Friday, April 13, 2012



The Hermit Kingdom launched its much vaunted “weather satellite” yesterday. The result was, predictably, merely the latest in a series of colossal failures of the North Korean missile/nuclear program as the rocket effectively blew up less than two minutes into its flight.

The serial failures of North Korea’s thinly veiled ballistic missile program, while beginning to resemble the similar futility of the Chicago Cubs’ attempts at baseball glory, will do nothing to calm the febrile rantings of the War Party in this country, led by the likes of Republican Senators John McCain, John Kyl, and Lindsey Graham, but not limited to the GOP (Note that even “peace candidate” and now President Barack Obama has fully bought into the program; witness our continued presence in Afghanistan, Barack’s excellent adventure in Libya, and, shortly after the upcoming election, our incursions, one way or the other, into Syria. But I digress.), that we must spend more on defense in order to counter the “aggressive actions of rogue states like Iran and North Korea.” Even though it appears that the North Koreans, as a close friend and relative would put it, could “(mess) up a two car funeral,” we must be ever diligent, and ever free with the taxpayers’ increasingly hard earned dollars, if we are to be safe from the modern day Odd Jobs in Pyongyang.

Defense enthusiasts, or those who have simply bought into the War Party line that we must always be strong (i.e., we must always spend trillions) in order to be “safe,” will doubtless cite hyperbolically strained old World War II analogy, reminding everyone that it was the West’s failure to check Nazi aggression that led to the War. Those who make this argument are absolutely right; if, say, France had challenged the Wehrmacht when it remilitarized the Rhineland in 1936, Hitler would in all likelihood have retreated to Berlin with his tail between his legs, soon to be never heard from again. But the analogy is beyond strained because the situations are radically different. France and, to a lesser extent, Britain, had a major, maybe THE major, world power on or near their borders, a power with the industrial capability and military potential to field a devastating military machine. Hitler’s Germany was serious business, but still counterable, in 1936. In 2012 North Korea, we have an impoverished backwater 6,000 miles away, a backwater with such pathetic technological capabilities that it is incapable even of feeding itself. North Korea isn’t a threat to us and is a threat to its neighbors only in the sense that an overserved teenager with the keys to his parents’ car is a threat to his neighbors; North Korea is, rather, either an object of pity or a source of great humor as its caricature of a leader routinely makes a laughingstock of himself on the world stage. Remember the old Saturday Night Live and/or Mad TV skits featuring Dear Leader (and father of the currently reigning crackpot Kim Jong Eun; see my two 12/20/11 posts, WHY DON’T WE JUST INSTALL ANOTHER SYNGMAN RHEE? and I’LL BET PARK CHUNG HEE NEVER TORTURED SMALL ANIMALS!) Kim Jong Il?

A better, but still not very good, analogy would be to the old Soviet Union. In that historical anomaly, we were facing a huge but underdeveloped nation with a political system brimming with inherent and irreconcilable contradictions, incapable of producing a decent car or kitchen appliance or, until Richard Nixon and the American farmer came to the rescue, of feeding itself. And yet our politicians convinced us that, because of the Soviets’ massive military might, we were on the brink of nuclear devastation or the greatest land war in history on the European continent as the Savage Russkies were getting ready to either send us to kingdom come with nukes or overrun Europe in two days. As it turned out, the Russians had no desire, capability, or (probably) both, to perform either of the above dastardly deeds. For example, why do you suppose there was a Cuban Missile Crisis? Because the Russians did not have either sea or air systems capable of delivering a nuclear device to the United States from Russian soil and thus, if they were to counter our multiple layers of delivery systems capable of vaporizing their country in a matter of hours, had to put their vastly inferior systems within a manageable range of the United States.

Military spending enthusiasts will counter that the Russians didn’t have the capability to either invade Europe successfully or attack us with nukes precisely because we were vigilant. But note that the same people, or their intellectual ancestors, were constantly telling us back then that we were woefully unprepared for “Red aggression” back then; remember the Missile Gap, and Qimoy and Matsu, from the Kennedy-Nixon debate (which, by the way, provides further evidence that war hysteria is not the exclusive province of the GOP)? They can’t have it both ways. If we were so woefully unprepared, why didn’t the Soviets incinerate us, or enslave Western Europe? Clearly because, again, they couldn’t do so, didn’t want to do so, or, probably, both.

All this ranting and raving by the War Party about the dangers that face us on the international scene boils down to the need of governments for a bogey-man under the bed. Governments need a bad guy not only to cow their populations but also to keep the defense contractors fat and happy with taxpayer cash so that those contractors can in turn finance the politicians’ endless pursuits of self-gratification and self-aggrandizement. If the American people see the utter ridiculousness of what is being touted as the North Korean threat, the Chinese, Putin era Russia, the radical Islamists, or any number of modern day Snidely Whiplashes will do. We just need an enemy, any enemy, that will somehow make us equate the willingness to spend taxpayer dollars, and squander resources and human blood, with patriotism.

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