The editors at the Wall Street Journal have settled on a plan for ending the crisis in North Korea. Starve them to death.
I’m not kidding. In an article titled “Options for Removing Kim Jong Un” the WSJ’s editorial board suggests that the US use “all of its tools to topple the North Korean regime” including, of course, vital food imports which keep women and children from facing an agonizing death by starvation. Here’s an excerpt from the article (see full article below):
“The North is especially vulnerable to pressure this year because a severe drought from April to June reduced the early grain harvest by 30%. If the main harvest is also affected, Pyongyang may need to import more food while sanctions restrict its ability to earn foreign currency….
While the regime survived a severe famine in the 1990s, today the political consequences of a failed harvest would be severe. …. The army was once the most desirable career path; now soldiers are underpaid and underfed. North Koreans will not simply accept starvation as they did two decades ago.
Withholding food aid to bring down a government would normally be unethical, but North Korea is an exceptional case. Past aid proved to be a mistake as it perpetuated one of the most evil regimes in history. The U.N. says some 40% of the population is undernourished, even as the Kims continue to spend huge sums on weapons. Ending the North Korean state as quickly as possible is the most humane course.”
(“Options for Removing Kim Jong Un”, Wall Street Journal, Sept.4, 2017)
“Humane”? The WSJ editors think that depriving people of enough food to stay alive is humane?
And look how cheery they sound about the fact that “40% of the population is (already) undernourished”, as if they’re already halfway towards their goal. Hurrah for the US embargo, still inflicting misery on innocent people some 6 decades after the war!
Who are these people who grow up in our midst, attend our schools and universities, live in the same neighborhoods , and go to the same churches? Where do these monsters come from?
I’m reminded of what Harold Pinter said in his Nobel acceptance speech:
“What has happened to our moral sensibility? Did we ever have any? What do these words mean? Do they refer to a term very rarely employed these days – conscience? A conscience to do not only with our own acts but to do with our shared responsibility in the acts of others? Is all this dead?”
It’s sure as hell it’s dead at the WSJ, that’s for sure. Dead as a doornail.
And what is starvation supposed to achieve anyway? What’s the ultimate objective?
Why regime change, of course, isn’t that what it’s always about, installing a more compliant stooge to follow Washington’s diktats?
Of course it is. But how’s it supposed to work, after all, depriving people of food isn’t like giving them guns and training them to topple the regime, is it?
No, it’s not, in fact, there’s not even the remotest chance that the plan will work at all. None. But it will help to punish the Korean people for the behavior of their government. It will do that. And it will generate more suffering, unhappiness and misery. That much is certain.
Imagine if the shoe was on the other foot and North Korea had the power cut vital food supplies to people in the United States. Sure, it’s far fetched, but just think about it for a minute. How would you react? Would you gather your neighbors and friends together to concoct a plan to overthrow the government?
The idea is ridiculous, isn’t it? The editors at the WSJ know that. These are educated, intelligent men who understand how the world works and who know the impact of particular policies. They know that starvation isn’t going to lead to revolution. That’s just not going to happen.
Then why support a policy that won’t work?
Good question, but that’s where we have to veer into a very gray area of analysis, that is, trying to understand why some people are so morally malignant that they seem to enjoy inflicting pain on others. Why is that? Why are there so many cruel people in positions of power and authority?
It’s a mystery.
One of the Four Horses of the Apocalypse: Famine, by Albino Topaz
Options for Removing Kim Jong Un
The U.S. has never used all of its tools to topple the North Korean regime.
The Editorial Board, WSJ, Sept.4, 2017
North Korea conducted its sixth nuclear test on Sunday, detonating a bomb 10 times more powerful than its last test a year ago. The South Korean government says Pyongyang is also preparing its third test of an intercontinental ballistic missile. The tests underscore how much U.S. intelligence has underestimated the North’s nuclear progress, which will soon make American cities vulnerable to attack.
The standard refrain of foreign-policy experts is that the world has no good options other than war or acquiescence. The policy default, repeated by the Trump Administration, is pleading with China to coerce North Korea into giving up its nuclear program, despite evidence that Chinese leaders don’t want to help and Kim Jong Un may not take their orders.
A military strike has to be a last resort because it might lead to a larger war that could kill tens of thousands in South Korea and Japan, including U.S. troops. But the U.S. does have other options. Washington can put severe pressure on North Korea and the Kim Jong Un regime. To understand how, take the standard tool kit of statecraft, sometimes summed up by the acronym Dimefil: diplomatic, information, military, economic, finance, intelligence and law enforcement.
• Diplomatic. The U.S. can put far more pressure on countries to cut or restrict ties with North Korea. While the regime preaches an ideology of self-reliance, it needs international ties to raise hard currency and source the raw materials and technology it needs.
• Information. Defectors are already sending information into the North about the outside world. The U.S. and its allies can expand that effort and encourage elites to defect or stage an internal coup.
• Military. Building up missile defenses and conventional forces will diminish the North’s ability to use nuclear blackmail. Deploying tactical nuclear weapons to South Korea would make the threat to retaliate against a nuclear strike more credible.
• Economic. Donald Trump tweeted Sunday that the U.S. is considering sanctions against anyone who does business with North Korea. The regime uses networks of Chinese traders to evade sanctions and also to conduct more legitimate business. Applying sanctions to these networks could curtail the North’s trade.
• Financial. The U.S. can cut off North Korea’s access to financial intermediaries that conduct transactions in U.S. dollars. In June the U.S. applied secondary sanctions to the Bank of Dandong, a Chinese bank. Larger Chinese banks should suffer a similar fate if they continue to facilitate trade with North Korea.
• Intelligence. The Proliferation Security Initiative begun under the George W. Bush Administration tracked and intercepted the North’s weapons exports. The program could be enlarged to block other exports forbidden under United Nations sanctions.
• Legal. A U.N. Commission of Inquiry in 2014 reported evidence of human-rights abuses in the North’s huge network of prison camps. China and Russia have shielded the Kim regime from prosecution at the International Criminal Court for these crimes against humanity. Pressure for accountability will further isolate the North and encourage elites to defect.
The North is especially vulnerable to pressure this year because a severe drought from April to June reduced the early grain harvest by 30%. If the main harvest is also affected, Pyongyang may need to import more food while sanctions restrict its ability to earn foreign currency. Even in a normal year, the North needs to import about 500,000 tons of grain.
While the regime survived a severe famine in the 1990s, today the political consequences of a failed harvest would be severe. More North Korean awareness of the outside world has fostered cynicism about the government, and about half the population is engaged in some form of private enterprise. Traders openly flout the laws because they bribe corrupt officials. The army was once the most desirable career path; now soldiers are underpaid and underfed. North Koreans will not simply accept starvation as they did two decades ago.
Withholding food aid to bring down a government would normally be unethical, but North Korea is an exceptional case. Past aid proved to be a mistake as it perpetuated one of the most evil regimes in history. The U.N. says some 40% of the population is undernourished, even as the Kims continue to spend huge sums on weapons. Ending the North Korean state as quickly as possible is the most humane course.
Ideally regime change would mean Korean reunification under the Seoul government. But Beijing is likely to resist that outcome, preferring to keep the North as a buffer state under its control. That would still offer North Koreans a better life and end the nuclear threat. We should send the message to coup plotters that as long as they give up their nuclear weapons and missiles they would not be punished.
The Trump Administration rightly refuses to accept North Korea as a nuclear power, but the U.S. and its allies have never used all of their options short of a military strike to stop that from happening. The U.S. could still bring down Kim Jong Un before he becomes a global nuclear menace, but time is running out.