Monday, January 31, 2011

Israel's desperation grows day by day

To measure Israel desperation as it knows that very soon it is going to lose its strongest ally in the Middle East--Egypt's Hosni Mubarak--a single example may suffice.
Jerusalem is sending out emissaries to all major press outlets in Europe with a simple message: play up the good that Hosni Mubarak represents. He ain't a bad guy after all...translation, he's Israel good pal!
This sorry tactic is irrelevant and besides the point. Mubarak is going, and he is negotiating to turn out the light to his regime without dire consequences to him and his family. [Son Gamal is in London preparing for his papa's feathered exile, it seems.]
With Mubarak off Israel's radar, the Zionist state's economy will suffer. Egypt, according to the Peace Accords, took over a role to police the Sinai and Gaza, thereby lightening Israel's obligation to pour money into its military. With such a calculated blessing, money went to developing its economy. Now, Jerusalem will have to pour us$ billions into its military complex and its civilian economy will suffer sorely. It may play on the guilt of the Jews in the Diaspora, but monies from abroad cannot fill the coffers of an economy will soon will favour guns over butter.
Omar Suleiman, Mubarak's hand picked vice president, is Israel's good friend. But the Egyptian street is also calling for his ouster. Ultimately the military will have to come to an arrangement with the long starved civil society calling for reforms which benefit the Egypt people. Even if Egypt maintains ties to Israel, the old relationship will suffer, and unless Israel makes amends to the Palestinian people, it will retreat into isolation which will make it see an enemy under every stone in the Arab world.
Israel's protector the US has to realign to the new reality that is happening in the Middle East and its support of Israel outwardly firm is undergoing change too. It is too early to say in what form or shape.
Change in Egypt is making Israel sweat profusely. What it cannot do is seize the entire west bank and incorporate it into a Greater Israel. Already Israel commentators wonder why the Palestinians have not risen up. Well, let's say, now, they know they will be slaughtered by the IDF aided and abetted by the ultra religious military on illegal settlements in Palestinian territory.
Hamas will emerge a 'winner' of sorts of change in Egypt. Iran, Israel's nemesis, likewise.
For this and many other reasons, Israel's desperation will continue to grow and the blame is more on the Zionist state shoulders and not in the Arab heavens.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

As Mubarak prepares to exit stage right

Israel hasn't put a fine point on its ally Mubarak's future. The Zionist state embued its pronouncement with an Asian flourish: 'El rais' has lost face before his people. As a consequence, he has lost his 'mojo' of an Egyptian sphinx, silent and all knowing. For the Egyptian street has awakened to the reality that the pharaon has no clothes on.
Mubarak's US stout companion is counselling him to 'transit' the door!
Meanwhile, the former airforce general has appointed his country's head spook Omar Suleiman as vice president and more importantly another former airforce general Ahmed Shafik as prime minister.
The Egyptian street is not mollified. It continues to pour out into the streets, calling for Mubarak to go and is unwilling to accept his crony Suleiman. As army jets sweep low over the centre of Cairo, the army is slowly but surely the instrument of transition. So far, the armed forces have not cracked down on the demonstrators, but will have to act more forcefully as public anger descends into looting. More broadly speaking, they will draw more tightly the strings of power into their own hands. Nonetheless, like the street, we wonder if they have a programme to open up the long repressed Egypt, to work for economic justice and opportunity, and to encourage a 'renaissance' culturally, thereby restoring civil society open to all?
Mubarak may understand what is happening to him. Still he has lost touch and his hold on power has become glaringly untenable. For the moment, he has the backing of his general, but for how long? Shafik's appointment is a bellwether. It points to change, and as GuamDiary took note, he will go the way of the Indonesian strongman Suharto.
The Obama White House is on pins and needles: it is scrambling to rescue its challenged Middle East policy whereby Mubarak played an important role. Israel is biting its fingernails, and is resisting the opportunity to incorporate the Palestinian west bank into a Greater Israel.
Demonstrations in northern Sudan is a warning to its dictator al Bashir, and might offer a breathing space for southern Sudan as it feels its way to nationhood and a better margin to divide the spoils of oil, as well as a relief to the people of Dafur.
The gentle pulsating waves of great change emanating out of Tunisia are ushering a new world abornin' in the Arab world and soon beyond. The outcome may not always be the same, but the fossilised ruling classes are on warning that things have to change before its too late. Will they listen? It ain't easy to let the reins of power go slack, and for rulers a sign of weakness. So where is the philosopher king who will set an example?
On another front, Mubarak cut off 'FaceBook', 'Twitter', and other social networks which the Egyptian people used to re enforce 'people power'. Yet, it took him more than a week to throw 'Al Jazeera' whose reporting and imagines caught the spirit of revolt in the streets of Cairo, Suez, and Alexandria, out of the country. Was he afraid of alienating the Gulf States? Or his inability to 'control' 'Al Jazeera' reveals in an odd way, he was fighting for his life as ruler of Egypt?
Whatever the reason, once the 'jacquerie' broke out, Mubarak's goose was cooked. And now, the military will have to gently push him out of power. The Egyptian generals will don the mouldy uniforms of the 1952 revolt of the colonels who chased the corrupt king Farouk out to exile to the fleshpots of Italy. The military will now direct the fate of Egypt and its pivotal role in the Arab world and Africa.
The US and the broader world media with few exceptions -- Al Jazeera and the BBC come readily to mind -- betray a grasp on what is happening in Egypt, let alone the Arab world. They tend to re run images of the streets of Tehran in 1979 or raise the specter of the Muslim Brotherhood which missed the boat during recent events in Egypt. Occasionally a fresh voice is heard, but, alas, is drowned out by the same talking heads who have a poor record on what's happening in the Middle East and Muslim world.
So, it is not a matter of will Mubarak step down, but when!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The dead weight of the Israeli commando attack of the 'Mavi Marmara' on Israel's relations with Turkey

It would be hard to overstate the immensity of Israel's Defence Force's [IDF] commando raid on the high seas on the Turkish ship 'Mavi Marmara' on Turkish Israeli relations.
The lead ship in a peace flotilla carrying supplies to Gaza lost 9 passengers--8 Turks and 1 Turkish American lad. The illegal Israeli pre emptive strike violated international law and chalked up another notch of continued Israeli terrorist actions against whom it identifies as its enemies. Apparently breaking the Israeli blockade which in essence means holding Palestinians in Gaza as hostage, depending on the trickle of food and supplies to keep them on the edge of starvation, after a blitzkrieg December 2008-January 2009.
Israel crossed a line with Turkey, its long term ally in the Middle East since its founding in 1948. The 'friendship' has been beneficial to each other, but it began to unravel during 'cast lead', Israel's lightning war against Gaza. Israel's arrogance at Davos and Israel's foreign ministry insulting treatment of the Turkish ambassador simply made matter worse.
But the murder of Turks on the high seas by the IDF which came in guns blazing brought relations to a full stop. A break in 'good neighbourliness' upset the US, the more especially since Turkey is a founding member of NATO, and plays a role in America's global military strategy. And then, Turkey began casting its eyes on its traditional geography which stretched through the Turkic republics of the former Soviet Asian republics, Iran, and the Arab world. Turkish diplomacy suddenly had a new life and embarked slowly and cautiously but firmly in a direction which should make Washington and Tel Aviv uneasy. And it did, big time.
Slowly Anakara and Tel Aviv began small steps to 'kiss and make up', although the page was never turned on the 'Mavi Mamara'. Turkey using its own Jews kicked off its first 'Holocaust day' in an Ankara synogogue. [The irony is not lost on Armenians!]
At the same moment the latest series of popular Turkish adventure films depicting the Israeli attack on the peace flotilla opened. 'Valley of the Wolves--Palestine' may not be high art but it touches 'la Turquie profounde' [the ordinary Turk]. It is a film of revenge and of honour to avenge the piratical Israeli operation on the high sea against Turkey.
You can imagine the egg on Israel's face at the moment of remembering the 'Ha Shoah', to be reminded of its own lawless, brutal, and violent actions. The response by the Israeli ambassador was immediate and predictable: any criticism of the Zionist state is not only anti Israeli but more damning 'anti Semitic', thereby implying that it is a stain of the destruction of 6 million Jews by the Nazis during world war two.
There is an element of truth in that Israel is portrayed as having 'evil' intentions but to calling any criticism 'anti Semitic' wears thin. For any criticism of the Isreal automatically bears the stamp of 'anti Semitism'. And thus, it loses its sting since everything is which by definition reduces Israel's ranting suspect and potentially without merit.
Turkey and Israel may kiss and make up. Too much money in trade and military materiel are at stake, but like Humpty Dumpty the relationship can never be put back together as it was before. Turkey will continue to gain influence in the Arab world whilst Israel becomes more and more isolated.

