Korea, is it War Yet?
As I write this, the situation in Korea is getting a little scary. I am definitely a little perturbed, this has gone beyond anything in my memory since the Pueblo incident back in the sixties. Not good.
OK, so where are we at? Well, about a month ago a South Korean ship was sunk in disputed waters near a South Korean Island. One source says it was on joint manoeuvres with the USA at the time. Suspicions immediately focused on the North, and eventually a commission “proved” that the ship was sunk by a North Korean torpedo. North Korea has denied the accusations vociferously, much sabre rattling all around. The USA and South Korea have announced they will be conducting manoeuvres and basically called the sinking an act of war. The North has cut what few ties it has with South Korea, and is threatening war too. Did North Korea sink the Cheonan. It’s certainly possible. And that’s about all us worms can know for sure. A ship was sunk, it’s being blamed on North Korea, North Korea denies it. It is in fact entirely within the realm of possibility that it was a friendly fire incident, but it’s being conveniently blamed on the North. There are other possibilities as well.
So the question now is, who sank the Cheonan? And the answer is, who cares? It simply doesn’t matter. Governments and politicians don’t give a hoot about justice and truth and crap like that, that goes with the territory. The real question is, what are the motives of the parties involved at this point? And how likely is it that a shooting war will break out? And here us worms down in the trenches, figuratively speaking, have even less clue. That’s never stopped me from speculating before, so here goes nothing:
North Korea: While it’s probable that the North miscalculated and sank the Cheonan as part of the tit-for-tat border war that’s been going on for decades, I can’t think of a single reason why they would want war to break out. While they could likely do a lot of damage in said war, it’s hard to imagine how they could hope to win in any meaningful sense. It’s also possible that they instigated the whole thing as a distraction for one of their allies, as they may have done with the seizure of the Pueblo in 1968. North Korea doesn’t really have any allies right now aside from China, sort of. Are the Chinese up to something? Seems unlikely, but if China launches a surprise attack on Taiwan in the days to weeks to come, you read about it here first. (Yes, I have ESP, I know what all my readers have been reading.)
South Korea: Well, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where South Korea would want thousands of artillery shells raining down on Seoul. They have a government though that has bet the farm on a “tough” approach with North Korea, so they aren’t going to be a voice of moderation in this. In fact they pretty much have to get vengeance somehow for the sinking or it will cripple them politically. I can’t think of any scenario where they would have instigated this, so I suspect that even if they do have doubts about the sinking, they are going to follow the USA’s lead.
Japan: Japan under no circumstances wants a united Korea, more than anyone else a divided Korea is in their interests. A united Korea would be a regional power, would very likely be an American client state, and might very well want to settle old scores with Japan. Or more accurately, use old scores to their advantage in geopolitical manoeuvring. It’s hard to see Japan instigating a war that might very well result in a united Korea, so I suspect they aren’t involved and will do their best to talk tough publicly but urge restraint privately.
Russia and China: Neither Russia nor China want a united Korea either, they are quite happy with North Korea as a buffer state between them and South Korea. At this point it should becoming clear that’s one of the major reasons this fossilized Cold War war persists to this day, Korea’s neighbours like it like that. So it seems unlikely that either of them instigated this incident, since a war might put a USA dominated united Korea right on their doorstep. On the other hand, if the USA got involved in yet another expensive war, they won’t be complaining. So while they may not be urging war, and they likely didn’t instigate this, they might well passively let the USA hoist itself by its own petard so to speak.
So we’re left with the USA. And here it gets a little hazy. For one thing Obama seems to be inclined to be even more warlike than his predecessor, a combination of his need to fend of charges of “softness” from the right, and the Democrat’s historical inclination to think they can do wars “the right way.” The failure of the USA’s vaunted military to detect a World War Two era North Korean sub in their midst might also come into play, they don’t want the American public to ever realize that that vast amount of high tech gizmos the US military purchases have only one real use … to transfer taxpayer money into the pockets of the rich. And lastly, historically governments often choose war to cover up a declining economic situation, and the USA’s econ0my is a mess no matter what the government says.
So we have a situation where the three main players, the Korea’s and the USA, all have strong motives to push this to the edge or even over the edge. And that’s a dangerous situation, because historically in situations like this it’s not unusual for both parties to get into a Chinese finger trap sort of situation where they feel they have no option but to keep upping the ante (Yes, that was a painfully mixed metaphor, wasn’t it?) Or in simpler terms, it takes two fools to have a fight. And here we arguably have three fools. So while I think that a war with North Korea would be insanely risky, history is filled with insanely risky wars that happened because the participants miscalculated and/or manoeuvred themselves into a situation where they “had no other choice.”
So this glowering situation requires careful attention. Tomorrow, ten reasons why a war with North Korea would be a bad idea.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, is central to illustrating the post, and its use here in no way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image. It’s also entirely possible it was taken by a US government photographer and is public domain under US copyright law. Credit: Harry S. Truman Library and Museum. Its refugees fleeing during the first Korean War. I used it here for the obvious (I hope) reason, so many in the west and especially in the USA seem to ignore the terrible human cost of our endless “humanitarian interventions” overseas. There’s nothing humanitarian about wars, wars are the antithesis of humanitarian.)