Tag Archive | North Korea

Issuing a Challenge to the United States

To clarify the title (originally “War With North Korea is Inevitable”), within the confines of the current U.S. foreign policy, war is inevitable with North Korea. Since it seems extraordinarily unlikely that U.S. foreign policy is going to change very much, I’m reasonably confident that war with North Korea–even if it’s been avoided this weekend–remains inevitable.

First, Kim Jong Un and North Korea aren’t going to stop working out how to make an ICBM and how to lob it at the United States.

Second, they take so much pride in their nuclear program that they would all rather die than surrender it.

Third, the United States is not going to tolerate North Korea developing a nuclear warhead ICBM.

China doesn’t have the power over North Korea that we non-North Koreans like to think they have. It’s true that China is North Korea’s primary lifeline to the world, but North Korea is notoriously defiant, even of China, and if China could tell Kim to “Just cut it out” they would have done so by now–or around the time that we sent carrier groups into the Korean Peninsula. North Korea isn’t part of China, and they don’t like to be treated as though they are–the Sino-Korea Treaty takes great care to be a mutual defense pact, and not a case of “We’re going to protect our little brother.”

While we in NATO know that Montenegro isn’t going to come to the defense of the United States if we’re attacked–and, even if they do, they can’t contribute anything of any actual significance–this isn’t necessarily true with North Korea and China. While China can undoubtedly do more than North Korea, North Korea’s capabilities aren’t inconsequential, though they are limited to that region; North Korea would be almost no help in a war against the United States (except that they’d be able to decimate South Korea), but could contribute considerably in a war against Japan or India.

Our tendency to treat North Korea like China’s little brother, quite frankly, pisses off North Korea. And, realistically, it probably should piss them off. It’s supremely arrogant of us, first of all. North Korea came as close to “kicking our asses” as any nation ever has. It’s rather like getting beat up on a playground and limping away while telling the kid who beat you up that they should be glad they’re being protected by their big brother. They have a feather in their cap that few nations can claim: they took on and defeated the United States.

There are a lot of reasons for that. Our hearts were never in it, and we had to impose the draft to get people involved–and it’s a matter of record that draftees are motivated more by the desire to get back home than to win a “righteous” battle. We ended the Korean War after only three years, making it perhaps one of the shortest wars in American history. That’s how little we wanted to fight it. We were also constrained by UN policies and regulations that, like Vietnam, seemed more designed to make the war perpetual than anything. None of this really matters, though, because the fact remains: North Korea fought us, and North Korea won.

Compare it to our involvement in World War 2, where we were ready to throw anything and everything into the war effort, and against Japan. Then, for the Korean War, we could barely muster an entire regiment of volunteers.

I was relieved today to wake up and learn that we hadn’t started World War 3 in response to North Korea’s testing of a nuclear weapon, primarily because North Korea didn’t test a nuclear weapon.

What does it really matter, though?

It has merely postponed it.

For months, indications have been that North Korea was about to test another nuclear weapon. This is why tensions have been so high–the evidence is pretty clear that we are going to attack if they do so. Satellite images routinely show the “right” activity to indicate there is about to be a nuclear test, and it’s pretty likely that Kim Jong Un backed out at the last minute precisely because of pressure from the United States and China.

But this hasn’t changed anything.

It’s worth taking a moment to ask ourselves why we care whether North Korea tests nuclear weapons. The answer is that our actions throughout the last century have left us having to look over our shoulders constantly, and the only solution we’ve found for this is to continually look over our shoulder and attack anyone we happen to see–which, of course, means that we have to spend even more time looking over our shoulder.

In less than a week, we went from “Are we about to start World War 3 with Russia?” to “Are we about to start World War 3 with China?” One gets the image of a lunatic spinning wildly in circles firing an Ak-47 at every moving shadow he happens to see, paranoid and terrified that someone is coming to get him–and, honestly, is correct that someone is coming to get him, but only because he went around shooting people like a psychopath in the first place.

From what I can tell, this madman could really use some sleep. But he can’t sleep, because he’s created so many enemies that any one of them would sneak up on him in the middle of the night and slit his throat. So the only thing he can do is continue standing and spinning, firing missiles at anything that dares move in his presence while laughing and proclaiming to the world how secure and safe he is now that he’s gone through the world and shot everyone.

