Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The US chattering class froths at the mouth about North Korea

Listing to or reading in print or online the US chattering class on the Wikileaks release of US diplomatic cables on North Korea, a visitor from another planet would likely think that everyone one was reading from the same script. And they are!
Our ears are bombarded by the same squad of cheerleaders shouting in chorus who shout out or chant to encourage Team America in confronting the 'black hole of Asia'.
The slogans are old; they've hardly changed since the Korean War.
Like the arch villain Fu Manchu's moustache, North Korea looms longer and larger as a threat. Pyongyang's gruesome villanous conduct in shelling the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong borders of the edge of military depravity.
Let's get down to basics: Charlie Rose had retired admiral and former director of national intelligence Dennis Blair on his programme to discuss the fallout of the last Wikileaks releasing some 250.000 US diplomatic cables. On the matter of North Korea, when pressed what US intelligence does know, Blair beat a quick retreat to the bunker of 'sensitive information'. When Rose asked him what Blair did know about North Korea, the retired admiral came up with an oh we have a good general idea. What does that mean? Anyone who takes the time to read the mainstream press' reporting on North Korea could come up with the same answer.
Blair went further: he branded Kim Jong il as a leader of a criminal clan and the head of a mafia state. North Korea is the land of a bloated class of yes men whose greed and corruption know no end. Well, we're no longer in the land of rational thought: we've entered the land of the gut reaction of George W Bush--'I loathe the guy'. Emotions do not necessarily make for good policy. And Bush should know: his distorted view of North Korea gave the final push to North Korea's testing of a nuclear device, thereby catapulting it into the select atomic club of nations!
Listen to Brian Meyers, author of 'The Cleanest Race: how North Koreans see themselves'. After 8 years of parsing the North's literature, songs, and tracts, he comes to the conclusion that the Kim family is cut from the same stone as Japanese militarism and racial superiority.
Or listen to Victor Cha who has visited North Korea many times, whose assessment is somewhat more nuanced but hardly deviates from the Washington party line.
Now, there is much to deplore and dislike about North Korea, but the endless idle and empty chatter which Wikileaks on North Korea has provoked seems ahistorical and irrational and mad at times.
The truth of the matter is easy to understand: if you go against the grain, you're dropped from the circle of influence, fat study grants, entree to juicy government or university other words, you run the risk of financial loss and being exiled to a gulag of exclusion which may last until you see the error of your ways, the more especially as effects of your betrayal falls equally on the shoulders of your family and the future of your children.
There are other experts on North Korea but since they are outside the circle of the accepted orthoxy, they are hardly most on small out of the way radio programmes or in mildly left magazines.
Yet slipping through this seemly unporous orthodox opinion is an op ed in the 30 November issue of all places the 'Wall Street Journal'. Edward Luttwak, an American military strategist and historian, thanked former president Jimmy Carter for the role of peacemaker that he played in the past for staying America's nuclear hand from bombing North Korea. [GuamDiary encourages reading Creekmore's 'A moment of crisis: Jimmy Carter's mission to Pyongyang" for the full story.]
In late summer 2010, Carter again went to North Korea on a rescue mission. This time, he escorted back an American sentenced to seven years hard labour and a whopping fine, for having illegally entered North Korea, encouraged by his Evangelical Christian belief to bring Christ to that country.
At that time, Carter met with very high North Korean policy makers who assured him that North Korea was willing to give up its nuclear programme if the US would talk to it. This message fell on deaf ears in the Obama White House.
Alas, Jimmy Carter is a pariah in the US establishment. He is no dupe when it comes to Kim Jong il & co., but he is willing to give diplomacy a chance which runs counter to today's US policy towards North Korea.
Sadly, when it is all said and done, the US chattering class exhibits a high degree of know nothingness on North Korea and is proud of its ignorance.

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