North Korea’s opacity is a boon to the War Party: they can seize on any glitch in the ongoing negotiations with the Trump administration as “proof” that Kim Jong-un “will never give up his nuclear weapons,” as former anti-interventionist Daniel Larison tweets 24 hours a day. The contention is that Pyongyang has a different definition of “denuclearization” than the rest of the world: it means US withdrawal from South Korea, we are told. Yet Kim has reportedly agreed to not dispute the presence of US troops in the south, and this is clearly a distortion of what’s really going on.
So what’s the real story?
We don’t know: all the “news” stories about this matter pretend to be omniscient, as if reporters were flies on the wall listening in to the negotiators. This is obviously not the case, and it is especially true in this case: North Korea is a closed society, and access is granted only rarely. This has led to the improbable impression that it is a monolith, that there are no factions or political struggles. This is a) impossible, and b) disproved by history. Indeed, the history of the ruling Korean Workers Party is one of continuous power struggles followed by ruthless purges: there are even reports of actual fighting between rival units of the military.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s most recent trip to Pyongyang is being depicted in the media as a rebuke and a major setback for the peace talks, the major point being that he did not meet with Kim and was treated rather shabbily. Yet we don’t know the reason for this, although the “experts” and the media pretend to know. Of course, I don’t know, either, and yet my own theory is a lot more credible, given the historical context, than the “we got suckered” dogma that the phony “experts” – Trump-haters all – are circulating.
Kim is not just looking for a peace treaty and the elimination of hostilities: as I’ve written previously, he has launched a radical new turn toward the West. Today he rules over a ramshackle country that cannot feed its own people: the “Juche” system of absolute autarchy isn’t working because it cannot work. This failure undermines Kim’s legitimacy, and he is determined to correct it not with piddling little reforms but by transforming his country in much the same way as Mikhail Gorbachev transformed the Soviet Union and put the country on a path to complete de-Sovietization. In short, Kim wants Pyongyang to resemble Singapore rather than Senegal.
What this means for the generals who have a vested interest in the now-abandoned “military first” policy is that they will not only take a back seat in the centers of power, but their very lives are at stake if they are suspected of opposing the new turn. So there is no doubt much opposition to Kim’s radical outreach to the West within military and Workers Party circles. Could this account for the seemingly contradictory signals coming out of Pyongyang? The recent statement, which accused the US of using “robber” tactics – not “gangster” as reported – was issued not by Kim but by an anonymous Foreign Ministry official, and that speaks volumes about what is probably going on in Pyongyang.
I would not be at all surprised if we start hearing reports of a coup in progress, just as there was when the Yeltsin regime came to power in post-Soviet Russia. The irony here being that this would be met with ill-concealed applause in the West by those who are clearly hoping for the failure of the President’s historic peace initiative.
This is the season of summits, and there’s another one coming up in Helsinki, this time with Vladimir Putin, and the haters are already gathering to denounce the meeting as “treason.” The anti-Russian hate campaign, which has been in full swing since the 2016 election – but was actually launched much earlier by the neocons – is reaching a crescendo as the Helsinki summit approaches, with fresh provocations every day: yet another Skripal-like “attack” is being claimed in Britain, where the hate campaign is even more intense than it is here. One problem, though, is that questions are being raised even there.
Here in the US, the outcry over Helsinki is being taken up not just by the Democrats, who have become the electoral arm of the War Party, but also by many Republicans still under the influence of the discredited neocons – and especially those in thrall to the Israel lobby, which is determined to drag us into a major war in Syria. The Israelis can’t just invade Syria, although they are inching toward that with bombing raids and aid to the Islamist crazies they openly support. In their usual style, they are deploying their American lobby to demand that the US step in and essentially take over the country on their behalf. Why risk Israeli lives when the stupid Americans are willing to sacrifice their own on the altar of the “special relationship”?
But Trump isn’t cooperating. As long as the President insists that he wants out of Syria, it doesn’t matter to the Lobby that the Trump administration has done everything possible to appease Bibi Netanyahu,. They are terrified that Trump will make a deal with Putin, trading Russian cooperation in Syria for recognition of the Crimean people’s decision to rejoin Russia (not very likely, by the way).
Our Syrian policy has been a confusing seesaw mess, with Trump campaigning during the election against intervention there, and then once in office capitulating to the cruise missile liberals by ordering the bombing of a Syrian military base. This stupid attack was launched on the pretext that the regime of Syrian despot Bashar al-Assad had attacked Islamist rebels with sarin gas – a charge that has since been decisively debunked by the international agency responsible for verifying such things.
This is naturally not being reported in the US media, which bellowed at the time that Trump had to intervene or else be put in the same “moral monster” category as Assad himself.
With Trump saying we’re leaving Syria and his staff saying the exact opposite, clearly there is a struggle going on in the White House. The President no doubt wants to correct that impression by making a deal of some sort with Putin. This has the Israel lobby up in arms, with their journalistic camarilla in the person of Eli Lake making the case against it. Lake is usually an articulate writer, and yet his polemic in this case is the routine nonsense we hear every day from the likes of Rachel Maddow and Louise Mensch: Putin is a monster, a liar who can’t be trusted, blah blah blah. This from someone who faithfully echoed the Bush administration’s lies in the run up to the invasion of Iraq!
Israel’s longstanding goal has been the overthrow of Assad and the installation of an Islamist regime that is nonetheless no real threat to them: indeed, they have instituted a policy of aiding and abetting al-Qaeda-like groups intent on taking Damascus, and their amen corner in the US has been agitating for US intervention for years now.
The Helsinki summit is a chance to make the most important diplomatic breakthrough on nuclear arms since the Reagan era. The US has been backtracking, withdrawing from essential agreements to limit nukes in Europe, with NATO troops advancing up to the very gates of Moscow in a provocative show of force deemed to be “exercises.” After years of trying to defuse tensions, the Russians finally responded in kind by (supposedly) developing a new line of deadly nukes aimed at American cities.
Yes, we are still in cold war mode as far as nukes are concerned, with both the US and Russia on hair-trigger alert. That this could easily result in an accidental nuclear war if the technology goes wrong, the software has a bug – and the human race is nuked into extinction – ought to keep us up at night.
That it doesn’t is as frightening as the threat itself: the reason it doesn’t keep us up is that most Americans don’t realize how close we are and always have been to a devastating nuclear exchange with the Russians, as Dan Ellsberg points out at great length in his scary new book, appropriately entitled The Doomsday Machine. That machine has been on automatic ever since the start of the cold war, and it didn’t stop when the Soviet Union was dissolved.
The opposition to the Helsinki summit isn’t just partisan noise – it’s a criminal act, a crime against humanity, and ought to be treated as such by the American people. People like Rachel Maddow don’t care if the very existence of the human race is in doubt – they just want to regain the power they’ve lost. “Moral monster” is too good a term to describe the Maddows of this world because it implies that they have a moral sensibility to begin with, when they quite obviously are lacking in that department. The same goes for critics of the Singapore summit, who deny the Korean people any agency and are energetically trying to sabotage the peace talks.
The Trump-haters and the War Party – or do I repeat myself? – must not succeed. The future of the human race depends on 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.