Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Response to Discounting Experience

(See: Just Above Sunset: Discounting Experience)

Here’s what Kevin Drum thinks:
Liberals like to think that maybe more diplomacy will stop North Korea’s nuclear program. It won’t. Conservatives like to think that tougher sanctions, or possibly military force, will stop their nuclear program. They won’t. Donald Trump likes to pretend that China can stop their nuclear program. They either can’t or won’t. Like it or not, this is where we are.

There are only two options left. Either we accept a nuclear-armed North Korea or we launch a nuclear strike to take out their capabilities. Since a nuclear strike is insane for too many reasons to list – including the fact that it might not even work – this means we really have no options at all. We can, if we want, maintain a hostile attitude toward North Korea as a signal to others about the price of developing nukes, but we basically have to accept the reality that North Korea is a nuclear state.
But wait! One of those two options — that is, accepting a nuclear North Korea — might be an actual option, but only if Kim’s plan weren’t to go ahead and use his nukes on us — but it seems that is his plan. And this leaves us with only one option, which would be to launch a nuclear strike to take out their capabilities.

And that’s especially true after hearing today that Kim’s thinking about taking out Guam with one of his maybe 60 newly-released mini-warheads, each small enough to fit inside a missile. I suppose it’s a good sign that he’s threatening one of our territories first, which he probably wouldn’t do if he were serious about hitting our mainland, since he must know that destroying Guam would likely be immediately followed by us destroying North Korea.

Which means he’s probably bluffing — although you willing to chance that?

But let’s back up a bit. Since we already know that the “bomb North Korea” option is extremely problematical, maybe we should leave that as the absolute last alternative. As stupid as this may sound, I happen to believe some sort of diplomacy is more likely our only hope, assuming there is any hope at all of avoiding massive death and destruction.

And if we’re going to negotiate, maybe we should try to figure out what all these things the U.S. is doing that Kim finds “threatening” — other, that is, than us just telling him to stop threatening us or we’ll rain fire on him like nobody’s ever seen?

The most I could find is he’s still pissed off about things we did to them back in the early 1950s, during the Korean War. That story comes from WaPo’s Anna Fifield, back in May: 
The Kim family has kept a tight grip on North Korea for some seven decades by perpetuating the idea that the Americans are out to get them. From the earliest age, North Korean children are taught “cunning American wolves” — illustrated by fair-haired, pale-skinned men with huge noses — want to kill them. 
Kindergartens and child-care centers are decorated with animals holding grenades and machine guns. Cartoons show plucky squirrel soldiers (North Koreans) triumphing over the cunning wolves (Americans). 
“North Koreans live in a war mentality, and this anti-American propaganda is war-time propaganda,” said Tatiana Gabroussenko, an expert in North Korean propaganda who teaches at Korea University in Seoul. 
The thing is: there is some element of truth to the North Korean version of events. It’s only a kernel, and it is grossly exaggerated, but North Koreans remember very well what most Americans have forgotten (or never knew): that the Korean War was a brutal one. 
“Korea is called the forgotten war, and part of what has been forgotten is the utter ruin and devastation that we rained down on the North Korean people,” said John Delury, a professor in the international relations department at Yonsei University in Seoul. “But this has been ingrained into the North Korean psyche.”
Remember Dean Rusk, Secretary of State under JFK and LBJ? He figures in this story:
First: a little history.

The Korean Peninsula, previously occupied by Japan, was divided at the end of World War II. Dean Rusk — an Army colonel at the time, who went on to become secretary of state — got a map and basically drew a line across at the 38th parallel. To the Americans’ surprise, the Soviet Union agreed to the line, and the communist-backed North and the American-backed South were established in 1948 as a “temporary measure.”

On June 25, 1950, Kim Il Sung, installed by the Soviets to lead North Korea, decided to try to reunify the peninsula by force, invading the South. (Although in the North Korean version of events, the South and their imperialist patrons started it.)

The push south was surprisingly successful until Gen. Douglas MacArthur landed his troops on the mudflats at Incheon, sending the northern troops back. Then the Chinese got involved, managing to push them back to roughly where they started, on the 38th parallel.