Whither Egypt?

Today the army is out on the streets of Egypt. Gone are the repressive police, the right arm of repression of the Mubarak regime. Since the 'revolt of the colonels' almost 60 years ago, which brought Naguib then Nasser to power, the army remains the 'arbiter egalitariarum' on matters of power. For the present, it is supporting Mubarak, yet the question remains 'for how long?'
Mubarak dismissed his government, but it has not quieted the streets of Egypt. They do not believe him. They knew his tricks, and even if, this time, he's sincere in restoring 'democracy' or establishing 'economic justice' so on and on, it just won't do. He has to go. And that is the bottom line, no doubt about it.
In a way, Mubarak is like the Indonesian strongman Suharto who stayed too long in power, and didn't get the message. Ultimately, he was forced out of power, and in his place, another general came to power. Grosso modo, the analogy holds, but in Egypt, the army will in the end determine who will rule.
The media talk of the Muslim Brotherhood, but they are late comers to the streets, and in a way, events have outstripped their appeal. The 'enraged' Egyptians on the street represent, in breath and depth, a broad cross section of Egyptian society. The world press talk of Mohammed El Baradei, who rushed home from Vienna, to join the protests, as a possible successor to Mubarak. But he has no following, no programme, nothing but slogans. Nonetheless, he looks like that weak straw for allies of Mubarak to grasp at.
To slip into pre World War 2 talk, the chancelleries of the world are burning the midnight oil, for no one knows which way Egypt will go.
The US is doing its best to walk on egg shells, opening supporting Mubarak, and privately pressuring him to calm the passions of his citizens. Of late, Obama is lecturing him on the minimum features of 'Democracy 101'. Washington has been an anchor of support of Mubarak and he has dutifully remained a reliable ally. With Mubarak gone, whiter America's foothold in Egypt?
Israel has a lot to lose. It has remained silent as a tomb, fingering feverishly its worry beads. A change in regime in Egypt will, in one way or the other, modify Cairo's relations with the Zionist state--think Gaza, think, too, making fully known the terms of the peace treaty it signed with Egypt, think, even more, the tearing up of the foresaid agreement.
Ripples of unrest are heard on the streets of Amman, another Arab ally of Israel.
The stakes are big for Washington, and for Tel Aviv, they spell disaster, and a return to a defensive posture in the Middle East. Suddenly, it is in danger of isolation, that even its protector the US can fully offer complete assurances.
The streets of Egypt are going to force a re orientation of US policy in the region, and Israel is becoming in ways known and unsuspected, an albatross.
For these two countries, events playing out in the streets or in the corridors of power in Egypt do not offer a cheerful view of political life.
Nonetheless, sight unseen, the military is weighing its options. Furthermore, it is its sons and daughters and mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters and its' 'smala' who are protesting. Today, it may side with Mubarak, but within days if not weeks, Mubarak, now 'damaged goods' will take the path of exile like Farouk whom the military chased out of Egypt. Who will become 'ar rais' remains an open question? You can bet the US is trying its best to buy off the generals and purchase a man who will speak to its condition. But nothing is certain. And the top military brass continue palabering, making deals and promises, for the time that they will push Mubarak out the door.
For those of those who never thought the Arab street would never bring down strongmen, they now know better. A single spark of discontent of years of poverty, unemployment, social stagnation, and corruption and the rise of a parasite class of the privileged, like barnacles feeding off the ship of state--broke out into a praire fire, and is spreading fast and far in a Middle East thought timeless and unchangeable.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Israel plays by its own rules

Hardly an eyebrow lifted when the hand picked Israeli panel that 'invesitgated' the violent and deadly raid on the high seas against the peace flotilla carrying food and medicial supplies to Gaza. On the Turkish flagged 'Mavi Mamara' the Israeli commandos killed 8 Turks and 1 Turkish Americans.
Israel absolved itself of its crimes. It violated international law and engaged in terrorism. Of course, the Zionist state does not see it that way. In its eyes, it is innocent and its own investigation tells us so. The narrative and conclusions were known before the 'judges' went through the motions of 'Wayang Kutlit' [shadow puppets]. With the foregone results of the investigation, Israel feels exonerated. Still, the panel had the sulphurous odour of a Moscow show trial.
If Israel feels 'guilt free', it ain't good news for its neighbours or the greater world community. Israel pushes out its bully chest, bragging its above all law and all men. After all the bully has its protector the US standing big and tall behind it.
Nonetheless, the killings on the 'Mavi Mamara' have upset the Israeli US chessboard in the region. The fallout has not shown its complete design, but one thing is sure, Israel is on the defensive, it has to run faster to keep in the same place like the Red Queen in 'Alice in Wonderland'.
Al Jazeera followed by the UK's 'Guardian' newspaper have published leaked documents of Israeli Palestianian minutes on negotiations between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority. The PA were willing to make deep concessions, prodded by the Bush administration, say, on Jerusalem or Quds. Yet, these concessions were never good enough for the Israelis who rejected them out of hand. Tel Aviv was playing its cat and mouse game. And the PA, in its hunger and desire for a homeland of its own, came back for more punishment and abuse by the Israelis.
Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia surely were advised of the Palestinian moves, and each did not say no to the PA's strategy.
Again, Israel played by its own rules, which can politely called 'dirty pool'. Its message is for Israel, it's all or nothing and for the Palestinians, well, its defeat.
With each new revelation, Israel keeps losing any moral authority it claims. The cover of 'Ha Shoah' is a smokescreen for terrorism.
As for the US, it is and never been an honest broker with the possible exception of the first Bush's attempt at bringing Israel and its Arab neighbours together in Madrid 20 years ago. That spooked the Israelis who rushed to Oslo to sign an agreement with Yasir Arafat which they could sabotage -- and did -- with impunity. The US is not an honest broker and as such, it is beocming more likely that Israel will incorporate all the land from the Mediterrean to the Jordan. In the process, it is planting the seeds of its own suicide, and destroying its Zionist ideology, and promoting its own decay within.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Role of the technocrats at the New York Korea Society

