I’ve been busy these days, and my shoulders hurt from all that digging, so I’m taking a break and I figured, hey, what the heck, why not write a column: because, you see, I’m digging a bomb shelter. Oh yes I am! After all, I’ve heard – on the internet, where else?! – that the Orange-Haired Monster is about to start World War III, and I’m not about to be taken by surprise, no sirree! Of course, the locale and cause of this impending disaster shifts about quite considerably, depending on what’s on CNN’s “Trump-is-a-monster” agenda that day: sometimes it’s Iran, when Iran is in the news. Other times it’s a generic fear, attached to no particular geography: it’s just that the Orange-Haired Monster is a mad monster, and so it could happen at any time, anywhere.
Yikes! Gotta keep digging!
In recent weeks, the focus of the carefully sustained panic has been on the Korean peninsula, where North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been launching increasingly sophisticated missiles and displaying his crude-but-seemingly-effective nuclear technology in order to show that he won’t be Gaddaffied.
Ah, but now it seems the panic-mongers just might’ve been wrong: despite the fiery rhetoric coming from both Washington and Pyongyang: the theatrics both Kim and Trump are so fond of succeeded in obscuring the objective reality beneath the brouhaha: the fact that neither the North Koreans nor the Americans have any interest in taking the “crisis” to the melting point. That’s why the Demilitarized Zone has stood there every since the armistice, with only a few brave defectors crossing every once in a while. The North Koreans fought us to a standstill, and the conflict has remained frozen to this day – because neither side has any interest in resuming it.
Yes, yes, I know: both Trump and Kim are supposed to be lunatics bent on death and destruction, and yet somehow they aren’t acting that way. Kim made the overture to Seoul and the South Koreans quickly accepted: the two will meet at Panmunjom “Peace Village,” in the DMZ, a relic of the last “Sunshine Policy” in the Jimmy Carter era, when the two sides seemed on the brink of an actual agreement. This was nixed by the administration of George W. Bush, however, who characterized the North Koreans as a spoke on the “axis of evil,” as then Bush speechwriter David Frum – now a leading opponent of President Trump – put it.
Our clueless Secretary of Defense thinks he’s in charge of the negotiations. The Washington Examiner reports:
“’‘The discussion that’s going to go on here shortly … is about the Olympics only,’ Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Friday. ‘That is the sum total of subjects that are going to be discussed.’ And if North Korea’s Kim Jong UN thinks that by talking to South Korea while threatening the U.S. he can drive a wedge between Seoul and Washington, he’s sadly mistaken, Mattis told reporters at another one of his informal availabilities in the press pen. ‘I will tell you, there is not a one degree of difference on where we stand vis-à-vis the long-term defense of ROK, our ally, about the denuclearization,’ Mattis said. ‘There’s nothing where they can drive a wedge at all.’”
This is nonsense: there is much more than “one degree of difference” between the interests of Seoul and Washington as the game of nuclear brinkmanship plays out on the Korean peninsula. The US and South Korea have different and even colliding interests because, for all Seoul’s kowtowing to Washington, they are separate countries.
Washington’s interest is to contain or eliminate Kim, while maintaining relations with the new South Korean government of liberal President Moon Jae-in, who campaigned on making peace with Pyongyang. Now Moon is following up on his campaign promises, and there isn’t a single thing Tillerson can do about it.
South Korea’s interest is to a) avoid war with the North, and b) restart peace negotiations with Pyongyang and move toward fulfilling the promise of reunification. Both countries have ministries devoted to reunification and there is much political capital to be gained if progress can be made along this path.
The fact is that Washington is the third man out on this date. The Americans have zero cards to play, while Kim has one card of inestimable value: the nuclear card. The United States cannot attack Kim, because the result would be the instant vaporization of Seoul and environs. The 30,000 US troops on the peninsula would share a similar fate.
Nikki Haley is telling the world that “we won’t take any of this seriously,” but the reality is that no one is taking her seriously: President Trump himself has kept up the belligerent tweeting, but has also said “Perhaps something good may come of this – we’ll see!”
Well, yes we will see. Pyongyang clearly wants to talk, and it looks like the nuclear war #TheResistance was certain Trump was about to start is being postponed, at the very least. I hope our self-regarding “experts” and Beltway policy wonks can contain their disappointment: after all, it would be in poor taste to bemoan the postponement of World War III.
As I’ve said all along: there will be no Korean War II. The ultimate solution to the Korean conundrum – the denuclearization of the peninsula and the reunification of the Hermit Kingdom – can only come about once the Korean people throw off the chains of foreign domination and decide their own fate. That seems to be what is happening today – if only Washington policymakers will step out of the way.
So maybe I should put down my shovel: the hole I’ve dug is pretty deep, big enough for a small bomb shelter. But wait – could it be that #TheResistance is wrong and that all those smarty-pants policy analysts at places like the Cato Institute – which has been truly unhinged on the subject of Trump — are wrong about Trump, Korea, and the likelihood of imminent war?
While it may be in bad taste to say I told you so, that never stopped me before, did it?
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.