Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Remember, the il in "Kim Jong-il" Means Mentally Ill

According to North Korea's KCNA news agency, the following declaration was issued by the North Korean Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea:

In the "First Phase" the following measures will be taken:

1. All relations with the puppet authorities will be severed.

2. There will be neither dialogue nor contact between the authorities during South Korean President Lee Myung Bak's tenure of office.

3. The work of the Panmunjom Red Cross liaison representatives will be completely suspended.

4. All communication links between the north and the south will be cut off.

5. The Consultative Office for North-South Economic Cooperation in the Kaesong Industrial Zone will be frozen and dismantled and all the personnel concerned of the south side will be expelled without delay.

6. We will start all-out counterattack against the puppet group's "psychological" warfare against the north.

7. The passage of south Korean ships and airliners through the territorial waters and air of our side will be totally banned.

8. All the issues arising in the inter-Korean relations will be handled under a wartime law. There is no need to show any mercy or patience for such confrontation maniacs, sycophants and traitors and wicked warmongers as the (South Korean President) Lee Myung Bak group.


Damn. I'm glad that was from the Committee for Peaceful reunification, because I'd hate to see the declaration from the North Korean Committee for Crazypants Hostile Assholeliness Reunification.

Crazy people with nuclear weapons, almost makes you nostalgic for the Cold War, doesn't it?


  1. K-rist on a motorbike. Makes me want to watch Team America again, and I thought I'd built up an immunity after an entire deployment of the wardroom requesting it.

    I've always been of the opinion that the next round of hostilities was going to be Iran. Lately, though, I'm starting to wonder if I was really off-base here...

  2. Posted from my decadent capitalist bourgeois phone, please to ignore the puppet regime's typos and hostile formatting sabotage

  3. Vettraian222,

    I wouldn't get too spun up. This is a standard cold war North Korean negotiating technique. Not saying it couldn't ramp up into full blown war, but sometimes past performance is an indicator of future returns - and that's the way I'd bet on this one.

  4. Crazy people with nuclear weapons, almost makes you nostalgic for the Cold War, doesn't it?


    One time, there was this leader of a country with nuclear weapons who was paranoid about all his political rivals and would record every single thing that happened in his office--including long rants where he would go on and on about how certain religious and ethnic minorities were out to get him and needed to be purged from government.

    One evening he left the seclusion of his palatial governmental home, where he allegedly holed up watching a movie about one of his nation's great generals over and over and over again, and snuck out to meet a large group of student protesters camped out beside a national monument engaged in a serious protest of the war his nation was embroiled in at the time.

    His address to the students was a rambling spiel about college sports.

    Allegedly, several of his advisors contacted his nation's military leaders and told them that if the nation's leader and chief over the military ever ordered them to use nuclear weapons, they were to disregard the order until it had been double-checked with unelected officials who legally had no authority over the nation's nuclear arsenal, but whose sobriety and mental health was presumed superior to the nation's commander-in-chief.

    "Crazy people with nuclear weapons"? Uhm, I'd rather take the rosy view that at least Kim personally only has a few of his own and his Chinese backers almost certainly have more sense than he does. (And are sort of our friends, ironically thanks in some part to the frothing lunatic with a nuclear arsenal alluded to in previous paragraphs--funny thing, history.)

    I know you were being tongue-in-cheek, but let's be glad the Cold War's over--crazy people with nuclear weapons were potentially a helluva worse thing, Jim.

  5. Breath deep, Eric. It's going to be OK.

    But yeah, what you alluded to is sort of what I meant. Crazy people, with nuclear weapons - the crazy people being folks on all sides. NK and SK remind me of a mini-cold war.

    I'm familiar with the incident you mentioned, but having spent most of my life in the military, trust me when I say there were additional safeguards in place that were designed specificallty to prevent an unhinged CINC from initiating certain COA's - or, for that matter, to prevent a rougue missile boat commander or silo officer from starting WWIII. Safeguards that Korea lacks.

    But, frankly I'm more worried about what's happening in the Gulf of Mexico than I am about North Korea at the moment.

  6. Oh, I agree about the Gulf being a bigger worry, Jim. My main point was that the harm N. Korea can cause is almost certainly far less than the harm that could have been done by either superpower during the Cold War; the fact is human experience as we know it dodged several bullets, including some finger-squeezing on the triggers by leaders in the USSR and US (including some events that could have "accidentally-on-purpose" caused a nuclear war; e.g. is something had gone wrong during Giant Lance, such as a Soviet misreading of American provocations) and some incidents where technological snafus could have caused a bad "oops" (see also, though one notes the "Norwegian rocket incident" occurred in 1995; I'm glad the President is working on nuclear reduction).

    Scenarios in which NK starts WWIII are far-fetched, though NK could do some damage to the peninsula and put the rest of the world in a very difficult situation in the process if they really wanted to do something really outrageous.