The New York Korea Society is pushing the theme 'South Korea as an economic model'. With this in mind, it has moved towards discussions which favour technocratics.
In the past, the Society had a taste for more spirited debate. In today's atmosphere, excitement comes from reciting a rosary of economic data.
The Society's officers find past history encouraged 'value laden' ideas. Suddenly, the world of think tanks and the university triumphs under the banner of 'value free'. In the way they see the world, it is only seen as 'value free' because everyone who openly address the Society's members tacitly accept rules and boundaries which are hardly controversial. Of course, America's social sciences' use of 'value free' is a sleight of hand: 'value free' cannot be defined objectively. The notion, however, does in this sense: everyone unconditionally subscribes to it, and will defend it to his last breath. Nonetheless, his motivation is 'political' in defence of his worldview.
A technocratic orientated Korea Society would, by definition, have a limited membership. And so, the strong programming of film, culture, literature, cooking, laguage classes, and the like, to meet requirements as a 501(c)not for profit corporation.
By its very name, the Korea Society's business is selling South Korea. The renewed stress of Korea as an economic model and 'Wirkshaftswunder' [economic miracle]has a strong political undertone. Selling South Korea applauds its democracy, its export orientated economy, its consumerism, so on and on. South Korea as a 'capitalist' model points the way to emancipate the rest of the world made up mostly of middle sized economies, and perhaps an example for the US and China, too. South Korea is not only a model for export but a mirror of what North Korea could be were it only ready to throw its rascals out of power.
It is ironical that raising South Korea as an export model of capitalism and by capitalism it means free market capitalism overlooks the strong role of the protectionist role of its government, to sustain the country's first world economy and growth.
Reliance on technocrats give way to tiresome guest lecturers who talk a coded language of think tanks and university clubs and classrooms. To underscore a point, attendees who join in Business Breakfast or Luncheon discussions are referred to scholarly articles and more arcane discussions in recently published books. Events are so chosen so as to avoid 'value laden' opinions. Is that realistic, the more especially that conditions on the Korean peninsula are not only tense but it is as if the world is holding its breath and quietly keeping its fingers crossed the South won't trip a wire thereby causing renewed warfare on a divided Korean peninsula.
The Society cannot keep reality from breaking in; it will continue trying to squeeze it into its own 'value free' model but with not the complete success it hopes.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Talking but playing war drums softy in the background

The US wants a stable and denuclearised Korean peninsula. So do China, North Korea, and South Korea. This common 'desire' is an indication of how out of control US and South Korean policy towards North Korea looks right now.
Forced by the backfire of its policy to militarily intimidate North Korea, South Korea, with the bad grace of a sore loser, agreed to talks with senior North Korean officials to quiet tensions on the divided peninsula.
The toasting and expressions of 'peaceful coexistence' between China and America during Hu Jintao's red carpet visit to the US last week, Barack Obama, in private, continued to push a policy of 'rolling back' the DPRK unless China took control of its ally in Pyongyang. Yet, China continued to urge diplomacy to defang the fearful tiger of war. Obama, on the other hand, stuck to a policy which is propped up by the belief that Beijing can throw its weight around in Pyongyang.
The American president made no bones about his policy with Hu. If Beijing won't keep Kim Jong il & co. in check, he is willing to redeploy troops to Korea and heighten military pressure with its client South Korea on the North.
Behind the polite words, the US gives no ground in a mad policy of playing chicken. In other words, do our bidding or else. And in the background the drums of war continue to beat.
China is not impressed. It is, if past behaviour holds true, patient to a point.
North Korea, too, in spite of moments of braggadocio, prefer negotiations, no matter how many times signals to Washington for talks remain unanswered. However, one thing is clear, it will brook no foreign military to abuse its territorial integrity. The world has seen a clear example of its 'defence of the fatherland' in late November 2010 when it reacted to South Korea's shelling along the NLL [Northern Limit Line] in the Yellow Sea on the edge of its territorial waters. And the world held its breath lest renewed warfare breaks out for the first time in 47 years.
Two months later the expressed desire for stability [read peace] and denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula are the watchwords of the day.
It is hoped that the stalled six party talks will resume on North Korea's nuclear programme. No timetable, however, is set. And the continued low grade 'propaganda' warfare against the North by the US and ROK, has stirred the rumour pot that the North will test a third nuclear device.
The Obama administration has not lessened the weight of its intention to inflict 'pain' military, economically, or politically on the DPRK.
The media chorus and the US North Korean clerisy continue to sing the same old pious hymns of the present and imminent danger the North represents unless the US remains vigiliant and decisive in policy and action.
One way to think about how 'wired' is Washington's looney policy is to consider the following two examples: the reporting from South Korea by the PBS [Public Broadcasting Systems] NewsHour's recent reports on the danger Seoul faces from Pyongyang by its senior correspondent Margaret Warner. Warner has seen done her due diligence and spoken to the American ambassadrix and military and high South and ordinary Koreans. She has dutifully transmitted the message of the danger prosperous South Korea faces from the North. Her reporting is, more or less, an undigested account which the eye can find in US broadsheets and tabloids and in government press releases. When you try to peel the onion of propaganda down to its core, she alerts us to what we already know: things are not all that well on the divided Korean peninsula and we do not have to search further than our nose in order to sniff out the culprit--the North. Warner has not bothered to set the story in context nor look at the 'brave' Lee Myung bak's vindictive policy towards the North which almost exploded into war again in Korea.
Consider, too, the 'preaching' of Lee Song yoon, an adjunct assistant professor of international politics at Tufts' Fletcher school of law and diplomacy. A South Korean who has lectured at the department of state and West Point, and whose opinion is widely sought in print, on the radio and television. In an October speech at the ultra conservative Hillsdale College, he put his audience on alert that Kim Jong il & co. is still out to 'communise' the Korean peninsula. It's an old chestnut which has its occasional use albeit in reality hardly realisable.
Lee harped on the significance of 27 July 1953 - the date the Armistice Agreement was signed by the US, China, and North Korea. [South Korea refused to put its name to that document which froze the boundaries of North and South Korea]. For the North, that day is celebrated as 'victory in the war of liberation of the fatherland'. For him, that day is proof positive that the North has not given up its desire to impose its will on the South. [Today, North and South Korea express the long aching desire of reunification, more likely in spirit than in reality.]
You have to hand it to Lee, he throws out history and politics. It is significant to remember that during the Korean War, owing to the US' command of the air, the North had been reduced to ruin and rubble. And, in spite of the US UN led troops, the North Korean army with the help of Chinese volunteers 'rolled back' General Macarthur's forces to where they remain today at the 38 parallel. With this brief resume of events, it is very understandable why North Korea celebrates 27 July 1953: for the North Koreans, they 'liberated' their homeland. Lee may read into that moment what he will, but he misses the point completely. GuamDiary has more than once suggested to its readers Bruce Cumings' 'the Korean war: a history' [Random House]. His book provides an excellent brief history of the war and the utter destruction that it visited on the North.
For Lee and his fellow clercs, the Korean war is a mark of shame, for it failed to overthrow the regime of Kim Il Sung. It remains, to them, a badge of dishonour that Kim's son and soon his grandson will govern the North. For them, the war will never be over till the failed policy of 'rollback' will be completed.
And so we come back to our point that in spite of the promise of talks and restoring stability and it is hoped denuclearising the Korean peninsula, the dreams of a military solution remain ever alive among US policy makers and elite.
It seems the time has come for the US and ROK to put toys of war away, and get down to difficult job of negotiating with the North, in order to officially end the Korean war with a peace treaty and denuclearising the peninsula which the North has kept promising and saying should Washington recognise it as an equal.
As long as visions of 'rollback' [which is at heart the 'officious' policy of the Obama administration], nourish US policy, no peace is possible.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Palin's 'apologia pro sua vita': 'blood libel'

