25 November 2010

North Korea, ploughshares, swords, common sense...

The headline Why North Korea attack is not a crisis is a masterpiece. It can't fail to draw your attention from any other these days. I mean, after hearing (and seeing) how NK artillery opened up on a South Korean island, killing four (according to the latest count) and wounding eighteen human beings, it is certainly refreshing that somebody considers the situation not being a crisis.

Being ever doubtful of my mastery of this quirky language, I have checked the dictionary definition of "crisis".  The definition gives you two options:

  1. An unstable situation of extreme danger or difficulty
  2. A crucial stage or turning point in the course of something
This only exacerbated my confusion: to my, obviously untrained eye, when one country shells its neighbor and kills its citizens, it seems to be a crisis. But what do I know, when two experts like these:

with such uber-intelligent, penetrating and yet open and straightforward looks, state that it's not a crisis?

The experts, by the way, belong to a group called Ploughshares Fund, "a global security foundation that seeks to make progress toward a world free of nuclear weapons". A worthy goal, I would say. So worthy that I have immediately visited their site and found out easily that during the last few days Ploughshares bombarded (no pun intended) the main US media organs with their articles on and about NK: the CNN article I have already linked to, Washington Post, NYT...

Well, to summarize the CNN article and its clones on these other sites: the first impression is that the authors, being as they are experts on nuclear weaponry, look at the whole NK vs civilized world issue mainly from the point of view of nuclear disarmament or, more fitting to this case, nuclear proliferation. That NK is a bankrupt dictatorship managed by a family of mass murderers for too many years to count, that these murderers practically starve their people and spent all available resources on weapons development, doesn't seem to count much with Ploughshares folks. The impression is that they are searching for the lost key under their familiar light.

Instead of saying straight what it is they want US administration to do, they point to another article, this time by Leon V. Sigal, who is a director of the Northeast Asia Cooperative Security Project at the Social Science Research Council and, incidentally, a member of the editorial board of The New York Times.

To give you the gist of what Ploughshares and their associates say, I've compiled the various sources mentioned.

First of all, how do they see the current (non-crisis) situation:

It's all Bush's fault:
Before that, the Bush administration's years-long policy of complete isolation allowed North Korea to produce plutonium, fashion it into bombs and test two of them. Only in the last two years of the Bush era did a change in U.S. approach bear some fruit in freezing North Korea's programs.

There is not enough engagement:
Unfortunately, so far the U.S. response also fits a pattern of rhetorical condemnation but little in the way of creative or effective engagement.

NK really are not that horribly beweaponed:
The North’s current arsenal of 8 to 12 weapons are all based on plutonium. This knowledge is, obviously, worth a good deal to a person being fried by a nuke.

And even the existing nukes couldn't be delivered:
It does not have the capability to deliver these devices by aircraft or missile and its plutonium program remains frozen or perhaps even further eroded. Why one (or more) of "these devices" can't be stowed on a ship and sent over to one of the US (for example) sea ports is unclear, but Ploughshares know better.

Americans still don't understand the mysterious NK soul:
Dealing with North Korea is not easy, and the process has been exacerbated by myths about the travails of negotiating with its regime. This is not a problem of a particular administration or party (yes, this one doesn't blame Bush for some reason). North Korea is on the sad list of countries that, over the years, Americans have convinced themselves they cannot understand and believe, in a self-fulfilling prophecy, that it is impossible to engage.

Besides, South Koreans are being devious as heck:
Disinformation from Seoul assiduously laid the grounds for disengagement.

To summarize the current situation estimates: the NK devil is not all that frightening, and besides it's Bush, Americans and South Koreans who are guilty in any case.

Now - what to do about all this:

This is NK - just live with it:
A realistic place to start fresh may be quite simple: accepting the existence of North Korea as it is, a sovereign state with its own interests.

Do more and start thinking, fer crying out loud:
Greater efforts and longer-term thinking.

Be creative and don't never give up:
Creative, thoughtful approaches to engaging North Korea have to be designed and tested - persistently.

And start feeding the NK, too:
Talks might work but only if Washington and Seoul are committed to sustained political and economic engagement and a peace process in Korea. Economic engagement... a nice euphemism, if there ever was one.

And finally:
...sending Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to Pyongyang... Yeah, I can see where this may scare the Kims shitless. Or entertain them, whatever.

All in all - not a big deal of creative thinking from this bunch of experts. Feed them, entertain them, pay them off, just don't make them angry in no way. Notice that the genocidal nature of the regime doesn't bother the Ploughshares too much. It's just the way the cards fall to them. Too bad...

And, on the other side of the political map, Christian Whiton on Fox News:
President Obama should ask South Korea to place its forces on alert and order the U.S. military to present him with options for a sustained force buildup and possible retaliatory options that will show the generals in North Korea they are worse off for haven followed Kim Jong Il’s orders. 
Most importantly, we should declare our combined allied determination to help the North Korean people free themselves from the world’s most despotic regime—whether it takes 10 weeks or 10 years. We should then put in place a comprehensive political warfare campaign against the regime, centered on financial strangulation and empowering the North Korean people with information and the other key elements of dissent movements.
We should also talk openly to South Korea and Japan about moving U.S. tactical nuclear weapons to the region. This is an appropriate response to a growing North Korean nuclear threat. It will also show the Chinese government that the misconduct of its client state also harms Beijing’s security. That, more than blind hope, will get Beijing’s attention.
I don't know, people: you decide.

Cross-posted on Yourish.com


Anonymous said...

Snoopy you simply don't understand the logic of worldpolitics.
Why should be any crisis?
Are the victims Palestinians/Arabs/Muslims?
Are the perpetrators Israelis?

If your answers the above two questions are negative (as they should be) then why should anyone care?

For these folks at Ploughshares the crisis starts when they don't get their monthly paycheck, or they can't blame the members of a certain tribe of the wrongdoings (you know which one...) 

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Yes, I know, Guest, I am suffering from excessive naivety late in the night, when I write these posts...

shira said...

<span>Basically Ploughshares are either stupid or cowered. If there was a way to stop NK they would back SK, since there isn't an easy way to do so it's much easier to blame the US and maybe SK, the democracies compelled to listen to their worried citizens and there for are squeezable. In this case SK has to convince the world that NK is actually in cahoots with Israel - that would convince them to switch sides.</span>
<span>if they're stupid then there's nothing anyone can do about it.</span>

SnoopyTheGoon said...

"<span>SK has to convince the world that NK is actually in cahoots with Israel"</span>

That may work indeed.

Dick Stanley said...

It's similar to the Democrat view on the TSA groin grope: we should all stop worry and submit. Everything's really going to be just fine, as long as the right guy is president. Bush II didn't have the smarts, but brilliant Barry can handle it all. Nothing to see here. Move along.

David All said...

No end of folks with plenty of free advice concerning how to handle North Korea. The folks at Ploughshares have the right goals, a world free of nuclear weapons, but advocate the utterly wrong way of going about it. Actually what Christian Whiton advocates the US has been doing in a somewhat more low keyed manner. The dispatch of the USS George Washington and its battle group for war games with the South Koreans in the same area, the Yellow Sea where the North Korean attacks have taken place, is sending messages of US support of South Korea to both North Korea and its big power backer China.

Latest developments, "N. Korea tests Artillery on 'Brink of War'" at http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/11/26/world/main7091226.shtml

I love the smell of a Cold War type crisis in the morning. It smells like ...Job Security! (joke)  

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Yeah, still I and other people would like to see some finale of this story.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Folks of ploughshares see the world via the H-A-bomb targeting device. Which is, probably, what NK want all of us to see.