Friday, July 29, 2016

Sometimes Things Change

The North Koreans are known for their insults, threats, and actual murderous attacks to punctuate their language with Dead South Koreans Theater. But for decades now--six decades actually--the whackjobs in Pyongyang haven't tried to invade South Korea. That doesn't mean they will never invade--even when the odds are stacked against them.

We have more threats from the north:

North Korea's top diplomat for U.S. affairs told The Associated Press Thursday that Washington "crossed the red line" and effectively declared war by putting leader Kim Jong Un on its list of sanctioned individuals, and said a vicious showdown could erupt if the U.S. and South Korea hold annual war games as planned next month.

The North Koreans do seem peeved:

"The Obama administration went so far to have the impudence to challenge the supreme dignity of the DPRK in order to get rid of its unfavorable position during the political and military showdown with the DPRK," Han said, using the acronym for North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

"The United States has crossed the red line in our showdown," he said. "We regard this thrice-cursed crime as a declaration of war."

After all, our recent sanctions target the Pillsbury Nuke Boy. Now it is personal.

So at what point does ignoring North Korean threats as more of the same miss preparations for war?

It is no good to say that North Korea would be mad to go to war since they would lose. Their calculations may be different than ours.

The North Korean rulers may believe that a good sharp blow struck at Seoul under the shield of claimed nuclear deterrence will "teach us a lesson" and get us to open up the spigots to supplying the northern regime with goodies rather than risk another strike.

Maybe the north sees a 100% chance of collapse unless they roll the dice with war. Maybe the North Koreans believe that if they use enough poison gas they can road march into Seoul with their own ramshackle army over the corpses of South Korean soldiers.

Heck, the North Korean regime, unable to pay for their huge military and worried it could be a threat to the regime, might even see some benefit of sending the army to die in large numbers at our hands to cull their numbers to a more manageable level to feed and control? They're that sick, I think, to make that type of calculation.

Things are changing up north in ways that should cause the North Korean elites to lose sleep at night.

And thinking that nations make rational decisions--or that we understand what others define as rational--is a potentially deadly error:

In a sane world, it would be utter folly for ISIS to try to repeat a 9/11-like terrorist attack. It makes little sense for Russia to annex the Baltic states in the manner of Crimea. It would be stupid for China to prompt a sea or air fight with Japan or Taiwan. Nonetheless, all these powers may convince themselves the perceived benefits outweigh the costs. ...

We should be careful this anniversary year. War starts when weak but aggressive nations are deluded into believing that they are powerful — and wrongly conclude that the truly strong and rational are somehow weak.

I just worry that we could be drifting to war with North Korea by inattention even as we focus (if that word means anything with so much to do) on the western Pacific, the Middle East, Afghanistan, and eastern Europe (with a nervous glance at Venezuela teetering on the edge of collapse).

And for bonus fun, could China's efforts to harness nationalism in support of Chinese Communist Party rule forever and without check backfire and lead the Chinese people to demand China intervene to save North Korea from the hated Japanese, South Koreans, and Americans in a war that North Korea starts?

UPDATE: We aren't buckling to North Korean threats:

U.S. Army Secretary Eric Fanning said Saturday that annual military drills between the United States and South Korea would go ahead next month, despite North Korea's warning of a "vicious" showdown if the war games proceed.


But by all means be ready in case this time North Korea makes good on its rhetoric. Because sometimes things change.