Sarah Palin's high public profile took a big hit. In her stab at taking the wind out of Barack Obama's sails at Tucon in the wake of the Arizona shootings,and in self defense of her call to 'reload' your guns to kill off political enemies by using 'crosshairs' on her website [now removed] she clothed her 'victimhood' in the term 'blood libel'.
Whoever suggested her use of 'blood libel' - a reference to the anti Semitic practice from the Middle ages of falsely accusing Jews of murdering Christian children whose blood was used in religious ceremonies - she should have fired on the spot.
Palin is not shrinking violet: she speaks in direct, blunt, and vigorous language. Her words lack nuance; they are like the sun at noon lacking any hint of shadows of meaning. Her use of 'blood libel' marginalised her. Her ratings in the polls sank like a setting sun.
Americans of all shades of opinion saw her words for what they were - insensitive and self serving. And perhaps her use of Facebook for her 'apologia pro sua vita' as a defense that her colourful and shocking military language was an example of 'free speech' without consequence, thereby distancing herself from the consequences of violent, hateful speech.
Palin put days after the tragedy in Tucson to express her sympathy with the victims, as well as to distance herself from her high profile, incendiary remarks, she chose 'Facebook'. And the public did not buy it.
In order to 'snatch her damaged reputation from the jaws of opprobrium', Palin went on television. Ever since her disastrous interview with Katie Couric, she takes refuge of her security blanket, otherwise known as Fox TV, where she is a highly paid commentator.
She appeared on Sean Hannity's programme. Tried as she might, she couldn't shake off the cheap use of 'blood libel' and the uproar it caused among Jews and non Jews. More telling is the fact that she has an inferiorty complex in defending her positions but only in the company of friends and sympathetic ears. Which doesn't speak well of her 'political courage'.
Has Palin overreached her grasp? Maybe yes, maybe no. Nonetheless, her use of 'blood libel' reveals how tone deaf she is and how out of the mainstream she is and what's more how extreme her readiness to embrace discredited ideas.

Will Israel go the way of France's 4 Republic?

Israel's defence minister Ehud Barak's has decided the political wilderness is not for him. He's tasted power, and he won't let it go.
Abandoning Labour, he's decided to form his own political party and remain in the Netenyahu government. It did not take much imagination to do this: the left and centre in Israel have whithered on the political vine for a long while now. Although Barak described his new party as centrist and Zionist, the operative word is 'Zionist', and the new party won't be centrist in the ordinary definition of the term.
The fracturing of the Israeli body politic has favoured the far right. Barak can and does argue that he is to the left of Avigdor Lieberman and 'Bibi' Netenyahu. Saying this may not mean alot, since he's in favour of the Zionist ideology which is moving to incorporate more and more of the Palestinian West Bank into a Greater Zionist Israel where Arab - those with Israeli passports or not - will be treated as 'sub citizen'.
Barak may mouth a more nuanced policy on a two states' solution, his drive to power will make him jockey for influence by objectively adopting first Netenyahu's than Lieberman's positions on leaving any Palestinian state behind.
What is becoming more and more noticeable is that the musical chair of the right and far right coalition of governance will end up as a fight for power within the Barack-Netenyahu-Lieberman trioka.
Already the infighting among these 3 is worthy of notice. The radical right government may hold but the splits and reformulation of fractions will intensify. It is in this sense that the rise of the radical right in Israel reflects the French 4 Republic.
Who will be the man in the white horse who ultimately seize power? Barak? Netenyahu? or Lieberman? Who will be the man to bury Israel's much touted 'democracy'? Barak? Netenyahu? or Lieberman? Who will put a feather in his hat and call it a copy of European fascism of the Spanish or Portugese or Hungarian kind? Barak? Netenyahu? or Lieberman?
There is little doubt that Israel has taken on the colours of religious extremism of its neighbours. Judith Miller observed this in the early 1990's when she was writing her book : 'God has 99 names'.
Israel slippage into the mould of clerico fascism will become more and more pronounced as the extreme right wing plants deeper its roots.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Blood libel

Sarah Palin pushes buttons. No doubt about it.
She and her handlers tried to anticipate president Barack Obama's speech in Tucon, Arizona. Their attempt to second guess him proved a failure. Obama's speech did not brand with the mark of Cain, which Palin feared she would be by allusion named as a purveyor of the lunatic fringe of politics.
After the shooting in Tucson, Palin, at first, kept a low profile. Then, she sent a message of sympathy to Glen Beck to air, and gritting her teeth, she quietly removed the 'crosshairs' on her website of her opponents, one of which was the seriously wounded Giffords.
Yet her message on YouTube to the shooting of congress woman Gaby Giffords, the killing of 6 and the wounding of 13 made matters more exasperating.
Palin uses violent language. If she's not a pitbull with lipstick, she has her targets in 'crosshairs' and urges her followers to reload guns. She is the poster girl of the Tea Party and the extreme right.
Suddenly she was the 'target', not Giffords nor anyone else Democrat or Republican. Palin clothed herself in the anti Semitic garb of 'blood libel'. Blood libel refers to the alleged practices of Jews who slaughter young Christians for blood for the Passover matzot. Her use of 'blood libel' is dismayingly improper, and Jewish rabbis and groups have denounced her for using it.
Nonetheless Palin has staunch defenders among high powered, right wing Jews. Harvard's Alan Dershowitz, for one, rushed to defence, saying, broadly and metaphorically speaking, Palin's use of the phrase was 'on target': Palin used the term as a critique of 'Big Government', a watchword by Tea Baggers and the Republican right wing for the cancer that is eating the body America, the destroyer of 'the values of our founders', in order to support Democracy with Socialism. For the flamboyant lawyer who is the dragon slayer of any critic of his reputation or Israel, he even went so far as to argue that since the Middle Ages 'blood libel' has evolved in meaning. Has it? The Nazis used it!
Palin's use of 'blood libel' gives one to pause. Surrounded as she is by Jewish neo cons - among whom her cheer leader William Crystal - one has to wonder who suggested the mischevious and noxious use of 'blood libel' to Palin, with a view to wash her of the sins of encouraging violence.
Of course, under the First Amendment, she has the right to freedom of speech, but as Giffords presciently remarked, 'words have consequences'. And Palin cravenly refused to acknowledge effects her speech engenders. But the matter does not lie there. It is broader in scope and far more dangerous.
Palin and Beck & co. are introducing into the polarised mix and coarseness of the American political lexicon, expressions and writings of anti Semites, thereby sowing the seeds of right wing extremism. Suddenly excuses are being made for dusted off racial and political hatred, as though a page had been copied from the fascist days of the 1920's and the 1930's.
Palin's use of 'blood libel' is an expression of the dangerous times the US is weathering today. To excuse dusted off anti Semitism is unpardonable.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Who blinked first?

