Saturday, April 13, 2013

Pawn Sacrifice in the Peninsula

[Update 13 April 2013]  The IC is at odds over North Korea’s capabilities:

On the hawkish end is the Pentagon’s intelligence arm, the Defense Intelligence Agency, which fears that North Korea could threaten American troops with a nuclear weapon on a crude missile. On the skeptical end is the State Department, which has more doubts about Pyongyang’s capabilities. And somewhere in the middle is the Central Intelligence Agency.

Still more puzzling is -- Why rattle this untried sabre now, and at so many formidable adversaries at once?
By a stroke of good luck, the fabled World of Dr Justice “Black Team” has managed to penetrate the nursery housing Kim Jong Un, and reports the following:   Someone forgot to change His Heinies’s diapers;  he became chafed and irritable.

Photographic proof:

~ Original post ~

One peruses in vain  the annals of history, for a precedent matching the absurdity of the current gratuitously bellicose fulminations of the North Korean dwarf-king.    The closest parallel might be sought rather in literature:   in Gulliver’s Travels -- the quarrel between the Big-enders and the Little-enders.  But even that is not exact, inasmuch as there, the contention was symmetrical.  Whereas here, the Big-Enders have been quite content to let the Little-Enders go their own way (and indeed have proffered many gracious gestures, remembering their birthdays and knitting them sweaters), but for some reason, all of a sudden  the Little-Enders propose mutual mass suicide.

None of that will matter much to our troops who are deployed there.  American forces have been stationed in South Korea for over half a century. to less and less  purpose  with each passing year.   Politically, our presence is motivated by considerations of Cold War balance of power that no longer applied since the Sino-Soviet split many decades ago, and which  has become downright fantasial since the Soviet Bloc collapsed and once-would-be-Communist China is evolving towards the status of Macao Writ Large.   Our significant expense and sacrifice  no longer even earn us any diplomatic brownie-points:  the younger generation of Koreans have long delighted in biting the hand that protects them.  And operationally, our military mini-presence  is simply absurd.

And, one might add, demeaning to those so deployed upon the green baize table, by politicians pushing them about  with little sticks.  They are not there to win a war;  they are their to lose their lives, in the event of a sudden all-out North Korean attack.   Now, that is no soldier’s conception of his mission.  As was drawn sharply to the nation’s attention during the debate on the role of Women in Combat, a combat soldier, a warfighter, is not someone who simply gets shot at, but rather someone who is in a position  effectively to shoot back.   By that measurte, our soldiers near the DMZ are not in a combat role, they’re in a Sitting Duck role.

The geopolitical game-theoretic idea behind this stance  is, of course, that of the game of Chicken:  We examined how that works out in our essay about the Fiscal Cliff.  It says to the NorKors:  “We have placed some Americans into the path of potential destruction, so that they can be collateral damage in the event of an assault of the North upon the South.   The American psyche being what it is, such a loss on our part -- even though deliberately engineered by us (like the Tonkin Gulf incident) -- will leave us no psycho-oolitically possible alternative but war.”
The problem with this is that we have designedly cramped our future freedom of action.    We wish to appear to so bind ourselves, so as to intimidate the North Koreans, while secretly retaining a free hand.   Seen thus, an at-least-equally effective -- and much less expensive -- countermove, would be to deploy no soldiers at all, but rather to offer the President’s, Senate Majority Leader’s, and House Speaker’s first-born as pawns in their place.

Continuing in the Swiftian vein, we offer this Modest Proposal:
Instead of offering the first-born of top decision-makers as hostages to fortune (their innocent lips still wet from mother’s milk), we should put forward just three individuals:   Donald Trump, Sheldon Adelson, and Dennis Rodman, tied high on poles at the DMZ.  We shall explain to the North Koreans that these are the most illustrious of our citizens, those we should be most distressed to lose.  The North Koreans will readily believe this:  it matches their mentality perfectly.   Hence it should have an impressive dissuasive effect -- much more so than the proposed sacrifice of our footsloggers:  after all, the Korean leadership thinks nothing of the lives of its own troops, so how should they  emphathically sense that we do value ours?   (Indeed, many actions of the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld Axis of Idiocy  suggest that we do not.)
This stratagem has the brilliant advantage that, should the NorKors strike, our hands will still be entirely free -- indeed, likely engaged in high-fiving, with grins all around:  Good riddance to bad rubbish.   And then, with Olympian calm, we can decide whether or not it is in our national interest to get mixed up in a nuclear war between the Koreas.


An ex-Marine writes in:

I've nothing against withdrawing from S. Korea as long as we give reasonable notice; haven't given any thought to be what would be reasonable. But if we do that we've no business telling the S Koreans that they can't go nuclear.

Dr J replies:

At the time we intervened  in the Korean civil war (for such it was, until we entered, thus inviting China), it was unclear whether our national interest was well served by our intervention:  not only in terms of our sacrifice in blood and treasure, but because of the wing-nut demons unleashed by the adventure:  calls for a pre-emptive nuclear strike  -- or rather, not even pre-emptive, since the NorKors did not then have nukes, but simply:   because it felt good, to certain generals who (their body-fluids sapped by Liberalism) had not managed to get it up for many years.   Later, our intervention in the Vietnamese civil war  (a wretched been-there/done-that re-run of the earlier failed French adventure)  made clear that the balance was negative.
And when, the war finally over, we left troops behind, it was no-one’s understanding that this semi-occupation would last for more than a few months … a few years … a few decades … going on a century now ….   How is fifty years for fair advance notice?

As for the nuke issue, you are quite right.  A different morally and politically defensible stance  might in principle have been possible:  but not since we, in the case of Israel’s immense nuclear capacity, not merely failed to prevent it, or even to try to prevent it, but actually fostered it.   (Where else did they get all that weapons-grade nuclear fuel, and the supersecret submarine technology?  And all the other TS shared tech, that turns a pipsqueak  into a powerhouse.)    The Dubya administration’s recent (though barely noticed, and already forgotten) abetting of nukes in India -- in the volatile India-Pakistan cockpit -- is another example.  We have no shred of credibility left.


A well-informed reader of the Los Angeles Times  comments as follows:

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is Western educated. He has seen the wealth of modern societies and the poverty of North Korea. The amount of aid needed to modernize his country is more than North Korea can muster and more than anyone will provide.
Except that provided by the United States after victory in war.

This is the scenario of the classic movie from 1959,  The Mouse that Roared”.   Its plot: “The Duchy of Grand Fenwick decides that the only way to get out of their economic woes is to declare war on the United States, lose and accept foreign aid.”  But then, in a wrinkle that exactly parallels the peripeteia of the movie “The Producers”,  it … wins …
Very funny (Peter Sellers) and, like “Dr Strangelove”, “Seven Days in May”,  and “Wag the Dog”, a permanent cinematic contribution to the vocabulary of political science.

The Rat that Roared:  R U Basis is B Wrong 2 Us !!

[Update 8 April 2013]  This thing is like a failed soap-opera, with lousy acting and miserable scripts, which we are nonetheless forced to watch  weekly:

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