A more sanguine view of the N. Korea fizzle

Thomas Lifson writes a remarkably sanguine article in which he posits that the recent fizzle-pop out of N. Korea was not a show of strength, but a last ditch effort to keep the N. Korean army in line:

Any dictator who can allow a million or two of his 20 million countrymen to die of starvation, rather than open up his country to allow the adequate provision of proffered aid, must be pretty well invulnerable. Death by starvation is visible, prolonged, painful, and heart-wrenching for the survivors. Anyone dominant enough to compel mass acceptance of starvation must have an iron grip on the reins of power.

Or so one might assume.

Thus most foreign observers consider Kim Jong-il to be acting to achieve foreign policy goals of some sort by provocatively launching missiles and detonating nuclear devices. Perhaps he is demonstrating to terrorist state customers that he has salable goods? Or perhaps he is seeking unilateral talks with the United States? Or perhaps he is just aid-seeking or even anticipating another deal like he got with Bill Clinton, in which the United States will supply billions of dollars in aid in return for promises he doesn’t intend to honor.

But an alternative theory of power in North Korea suggests that Kim is in fact desperate, and is acting to quiet a threatened rebellion by the only group which matters when it comes to domestic power: the North Korean military. His unsuccessful missile launches, his nuclear test which was probably a “fizzle”, and his number two man, Kim Yong-nam’s bizarre threat to to take “physical steps” against the United States, all might all be part of an effort to persuade potential rebels among the military that he is still vigorously accomplishing the goal of making North Korea a mighty state, a major factor in the world able to command the attention, and intimidate even the United States.

Because he’s a good writer and thinker, Lifson provides a lot of support for this premise.  You can read it all here.

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  • erp

    Thomas is right on.

  • Danny Lemieux

    If NoKo is indeed on the verge of imploding, it’s even more reason for the U.S. to keep its distance and let China handle the situation.

  • http://ymarsakar.blogspot.com/ Ymarsakar

    and intimidate even the United States.

    It doesn’t really change the solution, Bookworm, in my view. Whether Kim is doing a psychological technique against us or against his own detractors, doesn’t really matter given that it is still a psychological ploy, therefore the counters remain the same.

    Specifically, if he seeks to create a situation in which the psychology is that appeasing him is better than not, then the counter is racheting up the threats and the demonstrations of power against North Korea, either directly or indirectly through US proxies.


    If NoKo is indeed on the verge of imploding, it’s even more reason for the U.S. to keep its distance and let China handle the situation.

    Comment by Danny Lemieux | October 13, 2006

    One of the things Neo-Neocon just wrote about is that regardless of when North Korea implodes, when they do, US troops will automatically be sent in to quell the unrest. They will be working in conjunction with Chinese troops, and in competition with them, in order to divide up North Korea into zones and political spheres of influence.

    American troops will be put into danger regardless of whether you allow China to handle the situation or not. If you do, they will control more of NOrth Korea, but US troops will still play a part, just a part in a conflict that will be controlled by Chinese high command instead of the US high command. Therefore any casualties or accidents will fall to the Chinese to save. That is the consequence of allowing China to handle the situation. If however, you force China to handle the situation, that is a different consequence entirely. There’s quite a difference between letting them and forcing them. I prefer the latter over the former, because I see more benefits for the US in the future.

  • http://ymarsakar.blogspot.com/ Ymarsakar

    North Korea will become a problem almost regardless of what happens. Whether it implodes, whether it invades the South, attacks China, or attacks Japan and the US. It almost doesn’t matter, because the problem will fall immediately unto the UN’s hands, which mean the US’s hands. We’ll pay most of the costs in blood and treasure.

    If that is going to happen anyway. Why do we not exert more authority and use more of our power since we are going to pay for it anyways if we don’t? Seems to make little logical sense for Bush to keep playing around in the UN.

    The military is Bush’s most important tool, yet he continues to seek to use his traitorous, faulty ones, called the State Department and “diplomads”. This is like that feudal lord who always listens to the traitors in his midst, and executes his most loyal attendants and advisers. Eventually the traitors do him in.

  • erp

    Danny is also right on. We need to step back and watch the fun. No need for any of the fallout (pun intended) to fall on us.

  • http://ymarsakar.blogspot.com/ Ymarsakar

    You’ll eventually see that there is little fun when dealing with totalitarian governments, of any kind, erp.

  • erp

    Y – the fun part is we don’t have to deal with them. None are a threat to us.

  • http://ymarsakar.blogspot.com/ Ymarsakar

    I don’t think that’s in the cards, erp. So I would have to differ on that score.

    The future as I see it, has to do a lot with the world’s problems being America’s problems. The Iran-Iraq war, even places such as Asia major and the Philliphines became America’s problems. In the past, the Cold War was an acceptable, if disliked, excuse for not stacking the deck against foreigners. Now, there is no real excuse to leave certain nations and people alone.

    As with Saddam, whether you deal with him now or allow someone else to deal with him, his country is still going to be your problem to solve.

    I don’t see threats in the short term, of what they are “now”. I project into the future, and see what will be. Better to prevent problems from occuring, then to rush to solve them in crisis mode in my view.

    If China deals with a North Korean explosion/implosion, have you considered that a successful Chinese occupation of the NOrth Korean peninsula might encourage further Chinese incursions into the South or even Taiwan? Success in one endeavour, motivates people to attempt more of it.

    Obviously neither the President nor the CIA nor the US military will be attempting to create an “insurgency” to wear down the Chinese. So it is more or less a done deal if the Chinese occupy North Korea, which they would have to do if NK implodes. To the North Koreans, living under Chinese rule must be a heavenly blessing, compared to what they have now. China will acquire a loyal population, in return for solving a global problem for us. Gaining prestige and confidence, at America’s lack of resolve and ability to lead. This is just one scenario, you know. There are many other variations, since the further you go into the future, the more the realms of possibility open to you.

    As I look at the odds, I don’t see where there is any fun to be had, or any benefit to be accrued to the United States, from doing nothing and allowing China to take the lead.

    When the United States is the topdog of the world, that title and status brings power as well as responsibilities. We cannot escape these responsibilities, no matter how hard we try or how wonderful it would be. There are always people attempting to take the seat of power, from the heavenly throne.

    I am not anymore happy with the situation, than you are.

    I wouldn’t have tolerated a situation like America is in: we must be responsible for keeping the reckless and childish peoples of the world from killing themselves without any authority to make them behave. That’s an impossible situation. Enough!

    This situation is intolerable, therefore it must be changed, pressure must be applied, and people must be gotten rid of.


    If you let someone else do your job for you, and take a vacation. Sometimes you might return and find out, that he has taken your job from you, and you’ve been fired. The Exec of HP thought everything was going good with her board, up until her board voted to fire her, that is.

    So there you have it – two options. Plan A: Teach South Korea and China a little respect by threatening them with the loss of trade if they don’t quit being treacherous pricks who crybaby for us to solve their problems while doing their best to play both sides of the fence.

    Or Plan B: Just pull out. The South Koreans will recalculate immediately and see that it is no longer the United States and Japan threatened by North Korea – but THEM. They will suddenly see clearly in all that “sunshine” that North Korea threatened the United States and Japan only to GET the America to pull out of South Korea but that the real target all along was the wealthy south.

    Too bad, because by then it will be too late for them to do anything about it.

    If you are willing to accept option B, that’s okay, erp. But I prefer a more, well, “exterme” version of option A.