I was born on a planet alongside about six billion other people. For the first few years, things seemed pretty ordinary and sane, but then I noticed something odd. These otherwise rational and loving people had the strangest tendency to wantonly kill one another.

And then I noticed something even more bizarre.

Everyone acted like it was totally normal, and as though I was the crazy one for suggesting that we stop killing one another.

We’ve been killing each other for so long that we don’t know any other way. We’re set on that path, and the idea of getting off it, for some reason, terrifies us more than the prospect of nuclear war. God forbid we try to be friends with these people. No, we’d rather risk the possibility of annihilating life on the planet. The notion of just putting down the guns scares us more than nuclear war.

Something remarkable almost happened during World War 1. We came so close to putting war behind us permanently. It marks the most tragic moment in human history, when both sides of a war realized that they didn’t hate each other and that they were brothers being pit against one another by governments. On Christmas Day in the first year of the war, Central Europe forces and Allied forces put down their weapons and met on the battlefield for a day of celebration and peace.

War ends when the soldiers decide to stop fighting.

This posed such a threat to the powers that be–the states of the world–that it was forbidden from then on, and anyone who attempted it faced treason charges. They knew the danger it posed; they knew how close we had come to permanently putting down the guns. All we had to do was make one more decision–“When the sun rises tomorrow, we won’t resume shooting.”

The courage it took those soldiers to rise out of the trenches and walk toward the opposing side was more courage than anyone else had ever displayed in human history. There was every possibility that the other side would seize the opportunity to kill them. “They’re coming at us without weapons! The fools! Kill them! Kill them all!”

But that didn’t happen. They put down their own weapons, and the two sides met in a scene virtually guaranteed to bring tears to any peace lover’s eyes. We were right there. We had put down our guns and approached the other side, trusting that they would accept the gesture of peace and that it wouldn’t prove to be the dumbest thing anyone ever did. And our enemies rose and met the challenge. We came so close to learning it all right then–war is a racket of states. They can order us to kill each other all they want, but they can do nothing if we refuse to. And if we refuse to, we learned on that day, then the other side will refuse to.

It just takes that first courageous gesture of peace, that first person putting down the gun and stepping forward with a hand extended.

The next thing you know, generals and politicians throughout the world are freaking the fuck out because they’ve lost control of the minds of the soldiers and can no longer tell them to go and kill one another.

I challenge the United States to do this today.

Disarm.

If you expect to find a bogeyman pointing a gun at you in every shadow, then that is what you will find.

So disarm completely. Dismantle our warships, our jets, our bombs, our nuclear warheads. Disarm and dismantle everything. Show how courageous you are. Be like those soldiers in World War 1. It doesn’t take courage to continue maniacally shooting at everything that moves. What took courage is throwing up one’s arms, rising out of the trench, and approaching the other side without weapons drawn.

If we put down our weapons, they’ll put down theirs.

It’s time to end the worldwide Mexican Standoff.

And if our government doesn’t do it? Then American soldiers need to just go home. Just put down the weapons and go home. They can’t imprison all of you, because the only people who would imprison you would also have put down their weapons and gone home.

Is it unlikely? Perhaps.

Is it impossible?

The first Christmas of World War 1 suggests that it isn’t. It just takes courage.

 

Addiction to Power

One of the more bizarre aspects of the United States’ attack against Syria is the fact that no one bombed us when we killed 230 civilians, a showcase of moral hypocrisy rooted firmly in the idea that might is right. We know that “coalition forces,” meaning the United States for all intents and purposes, killed 230 civilians in a single airstrike, and we know that the death toll doesn’t stop there: more than a thousand civilians were killed in Iraq and Syria by the United States through the month of March.

