Wednesday, September 03, 2003

le parcours

Apologies for slow blogging, My Three Readers. I've been involved in a fascinating email discussion with one of my best friends about gay marriage. It's bizarre... we agree on 99%, but it's that damn 1% remainder that's turned us into Talmudic scholars intensively going over a single line of scripture. This, friends, is what "attachment to words" is all about. True for both interlocutors.

One of my other best friends, the Maximum Leader, has just written an involved post on the subject that approaches the issue from the conservative side, and through the lens of history, politics, and philosophy (in all of which the ML is well-versed, so watch yer ass). I suggest you check his post out. You may agree; you may disagree. Or, like me, you may find yourself agreeing with certain points and disagreeing with others. I encourage you to WRITE him (even though you never write me, goddammit) if his article moves you to. I'm contemplating a blogged response to his post (since I'm basically for gay marriage), but have been hesitant to engage in extensive cross-blog debates, especially with friends. I might make an exception, though, since this seems to be the Email Topic de la Semaine.

Check out Frank J at IMAO for his latest slew of possibly-related thoughts. Had me busting a gut. Best lines:

* An asteroid could hit us in 2014. I hope we have the technology to nudge it and make sure it just hits France.

* Arnold Schwarzenegger says he'll do a debate. It would be cool if he says, "Here is my rebuttal... my re-headbuttal!" and then head butts Cruz Bustamante. Then he could pick up Gray Davis and throw him against a wall. That would be the coolest debate since the time Reagan cold-cocked Jimmy Carter!

* Did you hear that Cruz Bustamante is a member of some group called Robo or something? It's motto is "For the race, everything. For those outside the race, nothing." Why don't they just make their motto, "We're a bunch of racist numb-nuts."?

* Maybe instead they could have their motto be, "For the race, everything. For those outside the race, free scoops of ice cream." Then, instead of people being threatened, they'd be like, "Yay! Free ice cream!"

* Actually, I thought "Hispanic" was an ethnicity, not a race. Bustamante should clarify whether he hates other races or other ethnicities.

Check out Kim Jong Il's blog for its latest.

Steven Den Beste blogs about the 6-way talks-- finally.

Den Beste's a bit behind on the news: the CURRENT hotness is that China may be basking in its new "important" role (cough), but the onus is once again being placed on America: it's all up to us, you see, to find a resolution for this crisis. Is this is the globalization of the victim mentality, or did we, in some way, do this to ourselves? I'm leaning toward the former, but am open to discussion.

Den Beste writes:

Of course, in overt terms this is not a good thing. But there was never any chance of a real solution in this situation unless China was willing to apply serious pressure, mostly because China is the only nation remaining that has the ability to do so.

This is actually an excellent point. Much of China's current self-congratulation is misplaced: its role was almost inevitable. Could the US realistically have persuaded an NK delegation to come meet with it in Washington, along with four other countries? I doubt it. NK might have accepted if the hypothetical proposal called for exclusively bilateral talks, but we weren't about to concede that (and we were right not to).

Den Beste writes:

North Korea has been a growing tumor for a long time now, and it's reached the point where it can't be ignored any longer. Chinese policy was to try to con the US into accepting bilateral talks with North Korea in hopes that the US would make major concessions to put the lid back on. As the Bush administration stood firm, with a policy I characterized as "engaged apathy", the Chinese have more and more switched to the idea that it was North Korea which would have to be forced to change.

And that's the old news. The new news is that it's supposedly all up to the US to show some flexibility. I noticed some other China- and Koreablogs complaining about US inflexibility. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING? ALL concessions have come from the US side. ALL. And WE'RE the ones who aren't flexible? Stop eating what you're crapping, and keep a picture of Bill Clinton in front of you at all times for a recent example of US flexibility.

Den Beste:

On the other hand, if NK actually performs a nuclear test in some sort of spectacular fashion, such as firing a nuclear-armed missile over Japan to detonate in the North Pacific, then for the Chinese (and everyone else) that's even worse.

I haven't seen enough professional speculation on NK's nuke testing. Will it happen? There's a chance it won't. There's a chance they'll say it happened underground and (like License2KimJongIl on that hilarious blog) push out some Orwellian bullshit that our satellites simply couldn't pick up the test because it was deep underground. Heh.

My feeling, based on absolutely nothing: any nuclear test is 90% likely to be underground. An aboveground test of a low-yield nuke might not do much real damage in terms of wussy radiation, but the psychological impact on the surrounding countries (and this blogger) might be extreme.

For more on Korean strategic issues, I give you an incredible old post from Anticipatory Retaliation re: "Deterrence and Ideology."

Kevin at Incestuous Amplification is up to his usual excellent standards. His latest posts are worth reading through.

