Caught up in the moment – that describes the human condition 99% of the time, and all the more so in this age of unabated information flow. This particular moment is filled with the juiciest nonsense: Kavanaugh, and sex, another mass moral panic, and sex, and …
The real news – the news that will go down in the history books as one of those pivotal moments that made all the difference – goes almost unnoticed amid the floodtide of filth, innuendo, and hysterical moralism that clogs the arteries of our “mainstream” media. President Trump was the first to announce it in a series of tweets:
“Kim Jong Un has agreed to allow nuclear inspections, subject to final negotiations, and to permanently dismantle a test site and launch pad in the presence of international experts. In the meantime there will be no rocket or nuclear testing.”
While the steady progress being made by the two Koreas has been scantily reported, and the alleged “failure” of the Singapore summit proclaimed far and wide, the media had to report this, albeit amid caveats and quotes from selected thinktanks on how the whole project is impossible.
What they don’t want to acknowledge is that Trump’s strategy is working: the North Koreans are making real concessions. Pyongyang’s pledge to undergo inspections and dismantle specific facilities in full view of foreign experts is really the breakthrough we’ve all been waiting – and hoping – for. The implications are enormous, for this means the North Koreans are committing themselves to a formal agreement with detailed provisions allowing access to North Korean facilities and the building of a permanent architecture of observation, perhaps under the aegis of the Nonproliferation Treaty.
The progress made by the Singapore group is really being driven, on the ground, by the Koreans. The White House, delighted, is merely going along for the ride – and eager to take all the credit. Kim and President Moon are quite willing to let Trump claim the crown of laurel leaves, while they both reap the material and psychological benefits of peace – after seventy-plus years of frozen conflict.
Now the pressure is on for a formal declaration of an end to the Korean war –which, as most Americans don’t know, never officially ended. There never was a peace treaty, only an armistice, i.e. a temporary ceasefire. Does anyone want the firing to recommence? Not even the NeverTrumper naysayers, who are saying denuclearization can never happen. If the War Party and the NeverTrumpers – or do I repeat myself? – are going to launch a campaign to maintain the fiction of war on the Korean peninsula then I can’t wait for the rollout. The imagination reels.
The “experts” are warning that plans by the two Koreas to increase economic and cultural links are “sanctions-busting,” underscoring just how clueless are these professional guardians of the status quo. The momentum on both sides of the DMZ is unstoppable: these sanctions are pieces of paper waved about by foreigners. The rising tide of Korean nationalism has swept them aside like so much litter.
Yet the story of how peace is coming to a land long haunted by the memory of a horrific war isn’t exclusively about the Koreans. Trump gets credit for initiating the process and – unlike his predecessors, particularly George W. Bush — refusing to stand in the way of the inevitable.
The party line of the NeverTrumpers, and their neoconservative vanguard, has been that Kim Jong-un has given nothing but gathered much. This is a willful inversion of what has actually occurred so far: the North has unilaterally ceased testing, including testing of ballistic missiles, and destroyed at least one nuclear testing facility. To top it off, the two Koreas have just now agreed to abjure from launching provocative military exercises that have resembled dress rehearsals for an invasion. North Korea is now pledging to dismantle a key ballistic missile engine site.
And what has the United States given in return? Rumors that Trump offered to build condos on those untouched North Korean beaches may be unfounded, but it’s possible.
The naysayers and lifetime purveyors of the conventional wisdom are misperceiving the significance of events on the peninsula because they don’t understand what’s happening in Pyongyang. They fall back on the notorious opaqueness of North Korean society, and in part hide behind some ridiculous mythology around the “mysterious East,” forever impenetrable to Western man. Yet the history of Stalinist regimes – of which North Korea is the epitome – is well-known, as well as the history of the communist movement in general. And one of the chief characteristics of this brand of leftist totalitarianism is that it is subject to sudden “line changes,” i.e. complete reversals of once-sacred doctrine. Orwell dramatized this in 1984: “We have always been at war with Eastasia” – except when the enemy is Eurasia. This scene in the novel, where a speaker berating Eastasia suddenly switches to demonizing Eurasia in mid-sentence, is supposedly based on a real incident where a Communist speaker did the same as Hitler was invading the Soviet Union.
A stringent regime of “War Communism” in the Soviet Union was soon followed by the “New Economic Policy,” a relaxation of all-pervasive controls. Stalinism was followed by Gorbachev-ism and the turn toward the West. The same process is occurring, albeit on a smaller scale, in North Korea. The ascendant leader, Kim Jong-un, has decided on a major turn for North Korean society: a turn toward the West. I’d bet the ranch that Kim would take a reunified Korea still occupied by US troops – if only to keep out a leering bunch of potentially hostile neighbors, i.e. China, and especially Japan.
In short, as I said early on, Kim wants in on the joys of Western civilization. In order to accomplish this, he’s abandoned the militarist doctrine that put development of the nation’s defenses above all else, and declared that the economy is the number one task of “socialist construction.” What this means, translated from Marxoid jargonese, is more capitalism – and quickly.
Our brain-dead obstructionist Congress is more than likely to put up considerable resistance to the idea of formally ending the Korean war. Careers, prestige, and lots of money are tied up in the US occupation of South Korea. This honeypot won’t disappear without a fight. And then there’s the mechanics of the war-ending declaration: does it require a treaty, or will a presidential proclamation do?
Hard to say, since war was never formally declared: indeed, the Korean war put an end to that archaic custom. Truman merely sent the troops over there and told Congress about it after the established fact. It was the beginning of the end of that part of the Constitution which gives Congress the sole right to order US troops into battle.
Now they are telling us a President cannot unilaterally end what one of his predecessors unilaterally – and unconstitutionally — started.
At least, Congress seems to think so: when word of the Korean peace initiative got out these solons rushed to pass legislation making withdrawal of US troops from the peninsula next to impossible. In the end, however, it’s not their country: if a reunifying Korea asks Washington to withdraw US troops (some 30,000 are permanently stationed there) will we really refuse to leave?
Trump rightly objected to this nonsense and asserted his right as commander-in-chief to withdraw troops as needed. Naturally, the President got no credit for his stance from the supposedly anti-interventionist peanut gallery, such as it is.
The sad state of journalism and of commentary in the realm of foreign affairs is that the English-speaking world doesn’t see what’s important. They are focused on the Middle East, when the future belongs to the Far East. They are obsessed with old conflicts, when a new era is is rendering them irrelevant. They are generals fighting the last war, when peace is breaking out all around them.
None of this is surprising or even outrageous. Human beings are creatures of habit: except for a few contrarian innovators, they fear and loathe change, particularly when it involves challenges to their long-revered orthodoxies – and their outsized and largely unearned incomes! The self-proclaimed “experts” don’t like being proved wrong, and they’ll do almost anything to preserve their prestige and the perks that go along with it., Yes, some would even consciously try to sabotage the whole Singapore peace initiative – with the most dedicated saboteurs inside the administration.
The best we can do as the public is to keep informed, keep a watch on the War Party in Congress, and support the President’s Korean peace initiative in every forum we can.
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.