Here, a lot of significance is placed on the method of death, as though death by suffocation in toxic gas is inherently worse than death by conflagration. The reality is that I sincerely doubt that the dead people would agree–by almost all accounts, burns are worse than suffocation, being overwhelmingly more painful and causing deaths nightmarishly horrific. This isn’t to say that death by sarin gas is good–it certainly isn’t. However, it is the height of arbitrary moral hypocrisy that we proclaim civilian deaths in one type of attack as indisputably more evil than civilian deaths in another type of attack. This is all the more curious since a number of American bombs are explicitly designed to create vacuum pressure by consuming all nearby air–these were used to “great” effect in Operation Iraqi Freedom to suffocate Iraqi forces deeply entrenched in tunnels. Even with bombs not specifically designed to have this effect, death by smoke inhalation (surely a “death by chemical attack”) and heat suffocation (heat being a chemical product of fire, and all) are real threats.

Yet no one took it upon themselves to fire 59 Tomahawk missiles at the United States for its wanton and careless murders of civilians throughout the Middle East. In Iraq alone, we have killed more than one hundred thousand civilians. Ignoring all of that, though, as recently as last month we killed more than a thousand in reckless drone strikes–more than ten times the number for which we’ve so gleefully punished Assad for allegedly having killed.

In a certain sense, we have to cling to the ridiculous idea that death by chemical agent is somehow worse than death by combustion agent, because, while we’re frivolously dropping combustion agents all across the world, and unleashed billions of tons of napalm in Korea and Vietnam, we’ve refrained, for the most part, from using what most people would call “chemical weapon strikes.” It’s rather inconsequential, though. Whatever doublethinking mental gymnastics we have to use in order to convince ourselves that what we are doing is okay, but what others are doing is not okay, we will successfully perform. If it wasn’t “Chemical attacks are a special kind of evil” it would be some other excuse.

The idea that someone probably should have fired 590 Tomahawk missiles at the United States (if 100 civilian deaths = 59 Tomahawk missiles, then 1,000 civilian deaths = 590 Tomahawk missiles) is met by two problems. Only the first of these is the moral problem, and the inability of Americans to grasp the idea that if it’s not okay for Assad to kill a hundred civilians, then it’s not okay for the United States to do it. This is rooted more in “Us and Them” than it is the addiction to power–whatever factors are involved, they cannot possibly be completely congruent between Our actions and Their actions, and any one of those factors will be seized as an excuse for why our actions were, like totes 4 real, not that bad. I think by the time we have people honestly arguing with a straight face that it’s better to be exploded into ludicrous gibs than it is to be suffocated by poisonous gas, we can say definitively that any differentiating variable between two actions will be latched onto and given moral significance aimed at justifying one while condemning the other.

The second problem the idea confronts is that it’s positively laughable: there isn’t anyone who could fire 590 Tomahawk missiles at the United States, at least not with impunity. It’s arguable, because of the Strategic Missile Defense System*, whether anyone could strike the United States, but only a few nations in the world even have the technological capabilities of doing it, and most of those are some sort of ally.

I’ve always found Christianity curious, particularly the Old Testament, because it contains some truly horrific acts attributed to its deity. Yet the very idea that, based on literal interpretations of the Old Testament, the Old Testament god is as guilty of mass murder as anyone, and should be punished accordingly, is met with sneering dismissal. “He who has the gold makes the rules,” quipped the genie at the beginning of Disney’s Aladdin. Today, of course, it’s “Whoever can’t be defeated makes the rules,” and that’s the same idea on display with the top-down Biblical morality and deity exemptions here. Typically, Yahweh can’t be punished for doing something wrong, because the fact that Yahweh did it in the first place means that Yahweh wasn’t wrong. Whatever Yahweh does is right, because he’s the one with the power, and therefore the one who determines what is wrong and what is right.

The United States has now sent carrier groups to the Korean Peninsula in a show of force against North Korea and in an attempt to dissuade Kim Jong Un from testing any nuclear weapons. How very curious. We have nuclear weapons. Of course, it’s true that we no longer test our nuclear weapons, but that’s only because we no longer need to–we’ve left the testing phase and remain the only nation in the world to have used them against people. It’s rather like how we condemn developing nations for high, Industrial Era level Carbon emissions–now that we’ve progressed beyond that and no longer really need to burn a bunch of coal, we sneer down our noses and condemn those who haven’t left that phase.

