Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Hillary, Go Home! Leave the Koreas to the Koreans!

Speaking in Seoul today, "U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says the world has a duty to respond to sinking of a South Korean warship that has been blamed on North Korea" — Clinton: World must act on SKorean ship sinking. "After talks with South Korean leaders Wednesday, Clinton told reporters the attack, which killed 46 sailors, was an 'unacceptable provocation' by the North and the 'international community has a responsibility and a duty to respond.'"

Madam Secretary is right that it was indeed an "unacceptable provocation," but wrong that the "international community has a responsibility and a duty to respond." The "unacceptable provocation" was against South Korea, which reserves the right to respond. Seoul's hands are tied by all this talk about some abstraction called "the international community," the same phantom which only emboldened Pyongyang, knowing it to be a myth, to provoke in the first place.

This kind of boilerplate just plays into Kim Jong-il's hands. He's scored a propaganda victory, which he will use to bolster his domestic support. Nothing can be used to unite a people to its government like threats from the outside, as Americans learned in 2001.

There will be no resumption of the Korean War, which has not yet ended, as it would spell the end of the Kimist régime and Kim Jong-il knows it. The South has two-and-a-half times the people and forty times the economic output as the North, not to mention a couple of inches in average height and a much stronger military, even without the U.S. presence.

What's more, the South has political and, more importantly, economic freedom, one glimpse of which, which an open conflict would surely allow, would consign the Kimist régime to the trash bin of Korean history. This is not 1950, when both parts of the peninsula were equally poor and backward. (The North was actually better off back then.)

Kim Jong-il knows this and will push only so far as to get what he wants and needs for his own personal survival. I don't know whether to declare him a genius, or to declare the Clinton, Bush, and Obama régimes (not to mention South Korea's Kim and Roh régimes) morons for cutting deal after deal with him for the past decade-and-a-half.

South Korea was attacked, not America, much less the world. We heard this same kind of internationalist blathering sixty years ago, shortly before another Democrat president got America involved in its first undeclared, United Nations-sponsored war on this very peninsula.

Fabiano Choi Hong-jun, chairperson of the Catholic Lay Apostolate Council of Korea, has the right approach: "With Christian faith, we view this as another ordeal on the way toward national reconciliation and we must keep hope" — Church leaders pray to ease Korean tension. He continued, "We need to pray for peace and reconciliation."

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Blogger John from Daejeon said...

Her speech really didn't have much to do with either of the two Koreas as Clinton was letting both China and Japan know where the U.S. stands on this issue--keeping nuclear weapons out of both South Korea and Japan. So, she had to reassure the Japanese that they are protected from any fallout from the unpredictable North so they don't need to build their own nukes which would in turn upset China. But, by being so outspoken in her criticism of the North, she let China know that they need to get with the program and get the North back in line if they want U.S. help in keeping Japan nuclear free.

There are more than just the two Koreas in this international sandbox. The problem is trying to keep the players from escalating it into something truly catastrophic based on the one really wildcard that can upset more than just the immediate Korean peninsula.

You might want to add China and Japan to your labels at the bottom as well as diplomatic strategy.

11:40 PM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

Well then, instead of leave the Koreas to the Koreans, leave Asia to the Asians. There's no need for us to be over here; no vital American interest is at stake.

Korea, China, and Japan all refuse to act as the ancient civilizations that they are because they think America can and will solve all the problems in the region. It's a huge embarrassment for all parties involved.

12:14 AM  
Blogger John from Daejeon said...

"It's a huge embarrassment for all parties involved."

That it is, but how do you really think it will turn out if the rest of the world leaves it to China, Japan, and the two Koreas to get along as "civil"izations of their ages and with all that bad blood between them?

12:21 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

Perhaps as well as France and Germany today.

6:48 AM  
Blogger John from Daejeon said...

Personally, I wish the U.S. would have been a bit quicker to interfere in Asia before the not-so sneak attack on Pearl Harbor claimed my uncle's life or in Europe before countless millions (mostly innocent civilians) lost their lives to a couple of mad men across several continents because the U.S. had more pressing problems on the home front.

What would have happened if the U.S. had left Europe to the Europeans as no country there had directly attacked the U.S., or if they had made sure their fallen foes were kept beaten down and penniless in the aftermath to this day? Had they done the latter, there might even be one whole Korea today; however, it might be a Chinese or Russian dominated one with a different set of problems stemming from those handlers.

The U.S. is pretty much damned if they do and damned if they don’t no matter what eventually happens. At least with them backing the South, the South doesn’t have to worry about Chinese influence taking over the whole peninsula if they ever step in and take over the North for their own internal reasons.

9:19 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

I'm sorry to learn your uncle died in Pearl Harbor. Both my grandfathers died as a result of their service in WWII and Korea, one from a lung fungus picked up in Iran and the other from carcinogenic chemicals used to clean airplane engines.

"What would have happened if the U.S. had left Europe to the Europeans as no country there had directly attacked the U.S., or if they had made sure their fallen foes were kept beaten down and penniless in the aftermath to this day?"

Stalin and Hitler might well have likely fought each other to the death, and perhaps spared us the Cold War and an enslaved Eastern Europe.

We'd still be the manufacturing powerhouse we once were. Instead, we decided to outsource real production to Germany, Japan, and Korea in exchange for becoming the world's "security exporter." Great deal that's turned out to be for the American people.

The isolationists were (and are) right (and Right). The internationalists were (and are) wrong (and Left).

10:25 AM  
Blogger Brian said...

Interesting post and thoughts. Nothing more to really say beyond that.

I hold to the "Leave Korea to the Koreans" and "Leave Asia to the Asians" line of thinking as well, but I'm usually considered naive for thinking such a thing could happen. It's not so much giving anything up, from the US perspective, as it is gaining something: the freedom to not be responsible for the fate of Asia, to not sacrifice American lives overseas, and to carry out nation-building where it's needed the most, at home.

I understand the massive loss of American life fighting in Asia, ostensibly for it, but I don't think pulling out means they died for nothing. But those men are worth more alive. I would love to be at a point where our young men and women, but mostly men, have access to important, character-building work that doesn't involve soldiering.

6:34 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

Thanks for the comments; I couldn't agree more that "those men are worth more alive." Funny that saying so makes you "anti-American" in some quarters.

1:12 PM  

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