Monday, December 6, 2010

US North Korea clerisy redux

Another GuamDiary reader wonders why we shoot our darts at US' North Korea clerisy. By any conventional standard, these clercs--by education, training, and experience--represent the 'best and the brightest' on advising US policy towards North Korea.
First, the 'best and the brightest' is a loaded term. If you weigh it by David Halbstram's measure, it is a watchword that captures the high degree of hubris, condescension, moral blindness, and a body of a 'body of truths' which do not bear up well under scrutiny.
Moreover,GuamDiary's 'beef' with America's North Korean clerisy is that it is a closed circuit programme of 'newspeak' and homogenised opinion within a very narrow spectrum of admitted differences of opinion.
Its cast of characters reminds us of a revolving door of experts, advisors, and analysts who go in and out of government, and who are the same talking heads on television, in print, or invited to conferences. They represent received opinion. But varied views they do not hold. Independent thought is forsaken for good paying posts in think tanks, universities, and government or in publishing or prestigious journals or the mainstream press. But they do toe the government line.
Saying this, GuamDiary hears an objection: the clerisy does admit new members. Undoubtedly according to this rule of thumb: can they be coopted? If they can, they gain a seat at the table; if they cannot, they're marginalised or as it is often the case, they are excluded and become the voices in the desert that few hear.
This clerisy play the 'eternel virgin', modest to a fault. They remain virga intacta in thought and deed.
On North Korea the chorus is frightfully uninote. Add a little balance to the mantra 'North Korea evil, North Korea bad', is tantamount to madness or to high treason.
The clerisy never strays unless ir nourishes a deathwish to self destruct a career, creature comforts, and the honours ideological loyalty obtain. Money and the ego money are strong incentives not to stray from the hand that feeds you.
GuamDiary in criticising them calls for openness and other voices. We do say that the clash of ideas in an open market of opinion is healthy. It may not change one's moral compass but it does let in fresh thinking. And this is a good thing for an open society which the US says it is.
Otherwise, as GuamDiary continues to document, unequal access to influence policy and public opinion has had corrosive consequences of past and current US policy towards North Korea.
GuamDiary keeps referring to the CFR [Council on Foreign Relations] report on US policy towards Korea. It is a sterling example of group think. It is unanimous in its opinion representing the hours of conversation of the 'best and brightest' of US Korea experts and advisors coming from the diplomatic service, the military, the spy agencies, the university, and the think tank. As window dressing, it allows for very narrow and minor quibbles, but in the end, it is a solid and set concrete advice to the Obama administration.
The clerisy's advise and consent reflects a bankruptcy of ideas: the report's conclusions are an about face and an embrace of the Cold War policy of 'roll back' North Korea. Their collective opinion bolsters a White House policy which is intent on forcing North Korea to the brink of collapse or to war.
And events today in a divided Korea parallel are swaddled in hazy memories. They strinkly recall conditions that happened on the eve of the War which broke out sixty years ago.
Wikileaks release of US diplomatic cables on North Korea offer new space for reflexion and rethinking of policy. The US media, the talking heads, the clerisy, and above all, the US government puff out their chests of hail the well good fellow or Little Jack Horner's cry when he pulled out a plum, 'look what a good buy am I'.
And now, gentle reader, you may begin to understand why GuamDiary calls for broader and more open discussions on North Korea and critises the US North Korea clerisy.

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