1. Is the White House Cracking?

I sure hope the White doesn't crack. I think NK needs to see major inflexibility from our end. I don't want to see us try a preemptive strike, because that's simply Endgame, but I also think that burblings about a strike need to be leaked regularly to NK, to keep those assholes on their toes.

Of course, there's the issue of diplomatic capital. Best card we can play: keep insisting (to all relevant parties) on multilateral talks, on a multilateral solution. Talks to be hosted by China? Who cares? Sure, why not? I'm not against that. Meantime, more pressure on China and SK to reduce their aid and, in SK's case, stop its rampant appeasement.

2. Hammered From All Sides

Kevin's not the only one who sees the walls closing in. SK's crisis is in many ways tied to NK's crisis. Time is running out for NK; while it may be "winning" when it gains the chance to maintain the status quo (and keep fiddling with nukes in secret), the harsh reality is that the country is dying. Like a drowning victim's body, in which the brain hogs all the oxygen, NK is exhibiting quite similar symptoms. So long as Kim Jong Il is plump while his citizens in the hinterlands (and that's most of them) are rooting around for grass, you can be sure the situation will continue to slide toward cascade failure.

Was that a suck-ass mix of imagery or what? Sorry about that.

Check out the Marmot's "Keep Dreaming" post, re: the NK cheerleading squad that seemed to hog the headlines during the much-touted Taegu Universiade (an event I had no urge to follow through the news). Gem:

Personally, I'm all in favor of reform in South Korea - it's a nation in dire need of change, and Infidel's post from yesterday does an excellent job of explaining why. But the LAST thing this nation needs to do is gear reform to the North Koreans, i.e. making South Korea look more attractive to the North Korean leadership. The North Korean state is an anachronism left over from an uglier time in human history, and the sooner it is consigned to the dust bin of progress, the better. Is South Korea's society "too" competitive? Depends on who you ask. Will it be difficult for North Koreans to adjust to said society? Hell, yes. But it's South Korea's competitive drive (i.e. "where people are forced to be hostile and jealous of one another rather than work together") that is in large part responsible for this nation becoming the economic powerhouse that it is. And its current economic woes are due not to excessive competition and wealth inequalities, but to a lack of competition derived from trade and investment barriers, protected markets, and highly interventionist economic policies. Look, not that making South Korea look more like the North would bring about unification faster, but even if it did, why would you want to unify the two if you're left with a nation that is even less able to compete in the global economy?

The Marmot is reacting to an article he's quoted and translated (at least in part). He writes:

To be fair, it should be pointed out that Kim [the author of the article] is under the assumption, as are many deluded souls both here and abroad, that North Korea can somehow be reformed. Judging from something Kim says towards the end, he appears to believe that the North's "rigid" system is a product of the nation's confrontation with the United States, i.e. it's due to the American "threat" that North Korea must take the extreme security measures that it does. Of course, the writer would hardly be the first to make such a mistake - Western apologists used to say much the same thing about Stalin and Mao when they unleashed equally brutal reigns of terror on their own citizens ("useful idiots" was the term Lenin applied to them, I seem to recall). What Kim fails to understand is that without a rigid system, the North Korean state would simply cease to be - the American "threat" is simply an ideological crutch. The bizarre behavior exhibited by North Korean citizens - so often interpreted as deep respect and affection for their Dear Leader - is the product of a totalitarian system with a stranglehold on information and complete control over life and death. Loosen social controls, and what you have is not reform, but the start of a revolution - a revolution North Korean leaders, many of whom are likely to face charges of crimes against humanity should they loose power, are determined to prevent.

This is relevant to understanding the current misunderstanding that the onus for a resolution is now entirely on American shoulders. Blame needs to be properly assigned.

Marmot's deadly punchline about reunification:

There can be no "negotiated unification" - the two systems are diametrically opposed, and what's more, one of those systems no longer works.

Amen to that. I have a Korean buddy who thinks in terms of compromise when it comes to reunification. If the current sorry situation in Western Europe is any indication, though, the 50-50 mix (am I getting this proportion right?) of socialism and democratic principles doesn't lead to very much. Such a mixed system would probably produce a similar avorton in Korea.

The Infidel's September 1 post was interesting; the Marmot talks about it here. I, however, have a bone to pick with one major paragraph:

Pyongyang has bluff, and little more. The longer North Korea blathers on, the more probable some kind of mistake splits the 6-party coalition, and North Korea gets stronger. Everytime an American or Seoulite points out imaginary artillery shells and nuclear missiles raining from the sky, Pyongyang gets stronger. No matter what Pyongyang has, a missile or a new piece of hardware needs testing, to determine its viability. Hardware also costs hard currency. Pyongyang's artillery tubes are respectable, but they sit in protected lairs and reservists, strung out on meager rations, get little or no training. Personnel turnover neutralizes even that advantage. Interdiction of all North Korean vessels in international waters and diplomatic pressure applied to Iran and Pakistan will disrupt both ends of North Korea's lifeline. But, Seoul has to stop funneling unconditional aid northward, and ignore the temper tantrums from Pyongyang and from progressives at home.

