originally posted: Sunday, October 15, 2006
The problem of N. Korea is swarming the news lately. For the few in the know, little of that superficial news is of interest. For the majority -some of whom have been asking me for my thoughts- the day-to-day details like "what'd Kim Jong-Il have for dinner" etc. overwhelm the important macro-causes that underly this grave world crisis.
I thought I would, for the few interested, offer a "N. Korea 101" (by my perspective) and, more importantly perhaps, offer a few unorthodox remedies of my own.
N. Korea and S. Korea have been split since the war between the two (which was fought between 1950 and 1953). In a nutshell: in world war two, japan kicked ass all over southeast asia, we then kicked ass all over japan. what ended up left was (like with europe) a mish-mash of redrawn states, with half democratic/capitalist (allied with the United States), and the other half communist (allied with the soviet union/china). Korea was no exception. By most expert accounts, Kim Jong-iL's father invaded the south in an attempt to unify the two under his dictatorial control. The US came to the aid of the South (fearing - as we feared with Vietnam - that if the south was allowed to fall, so too would many other split states...we called it "Domino Theory"). Allot of ass was kicked on both sides, and a stalemate eventually called. The UN sanctioned a split between the two states at the 38th parallel: hence, North Korea, South Korea.
After his fathers death, KJ-iL, assumed control of the country. I won't bore y'all with tales of what a total nutbag he is, but for fun, and if bored enough, google his name with key-words like kidnapping, and freak. Suffice it to say, he is LITERALLY crazy.
This is probably where our problem starts. You see, KJI has made the acquisition of nuclear weapons his primary ambition for almost 20 years. At first, as with Reagan when he made a lot of noise about SDI (the strategic defense initiative) during the 80's, Reagan scared Russia to the bargaining table without even needing to develop the technology. Well, KJI did that with Clinton; threatening to develop a nuclear weapons program unless we gave him stuff. Clinton did. He gave him Nuclear power plants, oil, cash, and food. It's hotly debated, but KJI monkey-fucked us. That is to say, he took our loot and developed nukes anyway. I'm fairly sure that if KJI didn't have a nuklear ability when Bush took office, he was years into development, and months away.
Finger pointing doesn't mean much now however. He got 'em.
Nukes that is. Roughly enough Highly Enriched Uranium to develop 8-13 warheads by most expert accounts. As opposed to our nukes, his are simple (gun design), crude (likely to suffer high failure rates), and low yield (in the 50 kiloton range vs. ours...more in the 30 megaton range!). However, a nuke is a nuke when you're talking about negotiating power, and KJI is milking it for all it's worth.
Our biggest fear is that he'll sell one of his nukes to terrorists. This isn't Saddam Hussein type overblown rhetoric, he really has them, and has a very active market for weapons systems (buys/sells missile technology freely with iran and russia among dozens of nations around the world). This is uncontested fact.
OK, so, to the present:
KJI is a true despot, and sadly, the civilized world doesn't remember what that means. It means he has a "to the last man" attitude when it comes to threats to his power. This is a mind boggling but accurate statistic: roughly 2,500,000 N. Koreans died of starvation in just four years (between 94-98). KJI however has a 100k per year liquor habit, numerous compounds, dozens of barely 12 year old virgins delivered every year, and over 12k US movies to watch when he's done drinking, fucking, and basically being a maniac. A real fuck-rag of a dude.
When we "negotiate" with parties like this, we forget (as the civilized world) that we're negotiating with one man. ONE MAN! One man who, if confronted with the choice between a total megafuck of a war, where 22 of his 23 million citizens died (but a war where he'd be viewed as a hero by the surviving 1 million) vs. avoiding a war all-together but remembered as a failure by all 23 million souls...he'd certainly choose war.
That seems like a simple to understand concept, and, in my view is. But the political topography being authored by the US and co-shaped by Japan, China, Russia, and South Korea flatly ignores that paradigm.
