North Korea over the vast decades have built up their military at the expense of the living conditions and restricting freedoms to their citizens… on top of holding to some communist economic tendencies and culture that tends to make people prisoners in their own land. Also no question the regimes have built up a cradle-to-the-grave propaganda and social structure to assure public obedience and loyalty to the Great Leader of the time. As the photo at the top of this post suggests… this country barely has electricity… yet we prefer to fear it. But in “normal” situations where the internal politics of a given nation affects the human rights of its people, America makes a public stink… then pushes to aid those people. Yes.. in past American administrations there have been certain agreements with the leaders in the North to comply with nuke development limitations, the North has violated those agreements, and economic sanctions have taken over. Sorry.. sanctions “work” when the target country complies. Sanctions can be quite effective against the populace.. but can also flat out NOT work toward their intended goal.. compliance of the leaders. There is NO internal threat to the North’s leadership from a disgruntled hungry and cold public who might rise up. The current economic conditions in the North is doing nothing but making human beings suffer… and America is contributing to that. There is NO question that North Koreans hate us beyond just the propaganda rhetoric from Kim; it’s easy for them to hate Americans. I am far from a huge human rights person in my politics as I tend to assign responsibility for human suffering as an evolutionary process for people to take charge, revolt, and make changes themselves… as we did (you can’t create a democracy for people unless they have invested in wanting it for themselves… which many times means people must die before the goal is reached). I mention it here as a perspective of current conditions that America has been complicit in creating.
Point 8 – Can Kim really send a nuke to the U.S.?
Does it even matter? Yes.. strategically we need to know these things of all countries. That’s simply a part of security preparedness. But I am talking the focus here is not the bomb but the reason to launch it. Personally, from the comfort of my armchair, I contend Kim is a showman (which Americans can also identify with in its own leader) and loves the drama of impending doom. Lobbing a bomb into the air and having it come down precisely on its intended target thousands of miles away.. and detonating properly, is not a feat developed in some garage or cave. It takes practice.. even if you are getting help from China or the Russians. Besides that… Kim is into self-preservation and if he actually launches a nuke-laden missile, even as a test, he risks his own survivability. I have no fear of an “intentional” missile from North Korea (something “accidental”? Let’s hope not.)
Keep in mind here, I am not one bit suggesting our intelligence community or the military let up on it’s own needs to protect the country and be prepared… or that we enter into some laissez faire political or military posture toward the North.
Kim’s got the bomb and America should deal with that fact. Here’s the reality that is indeed a fact we have to deal with… the Trump Administration is in no way capable of negotiating a damn thing with North Korea without using threats. The State Department is a shell of it’s former glory, thanks to Trumpian incompetence. Hopefully the situation can wait for a future administration that can do better.
Some may opinionate my jabbering here is all about appeasement; Kim gets his way. Hardly. What Kim wants is a unified Korea… yes, under him, of course. But his nuke development is against the U.S. to gain international respect and as a safeguard to his remaining in power. He has no desire to invade the South.. and he doesn’t have that ability anyway. His self-preservation seems actually understandable. What’s important is the idea put out there by Reagan… “Trust, but verify.” Everyone knows America carries a big military stick to back up our policies.
“Kim, my man…. keep your bomb, let us in to verify you are being a good boy in keeping that under wraps, we will release some sanctions and embargoes, sign a treaty to end the Korean War, maybe even withdraw some troops; feel free to chat with your southern brethren, we will open a diplomatic presence as a sign of respect… behave and welcome to the international community of nations. If you don’t… the next seven decades will be no better for you and your people than the last seven… and you will still die of old age.”