A reader or two of GuamDiary asked who did we think blinked first: North Korea? South Korea?
Common wisdom believed the North did. But did it?
Events do tell a different story.
South Korea fuming from the sinking of its corvette 'the Chenon' in March 2010, felt humiliated and insulted as its campaigned to blame the North for the ship's sinking and the loss of 46 crew. [As GuamDiary oft commented on the sunken 'Cheonan', there are too many loose ends to the South's brief. And branding the DPRK the culprit begs the following questions: why was the ship's officers drunk? why did the South refuse to publish the full report of its findings until August 2010, although it was ready earlier? why did Seoul hide behind 'national security' to hold up the report's finding? why did the South rejects the North's dossier and its request to send a delegation to Seoul? why did it reject out of hand Russia claim that the 'Chenon' churned up a torpedo lying dormant in the Yellow Sea close to the NLL [Northern Limit Line] which caused the explosion which sank the corvette? And the list continues...]
Having failed to bell the blame of the sinking on the North, South Korea embarked on provacative military exercises with the US used live fire along the NLL, as a warning to North Korea. The crunch came in November 2010 when after Pyongyang forewarned Seoul that should any shells fall into its territorial waters, the North would respond. And respond it did. The riposte blew out the legs from under ROK president Lee Myung bak's 'Drang nach Norden' policy of brinksmanship [which a released US cable released by Wikileaks revealed].
The fear of a third war on the Asian continent put the fear of God in the US and in South Korea. Yet Lee refused to stop the drills, the latest of which took place in the early days of 2011. In order to hold Lee's lunatic policy of provoking war with the North, the US blinked. Washington cooked up a new tack to deal with the DPRK: a dual prong approach: a desire to see North Korea back at the six party talks in Beijing, even though the Obama administration had done everything in its power not to talk to Kim Jong il & co. The other part of the rushed project was to cobble together an axis of the willing to thwart North Korea, composed of the US, South Korea, and Japan. Washington has continued its old policy to bait and switch, based as GuamDiary contends, on the faulty and false assumption that by delaying talks with North Korea and a sucker's bet that the transition of power in Pyongyang will fail. In other words, the US is buying time, and putting off any peaceful resolution of the Korean War and other serious problems festering for the last 60 years. The US is smarting at inability to stop the North nuclear programme. Well, we all know that if were not for George Bush's fantasies, the North might not have tested a nuclear device. If the US is hopping mad that the North is a member of the nuclear club Washington created in 1945, well the shame and blame falls squarely on its shoulders!
Who blinked first? South Korea and the US.

Hillary & Gates comedy show

Prim and proper like an old fashioned school ma'rm, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, index finger of blame pointed, lectured North Korea on proper comportment if the DPRK wanted the US to come back to the stalled party talks in Beijing...sometimes in the future. Taskmaster, she laid down the laws of do's and don't's to Kim Jong il & co. As Foggy Bottom [site of the department of state] headmistress delivered her long winded scold, her counterpart in the Pentagon, secretary of defence was fluttering around east Asia like wounded hawk, to cobble together an axis of the willing - South Korea and Japan - to shore up America's failed North Korea policy and make angry noises at Pyongyang that if the North does not behave it is going to have to contend with provocative joint military drills to keep it "honest".
The comedy team of Hillary and Gates are engaged in magical thinking. With much smoke and blue mirrors, they are projecting the aggressive and warlike behaviour of the US and South Korea on North Korea. You can criticise Pyongyang from noon to night, but recent events illustrate that the eager architects in the White House and the Blue House of a hostile North Korea policy, ignored the consequences of thoughtless cold war, based on the military, diplomacy, propaganda, and sanctions.
They, as GuamDiary suggested, had put all their eggs into a basket: inspite of danger signs, the US and South Korea were blindly confident that the sustained pressure they could exert on the DPRK -- a North Korea in crisis, owing to the ill health of Kim Jong il and a hastily arranged succession, let alone a poor economy and a population on the edge of starvation -- would result in the country's collapse.
Events in the last days of November 2010 when North Korea defended its territorial water along the NLL [Northern Limit Line] against South Korea's fire spelt the doom of such false reasoning based on romantic notions and an unreal justification of evidence and poor intelligence.
You would think that a renewed war in Korea would have thrown cold water on America's and South Korea's policy toward North Korea. The tragedy is that it did not. The Obama administration, on the eve of China's Hu Jintao's visit to Washington, sent Gates to argue that it is in China's interest to muzzle North Korea. Mme. Clinton sternly reminded the Chinese of their obligations to crack the whip with North Korea.
It is unlike China will follow America's instructions, the more especially since the very same Gates is throwing up a hostile alliance -- the US, South Korea, and
Japan -- which in the short and longer run challenges China's claims in the Yellow Sea and disputed islands, as well as fishing rights and oil & gas exploration claims.
What is and should be crystal clear in all this palavering and misleading promises of talks with North Korea is that the Hillary & Gates comedy show's message is that Washington and Seoul and Tokyo in tow do not want to talk to North Korea.
Have we here in all this hot air and puffery an exemple of what the Roman historian's pithy remark obtains: the US and South Korean North Korea policy is 'what they [made] a desert, they call it peace'!
Ultimately the US and its acolytes will have to come back kicking and screaming to the six party talks and treat North Korea as an equal - not a school boy - to calm the tensions on the divided Korean peninsula. Still the not so skilful mix of diplomacy and military threats show that the US is buying time, and yet in the end it will have to talks to North Korea, like it or not!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

More on North Korea as an imminent danger to the US

US secretary of defence Robert Gates warning that North Korea represent an imminent and ready danger to America's more than 300 million citizens has not alarmed the ordinary man or woman on Main Street, USA.
Gates is skilful in the use of misleading statements.
Had the US public better access to diplomatic cables Wikileaks is in the process of making more widely known, it would quickly learn that the US government is not so completely bewildered at the giant steps made by North Korea in the field of rocket science. It is unlikely that a feckless and tamed US mainstream media won't challenge the US government's right to censor thereby violating its own much proclaimed First Amendment guaranteeing the right to free speech.
'Far Eastern Economics' editor Bertil Linter published in 'Asian Times Online' a revealing article on the level of sophistication of the DPRK's rocketry. He carefully documents from the leaked cables from as early as 2004 that US was well aware of the range and scope of North Korea's advanced rockets, many of which are in Iran's hands. You may quibble about Linter's inferences and conclusions, but if one thing is clear, his information is based on official US sources.
Now the question arises as to why Gates issued his warning about yet another instance of why North Korea is a danger to US interests.
The answer is not hard to tease out: in his talks with the Chinese leaders, the secretary of defence failed to 'sign on' the Chinese to Washington's view of North Korea, nor was it -- and still is -- unwilling to act as the Obama administration's policeman on bring Kim Jong il & co. to heel.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

North Korea, an imminent danger to the security of the US?

You gotta love the Americans. They are so predictable, and perform like trained seals when it comes to North Korea. Listen to US secretary of defence Robert Gates speaking in Beijing: 'North Korea is an immenent danger to the security of the US'.
Why? The DPRK's sophiscated level of rocketry will, down the road, produce an ICBM [intercontinental ballistic missile] able to hit Alaska. Consequently, North Korea is a 'imminent' and 'present danger' to the lives of the more 300 millions Americans.
Ain't that a moutful? Gates' words are typical of the lunatic foreign policy that the US is conducting towards Pyongyang, and in general, it subsumes the wild eye way the US looks at geopolitics. It typifies a mindset that brought George Bush to invade Iraq on the false premiss that Saddam Hussein had WMD [weapons of mass destruction]. The policy makers in the White House, the Pentagon, and Foggy Bottom [the home of the US department of state] are weavers of a seamless cloth of questionable assumptions. Consider, for the moment, Washington's campaign against Iran and its nuclear programme. Meir Dagan, the disgraced head of Israel's Mossad, on leaving office, has given lie to the US and Israeli propaganda that Tehran is on the cusp of developing a nuclear bomb. Based on confidential if not classified data, Dagan has pooh poohed that idea, and put any such development off for years.
North Korea has the bomb, but when Robert Carlin and Dr. Siegfried Hecker visited a heretofore unknown enrichment plant outside Pyongyang, it turned out that North Korea was more interested in building light water reactors to replace its inadequate and antiquated Soviet built infrastructure. [As GuamDiary observed, Bill Clinton reneged on a promise to build 3 light water reactors for the North Koreans. A promise which to this day remains unfulfilled.]
Gates' object was to scare the pants off his fellow citizens. It zeros in on North Korea's rocketry. Admittedly, North Korea's rocketry is of high level. After all, owing to stringent US imposed sanctions, Pyongyang earns the denied hard currency which US policy inhibits it from normal trade relations with other countries. Ironically, even a strong ally like Egypt is a buyer of North Korean rockets. On the other hand, in developing long range rockets, North Korea has had little success yet.
They may in the future, but that remains a matter of time and speculation.
What is at the bottom of Gates' war scare? Historically, the US has been at war with the DPRK for more than 60 years. Therefore, in a sense, North Korea is a present danger to the US. That war is frozen by a 1953 Armistice agreement, so the danger is minimal to America.
The real threat arises from the failed US and South Korean policy to provoke North Korea to war or to starve it until it collapses. On both countrs, Washington and Seoul have failed miserably. The Obama administration like the Bush administration before it, is counting on China to pull its chestnuts out of the fire by muzzling North Korea. China cannot and will not for the very same reasons it entered the Korean War against the US led UN troops: it does not want a hostile presence on its borders. It was true now as it was then. A reunited Korea under South Korea sends off danger signals in Beijing.
South Korea, if anything, is more aggressive towards the North through military exercises dangerously close to the North's international waters in the Yellow Sea [pace: the shelling in November 2010] and the axis of ill intention of Seoul, Washington, and Tokyo in waters in the Yellow sea that Beijing views as threatening to its own security, let alone to destablising North Korea.
If there is an imminent and present danger, it comes from the US and its South Korean and Japanese allies. It is based on a harrowing mad policy towards North Korea which is full of tripwires to war. Gates' pronouncement in China is simply 'eyewash'--full of deception and misleading words.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Suzannah Clarke, Middlesbrough, & North Korea