If I'm right in my assumption about what a pigfucking cat-puncher he is, then we need a new approach, one - I might add - that could have use not just with N. Korea, but in many despot controlled nations around the world.
In a sentence, my prescription for turning this mess around is this:
Augment his benign power, while containing his malignent power.
More specifically, increase the weight and importance of those areas of power, reward, and fulfillment KJI gets that don't materially harm our national interest. Simultaneously, we should work to diminish the importance (to him) of those areas of power that do conflict with our national interest.
Do we really care if KJI lives out the rest of his existence fulfilled or miserable? Trick question. Yes, we do. And again, that's the point of my suggestion. To the extent he's happy as a fat fucking shitbag of a despot, we have leverage. Remember the old axiom: "never negotiate with someone who has nothing to lose". Our foreign policy "experts" may not. As a consequence, when a country does something against our interest we "ratchet up pressure". We don't negotiate, rather, we act like Dick Cheney did on the phone last month with famous writer Bob Woodward when, angered by an unfavorable piece done on him, called BW's inarguable factual position "bullshit", then hung up on him. LOL! These mother fuckers crack me up. That is, until I remember the stakes: millions -perhaps tens of millions- of lives.
We should absolutely be negotiating with NK, with KJI, and with any nation (Iran included) that is desirous of negotiating with us. Not "back channel", not "multi party". Direct. As we did with our arch enemy -the soviet union- for decades. It isn't appeasement to negotiate with an enemy.
Fundamentally, we ought to figure out ways to enrich KJI, using NK as a proxy, in attempt to increase our political control, give KJI more to lose, and diminish the risk of a worst-case-scenario.
There are some things we should be doing that we aren't, and some we are, that we shouldn't. Among those we shouldn't, and perhaps most obviously shouldn't, is our embargo against NK.
Does it really help us to encourage and enforce a trade embargo against N. Korea (as we've recently sucessfully lobbied to do)? We need only look 90 miles south to the small communist island nation of Cuba for crisp indisputable evidence to the contrary. Embargos against nations with the intent to foment dissent/break will/or otherwise cause a fundamental change to national policy is, almost totally, dead wrong.
If tomorrow, by some bizarre magic, I could totally posess the body of the President....well, I'd do a lot of funny shit. However, one of the less funny, and most important things I'd immediately do would be to schedule a summit to be held in Seoul South Korea between the US and NK. This geographic and negotiatory gesture of good will would -regardless of summit outcome- work wonders to diminish the Presidents reputation as a warmonger, and to restore the US's credibility as a peace-making super-power.
In the summit, I'd agree to lift trade embargo's on all non-military trade. In addition, I'd work to establish a Surrogate Labor State (straight up in China's face) in North Korea. What do you care if your pillows are made in China vs. NK? You don't, but you should. Stuffing down into cloth for our sleeping comfort pays better than digging through garbage, or, more accurately, not working at all. And that's basically what they're doing up there in NK.
Let's get 'em stuffing our pillows. Let's get 'em sewing our boxer shorts. Let's give 'em something to lose.
Lay out a plan for KJI that basically says "yo, you fucked this joint up. bad. but we're here to save the day. let's get your economy booming (theirs is 1 40th the size of S. Korea...so that's not hard). let's make you the hero. we've got work/money for your unemployed masses, and they'll love you for it".
Shit, labor would be cheaper there. It's just one NEGOTIATED deal away, and suddenly, massively, things start changing there. Capitalism is seeded, and starts digging in its deep, and once intact, impossible-to-oppose tentacles into a system that, today, lives entirely without it.
Wal-Mart wins, the ppl of N Korea win, KJI is a hero, and we're vastly less likely to see war.
This is one of many dozens of schemes we could negotiate. The US houses the largest body of brainpower, influence, and power the world has ever known. Only through negotiation however will it be felt. Well, technically I'm wrong. There is another way it could be felt, and, absent negotiation will: through war.