To the deep consternation of President Trump, Vice-President Pence, the U.S. national-security establishment, and their acolytes and critics in the U.S. mainstream press, North Korea continues to drive a wedge between the U.S. government and the South Korean government. The best thing that could ever happen to the people of North Korea, South Korea, and the United States is if the wedge gets so large that South Korea gives the boot to all U.S. troops in South Korea, sending them packing back home, where they belong.
Here is how the wedge is working:
First, the two Koreas agreed that North Korea would participate in the Winter Olympics being held in South Korea. That agreement was entered into without the permission of U.S. officials.
Second, the two Koreas agreed to march together in the opening session of the Olympics and to compete together in at least one sports event. That agreement was entered into without the permission of U.S. officials.
Third, high North Korean and South Korean officials have agreed to get together for lunch during the Olympics. That agreement was entered into without the permission of U.S. officials.
In fact, while Vice-President Pence, who is traveling to the Olympics, has expressed ambivalence on meeting with North Korean officials, there is little doubt that he would love to be invited to that luncheon. But North Korea and South Korea would be wise to not invite him, as his participation would undoubtedly be filled with the usual U.S. threats and bluster about sanctions, military options, big nuclear buttons, and U.S. fire and fury on North Korea, none of which would be constructive.
Fourth, the speculation is that North Korea will invite South Korean President Moon Jae-in to visit North Korea. If the invitation materializes and is accepted, it is a virtual certainty that it will be done without the permission of U.S. officials.
The question naturally arises: Why are some of us here in the United States spending so much time focusing on the situation in Korea? Here’s an excellent article that best sums up the reason: “What War with Korea Would Look Like” by Youchi Dreazen. Every American should read this article.
If war breaks out in Korea, it will not be anything like the U.S. wars on Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Panama, or Grenada. It will instead be a pivotal and devastating event in U.S. history and world history. Hundreds of thousands of people will be killed in both North and South Korea, including many, if not most, of the 28,000 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea as sacrificial pawns to ensure that the U.S. will automatically be part of the conflict. The two nations would be totally devastated and would remain so for many years, if not decades, into the future.
Americans would not be immune from this one. It is a virtual certainty that the draft would be immediately implemented, especially if Chinese troops enter North Korea and oppose U.S. invading troops, as they did in the Korean War. As tens of thousands of millennials are suddenly being trained to kill and die in a faraway land in Asia, it will finally sink into them as to why they were made to register for the draft when they became 18. As tens of thousands of U.S. troops are being killed, dissent here in the United States will be squashed, just as it was in World War I, given Trump’s volatile nature. Federal spending, taxes, and debt will soar, bringing the financial and economic reckoning ever closer.
There are some that say that war in Korea is out of the question. Impossible, they say, because no one would be that irrational. It’s all just bluster, maneuvering, and posturing, they say.
Maybe they’re right. Let’s hope so. But anyone who is familiar with World War I knows that when war clouds are looming, things can get out of control very quickly and lead to a result that no one wanted. This is especially true when a nation has a president who is unpredictable and quick to anger.
If commentaries, both written and spoken, can move societies in a different direction — and I believe they can — then it is incumbent on those of us who know how horrible a war in Korea would be to continue raising people’s attention to the increasing possibility of such a war breaking out. Ideas have power. They can influence people. If parents, for example, come to recognize that their millennial-aged kids are at grave risk, they might get more involved in joining us by voicing opposition to the interventionist and destructive role that the U.S. government is playing in Korea.
It’s important to keep in mind that there are different aims involved here:
1. The U.S. government. Its aim is regime change in North Korea. That’s been its aim since the 1950s. It’s the same aim it had when it imposed sanctions on Iraq and later invaded that country. It’s the same aim it has had with respect to Cuba. And lots of other countries. U.S. officials want to see the North Korean regime fall and be replaced with a pro-U.S. dictatorship, which would then invite the U.S. into the country to establish military bases and install U.S. missiles on the Korean-China border. Just like Ukraine.
U.S. officials know that if North Korea acquires the capability of striking the United States with nuclear bombs, their decades-long hope of achieving regime change dissipates. It just might no longer be worth it to them to effect regime change in North Korea if they have to give up San Francisco or some other U.S. cities.
Thus, denuclearization in North Korea is the U.S. government’s top priority, so that regime change will continue to be a viable option. Right now, it’s not at all clear that North Korea has the capability of striking the continental United States with a nuclear missile. Sure, thousands of U.S. troops in South Korea would die, along with multitudes of South Koreans and North Koreans, but at the least the devastation would be over there, not over here. The longer the U.S. waits, the greater the chance the devastation will extend to over here.
Therefore, if North Korea refuses to denuclearize, which is a virtual certainty, war right now, rather than later, is in the interests of the U.S. government, especially if it can provoke North Korea into making a hostile move or appearing to make a hostile move (e.g. the North Vietnamese “attack” on U.S. vessels in the Gulf of Tonkin; or Operation Northwoods). In such a case, Trump, the Pentagon, and the CIA will be claiming that the U.S. was “forced” into war and is now simply defending itself.
2. The North Korean government. Its goal is simply to continue its grip on power in North Korea. The last thing it wants is to start a war with the United States because it knows it will lose such a war. Like Cuba fifty years ago, it wants nuclear weapons for defense and deterrence, not to start a war with the U.S. It knows that there is no threat of a regime-change operation from South Korea. The threat of regime change comes from the U.S. government. That’s what the U.S. sanctions are all about — bringing regime change by killing ever-growing numbers of North Korean people through starvation. The idea being that starving people will overthrow their regime and install a pro-U.S. regime in its stead.
But the North Korean government will never succumb to that sort of blackmail, any more than the U.S. government would do so under similar circumstances. North Korea knows that a nuclear capability is the only thing that will protect it from a U.S. regime-change operation. After seeing what the U.S. did to Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq and the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, there is no reasonable possibility that North Korea is going to give up the only thing that might preclude a U.S. regime-change operation. They are also familiar with what happened in Cuba, where the installation of Soviet nuclear missiles secured a vow from President Kennedy that the U.S. would not invade Cuba again (a vow that earned Kennedy the everlasting enmity of the U.S. national-security establishment).
3. The South Korean government. It just wants to continue its existence of relative freedom and prosperity. It knows that a war, even if won, would destroy South Korea, especially if nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons are employed, which is a distinct possibility. The South Korean regime would love to see the two Koreas ultimately reunited into one country but not through war.
Therefore, it’s clear that the two Koreas have every reason in the world to talk, negotiate, and cooperate with each other and to leave the U.S. government out of the process. Both Koreas know that war is in the interest of neither nation.
Therefore, the ideal for everyone — North Koreans, South Koreans, and Americans — is for South Korea to kick the U.S. government out of its country and leave Korea to the Koreans. After all, when you stop to think about it, the dispute between the two Koreas is no more the business of the U.S. government than America’s Civil War was the business of Korea.