Sunday, February 10, 2019


Weekend Roundup

Nothing much on Korea this week, other than Trump announces second Kim summit will be in Hanoi, Vietnam, a few weeks out (Feb. 27-28). The Wichita Peace Center was pleased to host a couple of events last week when Professor Nan Kim from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, author of Memory, Reconciliation, and Reunions in South Korea: Crossing the Divide (2016), an activist in Women Cross DMZ (here on Twitter). I expect we'll be seeing a lot of speculation and spin on Korea over the next few weeks, especially from neocons so enamored with perpetual war -- but also from Democrats hoping to score cheap points against Trump. I've written a fair amount about Korea over the years. I won't try to recapitulate here, but here's a bit from a letter I wrote last year, with links to various key writings:

I wrote up some further comments on the Korea situation in the intro to my August 26, 2018 Weekend Roundup blog post.

I was born in October, 1950, the same week as the Chinese entry, a date which marked the maximal US advance in the peninsula. I wrote several pages about this in a memoir. I've written a fair amount about Korea over the years -- mostly when US presidents threatened to blow it up. For instance:

Many lesser references, including virtually every month since March 2017. I've also been known to make a pretty decent kimchi, and a couple dozen other Korean dishes.

On nuclear weapons, I wrote a fairly substantial post on Aug. 6, 2005, another on Aug. 21, 2015.

I've read Rhodes' four books on nuclear weapons, plus quite a bit more. I believe that Kurlansky's 2nd point is generally correct ["Nations that build military forces as deterrents will eventually use them"], but nuclear weapons are something of an exception: most politicians, even ones as ill-disposed toward peace as Kennedy and Krushchev, seem to have drawn a line there, so I tend not to worry as much as most of us about proliferation.

One thing I hadn't thought much about until Saturday was the economic problem of unifying Korea. I was aware of the German "model" -- and thought at the time that people were following a lot of bad ideas (e.g., totally shuttering the East German auto industry because their cars weren't good enough to sell in the West). But I didn't follow it much later -- I do know more about the economic failures in Russia, especially in the 1990s, when as David Satter put it, "[Russia's reformers] assumed that the initial accumulation of capital in a market economy is almost always criminal, and, as they were resolutely procapitalist, they found it difficult to be strongly anticrime. . . . The combination of social darwinism, economic determinism, and a tolerant attitude toward crime prepared the young reformers to carry out a frontal attack on the structures of the Soviet system without public support or a framework of law." (Quote in my 17/04 notebook, referring back to 07/09.)

Anyhow, I now think the utter impossibility of unifying the two Korean economies is an important point -- one of several that Americans don't seem to have a clue about.

I'll add one comment here. One thing I was struck by in Trump's State of the Union address was this:

On Friday, it was announced that we added another 304,000 jobs last month alone -- almost double what was expected. An economic miracle is taking place in the United States -- and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous partisan investigations.

If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn't work that way!

My bold. Of course, the point everyone noticed was his plea that for the good of the country (i.e., Trump) Democrats must give up their efforts to investigate (e.g., Trump, for possible crimes or other embarrassments). Of course, he had no hope of getting his way there, even if his intent was truly threatening -- e.g., that if the Democrats investigated him, he might start a "wag the dog" war as a diversion, hoping the people would blame the Democrats. Still, I think the quote does show that when his personal financial interests aren't slanted otherwise, Trump is inclined to favor peace. The saber-rattling over Iran is clearly a case where the corrupt money (from Israel and the Saudis) is able to make Trump more belligerent. Venezuela is another case where Trump's corrupt influences may lead to war. But Korea is one case where the major influencers -- even if you discount Russia and China -- are pushing Trump toward war, so it offers a rare opportunity to claim success at achieving peace. Granted, the neocons and the defense industry don't like it, but they may be just as happy to pivot to higher budget, lower risk "threats" like Russia and China. That's one of several reason to be cautiously optimistic that Trump might be able to deliver a peaceful outcome. On the other hand, I think that Democrats need to be very cautious, lest Trump be able to make them out to be dangerous, war-thirsty provocateurs. I still believe that a major reason Trump beat Clinton in 2016 was that she came off as the more belligerent (e.g., her claims to superiority in "the commander-in-chief test").


Some scattered links this week: