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North Korean Mythologies

April 14th, 2013 - 6:50 pm

How many times has the U.S. warned Bashar Assad to step down? Barack Obama’s off-mic quip to Dmitry Medvedev, promising Mr. Putin that he would be more flexible after the election, was a reminder to the world that in the second term Obama would no longer fear the supposed right wing Neanderthals in his midst and thus could conduct the proper sort of foreign policy that he only dreamed of in the first term. “Leading from behind,” as our allies learned in Libya and France has sensed in North Africa, has little to do with any leading at all. North Korea may fear the U.S. to the degree that the Libyans who slaughtered American diplomatic personnel fear a reckoning, that the Argentinians fear American condemnation should they restart the Falklands War, or that Hezbollah and Hamas are terrified of American reaction should they replay the 2006 Lebanon conflict.

Yet the truth is that America could have enormous clout in one unmentionable way. In the post-Cold War era there was a rough understanding with the communist world, particularly with Red China as it pertained to the Koreas. We would ensure that our Pacific clients would not go nuclear — Australia, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan — and China in turn would harness North Korea. Note also that our allies could make thousands of nukes like they do Hondas and Kias in a way Pyongyang could only make a few, and badly at that. Moreover, nuclear North Korea is a long way from the United States and Europe, while Japan, South Korea and Taiwan are quite close to China, which already has enough temperamental nuclear states on its borders like Russia, India, Pakistan, and soon Iran.

The influence that America has in this psychodramatic, but nevertheless high-stakes stand-off is to apprise China that we no longer have reservations about regional powers tending to their own security needs, in response to North Korea’s nuclear banter. Note here that the U.S. does not fear nuclear weapons per se — consider the case of nuclear and democratic Britain, France, India, and Israel — just the combination of them with renegade and illiberal states, something that would not be true of a Japan, South Korea, or Taiwan.

4)      All would lose equally in a new Korean War.

There are all sorts of scenarios that entail terrible death and destruction. They are predicated on North Korea launching, from fortified bunkers and in the first three or four hours of the conflict, tens of thousands of missiles and artillery shells, many of them perhaps laced with chemical and biological weapons, on allied ground troops in the DMZ, Seoul’s commercial hub, and American assets off the coast. This is a nightmare to be avoided at all costs if possible.

But note the Korean War was not the Vietnam War, in the manner that Iraq 1991 was not Iraq 2003-8. The U.S. would not be fighting a counter-insurgency war, but one entirely punitive, largely from the air and sea in open skies rather in jungles or labyrinths like Fallujah, with an ally on the ground of some 50 million people more worried about too few rather than too many Americans.

The truly nightmarish scenario is not what North Korea would do before its arsenals were neutralized, but the gruesome toll from the unimaginable barrage of U.S. missiles and shells that would rain down on the North, and the vulnerability of North Korean ground assets to unfettered U.S. airpower. Ground-to-ground fighting would largely be conventional and in the open, and mostly the responsibility of the South Korean military. The resulting ruination might easily resemble Japan after the recent tsunami. Yet in Strangelovian terms, the North would lose the war, and lose it very badly — a fact welcome to almost everyone worldwide except the 100,000 or so of the North Korean nomenklatura.

In sum, we don’t know what will happen in Korea. But do not assume that China is working for peace, that war is just too unprofitable to break out, that South Korea is well-integrated with its allies, that concerned parties listen to the U.S., or that an unthinkable and nihilistic war could neither be won nor lost.

Repeating conventional wisdom does not make it true.

(Artwork created with multiple Shutterstock.com images.)

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Greetings:

I've never been to either South Korea or North Korea, but I do watch a fair amount of the (South) Korean Broadcasting System's KBS World TV programming. That, and a couple of books I've read on Korea are the basis for what I would like to add.

