Saturday, August 12, 2017

Joshua vs. Styx on North Korea

Joshua Stanton thinks it's a bad idea for the US to ramp up its threatening rhetoric against North Korea. Styx, meanwhile, thinks Trump's rhetoric is apropos for East Asian-style diplomacy. As Joshua writes:

I’m already on record on the topic of threatening war against North Korea: it scares our friends more than our enemies (who assume, correctly I hope, that we’re bluffing). If we want to threaten the thing our enemies fear most, threaten to sow the seeds of the revolution that the people of North Korea desperately need. Nukes aren’t much good in that kind of war, and China would never tolerate their use so close to its borders. If we can’t resist threatening to bomb someone, at least threaten to bomb the person who is responsible for this crisis, and deliver those threats privately. The people of North Korea didn’t elect Kim Jong-Un. At least Americans had a choice, sort of.

The people of North Korea don’t make policy, can’t criticize their government’s policies, and often don’t even agree with those policies. They’d rather eat than have missiles. So I really wish we would not play directly into the hands of Kim Jong-Un’s propaganda by threatening the very people we’ll need to befriend, support, and empower to verifiably disarm His Porcine Majesty.

Styx, by contrast, says this in his video (linked above):

There is a difference between the way in which diplomacy is conducted in the European style, and the way in which diplomacy is typically conducted in an East Asian style, with regards to, you know, a threatening or aggressive situation.


In East Asian politics, the two sides basically size one another up, tell each other, "Hey—I'm big and bad. I'm gonna annihilate you if you get involved. Back the fuck down." And neither one is supposed to back down! It's like the posturing of bears. Bears, when they don't want to actually physically fight with one another, they exchange some warning roars, and they make themselves look big and burly, and they do a few fake charges. And the idea is that they both sort of retire from battle having not fought out their differences. It's a strategy of actual avoidance of warfare.

When North Korea says that it has drawn up concrete plans awaiting Kim Jeong-eun's orders to fire four missiles into Guam's territorial waters, it's probably a bluff. Now, Obama never realized this. Obama would see a situation like that and say, "Oh, we call for calm. We will defend our allies," blah—[he] may issue a few vague statements and ultimately do nothing. That's how you get disrespect. There is a reason why, late in his presidency, when Obama went to Beijing the last time, they didn't roll out the carpet; nobody was there to meet him. They saw him as a joke. Because in their culture, that's a sign of weakness. It's a sign that he's impotent—that he doesn't have any balls. Trump has chosen the correct strategy to deal with the situation in Korea: he's saying, "Hey—make my day. Go ahead and fire your fuckin' missiles. We'll fire something way, way worse at North Korea." That'll probably back them down and avoid conflict."

So here are two foreign-policy stances for you to mull over today. Which one do you think hews more closely to reality? (Males being males, I expect someone to come along in the comments and proclaim, "Neither!" Because it's somehow always a sign of wisdom to defy or shatter dichotomies. Heh.)

In my more whimsical moments, I think it'd be a hoot for us to fly drones all over North Korean airspace, and then to play "missile tennis" by launching warhead-less missiles from ships or subs on either side of the peninsula, back and forth to the east and west, from ocean to ocean, just to show what we can do.


Charles said...

I'll just say that am wary of any worldview that boils down to cultural generalizations.

Kevin Kim said...

That's a good point.