Imagine tuning into the BBC and hearing a trained operatic voice singing 'Happy Birthday' in Korean to Kim Jong eun. Well, you do not need to imagine. It really happened. The voice belonged to Suzannah Clarke of Middlesbrough, England. Is there a special charm that attracts Clarke and Middlesbrough to North Korea? Clarke and Middlesbrough illustrate the old saying that music and sports are a universal language.
A little bit of history is in order here: in 1966 North Korea qualified for the World Cup held in the UK. The DPRK's 11 landed in Middlesbrough. The people of this Yorkshire county displayed a curiosity about the DPRK team, which was not hostile. In fact, by maintaining an air of neutality, they took the North Korean team as their own. In other words, they treated it as a hometown team. As for the North Korean soccer players, they did not disappoint the town that adopted them. In one of those strokes of luck which happens in sports, the DPRK 11 knocked out the world soccer champions Italy in the first round. Their victory brought much joy to Middlesbrough and drew it closer to the North Korean players. Park Doo ilk's goal went down in the record books as one of the biggest upsets in world soccer history. Alas, they, too, were eliminated but they left for home with the proud self respect of trouncing Italy and with the knowledge that in the midst of the Cold War, a town in England had treated them as one of their own. For North Korea and Middlesbrough it was 'the games of their lives'. [GuamDiary suggests looking at Daniel Gordon's 'The game of their lives' which captures the spirit of that triumph, and follows 40 odd years later what happened to the DPRK 11 players after they returned home.] An unexpected and 'tremendous' goal caught the world's imagination that instant which was impossible to forget. The town of Middlesbrough never forgot the North Koreans they adopted, and as we shall see, North Korea kept a found memory of Middlesbrought nearly a half century later.
Fast forward to 2003 when Middlesbrough Italian trained opera singer Suzannah Clarke participated in Pyongyang's Friendship Festival as tensions heightened on the divided Korean peninsula over the North's nuclear programme. Perky, clear eyed, and surely nobody's fool, with an degree with honours in Business, believed that as a good citizen of Middlesbrough, she could bridge differences with North Korea through entertainment. And she proved that by singing 5 concerts, performing both operatic and West End musical songs. Her 2003 'tour' was filmed by the BBC.
North Korea greeted her warmly, on two counts: one, she was breaking a taboo against performing in the DPRK, and two, she was from Middlesbrough.
Clarke has returned many times to North Korea. She has also given talks and classes on western opera and spoken of popular music. She has gone into the provinces as well. She is no starry eyed idealist, but ever the practical English gentlewoman that she is. As though she were talking, say, with a neighbour, the soprano exchanged tips on home gardening to increase family food supplies, with her North Korean hosts.
Listening to her interview on the BBC, Clarke exhibits a warmth towards North Koreans but she also knows they respect her opinions and her beliefs. She remains true to her ideal of building bridges through song. But it's not all song and concerts for her. According to her, she found her hosts attentive and curious about the world beyond North Korea without being patronising. And of course, she never forgets to say that she's a goodwill ambassador from Middlesbrough. Clarke, in her own way, is an example of the finer qualities of English sense of fair play.
As for Middlesbrough, the 'Middlesbrough Ladies' soccer team re enforced the city's historic connexion with North Korea, by playing in the DPRK. The team wore jerseys emblazoned with the words 'Friendship Football'. The press described the smiling 14 players and 3 coaches as sports ambassadors breaking new ground by playing in North Korea. The 'Ladies' were part of a programme marking 10 years of diplomatic relations between the DPRK and the UK. And football became a metaphor of that relationship which can serve as a model for other countries. In fact, to mark this event, the Embassy showed the popular film 'Bending like Becham' to a North Korean audience.
Events have come a long way since Middlesbrough 'adopted' the DPRK 11 in 1966. And the ties that bound that city and North Korea have survived and thrived through generosity of spirit and a willingness to get along or what in the old days people called 'peaceful coexistence'.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Demonising Kim Jong eun Pyongyongologists hit a new low

