Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Fight or Flight?

Some years ago, the poverty of North Korea led the elites to siphon money away from the army--once a pillar of their government--to focus limited resources on the secret police to control the army and people, and nuclear weapons to deter invasion. Kooks, spooks, and nukes, I called it. The army was as much a threat as a tool under this governing philosophy. At best, the secret police keep the army loyal and willing to suppress the people if it comes to a fight. At worst, they keep the army from acting against the ruling elite.

The army is apparently in some grey area between loyalty and revolt:

Along the North Korea border, Chinese police are noting a sharp increase in North Korea military personnel coming across. The few that are caught speak of sharp cuts in their food supplies, and many senior army and political officials stockpiling supplies and sending their families to China, or even more distant safe-havens.

It seems like the lack of financial support is triggering a "fight or flight" reflex in the army. At this point, it seems like the army is willing to flee. The North Korean regime can't accept this problem in case it leads to really large-scale flight.

But if the North Korean elites halt the army's flight reflex, the elites might find that all they have left is the fight reflex. And if the regime tries to direct that fight reflex against the South Koreans, the elites might find that the lack of resources given to the army means that the army will know that going up against the well-armed and well-trained South Koreans is a death sentence.

The fight reflex could remain however, and be used against the only target possible--the regime itself.