Korea is basically a Confucian-type culture, so there is an element in the separation that may not be apparent to Westerners. There is an emotional tug that results from the separation that evinces as a sense of failure shown in many TV programs when a family structure fractures. The South seems to allow itself to feel this more than the North, for the obvious reasons, thus having to fight against itself while trying to re-establish relations with its Northern cousins. I see this as a source of some of the approach/avoidance volatility in the South's diplomatic behavior. I don't think this will change any time soon.

As to the South's relations with Japan, the latter's invasion and colonization ventures in the early 20th Century show up in the TV programming a whole lot more than anything from that century shows up on American TVs, so I think that that episode has not been completely resolved in the South. Korea, both North and South has a pretty fractured history, the Three Kingdoms, etc., and was just beginning to unify amidst its larger neighbors when the Japanese arrived in force. My impression is that today, in spite of the many cultural interchanges in the arts and business, there is a significant ethnic separation and that it will continue on in the foreseeable future.

Lastly, ever since I read Samuel P. Huntington's "The Clash of Civilizations..." back in the early part of this century, I've had a predominant image of the USofA in the world that is as follows. The USofA is like the lion, the veritable King of the Beasts, in all those nature films trying to protect his kill from a pack of non-laughing hyenas. As his pride (allies) is overwhelmed by the fear and confusion and stands by unhelpfully, he must suffer the nips and bites of his antagonists, each of whom he could separately utterly destroy, while they snatch and grab as much of his meat as possible. It's not am image that fills me with optimism.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It matters little how strong we are, militarily. We have a weak and vacillating President who "speaks loudly, and carries a tiny stick." A large Gulag, led by a 24 year old playboy and with antiquated weapons 50 years out of date, can back our "Leader" down and they know it.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
We, the now soft underbelly of the Western world, do not understand the mind of a predator.

A predator smells weakness. They are engorged with adrenaline by it. The predatory mind senses a halting, fearful, timid, weak and hapless creature trying to "lead from behind" the pack. And thins the herd by devouring its entrails.

Obama is a small c communist revolutionary. His mother was a leftist revolutionary, his father was a leftist revolutionary, his mentor Frank Marshall Davis was a leftist revolutionary, his chosen friends were Marxist revolutionaries, his favorite professors were Marxist revolutionaries, his preacher was a Black Liberation revolutionary with strong ties to the Nation of Islam and the Socialist scholars. His friends at the Midwest Academy are Marxist revolutionaries, his friends at the New Party were Marxist revolutionaries. His staff and attempted nominees from Anita Dunn to Van Jones to Sam Graham Felsen were Marxist revolutionaries.

He launched his career in the living room of Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, the domestic terrorists and murder plotters who were "guilty as hell", as devoted Marxist revolutionaries.

Why would we think that after accomplishing the most leftist voting record in the Senate, left of Bernie Sanders...that Obama would be something different from what he has been the whole of his life and has voluntarily surrounded himself with like-minded thinkers?

Obama doesn't fear or loathe communism, he embraces it. And, Obama is not going to do ANYTHING to prevent, much less provoke...a China inspired conflagration coming from North Korea. (the Norks will never jab a thumb in the eye of their true master...nor will Obama)

When Obama put Kerry, Hagel, Brennan, Napolitano, and Perez up...along with Eric Holder...he has formed the most incompetent, bumbling, inferior, pathetic group of losers to lead this country...along with Susan Rice...imaginable. Our enemies in their predatory heightened state smell fear, see weakness and are emboldened by it.

And, VDH...the Britain that parties on Margaret Thatcher's grave is our saving grace? Hmmm. Britain is not an ally to Obama and Obama is not an ally to any nation in the Western hemisphere.

Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, North Korea, China, Russia are emboldened by our weakness combined with our now clear embrace of radical Marxism. The ONLY people who don't see, feel, hear and sense that...are "liberals" who scoff at the notion, because that's what Obama's propaganda machine spits out for them to swallow.

