Thursday, January 4, 2018

War is a Terrible Back-Up Plan

Noam Chomsky is certain that the only two things we should be worried about right now are climate change and nuclear war. Adam Ellick and Jonah Kessel's article in the NYTimes from last month, "From North Korea with Dread," is terrifying. Some think it's not something to fear because of course the U.S. will win against them, but, living less than 500 km from Washington DC as the crow flies, we would definitely be affected by just one lone strike on American soil. The claim that North Korea wouldn't be dumb enough to strike at all against a country so much more powerful is somewhat eradicated by the video at the link.

The citizens interviewed, albeit largely prompted by the interpreter and some unnamed guy in the background, seem to view themselves as ants in a colony, willing to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the group. One young woman explains that "we all die eventually." Some of the people interviewed looked terrified and refused to speak, and it's hard to say if they were more afraid of the American reporters or of being caught speaking freely or of the prospect of impending doom. So who's to say what they really think. They repeated many times that the entire country has signed up for military duty, willing to fight on the front lines, but it's not clear to me how much that matters now that we have nuclear warhead and drones. And citizen support of war isn't necessary under a dictatorship except in an attempt to appear benevolent. But they want to be sure we know they're all in.

The video is frustrating in its lack of clarity, which might have been improved with a reporter familiar with the language at least enough to ask questions without prompts required. But maybe that's against the rules anyway.

Jeffrey Lewis, in Foreign Policy, backs up some of these concerns,
"We're like hack screenwriters who have written ourselves into a corner. We don't know how to write the happy ending, so we're looking for a deus ex machina to appear and solve it for us. At the moment, that's China. But that's not a very plausible ending, not even for a fairy tale. And so the war talk goes on."

North Korea did many terrible things to the U.S. before it had nuclear weapons, so it's not inconceivable it won't act now if we can't get Trump to settle down. Yikes.

ETA this interview with a South Korean general discussing what war would be like with North Korea:
“I try to explain to the Americans — if we have to go into North Korea, it is not going to be like going into Iraq or Afghanistan. It’s not going to be like toppling [ex-Iraqi President Saddam] Hussein. This would be more like trying to get rid of Allah....I have had the opportunity to speak to North Korean soldiers who have defected to South Korea — and you cannot imagine how indoctrinated they are. These are people who have defected, and yet there is still an innate belief in their system which is close to ridiculous....North Korean pilots would likely use their planes in kamikaze-style attacks, since the aircraft are too old to reliably fly well over long periods of time. That matters since the North Korean air force has around 1,000 planes. Plus, North Koreans receive 100 hours of training on how shoot a weapon a year starting at the age of 14, underscoring how militarized the society is.”
So, there's that.


The Mound of Sound said...

My greatest worry, Marie, when it comes to North Korea is Trump's psychopathy. His approval numbers are in the sewer, he has Mueller closing in (faster than the public imagines) and now the "Fire and Fury" tell-all that seems to offer a cornucopia of damning revelations. How does Trump deal with serious threats to his presidency? He stages distractions measured to the problem he seeks to avoid. Trump has some very tenuous allies but remarkably few friends. The ice is thinning beneath his feet. He'll be tempted to do something breathtaking, perhaps even outrageous. A pre-emptive war on North Korea, perhaps? Some sort of punitive effort against Tehran? Whatever it is he'll probably have to do it alone. Other nations, former loyal allies and adversaries alike, are keeping a close eye on his behaviour, like a nurse with a rectal thermometer. In cabinet rooms and war departments they're probably running the odds daily.

Marie Snyder said...

I agree. It's like a child having a tantrum but with access to the most destructive weapons in the world.