Ambassador Donald Gregg famously said, 'North Korea is the US' biggest intelligence failure'. Reading the rumours which Pyongyongologists have been gratuitously floating in the global media simply underscores Gregg's remarks.
Consider the 'New York Times' correspondent Mark McDonald's 'Low profile of an heir reinforces a mystery' which appeared in the paper of note's online edition [08 January 2011].
The appearance today of McDonald's article is not fortuitous. It has a purpose. Eight January 2011 is Kim Jong eun's birthday. It is not a declared public holiday, but, according to North Korean press sources, his birthday is not an unknown date among North Koreans. And because the date is not celebrated with fanfare, Pyongyongologists consider it open season to demonise Kim Jong il's youngest son.
A hundred days age Kim Jong eun became his heir apparent. Since then the media and cyberspace and nattering of the North Korean scholarly clerisy have spread misleading statements, oblique allusions indirectly accusing this young man of evil designs and actions which remain baseless and without a shred of evidence, and endowing him with powers of deadly force.
When you poke a finger into this puffery, you come up with trickery or purseful disinformation.
Pyongyongologist like to see their names in print. Nothing is more flattering or stroking to the ego. Consequently, they have a ready stock of sound bytes should a journalist want a word from them.
What do we know of Kim Jong eun? At most a bare boned 'curriculum vitae'. We do not know his true ago. We think that he spent some years in a Swiss lycee. Is he married?
We may assume that he went to elite schools in Pyongyang. We know that in September 2010 he was promoted to a 4 star general. Until then, we did not know what he looked like. We do now: he is the spitting image of his grandfather Kim Il Sung. The word brought back by visitors to North Korea indicates that he is learning the ropes of leadership and going through a rigorous and planned apprenticeship of leadership.
And that is more or less what we do know. Not very much, in other words.
Now let us turn to an oft quoted Russian born Korean expert Andrei Lankov, professor at South Korea's Kookmin university. Here is what he has to say on North Korea's 'heir apparent: 'there are some minor but real reasons to ask if we are rushing our judgment about Kim Jong eun'. Just reading his words reveals their gossipy tone. What minor reasons? What real reasons? Not satisfied with the sound of his own voice, he grandly affirmed on Kim's succession: 'the regime seems to be making preparations for the succession, but they haven't reached of no return'. How does he know? And then to put the cherry of condescension on his 'in the know', he went on to proffer portentously: 'Next year, they could very well, say, "Kim Jong us? Oh, he's just one of 20 generals"'. Who is Lankov kidding? His 'reasoned' opinion reveals thoughtlessness and what's more to the point, inanity.
Here we have a 'learned opinion' based on hot air. If if this is the best a much Besides giving McDonald a throw away bit of nonsense, Lankov is klewless as to what's happening in the North. His 'best educated guess' is worthless if not misleading and dangerous. It is dangerous in the sense that governments like the US will consult Lankov for his expertise which, according to his own musings, is hardly remarkable and vacuous.
McDonald also brought Robert Carlin into his article. Carlin a long time North Korea watcher who often visits North Korea and keeps his finger on the pulse of its nuclear programme, remarked that during his last visit in November 2010, the name of Kim Jong eun did not come up. Why should it? He was shown 'a previously unknown uranium enrichment plant outside Pyongyang', but his hosts never brought up Kim Jong eun's name. Carlin is more thoughtful in his assessment of what's happening in the North. In face, he has a more sophisticated understanding: let him speak for himself: he thinks that [Kim] is the 'the one', even if the public rollout is being carefully paced and scripted'. Compare his judgment with Lankov's. Carlin may have an axe to grind with the North but he does not show it. Lankov, on the other hand, influenced by his growing up in the old Soviet Union, never fails to exhibit his ideological knife when it comes to North Korea. Therein lies the difference.
And then there Brian Myers at Busan's Dongseo university. Known for his book 'The cleanest race: how North Koreans see themselves and why it matters'. Impatient that Kim Jong eun's emergence is not following detail by detail the path traced for father, he seems confused. His confusion illustrates that in his own mind North Koreans behave predictably. Now if we know anything about North Korean watchers, there is one thing that they agree on almost to a man, and that is, the North is unpredictable, irrational, and on and on. Maybe having devoted 8 years to reading North Korean cultural production he has discerned a 'pattern', but what does that have to do with political decisions or the rise of Kim Jong eun? This kind of thinking is a crude example of 'historicism'. Lankov, too, falls into the facile explanation: he brings up the fact that Kim Jong eun's birthday is not marked in 'red' in North Korean calendars, nor is his name printed in bold face type in newspapers. Give it time old dear!
Here, too, is an example of the impatience of Pyongyangologists. They've a script and anything which does not conform to it infuriates them. They tend to see North Korea through the lenses that they have fashioned ideologically. They expect Kim Jong eun be 'crowned' as though he were the heir apparent to the throne of England. Hence they get flustered, frustrated, and even more dangerously, striking out blindly and maliciously because the North Koreans are not acting out the film louping in their own heads.
GuamDiary has a long laundry list of the remarks of other Pyongyangologists, but the point has been made of their quality. The level of knowledge could improve greatly were, say, the US recognise North Korea.
A final word: Kim Myong chol, the officious voice of North Korea in Japan had much fun mocking Barack Obama with a long article 'Kim Jong eun makes Obama blink'.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Rope in Lee Myung bak, Mr. Obama!

As US special North Korean troubleshooter Stephen Bosworth scurries like a chicken with its head cut off,from Seoul to Beijing to Toyko, America's client South Korea's president Lee Myung bak not only has flatly turned down North Korea's call for 'open and frank talks without preconditions', but has kicked off a new round of live fire military drills to push Pyongyang's face in the mud.
Happily, Kim Jong il & co. are not impressed. They know that Bosworth is trying to salvage a failed US North Korea policy by reversing engines and talking up the reconvening of the stalled six party talks in Beijing.
As GuamDiary has long observed, Obama like Bush before him has stood the question of dealing with North Korea on its head. Washington looks to China to keep North Korea in line as though such illuminati scholars like Aidan Foster Carter characterise Pyongyang as 'China's satellite'. This wrong headed approach is always bound to failure for many reasons. Consider the following two: China will never agree to a hostile presence on its borders with Korea [which was the overriding cause for sending volunteers to fight along the North Koreans during the Korean War], and like the Cold warriors of yore who banked on Stalin's hold of Mao, Beijing is far from being Pyongyang's handlers.
Poor Bosworth, he has a thankless task; how to get Lee Myung bak to talks in Beijing after the US has done everything to encourage the man to push the North's button until the maximum. And when that was done, the North replied in kind to the South
s shelling of its territorial waters in the Yellow Sea. Suddenly, all Obama & co. could see was the opening of a third war in Asia for the US. It pulled backed seeking diplomacy to calm Seoul's heated passions. Ironically, when the Chinese [and Russians] called for emergency consultations in November 2010, the US rejected them out of hand. So now, hat in hand, poor Bosworth. beggar hat in hand, is trying to kickstart talks in Beijing.
The fly in the US' ointment is its client Lee Myung bak. Mad as a hatter in his pursuit of regime change in the North and fancying himself as the 'reunifier' of the divided Korean peninsula, Lee try as he might can never bring his plans off. His lunatic policy has hit stumbling blocks at every turn. Yet, as head of a strong economy and a freshly signed Free Trade Agreement [FTA] with the US, he thinks he holds winning cards in dealing with Washington.
Washington has an even stronger trump to play: it can call for discussions leading towards a peace treaty with North Korea and China, thereby ending the Korean War. Lee seems to forget Syngman Rhee refused to sign the 1953 Armistice, and therefore, excluded the South from any party of new arrangements on the divided Korean peninsula. Such a threat should sober up Lee. His exclusion in the peace process would make Pyongyang the sole spokesman for the Korean people both South and North.
Of course this is an abomination to Lee, but it is a truncheon the US can effectively use to drag the unwilling Lee to talks in Beijing.
It is no time for the US to shilly shally with the mad man Lee. It is time to rope him in, hog tie him, and bring him 'shaved and shorn' of his hubris to Beijing.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Will the six party talks meet again?

It ain't going to be easy to drag South Korea - and Japan - back to six party talks in Japan. Already in the op ed columns of the 'Wall Street Journal' [WSJ] John Bolton, the grand pooh bah of not giving in to North Korea's nuclear blackmail, has trashed president Obama's intentions of breathing air into the stalled talks in Japan. In South, the US president's Stephen Bosworth whose dossier handles North Korea, in a photo op, cannot manage to crack a smile. South Korea's president Lee Myung bak has rejected the North's call for 'early and unconditional talks' as an 'insincere offer'.
Washington's ally's has dug his heels in the ground and won't budge from a 'no win' standpoint. Little wonder, Botsworth has a sour look on his face. Lee is giving Obama more wool than he is willing to thread on North Korea.
Instead of bearing down on Lee, Obama's envoy is looking to China to pull the US' chestnuts out of the potential 'nuclear' fire the next time. GuamDiary has to wonder aloud about the US' two left feet in foreign affairs. China had already called for emergency discussions on the growing crisis which might lead to war in Korea, but, Washington dismissed Beijing's efforts to calm turbulent waters in the China Sea.
Now the US has had a change of heart. It now wants China to 'reason' with North Korea. Recent events - including the eyewitness account of Bill Richardson -- show that it is South Korea that is the danger not the North. Yet, the Obama diplomacy remains wedded to an outdated and failed view of what's going on in South Korea. 'Bulldozer' Lee is seeking revenge for the humiliation and the failure of his own policy towards North Korea.
Added to the wimpiness of US diplomacy in east Asia, as GuamDiary has already noted, the formation of a Washington-Seoul-Tokyo axis which plans more military drills in the Yellow Sea. This is yet another sign that the US is trying to buy time to continue its lunatic policy, supported by South Korea and now Japan, to bring North Korea to the brink of collapse as the North is going through a transition of power.
Now the US has the choice of 'sitting on' 'Bulldozer Lee' and bring him kicking and screaming to Beijing for talks or letting the situation deteriorate to the point that Lee will end up provoking renewed war on the Korean peninsula.
Obama has a precedent in putting Lee's rejectionist policy in a straitjacket: president GWH Bush twisted painfully the arm of Itzhak Shamir so that he came to the Madrid Conference with the PLO and Arab states. Photos of that time of the early 1990s will show a grim, unhappy Shamir, but there he sat and there his US handler made him eat humble pie. Obama could do the same. Does he have enough lead in his spine to force Lee to the talks?
Lee, on the other hand, may be counting on a revivified Republic party to give more tractions to his dangerous military and political moves. Can he count on the party that has given America two botched wars?
In sum, Bosworth has his work cut out for him, and the US tack towards North Korea has the man's two hands tied behind his back. Is there any reason to look for a glimmer of optimism in the impending storm? Perhaps.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Year in a divided Korean peninsula