Those of us who see this land of ours being herded by the predatory pack, lead our lives in quiet desperation. We have the dunderheaded, feckless and hapless GOP on "our" side. They are so clueless it would be comical if not so dangerous.

We have been outmaneuvered at every turn. Our communications have been cut off and replaced by a poisoned information stream. A veritable cornucopia of traitors in the media, who not only will not report on the murder of newborns, they will cover up the running of guns to drug cartels and the murders of our own ambassadors.

No, VDH...my brilliant cyberfriend. We need not fear anything so far away as North Korea. Our problems.....are much closer to home.

I will be 60 in a few months. So, weep not for me, but for our children.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (37)
All Comments   (37)
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I take the position that the Norks are controlled by the PLA -- NOT the Chinese Communist Party.

It is a GROSS error to assume the Communists are really in control of their national army.

The PLA has its own funding sources. Most of its needs are met internally.

It decides its own priorities -- not the politicians.

The PLA is an army that owns a country. That's why totally insane statements are permitted to be published in official organs -- of the PLA -- without any kick from the Party.

So when Kerry picks up the phone -- he's certainly talking to the wrong guy when Kim is at issue. The only voice with authority would be that of the PLA -- and they'll never pick up his phone call. They won't even admit that they're calling the shots.

The Wan, the Poltroon-in-Chief, has thrown the wheel overboard and cast-off the rudder.

The raft-of-state is now but for spinning. It can't even survive beach-break.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
For how many years has the U.S and other nations simultaneously scolded and placated the NORKs each time they threaten imminent military action or announce progress on their nuke program? This has to stop.

I can see the future: in 2050,the great-grandson Kim Dim-Sung-Dong will be threatening incineration of the west from his orbiting laser cannon platform.
Sixty years of stationing troops near the 38th parallel is too long. The NORKS can't even feed their own people or keep the electricity running. The S. Koreans are at best ambivalent about our presence there and are perfectly capable of defending themselves. Should the current Kim decide to go-for-broke and start a shooting war we can deal with it then.

51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
The US Army has withdrawn from the 38th parallel completely. That was some years ago. Every now and then, during exercises, a photo-op is staged showing a token American presence.
It's a hand picked formation: every soldier HAS to be at least 6' 2" tall. You'll see this tick in the films all the way back to the early 1950s. Ridgway, the successor to MacArthur, was NEVER sent to the negotiations because he was (way) too short.

As for Buraq: the boys in the 'hood hate Koreans. See "Do the Right Thing."

Consequently, Barry is going to absolutely stiff Pyongyang.
No cheddar for Kim -- whatsoever. Everything is domestic for the Wan.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
We should take into public consideration inside our America [assuming current intra-military awareness] the able-bodied male civilian population density of both Korea's ...the billion plus manpower-bank of the Chinese and able-bodied male Japanese......and ask ourselves .......why are massed American troops even stationed in Korea, Japan, and even on Guam? Why Americans? The Japanese want us out of the Ryukyus, have agitated so for years. All they want is our cash.

Numerically, there's simply no way we Americans can win a land war in Asia.....why haven't we learned this from VietNam and the Korean War's previous active status from 1950-53?

Let's leave Asian ground wars for the indigenous Asians, and if we can be helpful with offshore fleets and ballistics and drones, then make them our contribution.....no more of our blood. The fear of our unmanned drones is a valuable asset in America's favor. Use that fear.

We've been financially supporting Koran, Japan and Taiwan since 1945......think of all of those years......compare with the results of the active Korean war and Viet Nam......we've enabled Japanese near destruction of our auto and electronic industries, along with the competition we've thus enabled from Taiwan.

We should look at the net results of all of our blood lost in Asia .......since ........1945, since then, and ask ourselves.......why more?

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment

Re:
".....financially supporting Koran,...."

......this may be a Freudian slip, but anyway correct it to read....Korea.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
According to my students here in Korea, during the Korean war the Chinese soldiers were lied to, told that they were fighting on Chinese soil to ward off invaders. As you can imagine, this led to much more fierce fighting than if the soldiers had known the circumstances.

