provenance: unknown

« The hell with perfection  |  Pragmatics »

Black and white

It's hard to know exactly what effect rhetoric has. And it's hard enough to see a sufficiently complex issue clearly even without rhetoric, especially if you don't have anywhere near all the facts. But you've got to try anyway, don't you?

I just recently realized how little I'd actually thought about North Korea's position in the current crisis. I had the feeling that it was something they'd pretty much created — a feeling I had but that, like I say, I hadn't thought much about. Thinking about it made me feel a bit differently. (Reading this article in the Economist and this post on stavros's Emptybottle.org also gave a hard shove to my slow-moving sled, I should say.)

Now, I happen to be fairly confident that, whatever their failings, George Bush and his band of merry pollsters are neither sufficiently evil nor sufficiently oblivious to needlessly start a war in North Korea; and this was the basis for my initial feelings about the situation. But, I realize, I don't actually have any particularly strong evidence to cite in support of that confidence. The best I can offer are certain beliefs I have about how the American governmental system works (namely, that there are sufficient bureaucratic and political checks in place to prevent that kind of thing from happening too easily) and some degree of faith in our leaders themselves (many of whom I dislike, yes, but who I don't believe are truly evil, no). And it occurs to me, once I bother to think, that North Korea isn't likely to have much faith in either of those things.

That is, if you're North Korea, why shouldn't you believe that the world's strongest power — which has made a point of demonstrating that it answers to no one; which has signed an agreement with you to normalize relations but has not only failed to do so, it has used you to round out a its "Axis of Evil" purely because it was symbolically convenient; and which is making a point of demonstrating its willingness to use force to prevent "hostile" regimes from acquiring any weapons that might threaten it — actually might be out to get you? Like I say, I don't think there's any real chance of the U.S. attacking North Korea; but I don't see how the North Koreans could arrive at the same conclusion.

It occurs to me it would be rather frightening to be in their position. Frightening enough, even, that they might reasonably want to do something besides sit around and wait. No?

January 13, 2003 6:34 PM

Comments (and TrackBacks)

This is true, but it also must be said that Kim JI and his advisors have a long and rich tradition (also predictable and unimaginative) of using threats to wring concessions out of America. (Interestingly, they don't do it as much with South Korea.)

At this point, I'd guess that although there is certainly (justified, as you describe) paranoia in the north, there is also a strong element of using the only tool available to make the Americans realize that (in this instance) the fuel oil supplies that had been cut off are essential, and to try and get them to agree to reinstate those shipments in return for the DPRK giving up things that are not in the least a hardship to give up (like nuclear ambitions).

At least that's my take.

I wish I had your confidence in the non-malevolence of George and His Boys...

(Also, Matt, do you think you could change the link from .html to .php? I'm trying to test out Phil Ringnalda's backlinks to individual posts thingy. Thanks!)

Posted by stavrosthewonderchicken on January 13, 2003 7:57 PM

Kim JI and his advisors have a long and rich tradition (also predictable and unimaginative) of using threats to wring concessions out of America.

True enough -- I just don't know that one can blame them for it in this case. Maybe this is more of the same (and maybe they've always been paranoid, too). But it seems reasonable that, going from the evidence available to them, they try and do something.

I wish I had your confidence in the non-malevolence of George and His Boys...

Mostly I think they are greedy. And I think pushing this too far would be too costly to them -- it would be much harder to cook up a political mandate than it was with Iraq, so they would risk paying a much higher price. And I don't think they are evil -- i.e., I don't think they would do it despite its cost.

do you think you could change the link from .html to .php?

Done!

Posted by M on January 13, 2003 8:45 PM


Post a comment

Name:


Email address: (optional)


URL: (optional)


Comment:


Remember info?


Copyright ©2001-2003 Matt Pfeffer

NAVIGATE

. Home
. Web Editing
. Stray Voices
. Writings
. About
. Archive