Want proof of the craziness of US foreign and military policy? Just turn to
Leon Panetta’s Worthy
Fights: A Memoir of Leadership in War and Peace, wherein the former
Secretary of Defense and longtime Democratic party
recounted a 2010 conversation with the top commander of US troops stationed
in South Korea, who told him:
"If North Korea moved across the border, our war plans called for the senior American general on the peninsula to take command of all U.S. and South Korea forces and defend South Korea – including by the use of nuclear weapons, if necessary. I left our meeting with the powerful sense that war in that region was neither hypothetical nor remote but ever-present and imminent."
This brings to mind an infamous quote, cited during the Vietnam war by journalist Peter Arnett and attributed to an anonymous captain in the US military: "It became necessary to destroy the village in order to save it."
Is it really possible that the use of nuclear weapons on Korean soil is a key element of our “deterrence" strategy? Can it be true that Washington is prepared to annihilate a good portion of Korea’s population and render the peninsula uninhabitable in order to "defend" it?
This Newsweek piece discusses the strategic-diplomatic implications of Panetta’s little anecdote, and includes all shades of spin, from they-don’t-really-mean-it to this-is-nothing-new to this reaction from "a former top CIA expert on Korea":
"Typical wooden-headedness on the part of a US official. How in the world do we think South Koreans will react to the news that the US is prepared to use nuclear weapons on the peninsula? It doesn’t reassure them, only makes them think having the US bull in their china shop is maybe not such a good idea. It also doesn’t really scare the North Koreans, who think they have been under a nuclear threat for decades – which is why they developed their own nuclear program."
One can’t help noting this anonymous "former" spook nowhere denies this is US policy: what he or she objects to is the fact that Panetta opened his big mouth about it.
Which brings us to the question of just what is being "defended" here. It sure isn’t South Korea, which would be obliterated in the event of a nuclear exchange with the North. So then what is it?
The answer is the sacred principle of American "world leadership," which supposedly gives us a mandate to intervene everywhere and anywhere in the name of preserving the "world order." After all, as long as a tinpot despot like Kim Jong-un can keep the world on the edge of its seat in anticipation of a – highly unlikely – North Korean advance across the DMZ, then Washington’s absolute authority to police the world is in jeopardy. And we can’t have that.
Our anonymous former CIA official is not pleased Panetta let this particular cat out of the bag because it demonstrates, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that Washington isn’t the least bit interested in defending Seoul, or any of its other non-Western allies from actual harm at the hands of aggressors. All our wise rulers care about is America’s much-vaunted "credibility" as a superpower willing to actually use its superpowers – and if we lose ninety percent of Korea’s population in the process, well then, so be it.
One wonders if this policy applies to the defense of our Western allies. If, say, the Russians decided to launch an invasion of Western Europe, would we nuke Putin’s battalions as they marched on Berlin? Somehow, I don’t think so: think of all the white people who’d be fricasseed! When it comes to Koreans, however, US policymakers apparently have no compunctions about the murderous consequences of their nuclear brinkmanship.
Is it a coincidence that the United States is the only nation that has ever used nuclear weapons against an enemy – and that our target just happened to be Asian? "Racism" seems far too mild a term to describe this indifference to human life, but it’ll have to do until someone thinks up a more exact one.
Newsweek cites Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, who says:
"We [are] simply telling the South Koreans what they want to hear. But the reality is that the United States wouldn’t use nuclear weapons against North Korea any more than it did against Iraq."
If you were a South Korean, is this something you’d want to hear – that the US government will nuke you if and when Kim Jong-un is having such a bad day that he literally goes ballistic? Lewis seems awfully confident that he knows better than the top general in command of our forces in South Korea, but if I were a resident of Seoul I wouldn’t bet the kimchi farm on it.
A nuclear war fought on the Korean peninsula would not only vaporize most of the population of some fifty million, but would also devastate Japan, northern China, and parts of Russia.
Oh, but don’t worry – America’s "credibility" would be intact.
There’s no way to mince words here. If we take Panetta’s revelation at face value – and I see no reason not to – we have to conclude that our rulers are clinically insane.
To those who are apt to downplay the significance of Panetta’s revelation, I would underscore his contention that the prospect of such a nuclear war is "neither hypothetical nor remote but ever-present and imminent."
Imminent? Does Panetta know something the rest of us don’t?
Panetta gives no indication he contested or even mildly questioned the nuke Korea policy when told about it by General Walter L. "Skip" Sharp. Confronted with the "imminence" of mass murder by the US military – a war crime that would dwarf previous atrocities by several orders of magnitude – by his own account he accepted it as perfectly understandable and morally defensible.
The former defense secretary is likely to be prominent in the administration of Hillary Clinton, if indeed she is nominated by her party and elected by the American people. It seems like he’s already angling for a prominent position – perhaps Secretary of State – given his back-stabbing of President Obama on the issue of ISIS and Iraq War III.
Is this the sort of person we want to have a say in how and when America will use its nuclear arsenal?
What’s truly scary, however, is that Panetta isn’t the worst of the lot – not by a long shot. Official Washington is filled to the brim with people who have the moral compass of a viper. From their lofty perches on Capitol Hill, and the thinktanks that ring the Imperial City like the battle stations on the Death Star, the theoreticians of genocide justify their crimes with the battle-cry of "American leadership" – the twenty-first century equivalent of the divine right of kings.
These are the people who claim to be spreading "democracy" and "peace" across the globe. These are the leaders of the "free world" whose job it is to ensure that "order" is kept and that no "rogue states" get out of line and use "weapons of mass destruction."
I’m often challenged in my anti-interventionist views by those who say: "What if some crazy person like the dictator of North Korea, or Iran’s Supreme Leader, decided it was justifiable on ideological or religious grounds to launch a nuclear first strike – wouldn’t that justify military intervention against the would-be aggressor, a preemptive attack that would save millions of lives?"
I usually dispose of such arguments by pointing to the uselessness of hypotheticals in the realm of foreign affairs, where judgments based on history and facts on the ground are key and a priori arguments derived from "thought experiments" count for nothing. In the future, however, I’ll simply point to the above-cited passage in Panetta’s memoir and say "Yes, there are evil men in this world – and the worst of them live in Washington, D.C. But before you take them out, give them a chance to surrender."
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.
I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).
You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.