Will modern communication make this impossible, or at least unlikely, now? Possibly. Will the Chinese government still try to use this tactic? Possibly. You can bet that the North Korean soliders will be under the impression that they are fending off an attack on their home soil, though we can assume that as they saw the infrastructure around them it would eventually sink in that something isn't kosher.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Your students were profoundly disinformed.

The Chinese Civil Wars of the Twentieth Century had just ended in 1949... with unification under the north... well... not quite.
====
Mao used the Chinese campaign in Korea to LIQUIDATE the Chinese Army formations from southern China previously loyal (going on twenty years) to his old college class mate Chaing Kai-shek -- now operating from Taipei, Taiwan.

(Yes, these fellows knew each other quite personally -- as class competitors. Mao lost, Chaing won. Mao ran off to start his own revolution.)

MacArthur DID win the Korean-Korean War. Kim's crew was destroyed. MacArthur was undone during the Chinese-Korean War -- which featured essentially no significant Nork military formations for the rest of the war, propaganda not withstanding.

During this long campaign Mao ALWAYS kept his loyal armies in reserve and deep reserve. The UN/ America never actually fought 'Communist' Chinese -- though that's the term of art used.

ONLY southern armies -- using American equipment (Thompson submachine guns) were employed. During this multi-year phase, Mao liquidated entire armies onto the guns of the Americans. To repeat: he deliberately suicided entire armies onto Western guns.

No one was fooled. When Chinese cross the Yalu -- they know they're in Korea. BTW, there was a sea of Communist agitprop declaring that the PLA was entering the campaign to eject the UN forces.

It is delusional to imagine that Chinese officers and soldiers thought that they were still in China.

BTW, most Western historians STILL have not figured out that the war had shifted over to 'wrapping up the Chinese Civil War.' Even the US Army historians missed it -- to this day. We ARE talking about guys that can't tell Mandarin from Cantonese.

Lastly, ALL American diaries from the period recount the shock GIs had when the distinctive sound of Thompson sub-machine guns turned out to be enemy fire. THIS was why the Chinese were able to infiltrate the US Army during the winter of 1950. American soldiers heard the Chinese distinctly -- but made the fatal assumption that ALL Thompson 'chatter' had to belong to South Korean troops.

America lost entire regiments because of this -- and in only ONE NIGHT.

Read up on the 7th Infantry Division. It got shredded. It's an ugly read, BTW.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Greetings:

I've never been to either South Korea or North Korea, but I do watch a fair amount of the (South) Korean Broadcasting System's KBS World TV programming. That, and a couple of books I've read on Korea are the basis for what I would like to add.

Korea is basically a Confucian-type culture, so there is an element in the separation that may not be apparent to Westerners. There is an emotional tug that results from the separation that evinces as a sense of failure shown in many TV programs when a family structure fractures. The South seems to allow itself to feel this more than the North, for the obvious reasons, thus having to fight against itself while trying to re-establish relations with its Northern cousins. I see this as a source of some of the approach/avoidance volatility in the South's diplomatic behavior. I don't think this will change any time soon.

As to the South's relations with Japan, the latter's invasion and colonization ventures in the early 20th Century show up in the TV programming a whole lot more than anything from that century shows up on American TVs, so I think that that episode has not been completely resolved in the South. Korea, both North and South has a pretty fractured history, the Three Kingdoms, etc., and was just beginning to unify amidst its larger neighbors when the Japanese arrived in force. My impression is that today, in spite of the many cultural interchanges in the arts and business, there is a significant ethnic separation and that it will continue on in the foreseeable future.