"Imaginary artillery shells"?


This is the Captain Scarlet of Silent Running school of thought. It's pure Pollyanna, along the lines of "Nothing major will happen to Seoul!" People, go read the think tanks. I've got a link to a list of them on my left margin. Then go ahead and say they're all wrong.

If you choose to let your guard down in the dojang, expect to get your ass hit. I personally choose to view NK with a lot more caution, and accord them the respect that should be accorded a dangerous adversary. The Pollyanna School's confidence is misplaced.

I do, however, strongly agree with the last sentence of that paragraph. In the meantime, though, if Infidel is insinuating that we'd quickly and easily clean NK's clock, I beg to differ. We'll win, yes, but I don't kid myself that Seoul will survive the conflict unscathed, or that a war will last only three weeks here, or that South Korea's economy won't suffer horribly for a long, long time.

Winds of Change on force options in Iraq.

Andrew Sullivan is back. One of his latest posts deserves lengthy quoting:

MISSION UNACCOMPLISHED: And then there's the war. I could forgive this administration almost anything if it got the war right. But, after a great start, it's getting hard to believe the White House is in control of events any more. Osama bin Laden is regrouping in Afghanistan; Saddam, perhaps in league with al Qaeda, is fighting back in Iraq. The victims of terror in Iraq blame the United States - not the perpetrators - for the chaos. And the best news of the war - that Shi'a, Sunnis, and Kurds were not at each others' throats - is now fraying. Worse, the longer the impasse continues the harder it will be to get ourselves out of it.

About this we hear two refrains from the White House: a) everything is going fine, actually; and b) this new intensity of terror in Iraq is a good thing because it helps us fight the enemy on military, rather than civilian, terrain. The trouble that we're discovering is that a full-scale anti-terror war is not exactly compatible with the careful resusictation of civil order and democratic government, is it? And if we are in a new and vital war, why are we not sending more troops to fight it? And why are we not planning big increases in funding for the civil infrastructure at the same time? The response so far does not strike me as commensurate with the problem, and I say this as a big supporter of this war.

What to do? I'd be hard put to express it better than John McCain Sunday: more troops, more money, more honesty from the president about the challenges, swifter devolution of power to Iraqis, and so on. And yet the White House in August decided to devote the president's public appearances to boosting his environmental credibility. Are they losing it? So far, I've been manfully trying to give the administration the benefit of the doubt, especially given the media's relentlessly negative coverage of Iraq. But they're beginning to lose me, for the same reasons they're losing Dan Drezner. They don't seem to grasp the absolutely vital necessity of success in Iraq. And I can't believe I'm writing that sentence.

[Paragraphing added; Sullivan's blog tends toward paragraphic chunkiness. The above was originally a unigraf.]

Your thoughts?

Sinister news out of Israel.

A word about Charles Bronson, who recently died. He's the star of one of my absolute favorite 70s B-movies: "The Mechanic." (One of my Top three, along with the first "Dirty Harry" and "Enter the Dragon.") But the best line out of that flick goes to Jan Michael Vincent (posing as a delivery guy, standing at the front door): "Chick'n Lick'n is... lickin' chicken!"

Hats off to Bronson for his cinematic achievements. Unfortunate that he got stuck in the increasingly ridiculous "Death Wish" rut, but what big-time action star doesn't have that particular skeleton in his closet? He was a hard worker, a cool star, and the best pool boy our family ever had.

OK, that last part was a joke.

Good God... Comrade Queef's birthday isn't far from mine!

I think I'm going to cut it off here for the evening. Morning. Whatever it is. One of my birthday gifts included an infusion of cash from a Party Who Must Not Be Named (but Who Should Be Thanked Profusely and in Private). I went out and indulged in a very basic Chinese calligraphy set-- two brushes, paper, blotter, inkwell, ink, and wooden blocks to hold the paper down. Also got a quick-and-dirty calligraphy lesson from the shopowner. Am now going to practice my hanja, try to draw Bodhidharma and tigers and dragons, and see what other graphic mischief I can come up with. If I produce anything good, and get to work on the add-graphics-to-blog project, I'll be sure to showcase my scribbles. Or "chicken scrawl," as my high school physics teacher used to call it whenever I'd sign my name in Korean.

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