Sunday, April 29, 2018

The Bigger Picture with North Korea

I said on Facebook last week that:

(Quotes lightly edited for style and brevity)
The South, petrified Trump would provoke or initiate war, had no other choice but to push ahead hard toward conciliation.

I must admit that in this one case, my Trump-supporting friends may have been correct that the "something new", dice-shaking approach may actually have been what's needed (though we'll see what ensues). However I don't for a second imagine that Trump saw this outcome coming.

My bet, fwiw, is that he and Bolton never envisioned the upcoming USA/DPRK "summit" as anything but an excuse to storm from the negotiating table (reporting "Hey, we tried!) followed by some military action. But now that's all beside the point. And we'll see what S Korea gives up. I suspect it will be big; the scope not fully revealed until later....maybe much later.

Finally, it seems very non-coincidental that Kim Jong-un recently had his first sit down with the Chinese.

A friend replied:
What possibly can the South give up? If (and when) there's reunification, the South will foot the bill for everything. Kind of like East and West Germany but even more so! What more is there?

I replied:
Less American presence and influence. More Chinese presence and influence. And less democracy. This could, in final estimation, be seen as "The North finally won the war".

It's little understood that kookie North Korean-style racial/genetic notions, etc. actually have considerable support in the south. Much as we falsely imagine most Chinese citizens hate their government and yearn to be free, it's also mistaken to assume that South Korean citizens all see the north as repellently whacky as we do.

Unification would absolutely NOT be ala Germany. That's not the model here. Much more balanced, or (due to aforementioned pressures), somewhat north-favoring. Watch.

Full disclosure: I'm a food critic, not a North Korean expert. However, I've been very careful and a little lucky in having come across smart sources for overall understanding. It turns out that the North Korea experts we see on TV, and, in many cases employed at top of US Gov, are shockingly ignorant. Many don't even speak Korean. If curious, start here, chase down some links, and enjoy the rabbit hole. This is also real interesting.

For instance, the whole "juche" thing (N. Korea's predominant "idealogy") turns out to be a red herring. It's only spelled out in English language docs, which is why non-Korean-speaking "experts" fall for it (some have even made juche scholarship their life's work). Somewhere in the above rabbit hole you'll read about the bona fide expert who travelled to N Korea, took a tour, and grilled his handler on juche. She didn't know a damned thing about it, it turned out!

We are, in other words, so shockingly ignorant on this stuff - even most of our experts - that a food critic, by having read the right people, can maybe get a half-decent handle on it. Or....I could be totally wrong. Who knows.

Another friend interjected:
I’m dubious. North Korea would be insane to give up its nukes. This is a familiar NK tactic, play nice, stall, make promises, etc. As Trump is about to demonstrate yet again, the US doesn’t stick to its promises. So why should they trust us anymore than the world trusts them. Still I’m happy we might have a few years of less belligerent NK behavior.

My reply:
Nukes are strategic, not cherished playthings. If the North can use them to get what they need - Americans out, South Koreans conciliating on more or less their terms, and China and Russia falling over each other to curry favor and fill the American vacuum, that's certainly a greater strategic objective. That's potentially the long play, but we won't see any of that for at least a year or five.

Right now, the short play is for the S Koreans to stave off the charade of Bolton and Trump pretending to negotiate this phoney summit with complete uncertainty as to true intentions with all these mortars and chem/bio weapons pointing at their heads. They have LOST (this isn't peace after the long-ago war, it's surrender) and are negotiating from utter weakness. Which is still way better for them than 100M dead, and better for us than ICBMs pointed at Chicago and NYC. But it sure ain't the glorious unification of Germany, at least not from the perspective of freedom, democracy, and American interests.

And it's not a familiar NK tactic, because absolutely every aspect of this situation is new and unique and potentially apocalyptic for the South.

But wait and see.

Today a stink bomb was fired into whatever peaceful results (however coerced) might be flowering. The despicable John Bolton said this morning on Face The Nation that "We are looking at the Libya model" for nuclear disarmament for North Korea.

Undestand what this means. Libya's leader, Qaddafi, played ball with us. He gave up his nukes, and, having lost all leverage, we invaded his country and slaughtered him. That's the Libya model.

The "Libya model", perhaps Obama's worst move, set a precedent that will forever discourage countries from giving up their nuclear leverage (the "Iran model" will strongly reinforce the precedent if/when we break the agreement despite Macron's clever behind-scenes efforts).

This is, in other words, Bolton 1. trying to break up the inter-Korean lovefest, and 2. rattling Kim Jong-un out of any notion of serious negotiation with Trump. Trump himself, and his advisory circle of misfit toys, will likely not understand the sabotage Bolton's just committed.

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