It’s really just a way of forcefully preventing their technological ascension, isn’t it? It’s a way of putting so many roadblocks in their way that they can never catch up to us. Meanwhile, we couldn’t have been condemned for the insane degrees of pollution of developing America because we were at the forefront of development, and no one knew when Ford invented the automobile that we were inadvertently pumping massive amounts of carcinogens into the atmosphere. And there’s nothing they can do tell us to fuck off and mind our own business, because we’re Yahweh. We have the gold; we have the power. We make the rules.

And the idea that anyone can challenge our rules is almost as laughable as the idea of shouting to an omnipotent deity that it did something morally wrong.

“The world’s only superpower,” people like saying, an idea that I’m delving into considerably in this week’s upcoming podcast. It’s absurd. We’re not the world’s only superpower, and we haven’t been since the 90s–we’re simply the only one of the world’s superpowers that uses that power without restraint in an attempt to dictate over the entire globe. It is still true that we’re the reigning champ and that we stand a good distance above everyone else along the world’s totem pole, but the notion that we’re on a special totem pole all by ourselves… It’s not only wrong, but I have to question the mentality of the people who think that and yet still advocate military action against other countries like Syria and Iraq. Isn’t that like arguing that Mike Tyson should beat an amateur high school boxer to death?

No one, not even China, questions the United States’ right to put a bunch of warships in the Korean Peninsula while making threats against a nation that hasn’t attacked anyone in at least 60 years. What if, right now, warships from nations throughout the world, orchestrated by the United Nations, were rallying off the coast of California and Virginia, threatening to “cut off the head” of the United States if we didn’t cease launching missiles at other nations? Such a strange world we live in. Merely from the threat that he might do it, and even though he hasn’t done it, we’re doing exactly that to Kim Jong Un and North Korea. Yet we, the same people doing this, bristle and become furious at the idea that the United Nations would dare coordinate an effort among the world’s nations to do the same to us.

But I suspect we’re on the brink of collapse. Donald Trump’s attack against Syria–failed though it was, by all accounts, since that airstrip was sending Assad’s forces into the air less than 24 hours later, and reportedly only about 35 of them hit the target (maybe we do need to do some further testing…)–has bolstered his confidence. It’s like the first time I smoked marijuana. Well, the second time, actually–the first time, I got so sick from friends shoving sweet food down my throat (an expectation that I played along with, “having the munches” even when I didn’t, because I was a stupid kid), that there was no enjoyment from it. There was about a 4 year gap between the first and second time anyway, and I’d spent most of my life hearing about how horrible marijuana was, how devastating it could be, how dangerous it was, and why no one should ever, ever do it. I successfully resisted peer pressure for years, and then gave in, for no reason in particular.

“Hey, that’s pretty good!” I thought.

Undoubtedly, Trump feels the same, now that he’s nodded and pressed a button, which immediately led to a missile strike against another nation. I have no doubt that the power rush, the adrenaline, of it was orgasmic. He probably had the best sex of his life just a few hours after giving the command, and I’m not trying to be grotesque or anything–I’m being sincere. Murderers notoriously get off by murdering people. And what we’re talking about here goes well beyond murder, and is simultaneously socially acceptable. No one will condemn Trump at a dinner party for being a mass murdering lunatic who fucks his wife after killing people.

I think that Trump is probably not reckless enough to really do anything rash, because the possible consequences are so high. I’m not suggesting that Trump will, chasing after that dragon, fire missiles at China if the Chinese President even squints at him funny. But not only is it in Trump’s blood now (and has been for a few months), but his use of force against Assad instantly earned him the respect of people who have been criticizing him for a year. You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.

I’ve seen people suggest that if we attack North Korea, China won’t move to stop us. While the Chinese people are sick of Kim Jong Un’s antics and exerting pressure on the Chinese government to get Kim under control, that will change the moment we attack North Korea, because such an act will be taken as a direct challenge to China’s sovereignty and regional authority. Imagine how we would respond if Russia invaded Puerto Rico. If we attack North Korea, we will find ourselves at war with China. We might be able to get away with assassinating Kim Jong Un, but that isn’t the way the United States does things. Presumably.