All this happened within the first six months or so. For the next two-and-a-half years, neither side was able to make any headway. The war was drawn to a close in 1953, after exacting a bloody toll.

“The number of Korean dead, injured or missing by war’s end approached three million, 10 percent of the overall population,” Charles K. Armstrong, a professor of Korean history at Columbia University, wrote in an essay. “The majority of those killed were in the North, which had half of the population of the South.”

But the war ended with an armistice, not with a peace treaty. That means that, to this day, North and South Korea remain in a technical state of war.
But while it lasted, we were brutal. We dropped more bombs in Korea than we did in all the Pacific in WWII:
The United States dropped 635,000 tons of bombs in Korea, not counting the 32,557 tons of napalm, Bruce Cumings, a University of Chicago professor who’s written several books on North Korea, wrote in “The Korean War: A History.” This compared with 503,000 tons in the entire Pacific theater in World War II. 
“If we keep on tearing the place apart, we can make it a most unpopular affair for the North Koreans,” Defense Secretary Robert Lovett said after the napalm and aerial bombing campaigns of 1950 and 1951, according to Cumings. “We ought to go right ahead,” Lovett said. 
Rusk said the United States bombed “everything that moved in North Korea, every brick standing on top of another.” After running low on urban targets, U.S. bombers destroyed hydroelectric and irrigation dams in the later stages of the war, flooding farmland and destroying crops, former Post correspondent Blaine Harden wrote on these pages in 2015. 
Air Force commanders complained that they’d run out of targets. 
“The physical destruction and loss of life on both sides was almost beyond comprehension, but the North suffered the greater damage, due to American saturation bombing and the scorched-earth policy of the retreating U.N. forces,” Armstrong of Columbia wrote.
And the Kim regimes haven’t let their people forget:
The Kim regime keeps its people afraid by constantly blaming the United States for its situation, especially sanctions for its economic plight. But this also helps it unify the populace against a supposed external threat. ... 
“When a new and untested American president starts dangling out the prospect of a surprise missile attack as the solution to the North Korean problem, it plays directly into their worst narrative that the regime tells its people,” Delury said.
The regime punctuates their war narrative with many museums throughout the country designed to remind their people of the atrocities, such as the "Sinchon Museum of American War Atrocities", south of Pyongyang, commemorating a massacre there in which 35,000 women, children and old people were said to have died in 1950, at the hands of American troops, according to the North, but doubts about the culprits remain
US troops did indeed commit several massacres of Korean civilians during the war, such as at Nogun-ri in South Korea on July 26, 1950, when American soldiers shot South Koreans fleeing the war zone, an event for which then-President Bill Clinton expressed his “regrets” in 2001. However, several scholars have put US responsibility for the Sincheon massacre in doubt, as did famous South Korean novelist Hwang Sok-Yong, who traveled to North Korea in 1989. 
In his book “Sonnim” (The Guest), based on eyewitness reports of the Sincheon atrocities, Hwang affirms that Korean Christians fleeing toward South Korea and Korean communists perpetrated the massacre, not US soldiers. Hwang says he did not see any evidence that American troops were involved.
Still, they continue to talk about this sort of thing in Korea. While we see that war as being over long ago — even if technically it isn’t — apparently, for some reason, the North Koreans don’t.

So as farfetched as it sounds, getting Kim to see the Korean War the way the rest of the world does, might help. Maybe China and Russia could host a meeting in Geneva or somewhere, giving Kim a chance to meet representatives of other countries face-to-face, showing him what’s really going on out here, which might even lead to a peace treaty that actually ends the Korean War, instead of it continuing as an anomaly in history as just a cease-fire.

Maybe we could get Bill Clinton involved, and somehow return us all to the so-called “Agreed Framework”, in which they stop testing nuclear weapons, while we supply them with the sorts of things that keep their energy needs satisfied, as well as their needs for food for the populace, at the same time as we offer help in modernizing their economy and reintegrating them into the rest of the world.

The hardest part, of course, will be sneaking all this past Donald Trump. Hmm.

Okay, well, see you all after the apocalypse.

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