  7. Oh, agreed.

    I wasn't saying it "almost makes you nostalgic for the Cold War" as in the Cold War was somehow perferable to the current situation, I meant it as:

    Hey, look, crazy people with nuclear weapons! There's something new! /sarcasm

  8. Sad thing, Jim, is I'm getting to that age where I do feel nostalgic for the '70s and '80s. Then I remind myself the whole human race almost died plus my childhood pretty totally sucked, and I come to my senses a little.

    I attribute it to an early-onset form of senile dementia.

  9. Well, Eric, carzy as Nixon may have been, at least he wawsn't a drug addcit with his finger on the button. There's a Russian joke about Brezhnev reading the address to the Olympics in 1980. He begins reading.

    "Oh. Oh. Oh. Oh. Oh."

    Sotto voice from behind him: "Those are the Olympic Rings, Leonid Ilych, the speech starts below that."

    But I think Jim is right, there were safeguards on both sides to make sure that the one man who thought is was just his finger on the button needed a few more fingers to push that sucker. The Russian leaders weren't crazy, hell after 1964 they weren't even Communists any more. Those safeguards N. Korea lacks, so I think it is more likely that nuclear weapons would be used now that by the Koreans than by the US or USSR during the Cold War.

    The difference is that scale - N. Korea dosen't have whole aresenals, just a few bombs. And that is the problem. The prospect of the total eradication of the human race forced the middle echelons of the Soviet and US military to think clearly. Not facing total Nuclear war shifts the balance of fear in the N. Korean military to Kim, rather than to the consequnces of turnign the key. Having just a realtive firecracker makes N. Korea more reckless, not less.

  10. What scares me is a guy with a starving country, a failed economy, a few nukes, who has enough conventional artillery to wreak havoc on Seoul before counter battery fire could stop it. He already killed 40+ sailors with complete impunity. No matter how we responded, if he let loose on Seoul, we could never do as much harm to him. He just doesn't have much worth blowing up.

    The guy is just a scary nutcase, if he actually has a terminal disease, what might he do?

  11. Nick from the O.C.May 25, 2010 at 10:00 PM

    You guys just don't get it. Satayana was right. Kimmie learned from Hussein, can't you see that? He's just following in the guy's playbook:

    Ratchet up the pressure, then pull back.

    Ratchet up the rhetoric, then pull back.

    Ratchet up the troops, then pull back.

    The goal is to make the U.S. spend its precious resources constantly responding to a new provocation, then pull back to the point where actual military action would be perceived as overkill.

    Ratchet up, then pull back. Over and over. Never move so far forward that you can't pull back from the brink. Ratchet it up, then pull it back. Repeat.

    Yes, I said it. Kim Jong-il is just a goddam cocktease.

    And if we should all get lucky and get a climax out of it, the afterglow will last forever.

    I'm just sayin'....

    tryin = what Yoda said there was not

  12. Nick, that's basically the gist of my second comment above.

    And what the hell? It's worked as a foreign policy since the end of the Korean conflict, why change now?

  13. Nick, that was true of the father, not of the son. The son is a lot crazier. He's Uday, if Uday had ever gotten into power, or a Vasily Stalin. With all of the attendant problems of rich kids who grow up in coccoons not realizing the conseqences of their actions, because they've never had to pay for any.

    I'm not saying the danger's huge, but it's greater than it's been before. To dismiss it as the same level as during the Cold War is naive. The Cold War seemed more dangerous, but there were more safeguards then. It's more likely now that one or two nukes will get used, but less likely that 10,000 will. Is that comforting? Not to Seoul.

    And the keeping us off balance part is a ploy on the part of the Chinese. The Chinese could stop this shit whenever they want to, but it suits their international policy to keep Kim on a long leash. That strategy has backfired on both them and us before.

    And Stuart, while he doesn't have as much worth blowing up as Seoul does, there is one weakness to a hierarchical control structure that the Democracies can expliot. In a Democracy, killing the leader tightens resolve. In a regime controlled by fear of one man, the entire regime can be influenced by threatening the personal safety of that one man. We just need to convince Kim that if he does anything stupid, he will die, and that will keep his behavior at the current annoynace level (or hopefully less).

    I'm kind of curious to see how the Administration will handle China, becuase they are the key, here.

  14. You know, I used to subscribe to the North Korea scenario too, course that was before reality TV sucked me away with a new program. This ones good, maybe you've heard of it? It's called, "Environmental Catastrophe in the Gulf"

    No but seriously, I'd like to share an observation of a buddy of mine who's out there in the thick of it...

    Tragically Beautiful
    I learned what that phrase really meant last evening.

    I went out on deck for some sense of being outside and to watch the sun set over the open sea.
    You don’t go outside for fresh air as the spill has a pretty strong odor.

