RFD: North Korea- Is Military Action the Next Step?


Question: Should the US involve North Korea?

Ending a Crisis and Restoring Balance: Written by Khushboo Shah, India

The territory of North Korea is a space of military containment and ideological restrictions. A nation built on a watch-dog routine; it requires each and every citizen to be profoundly self-reliant. The only irony is that, the very ‘democratic’ North Korean idea of self-reliance interprets to Juche; an ideology which authorities promote as jingoistic activism, wherein the citizens are forced to live in complete submission to national sovereignty and unquestionable totalitarianism.

While the North Korean regime believes that its practices are contributing to international revolutionary thought, the changing 21st century demographics have established that the isolated 38th parallel and the brutalities suffered by its people are alarming international issues. By early 2016, it was clear that even the United Nations Security Council was concerned as it stressed immediate international action in North Korea. In an idealistic world, even if the Trump administration and Putin government mutually agreed to free North Korea of its oppressive regime, could North Korea completely be freed of its current authoritarian regime? Could such a scenario entail peace for North Korea? Not quite so.

Speaking from a pro-invasion perspective, the primary purpose of an international invasion in North Korea would only be on humanitarian grounds, and to free its people of its dictators. An international intervention would not only aim at freeing its people, it would also commence a round of discussions which would analyze the post-Pyongyang phase and evaluate what the reconstruction of the country’s constitution and policies would look like. Currently, North Korea possesses a hydrogen bomb; a nuclear weapon which proposes to create more destruction than that of 1945 Hiroshima-Nagasaki combined. An international invasion will be worth it only if world superpowers and their strongest allies unify. A one-way led intervention can foresee future-proxy wars, and the advent of a greater war. Furthermore, the unification of leading superpowers will deem fit to contain the post-intervention trauma caused by the large political and socio-economic instability of North Korea and its neighboring countries of China and South Korea, as this international intervention has potential to escalate into a large-scale refugee crisis, with refugees migrating to China and South Korea for protection.

Currently, there are more than 25,000 Chinese troops positioned on its border with North Korea, and China has instituted a nationwide alert. While China’s major concerns are to not cause internal political and socio-economic instability while rehabilitating refugees, USA’s biggest concerns are as to what will the reconstruction of North Korea look like. Will an international intervention propose a reunified Korea? A unified Korea would not only increase USA’s dominance in South-East Asia, but also increase China’s vulnerability to USA and Japan’s control in the South China region. If unification is not proposed, then an independent North Korea will underline the superpower’s responsibility to rebuild it. If the Kremlin builds North Korea, then there is a greater possibility that North Korea may revert to what it was pre-1956 and become a ground for proxy wars again. An intervention in North Korea is only possible if the superpowers are adherent to not repeat the past's comedy of errors, and agree to maintain détente in South-East Asia until North Korea doesn’t stand as an independent, democratic nation. For even a socialist North Korea, in a post-Soviet Putin era, will be questioned as to whether it follows Leninist- Marxist socialism, or whether it adheres to Maoist communism. An intervention in present-day North Korea would symbolize an intellectual revolution parallel to a Proletariat revolution. In my opinion, a socialist democracy is likely to be proposed.

However, if North Korea is trapped in a superpower struggle, and if the USA proposes to rebuild North Korea, it will cause a large-scale strain on its resources. Moreover, if USA’s aid is unwelcome in this region, then this would indirectly call for large-scale criticism of the Trump administration back home, as the White House cannot afford to have a repeat of the Vietnam fiasco after intricate superpower overlapping and resource-draining interventions in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq in the pre-Daish Islamic State era. Moreover, a US negotiation with other superpowers for a North Korea intervention will subtly also reflect on the strong ties USA shares with Israel. A free North Korea will raise questions towards an occupied Palestine, and since USA is one of the modern day flag bearers of peacekeeping forces, it would find itself in a very sensitive political position.

In hindsight, the Kremlin has always aimed to maintain a stronghold over South-East Asian politics, and a stronghold over North Korea will allow it to have equal dominance in the region, making it a large competitor to China and Japan. A successful intervention would propose diplomatic negotiations to be carried forth between the three axes of power – China, Russia, and USA with Japan being an important contributor to the forum.

The abuse of human rights is the primary reason for us to intervene in North Korean politics, while the secondary reason is to maintain the balance of power in South-East Asia. The strained diplomatic ties between North Korea and South Korea cause the exploitation of millions of innocent lives, and the tense relations between China and North Korea are important calls to action for the international community. A revolution is needed in order for North Korea to regain its basic fundamental rights, and for this revolution to take place, leaders have to wake up a revolutionary spirit among the international community.