I’m more concerned with the possibility of finding ourselves bogged down in a war against Syria, Russia, China, North Korea, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and other countries that we’ve either directly attacked, are presently at war with, or are likely to end up at war with them the moment one of the other two world superpowers has had enough of our bullshit. I honestly don’t think that Putin is going to let us have Syria and Assad, and that situation has the terrifying capacity to develop into a direct war between the United States and Russia. We’re already at war with them, for fuck’s sake–that’s what it’s called when one nation allies with another and supplies them with jets, bombs, AA guns, and other shit against another nation. It’s why claims of U.S. neutrality during World War 2 are such bullshit–everyone knows we weren’t neutral. We simply weren’t active combatants.

Anyway, that’s a rather long list of countries to be at war with, and the only one that doesn’t unequivocally belong on that list is China. We are still at war with North Korea, though we do have an armistice with them. We’re at war with Pakistan. That’s what it’s called when you drop bombs on them, and we dropped bombs on them last year.

Courtesy of http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-president-barack-obama-bomb-map-drone-wars-strikes-20000-pakistan-middle-east-afghanistan-a7534851.html

What an astounding coincidence that those happen to be the exact countries from which we don’t want to accept refugees! Amazing! What are the odds of that? What are the odds that these countries with refugees we don’t want to accept because they run a relatively high risk of wanting to kill us happen to correspond perfectly to the countries we’ve been dropping bombs in? If it was actually a coincidence, the odds would be extremely low. No one in Vegas would take that bet. But it’s not a coincidence, of course. We might as well have Americans saying, “You see these countries we dropped bombs in last year? Yeah, those are the ones we don’t want to accept refugees from.”

I don’t think China will allow us to attack North Korea.

If that statement caused you to bristle, please understand that your belief in American dominance and rightness in global hegemony is the problem.

I intended to call attention to the remarkable similarity between this and the idea that we must have a government that is ultimately in charge, because the same thread runs through both. We need police, we need judges, and we need laws–we need someone at the top who cannot be challenged, goes the argument. So yes, the global chaos we see today is again a direct result of statism. People say that we need some domestic authority figure, and they say that we need some international authority figure. This is why it’s okay for the police to tackle and beat the hell out of someone for jaywalking, and this is why it’s okay for the United States to launch missiles into a sovereign nation.

Because “authority.”

 

* I know that this was leaked as a failure, but seeing as we’ve since blown up a satellite in orbit from Earth (which operates on exactly the same principle) and apply the same principles in unarmored assault vehicles that utilize moving guns and camera coverage to shoot incoming bullets out of the way, no one should still believe the idea that we failed to do this. Why else would we have surrounded Russia with missile batteries? Hell, the official reason given is that we intend to shoot Russian missiles out of the sky!

One Nod and the World Gets Smaller

I was thinking this morning about how Trump hadn’t even lasted a week before he had blood on his hands–which, of course, isn’t surprising, more is the pity–and it really occurred to me what an extraordinary amount of power American presidents hold, so it’s no wonder they all become mass murdering lunatics.

These are people who can kill someone with only a nod. One nod, and a drone drops a bomb in Yemen, killing the target and probably a few civilians with it. One nod, and the military invades a sovereign nation. One nod, and an enemy combatant is sent to Guantanamo Bay to be tortured and incarcerated without a trial.

I can’t even imagine essentially having the power to point at someone and then watch them die, with no one able to do anything about it. The only people who possibly could do anything about it are overwhelmingly uninterested in the whole affair, even when 230 civilians are murdered, while they have no problem showing interest and devoting attention to the firing of a random waitress from a Cracker Barrel. And even if the American President did have to explain his actions to Congress or the American People, all he has to do is say “ISIS!” and that’s it.

Press a button, enter a launch code, hundreds of thousands die.

Nod, hundreds die.

Give a thumbs up, dozens die.

My world is unaffected.

That’s the most dangerous part of all of this. There is a reason that Trump wouldn’t nod his approval for a drone strike in China or Russia–those nations could fight back. China and Russia could return the “favor” by dropping bombs on American cities. Oh, it would be a bloodbath, and no one would have an easy time of it, but it would certainly happen. Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Pakistan, and all these others that we’ve attacked, however, are incapable of striking American cities. But if bombs started falling on American cities, we would sue for peace quickly against these nations. The only reason that we’re so uninterested is that we are unaffected.

