The Game with North Korea

Once again the North Korea problem appears. It does so every few years. Each time it gets a little more tense because the nation keeps acquiring more weapons, bigger weapons, more powerful weapons, and waves them around some more. There is no doubt that this sort of thing is not good – it surely isn’t good for business. Will it turn into a war? Who knows? I doubt anyone does but the North Koreans. Who knows how crazy they will get.

A war would be terrible of course – these things are unpredictable. And the North Koreans supposedly have 1.4 million soldiers ready to go. And tanks and missiles and guns galore. Will the soldiers actually follow orders? Who knows? They usually do, of course, for a while – but if they cross the border they will see a society that is prosperous and reasonable – and then what? Will they try to destroy it or will they disband and surrender? It is said that the Italians used to surrender by the acre in World War II. A nation may draft all the soldiers it wants, doesn’t mean they will keep fighting.

Can diplomacy end the crisis? Well, it won’t end it if the North Korean Kim family stays in charge, that’s for sure. They do this for a living – they’re not going to end anything. The Chinese might be able to quell them, at least tell them to calm down. No one really wants to have a war with North Korea. I doubt even South Korean would ever invade. The paranoia that North Korea may feel is not warranted, and the status quo seems to keep things in order. It’s terrible for the 17 million people living there, but, well, the world has always put up with crazed dictators and sacrificed Joe Schmoe to oblivion.

That we always seem to be jumping by the seat of our pants over this man is odd – he’s a predictable thing. It’s like we forget about them for a while, so they rattle our nerves and we speculate. Well, why isn’t there a plan to get rid of this regime and reunite the Korean people? There’s no doubt that the border is artificial. There are families divided by the DMZ. It’s all one culture really – one language, one ethnic group – this is not some ethnic conflict like Yugoslavia. It’s a crazed family that values its ideal of power far more than it values practical reality.

 Now, poor South Korea’s main city, Seaul, is not far from the border. It’s a modern city, with wifi cafes and everything, skyscrapers, a bus system – you know, modern. Rich, even. The place is humming along fine. To all of a sudden have North Korea invade would be disastrous. Not insurmountable, but disastrous in the short term. Who knows what damage the North could inflict on a metro area of a few million people. Syria’s a good example – a government might bomb a city into smithereens. The Russians did it with Grozny. A modern city can turn horrible pretty quickly under the onslaught of a determined army. The numbers of dead and wounded would be horrendous if a shooting war starts. No city is prepared for that.

 The 34,000 US troops along the border, and whatever the South Koreans have will surely slow any advance. One would hope it’s well figured out in the balance of power. We certainly have the technological edge. The question is what will we throw at them if they punch first. Surely we’ve got far more fire power. And if applied heavily there wouldn’t be much of the North Korean air force, navy, ground command, central command – nothing – we could bomb it all in a day or two – just obliterate it. Sort of unfair to the schnooks drafted into the regime’s madness, but that’s the nature of these things. But will the president have the gumption to do it – or will some deal be sought and the dead remembered in a ceremony? Until the next time.

 The war would be quick in the sense that their military is no match for ours – but who knows what surprises the aftermath will bring. And that’s the ultimate problem there – the aftermath. The regime there can’t last forever. No regime like this does. Either they will break from the inside, and then beg inclusion, or they will be broken from the outside, and the inclusion imposed. But somehow the world has to remove the regime peacefully and let the South Koreans bring the North up to speed. That’s a few trillion to be spent.

 Who knows how suicidal the North will be. Maybe they’ll fight it to the end, use up all their weapons and ammo – maybe they’ll surrender quick. Maybe this will all blow over as it has in the past until the next time. But without a doubt it’s a problem that must be solved. The time has come on earth to not allow madmen to get a hold of an entire nation and subject it to this sort of cruelty that we know is going on. Same thing with Syria – the madman is killing his own people and we worry about sovereignty as if it is more important that the Syrian family trying to go to the grocery store.

 The United Nations is pointless in these things. The organization is filled with the same sort of madmen that run North Korea. The Syrian delegation isn’t going to argue for intervention, that’s for sure. Russia and China almost like the crazies, just to keep things tense, but the Chinese are going to be worried about their business with us if a war starts. Who knows, maybe North Korea will lob a missile into China for fun too. Maybe one will go errant and wind up there anyway, things happen.

 Of course, our domestic politics will be grandly affected. Whatever the president does will be questioned and parsed. How the military reacts will be well studied. We’ll have to “support our troops” even if we don’t support the war. Maybe there will be the upsurge of opinion that says “let’s get out of everywhere.” We are, after all, in a lot of places. Do we need to be? Why can’t China patrol their side of the ocean? Why must we be there too? These are questions that will come out of the fracas. Even if the North Koreans back down this time, if they take their bribe, which will be offered, the question will be asked – why do we have 34,000 troops in South Korea? Let them solve their problem, and us save some money.

 The economy of course will take a shock if the North Koreans invade or shoots some missiles. All the imports and exports of Japan, Korea and China, and the Russian Far East will be addled. Probably not come to a stop – but well, precautions will be taken – insurance costs will skyrocket. Who knows if the ships will get in and out of Pusan and Yokohama if the North Koreans decide to bomb those places. And how many missiles and weapons could they shoot at once to wreck enough to make a dent? What do we know? Well, that’s all that military secret stuff, but it gets to the news feeds too. 100 missiles can do a lot of damage and send trade into a tailspin for quite awhile while the ports are repaired.

 And if there’s a bit of shooting and the regime remains we can expect this to happen again. On the other hand we can almost starve them into submission like a medieval siege. We supply their food. Suppose we cut it off instead of offering more? Is the short term pain worth the long term gain? Will starving North Koreans rise up? How can we incite it? How brainwashed are those people? I doubt we know.

 Still, in this game we’re playing with the madman, I sure hope a solution is in the offing. I was born just after the Korean war – that it still goes on is astounding to me.


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