Lastly, ever since I read Samuel P. Huntington's "The Clash of Civilizations..." back in the early part of this century, I've had a predominant image of the USofA in the world that is as follows. The USofA is like the lion, the veritable King of the Beasts, in all those nature films trying to protect his kill from a pack of non-laughing hyenas. As his pride (allies) is overwhelmed by the fear and confusion and stands by unhelpfully, he must suffer the nips and bites of his antagonists, each of whom he could separately utterly destroy, while they snatch and grab as much of his meat as possible. It's not am image that fills me with optimism.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Please see my comment somewhere nearby about the long term futility.....net.....of our past near seventy years' involvement in Asia.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The truly nightmarish scenario is not what North Korea would do before its arsenals were neutralized, but the gruesome toll from the unimaginable barrage of U.S. missiles and shells that would rain down on the North, and the vulnerability of North Korean ground assets to unfettered U.S. airpower.

I think that you may be making an unwarranted assumption. That barrage, or indeed any US reaction is 100% dependent on Buraq Hussein Obama ordering/allowing US forces to execute any of the already dialed in war plans. What is there in our history with this TWANLOC dictator to indicate that he would issue such an order?

I suspect, however, that the Republic of Korea, Japan, and the Republic of China have taken Obama's measure and know that they are strictly on their own, and are making their own plans. Those plans may range from cutting a deal to developing their own strategic deterrents [quite possible, as not all deterrents require large mushroom clouds].

And just as formerly friendly nations have to come to the realization that the United States government is not their ally; I rather suspect that more and more Americans are coming to the conclusion that the United States government is their master and not their servant and does not have their interests or the Constitution as a priority at all. The question is whether they too are developing alternate plans now that they are on their own?

Subotai Bahadur
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Abe's comments about hyper-inflating the Yen strike me as a defense spending mechanism.

Without a ramp in Japan's defense budget, Abe will run out of government bonds to buy in the market. It's the only 'candidate' that can open up the spigot.

In which case, Tokyo is going to save the economy by spending to thwart Godzilla.

And, China is going to help them with the budget via taking a massive hit on her Japanese assets: $1,000,000,000,000 in Yen get clipped.

There's not much Beijing can do that doesn't cause even more 'own-goals.'
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
There is much to be said about the relative abilities of N. Korea and the good guys. My concern is Obama and his mindset. If we actually get into a shooting match with the N. Koreans, what will our rules of engagement look like. Will our troops actually be allowed to fight and win or will we play political games and try to win the hearts and minds of the N. Korean people.

We have seen what our attempts to win friends in the Muslim world has gotten us. Will we repeat this stupid game playing in N. Korea? The N. Koreans are not a "normal" people in that they have been brain-washed for generations to love the dictators and viscerally hate everyone else.

Having served in Nam, I am about sick to death over the loss of American lives in politically engineered, drawn out warfare. We fought and won in WWII because we had every intent to win. To do anything to merely maintain the status quo or try to win friends while our troops are dying should be a criminal act at a minimum and treason at the max.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I doubt that the love for Kim runs very deep. You saw the state-mandated terror-induced crocodile tears when his daddy bit the dust. More and more news of the outside world is leaking into North Korea. There would well be a tipping point at which the populace, including the soldiers, decide that enough is enough. The more ground troops get into the south and see luxuries like paved roads and electricity, the more this will tip in favor of the North Korean people and against the regime.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The effectiveness of U.S. power projection is only as strong as the will of the National Command Authority leading it.
With the strongest, most effective military in the world, at this moment, we are not even a toothless tiger.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Perhaps best scenario is a Nork missile inadvertently hitting China.

Nuclear warhead optional.

It might help them focus.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
THAT would be Hilarious. You Tube here we come.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Yes, it's sad what such ideologically charged times do to relationships. You learn a lot about people you thought you knew...

Interesting points. thanks. Despite our troubled past relations I have a lot of respect for the Japanese. Quiet but very intense and very capable people.

Re your tax proposal, apparently Will Smith agrees: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FeqJ_9Zes4
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Meant as a reply to ShriekingHysteric
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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