Even North Korea, perhaps the most advanced of our self-created enemies, doesn’t have the ability to strike American cities. There’s no chance that any of these less-advanced Middle Eastern countries in whose affairs we’ve interfered for decades, often via wars that devastated their economies, could possibly retaliate except through guerilla terrorist tactics.

The invading aliens are too advanced to be destroyed with weapons. The only hope is to infect them with bacteria.

When I’m God, everyone dies.

Considering how much like a religion statism is, and the faith we place in government that it holds the answer to all life’s problems, and given how extraordinarily powerful the American head of state is, the metaphor is more appropriate than one might think.

Of course, all of this was true for Obama, as well–notorious winner of the Nobel Peace Prize who went on to be responsible for more deaths than Fidel Fucking Castro. It applies to every American President going back a very long time. They’re omnipotent, for all intents and purposes, sitting at the very top of humanity’s pyramid. If it truly came to blows, it’s doubtful that China and Russia could combine to take out the United States, after all, and individually neither stands a chance.

The biggest, toughest, strongest man in the prison, and he’s also a black belt.

And the only people he must answer to are only semi-resistant of this atrocity, with only about 7% of them resistant to it regardless of who is making the world smaller. There’s another 15% or so that are resistant to it, but their resistance depends upon who is exerting the power. If a Republican, then Democrats resist. If a Democrat, then Republicans resist. Nearly half the population doesn’t care enough to find out what’s going on.

Meanwhile, the world just keeps getting smaller.

I’m no Constitutionalist, but we do have constraints within the Constitution that would actually prevent the president from having this power to assassinate pretty much anyone he wants: Congress has the authority to create Letters of Marque and Reprisal. These are used in lieu of declarations of war, and are much more limited in scope. A letter of marque against Osama Bin Laden, for example, would have prevented the 16-year-long War in Afghanistan and the 14-year-long War in Iraq. It’s basically Congressional permission for authorized people–privateers, although, in an era of the standing army, it’s not inconceivable that the marque could be carried out by the military–to capture or kill someone, if capture is impossible.

I don’t know about you, but when someone says, “Hey, we could have avoided this war that has lasted sixteen goddamned years,” my interest is usually piqued. This war has lasted more than half of my life. Throughout more than half of my life, we have been fighting in Afghanistan, and the situation doesn’t look like it’s going to change any time soon. It’s worse now than it’s ever been–truly a victory for statism, since now we must keep the military there in an insane attempt to fix the problems caused by our military fighting there.

Congress really shouldn’t have the power to point at people and say, “Die!” either, like Lord Soth or something, but at least we know how dysfunctional Congress is. The dysfunction is a good thing, because it prevents these power-hungry lunatics from accomplishing anything. It’s more egregious than ever, too, with a reasonably decent Supreme Court Justice having a hard time getting the cloture vote. These people can’t agree on anything. There’s no chance that the Senate could get sixty votes authorizing an invasion of another country, or authorizing a drone strike. It would be considerably easier to authorize a letter of marque, given how much less responsibility that places directly on them, but they’d still have a difficult time accomplishing anything.

And when we’re talking about the power to point at a spot on the map and drop a bomb there, we want there to be lots of roadblocks built into the system, almost so many that it’s impossible to get them actually drop the bomb. Personally, I’d prefer it to be legitimately impossible, but…

Regardless, we should all be able to agree that no one person should have this sort of power. We’re worried about the power that Kim Jong Un unilaterally wields in his own nation, yet the power our president wields absolutely dwarfs that of North Korea’s. Kim Jong Un can point at a North Korean citizen and sentence them to death for whatever reason he wants, and that’s terrible, but the American President can point at anyone and sentence them to death for whatever reason he wants. And the only people to whom he has to justify it are overwhelmingly uninterested in even hearing the justification, because waitresses are getting fired from Cracker Barrel and transgender people are having a hard time finding restrooms.