Invading North Korea Legitimizes Its Own Propaganda: Written by Colin McGinn, Texas

It’s hardly disputed that North Korea is a nation that views itself as at war with the world. Spending a staggering 22.3% of its GDP on defense (nationmaster.com), requiring all male (and, since 2015, female) adults to serve extended terms in the military (dailynk.com), and waging an almost continuous propaganda war ranging from massive rallies to preschool math textbooks, its actions give the impression of a near endless struggle – not just against imperialism, but against extinction as a whole. In the world order of the west, this increasingly isolated anomaly has alarmed governments for decades, and as North Korea grows ever nearer to developing nuclear weapons able to feasibly strike the west, intervention has been the word on every politician’s lips. The very idea seems to be the natural conclusion of neoliberal ideology in the 21st century – what better way to spread freedom, democracy and trade than by overthrowing an oppressive rogue state still crushing its own people underneath the spectre of communism? – and the question has increasingly shifted to not if, but how, this regime should be brought down by U.S. military might. Yet, just as in Iraq or Afghanistan, where hasty intervention under botched pretexts led to millions of deaths and governmental collapse still ongoing today, to attack too quickly is to invite utter disaster- we must consider, not just how, but why, intervention would be both feasible and justified. And a clear look at the history, the facts, and the reasoning reveals a drastically different conclusion from that already drawn by western media – though North Korea is undoubtedly authoritarian and isolated, quite simply, North Korea’s focal “war” is absolutely real, absolutely significant, and absolutely ongoing directly because of the actions of our own nation. And to stage an attack is simply to admit to truth in its rhetoric, and to provide a rallying point for all-out warfare and decades of guerilla resistance against the tyranny of imperialism.

But where, truly, does the regime’s rhetoric come from, and what has allowed it to manifest as such? To understand North Korea’s war today, we must go back to the war that marked its birth into the political world and today stains its own collective consciousness – the Korean War. From its birth, Kim Il-Sung’s communist state had viewed President Syngman Rhee’s southern “First Korean Republic” as a right wing military dictatorship and United States puppet – and with a cause, as, to quote Hamish Macdonald of the Asia-Pacific Editor, “By early 1950 Rhee had about 30,000 alleged communists in his jails, and had about 300,000 suspected sympathizers enrolled in an official ‘re-education’ movement known as the Bodo League.” The war to strike at South Korea was thus viewed by northern partisans as a war for national liberation - and, after the invasion began on June 25, 1950, the South’s carrying out of the Bodo League Massacre, where according to Professor Kim Dong-Choon, Commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, at least 100,000 people were executed on suspicion of supporting communism (the Hankyoreh Plus places this estimate at over a million), only reinforced the concept of illegitimate despotism.

United States intervention, therefore, was by no means in defense of democracy, and based almost entirely off of an opposition to communism – and, when the counterattack came, it was unflinchingly brutal. U.S. forces committed numerous atrocities on the ground, including the destruction of bridges with hundreds of refugees on them and the blatant massacre of suspected civilian “communists.” In the air waged a campaign of virtual genocide, directly attacking not only military targets but civilian centers and villages with napalm and military-grade bombs and antipersonnel explosives. The result was a gradual stabilizing and stalemate of the front, but at immense cost to civilians – to quote Air Force General Curtis LeMay, head of the Strategic Air Command during the Korean War, “Over a period of three years or so, we killed off – what – 20 percent of the population.” According to nationalinterest.org, “the United States and its allies dropped more bombs on the Korean Peninsula…than in the entire Pacific Theater of World War II,” and the end result was, according to globalresearch.ca, both a net loss of almost 30% of the population and a civil devastation that persisted for many years. This demographic loss can hardly be overstated in terms of its effect on the nation: with a casualty figure akin to some of the most devastated areas of World War II, the equivalent in the United States would be the destruction of the entire East Coast, all at our own hands.

Since the Korean War, the United States has yet to drop another bomb on North Korea, but its actions, from trade sanctions to diplomatic isolation to continuous military exercises around its coast, have shown little regard for anything but the nation’s destruction at every level, and the North has yet to forget history – according to Dr. Leonid Petrov, a Korea expert at the University of Sydney, “The regime pays a great deal of attention to the topic of the Korean War because it justifies its own legitimacy, helps mobilise the masses around the top leader, and provides the pattern for people’s self-sacrificing behaviour in economic life.” Even without propaganda, the United States’ own actions on the Korean Peninsula were borderline genocide in order to prop up a regime that would be itself torn apart by its own people in 1960, and, were we to intervene again, the question must be asked – would North Korea’s peoples see us as liberators or as butchers? And which would we truly be?

Now It's Time For Your Input

With news updates about new happenings in North Korea becoming a weekly occurrence there's certainly plenty to talk about. Remember that these op-eds are only a jumping off point. Feel free to talk about the arguments presented here, from the Roundtable posted last week (which you should watch if you haven't already), or some of your own. Is Kim Jong Un the biggest present threat to US national security or will he continue to be the dictator who cried wolf? How much longer can we watch by and see the humanitarian crisis last? What implications would an invasion have in terms of other foreign affairs?

International readers please don't feel left out! This may be about US policy but the North Korean humanitarian crisis and nuclear proliferation concerns everyone. What's your country's policy on North Korea? How would an invasion impact their alliances? From an outside perspective, what's the best course of action for the US? This is about getting as many perspectives as possible. Only then can we begin to Bridge the Divide.

Join the Discussion HERE:


#KhushbooShah #ColinMcGinn #Debate #NorthKorea

The opinions expressed above are solely those of the author, and in no way reflect the opinions of Bridge the Divide or its affiliates.

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