A Philosopher's Blog


Posted in Politics by Michael LaBossiere on November 24, 2010
North Korea and weapons of mass destruction
Image via Wikipedia

While the TSA continues to scan and pat looking for underwear bombs, trouble is brewing between North and South Korea. While there have been various incidents in the past, the most recent events are matters of grave concern. After all, North Korea is not just a few terrorists dreaming about getting an underwear bomb past the TSA. South Korea has a real military and even nuclear weapons. Plus a leadership that often seems to somewhat north of sanity.

Of course, shooting incidents along such borders do occur without escalating to actual war. Given that there will be a change of leadership soon, North Korea might be playing a violent form of political maneuvering to make some sort of point. Or perhaps this is yet another attempt to gain some leverage in negotiations (“do what we want or we will do crazy things”).

While North Korea is a smaller player than China (or Japan) it has the potential to create a great deal of chaos. While China and North Korea are not the best of friends, China has an established history of sending troops to aid North Korea (we killed a lot of Chinese in the Korean War). Also, China has a clear interest in keeping Korea divided and the United States as far away as possible. Of course, China also has an interest in not having a war break out nearby. China almost certainly does not want to be engaged in a shooting war with the United States. While this is a remote possibility at this time, the United States will fight to defend South Korea and these operations could result in incidents with China.

From a rational standpoint, it makes sense for America and China to cooperate to prevent a war from starting. While China does benefit from North Korea being an enemy of the United States, China benefits far more from being on decent terms with the United States and there not being a shooting war in the region.

It makes good sense to work at getting China to see that having a stable and less crazy North Korea is in its best interest. But, as noted above, a divided Korea is in the interest of China (at least relative to a unified Korea that is allied with America). As such, China will probably be willing to tolerate North Korea’s actions. Hopefully, this will not encourage North Korea to start up the shooting war in earnest.

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11 Responses

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  1. magus71 said, on November 24, 2010 at 4:17 am

    China knows it has little to gain and much to lose in a war between North and South Korea.

    For one, thousands of refugees would be pushed into China should a war break out. Secondly, though China has its problems, it is fully integrated into the global economic system and would be hurt with every one else in a war. Thirdly, there’s always the chance that should war break out, that China would be pulled into a regional conflict in which it actually has to choose a side. China prefers to sit the fence and suck up the good form both sides.

    This war would be very short and very bloody. The Korean Peninsula forms a funnel for huge amounts of US and South Korean firepower and little chance for Northern troops to disperse as a defensive measure. The probability of China allowing Northern troops to operate from across-border safehavens is almost nil. So while initial strikes from the North, should they escalate to all-out war, would be very damaging and likely include chemical weapon strikes on Seoul, the retributive strikes by S. Korea and the US would be overwhelming. The war would be over in less than 30 days–no real insurgency, and likely no N. Korea to speak of.

    That being said, don’t expect much else form North Korea for a while after this. I think they’ll want to cool things off before making a racket again.

  2. T. J. Babson said, on November 24, 2010 at 8:43 am

    North Korea sunk a South Korean ship, and now let loose an artillery barrage. No response will be perceived as a sign of weakness, yet a robust response may provoke an all-out war. Quite a dilemma.

  3. kernunos said, on November 25, 2010 at 2:18 am

    I think the US just vehemently denounced the recent action by North Korea. I think if things escalate Obama will go for the jugular and drop Kim Jong-Il from his friends list on Facebook. Now that will really sting.

    • magus71 said, on November 25, 2010 at 3:06 am

      Yeah, this is just like Team America. I still say that movie has more to teach people about world events and politics than any other. Pure genius.

    • T. J. Babson said, on November 25, 2010 at 9:51 am

      He won’t stop there. He will send Kim a strongly worded memo deploring the recent action.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on November 27, 2010 at 12:20 pm

      I’m not sure why people see Obama as weak in this regard. After all, he has kept both wars going, has stepped up Predator drone attacks, and so on.

      • magus71 said, on November 27, 2010 at 12:39 pm

        Yes, it is rather ironic that after two years of telling the world how bad America is and scalding Bush for his war effort, that he has continued many of his policies. You, too, Mike. You said that Bush was doing “untold damage” to America. That money spent on the wars could help those who need medical care. Do you holde Obama to the same standard? Where’s the over-the-top rhetoric? My major concern with Obama is the economy. He can’t get it right at this point, I don’t think. Same with Obama Care. add 32,000,000 people but make it cheaper? yeah, right.

        I actually made this point to an Obama supporter: Obama could just pull us out of both Iraq and Afghanistan, right? The reponse back was “That would be irresponsible.” You mean to tell me it wasn’t irresponsible when Obama told the world he would pull us out immediately when he became president, during his campaign? Surely, in Afghanisatn at least, it would not be any worse than before we got there at this point. I’ve said before that I don’t think Obama really knew what his views were. He just said what he needed to get the far left vote and now makes it up as he goes along. It’s not working very well.

        That being said, his rhetoric was damaging because it encouraged the enemy. This publicized draw-down date of 2011 is hurting our effort, making it very difficult.

        • erik said, on November 27, 2010 at 1:15 pm

          “He just said what he needed. . .” Hey. Politicians(esp. on the campaign trail) and bloggers do that. The difference between then and now is that he’s your commander-in-chief.

      • T. J. Babson said, on November 27, 2010 at 2:08 pm

        My impression is that Obama has trouble figuring out who our friends are.

        Look at the body language in this pic: http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/04/18/2546423.htm

        • magus71 said, on November 27, 2010 at 3:21 pm

          This is how I imagine that conversation:

          “Hey man, what’s up! Haven’t seen you since Grad School! Let’s see, so far I’ve got Ayers, Wright and Chavez. I’m on a roll baby! Sent that bust of Churchill packing, right back to Jolly Old White-guy land. Now I’ll do you a favor. You’ve probably heard of the Rough Riders. More bad gringos. Added to the uncountable American attrocites, Hugo, only it was in Central America. Thre’s a place called Mt. Rushmore and it’s got one of those Rough Riders staring out over all the brown-skinned folk of the world–just ready to enslave, kill and desecrate. Well I say it’s time to add a few drone strikes to the scene! Then Time magazine can suggest they replace Teddy’s face with mine… What’ya think, Pal?”

  4. erik said, on November 25, 2010 at 11:27 am


    Brief article, interesting comment section.

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