Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Here's Looking at You, Kim

While most of the alt-right are criticizing Trump's attack on a Syrian airbase, many conservatives defend the actions, providing supporting arguments of varying quality. One of the most frequent arguments, as well as one of the worst, is a nod towards North Korea. By bombing Syria, we're told, North Korea knows that America means business.

The assertion is wrong for many reasons. How many? I'm not sure. I'll just start writing them out and we'll see what we get.
  1. North Korea doesn't need to be shown we mean business. America's ability and willingness to fire off Tomahawk missiles at will or to otherwise utilize military muscle to against adversary's has been displayed by ever president in my lifetime. And no one suspected Trump was a pushover.
  2. It doesn't show anything. If indeed Assad used weapons (he probably didn't but Trump believes he did) then taking some shots at the offending airbase is a fairly tame response, assuming one was warranted. Is Kim Jong-un terribly concerned about having some military equipment bombed? Probably not.
  3. Saber rattling is not likely to have much effect on Kim. All indications are that he's totally nuts. Don't expect him to respond rationally.
  4. In general does firing off missiles in response to emotion-invoking pictures with no investigation make it easier for the US to operate as it wishes on the world stage? Do people really respect that. You can be sure there is at least one man who doesn't think much of the action: Putin.
  5. If bombing tin pot foreign countries exudes strength, then consistency requires we also label Barrack Obama and Bill Clinton as strong national leaders. (which they clearly were not)
There you have it, 5 solid reasons why the argument that the attack will evoke some desired response out of North Korea is flawed. That's not to say that we shouldn't finally deal with North Korea. Despite my strong objections to interventionist foreign policy in Syria, Korea is another matter. It is not a hotbed of geopolitical interest like the Middle East. While the world has generally been okay to let the hermit kingdom be as quietly insane as she wants to be, they're now getting real loose with flinging missiles around the Pacific and threatening to nuke anyone in range. They'll have to be dealt with eventually. It wouldn't bother me much if Trump decided it was time, if the North Koreans become unmanageable.

There is a big difference between deposing Kim versus Assad. There is no worse alternative to Kim in Korea. Whatever replaces him will be an improvement. For Assad, any replacement is likely to leave us worse off than we started. It is almost sure to lead to an Islamic government and the persecution of the minorities that live in Syria, like the Christians and the Alawites. From a pragmatic stance, leaving Assad in is the best option. The same can't be said for his pudgy Korean counterpart.

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