North Korea is Why The Foreign Policy Establishment Got Trump

When it came to North Korea their motto for years was always tomorrow is another day.  Well, tomorrow has finally arrived, and the grim prospect of a Kim armed with ICBMs looms just over the horizon thanks to the universe of mainstream foreign policy “experts” who spent the entirety of the post-Cold War era losing the initiative to North Korea.

As always, the establishment has learned nothing from total failure yet expects deference to its vast “wisdom”.

They claim military options against Kim are unpleasant?

While war is never as comfortable as a game of cricket in a leafy New England town the options are more unpleasant than they needed to be because our mighty North Korea “experts” took preemptive action off the table for decades:  Just because they did next to nothing to prevent them from developing nuclear weapons, applauded Obama for cutting missile defense funding and cancelling the F-22, and assured us the 6-party talks would lead to peace is no reason to doubt that their containment strategy for a North Korea armed to the teeth with hundreds of ICBMs is anything less than the wisdom of the ages.

They also assure us Trump is a fool for even contemplating military action they deem “unthinkable”.  Because their track record is just that good!

Certainly, a conflict will be very difficult and dangerous; but, ultimately, Trump does have vastly superior firepower at his command.  Even if Trump has to fight to the last South Korean the outcome is still assured.

The establishment reacted with surprise at how quickly the North’s program is moving.  It would only be surprising if the establishment correctly estimated the North’s progress since all of America’s intelligence resources are devoted to helping Robert Mueller finger Miss Universe in his quest for the article’s of impeachment.

America’s foreign policy establishment are not the only ones who are going to find there isn’t enough road left to kick the can much further.

As war draws closer here, in no particular order, are some unpleasant decisions awaiting other procrastinating actors in this drama.

China

The days when China thought it wise to form a mutual protection pact with the Kim dynasty ended with Mao.  In the Deng model of governance the Chinese enjoy crony Capitalism too much to risk their wealth in a diplomatic marriage with their Stalinist neighbor because the Chinese aren’t sure if their erratic neighbor might drag them into a conflict that commercial interests would argue against.

If the Chinese wisely don’t want to tie their wastes with rope to a North Korea that’s always joyfully dancing on the cliff’s edge, neither have they wanted the regime to collapse.  North Korea does keep the American military distracted and provide a buffer between China and a Democratic Korean Peninsula.

But if it looks like North Korea’s arrogance will finally send it down in flames, what will the Chinese do?  War on Kim’s behalf is highly unlikely given their economy’s dependence on peace in Northeast Asia.  Will they cutoff the oil supplies the North depends on?  That might be helping America and its allies too much.  It is more likely they will wait for the smoke to clear from a neutral vantage point though this too brings risks since they would be cut out of any peace settlement and could be flooded with refugees.

South Korea

South Korea’s Leftist government has realized that the Sunshine Policy was just a stalling tactic for the North to buy deadlier armaments.  But at least their Left has woken up: South Korea is now actively practicing bombing runs and missile launches against Kim’s forces.  If only it were as easy for Western Liberals to get a clue.

North Korea’s Generals

Kim has boxed himself into a position from which retreat is difficult.  In his line of work any about-face may easily be interpreted as a show of weakness that ends with being thrown out a window à la Ceausescu.

But his generals still have time for a coup.  A coup is not without great risks; Kim’s eagerness to assassinate his own family members and publicly execute commanders with artillery has understandably put his generals in a state of perpetual fear.

But many North Korean generals face death if they follow him into war against the United States, South Korea, and Japan.

Do they fear war more than Kim?

We are about to find out because they are also nearly out of road to kick the can down.

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2 thoughts on “North Korea is Why The Foreign Policy Establishment Got Trump”

  1. I don’t see where Kim is boxed in from backing down. It’s true that for a monarch or autocrat, backing down in a domestic political matter can be fatal, since it reveals personal political weakness that motivates further attacks, but in a foreign policy matter, I can’t think of an example. Do you have one?

    Presumably backing down would involve some concessions — most likely economic — from his enemies, and he could always present the concessions as his objective all along. He does control the propaganda apparatus, after all.

    Now, as far the generals launching a coup in the event of war, that’s another matter entirely. There’s a calculus that goes on in the heads of the generals: probability of dying from a failed coup vs. dying due to enemy action in a suicidal war. Also they have to weigh loyalty to the country’s best interests vs. loyalty to the regime. It could go either way.

    But my expectation is that any coup would fail unless they assassinated him at the outset, just as with the ’44 plot against Hitler.

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  2. It’s true that for a monarch or autocrat, backing down in a domestic political matter can be fatal, since it reveals personal political weakness that motivates further attacks, but in a foreign policy matter, I can’t think of an example. Do you have one?

    The same principle applies to foreign policy as much as domestic matters. Especially if, as in the case of his nuclear program, where it’s a foreign policy matter that has been highlighted as essential for North Korea’s survival.

    Presumably backing down would involve some concessions — most likely economic — from his enemies, and he could always present the concessions as his objective all along. He does control the propaganda apparatus, after all.

    His actions suggest he believes he can force more economic concessions once he has ICBMs while keeping them as a security guarantee. He could get most sanctions lifted quickly if he simply agreed to cease the program but he insists the ICBMs are non-negotiable.

    But my expectation is that any coup would fail unless they assassinated him at the outset, just as with the ’44 plot against Hitler.

    The 1944 plot came very close to succeeding.

    They most likely will have to decide whether to move against him before the war starts. By then it will probably last only a few weeks, though they will be very destructive weeks.

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