North Korea's three major newspapers expressed a 2011 desire for better relationship with South Korea. The headlines did not beat around the bush. They called on the South to open discussions, 'as soon as possible' in order to 'relax tensions'. And the land divide at the DMZ and especially on watery borders in the Yellow sea are on high alert in the wake of an exchange of fire along the NLL [Northern Limit Line] along North Korea's territory.
The stakes are indeed high, the more particularly the South's shelling of North Korean waters in November 2010, brought retaliatory fire with casualties on the military installation on the island of Yeonpyeong hardly 10 km from North Korean waters.
The North does not shy away from the fact that the South's increasing joint military drills with the US since the sinking of the 'Cheonan' [the cause of which remains, as GuamDiary noted, under a cloud of doubt as to Pyongyang's guilt].
The exchange of fire between the South and the North is symptomatic of the danger of South Korea's president Lee Myung bak's brinksmanship [see the leaked diplomatic cable which appeared in the 'Guardian', 29 November 2010]. A policy which has made the former governor of New Mexico greatly uneasy since one miscalculation would renew war on the Korean peninsula, and might not rule out the use of nuclear weapons.
Pyongyang in its New Year's greetings called for the suspension of these naval drills and avoid any tripwire to confrontation.
Lee had publicly stated that he wanted 'dialogue' with the North. His words are welcome, but ...
His American pro consul, the Obama administration remains obscure in backing up Lee's wishes and in no way, seemed willing to suspend military exercises in what it sees as 'North Korea's underbelly' along the NLL in the Yellow sea.
The thinking in Seoul and in Washington is 'the North broke the rules laid down' by them. As such, the South and US allow themselves the right to 'escalate' the conflict between them and the North. Since Seoul and Washington have barely a passing contact with Pyongyang, they set themselves up as judge and jury and proclaim to a confused and ignorant world that justice is on their side. They have set the rules -- even though the North does not recognise them -- and in a distortion of the truth and reality, they are unwilling almost nothing to change the situation.
In the lunatic policy South Korea and the US have set up, they see an opportunity to push the North to the limit as Pyongyang is going through a transition of power. They have bet on the death of Kim Jong il and the elevation to power of his son and chosen successor Kim Jong eun. The younger recently nominated 4 star general is very wet behind the ears, and so he will be a weak reed and one unable to keep the DPRK from collapse.
The West's North Korea clerisy nod in agreement with this scenario. And what's more, they foresee that China will come in and pick up the pieces but ultimately will cede to South Korea the full control of a reunified Korean peninsula.
GuamDiary wonders have they, like the lotus eaters in the 'Odyssey', tasted the narotic of self delusion? Have they moved so off the pier of history, that the role of China in the Korean War and its assessment of South Korea today as a state hostile to the peninsula's geopolitical reality under no circumstance would Beijing agree to one Korea under Seoul's dominance.
For the moment, we have to see whether Lee will live up to his words. For, there is a clear and present danger of war in Korea. Seoul and the US cannot hide behind the cover of 'it's the North to blame' when an honest assessment of events points to the double dealing they are engaged in.

26 February 2008: Americans in Pyongyang

A reader of GuamDiary sent us a DVD of the New York Philharmonic's 'The Pyongyang Concert' performed and televised from the Great Eastern Performance Hall in the North Korean capital. on 26 February in Pyongyang
It was a moment of what the US used to call of 'People to People' [P-t-P], at its very best. 'P-t-P', a programme floated by president Eisenhower, to cut through the red tape of Cold War politics and bureaucratic inertia, the better to foster better understanding between people in our 'small and interconnected' world. The disc has a documentary which shows the way the music transcended ever so briefly the great divide which has been separating the DPRK and US for more than 60 years.
The warm personality of the Philharmonic conductor Lorin Maazel and the transforming talent of the orchestra's musicians bonded the North Koreans and the Americans in a way that was immediate and touching. Maazel spoke learnt phrases in Korean; surprised that the audience understood him, it was a way to 'break the ice' and immediate to connect with the North Koreans.
The Philharmonic played, as a coda, the traditional folk song 'Arirang' which had a visibly moving effect. 'Arirang' is a song loved on both sides of the divided Korean peninsula. It is not a stretch of the imagination to say that for the South Koreans watching the concert on the television, few fought the tears that may have pearled on the lids of eyes.
The North Koreans looked on this 'unique' occasion as the first steps of a rapprochement between the two countries. It is difficult to read the motives of the Bush administration in allowing the Philharmonic to play in Pyongyang. After all, to president Bush, the DPRK was an 'axis of evil' state; its leader Kim Jong il, he did not hesitate to vilify; and in his pursuit of a lunatic policy which pushed North Korea to test a nuclear device.
Zubin Mehta, the Philharmonic's president, with the New York Korea Society ready to offer its good offices, and the 'maverick' State Department diplomat Christopher Hill, smoothed the uneven edges in order to arrange for the Philharmonic's presence in Pyongyang.
According to Mehta, the North Koreans agreed to programme: the playing of the two nations' national anthems, with national flags displayed on the stage's edges. He stressed that an 'American' orchestra would be performing in the DPRK, and the selection of the music would reflect its character--Dvorak's 'New World Symphony', a work commissioned by the Philharmonic; Gershwin's 'An American in Paris'; and Leonard Bernstein's 'Candide's' overture.
GuamDiary urges its readers to look for the DVD in public or university libraries, or if the spirit moves them, to buy it.
Mehta, Maazel, and the Philharmonic musicians may and did feel that they had succeeded beyond their wishes. Yet, the concert had no follow up by the Bush administration.
Someone who had a good feel for the inner workings of the New York Korea Society, spoke to GuamDiary on the condition of anonymity. In spite of its good works in assisting in bringing the Philharmonic to Pyongyang, the Society'schanged its tune from one second to another. The word, it seemed, had come down from on high in Washington that it 'disengage' from having anything to further the 'people to people' tilt towards an opening to North Korea. It may have been alright for the Society's top guns to deal with the DPRK delegation to the United Nations, but nothing more. It may be an NGO, but it does dance to the tune of its paymaster!
Did the Bush administration take fright that the viewing American public would discover that North Koreans were not the villains nor the monsters that US propaganda made them out to be? Did it retreat from the possibility of a breakthough in disucussions with Kim Jong il? We do know that the administration turned a sharp heel and retreated into a Cold War frame of mine. It lacked the political will or courage to venture forth and chart new diplomatic territory. And so much the tragedy since the Obama administration has kept to the straight and narrow of no contact!