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Let’s All Panic About North Korea 

You know you want to. It’s a massive amount of fun, and distracts us from the mendacity central to our own stale, irrelevant internal politics.
It occurs to me, however, that some people, unaware of its status as a sort of national sport for the western global community, might be genuinely anxious about what’s going on ‘out there’. With this in mind, here’s a quick assessment of a situation which, quite frankly, is not so much a recipe for anxiety as it is for boredom.

North Korea’s nuclear tests and other acts of aggression serve a multitude of purposes. Sure, it’s generally agreed that it is genuinely working towards becoming a nuclear power, but questions have to be asked about why it chooses to do so so publicly. A big element of this is domestic consumption. One of the major pillars of the regime’s justification of its own legitimacy is the narrative of plucky little country beset by enemies – actions like this are presented at home as measures taken to protect its people. Sound familiar? It should.

But by far the most significant aspect has to do with the regime’s isolation. As far as I know, the only means of communication with North Korea involve using China as an intermediary, or, alternatively, employing one of a handful of shady, largely non-government back channels. This isn’t ideal, and also makes it very difficult for North Korea to get anyone’s attention except through increasingly loony behaviour designed to force western engagement. Some masterly articles have been written about the potential for this policy to fall victim to entropic returns, and the implications of such a fate, and I acknowledge that this is cause for deep and genuine concern.

The thing is, the current situation simply doesn’t argue for such an interpretation. Far from entropic return, the mere threat of a test has propelled the regime into the front and centre position on the US administration’s priority list. The NK government must be in hog heaven, not having received this much propaganda friendly attention since they sunk that South Korean patrol boat.

It’s odd to me that so much attention is being focussed on troop and naval movements. As I understand it, it’s very rare not to find US naval assets IVO the Korean peninsula. The fact of these movements being announced is almost certainly for domestic consumption on the US administration’s part, and the movement of Chinese troops to the border, if it’s actually happened, is a natural reaction to the American movement.

What we’re looking at isn’t necessarily the start of some apocalyptic showdown, but opening moves in a jaded, long familiar game, the only real spice being the heavy, mumble-mouthed hand of a new player. This isn’t to say that idiot in chief Trump definitely won’t corner himself by doing or saying something idiotic, thereby precipitating a real crisis, but right now we’re basically in the yawn a minute state known as ‘ops normal’.

Of course, all of the above lacks entertainment value, so by all means head over to the other publications I write for, and enjoy the chills and thrills of warnings of doomsday which I and others of my ilk provide in order to pay our rent.

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