    As I was watching the sun set as a big orange egg yolk in the sky, I started to look at the inky waters below. The water is a blue/black with occasional rainbow swirls and eddies. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a blue light below the surface. I figured it was just one of the many submersible units they have working out here. As I continued to look for it, another and another appeared, until there were about 5. After a moment I realized that they were fish with a bright blue luminescent stripe on their sides. They reminded me of the small glowy ones you can get for your aquarium, but these were much larger, almost a foot long each. As I watched them, more and more appeared. There were at least 50 blue lights dancing beneath the surface of the water as they too came up for the sunset. I was amazed by the beauty of nature and the luck that I had in seeing such a thing.

    Suddenly I realized….They were all going to die.
    I then went below decks for some “fresh” air.

  15. Nick from the O.C.May 26, 2010 at 10:20 AM


    I think I'll leave the humorous writing to you, from now on. I must suck at it.

    John the Scientist,

    See my comment to Jim, above.

    umsse = muse of chaos and anarchy

  16. John, I tried to be delicate in my comments because I realize that war engulfing the Korean peninsula would be bad for a lot of people. Most obviously the South Koreans, but Kim is in a position where he could possibly (however slim the possibility) drag the United States and China into a confrontation; further, even a confrontation between NK and SK forces, or NK forces and SK/US forces would be bloody and brutal even if China wisely opted out. And even a scenario in which the great powers held back but NK nuked Seoul, or NK nuked Seoul and the Chinese joined a retaliation against NK would still be a disaster of a nature that hasn't been seen since WWII.

    So I don't want to minimize anything there.

    But that said, a tragedy in Seoul would still not rise to the level of, let's say, a partial launch of American and Soviet nuclear weapons due to a misinterpretation of data, something which could have happened several times during the Cold War as a result of anything from a mistaken run of a computer-tape simulation to a misunderstood provocation by an American or Soviet leader. I suspect this statement of what ought to be obvious sounds callous towards the residents of Seoul but it shouldn't--one nuclear strike anywhere would be too many.

    (And if it's not callous to make this observation: if a people are fucked if one nuke falls upon them or if 10,000 fall upon them and everybody else, they are fucked either way, no? Indeed, this brings up one of the interesting and unknowable post-Cold War questions, whether MAD scenarios were actually realistic, since it's very possible world leaders would have declined to issue retaliatory orders and/or individual NATO and Pact forces would have declined to execute those orders is issued--their half of the world losing being preferable to the entire world losing; see, e.g., this article from last year on "letters of last resort".)

    It also has to be factored in that in addition to having greater arsenals, the Cold War superpowers probably had (and have) more reliable arsenals than NK is likely to have. While some doubt thankfully remained about whether ICBM guidance systems were all they were expected to be, it's possible they were more accurate than NK's short-range weapons may be; unfortunately, of course, nuclear war is much like horseshoes--close does, in fact, count.

    That last part may be mere rationalization or wishful thinking; I'll concede that while declining to abandon the hope that if Kim did do something irrevocably catastrophic and stupid, fortune might yet smile upon the entire non-North-Korean world. I'd rather not find out, really. But there it is.

    Kim's ultimately a problem and I don't have a good suggestion for a solution.

    One last totally incidental comment in response to the comment about Soviets being communists after 1964 (while I'm here; I wasn't going to mention it at all, but, hey, what the hell): whether the Soviets were still "communists" after purging the Mensheviks or (if they were) whether they were communists after the death of Lenin is the sort of wonderful question historians love to banter over and that was a majorly divissive issue in Soviet politics for most of the 20th Century. I'm not saying you're "wrong," merely pointing out that your comment is one of those things that's simultaneously true and debatable, in much the same way as claims about whether a church is truly "Catholic" or whether modern music recorded in Nashville is "Country" might be. :)

  17. Eric, we can debate about when the Commies stoppped being commies all day, I love that topic. :D

    So far so good for the administration.

  18. Guys, one thing to note:

    The current intel analysis (the part made public anyway) gives a fairly good probability that Kim isn't really in charge much anymore. He's old, he's sick. The assessment is that a cadre of senior military officers are really making the decisions. I suspect that's pretty close to the truth.

    These military guys are serious warhawks, but they’re not insane. These guys are the kind of folks who figure they can torpedo an SK ship and get away with it - like the Soviets shot down flight KAL007 - but they're damned unlikely to use those nukes or start an actual conventional war with SK (knowing that we would have get involved - hell, any artillery barrage aimed at Seoul is guaranteed to kill Americans – and then NK is screwed). Kim is nuts as JTS pointed out above, but his military guys are mostly sane conservatives who don’t changed doctrine unless they are forced to – and the Cold War doctrine of saber rattling has worked for them for decades. The country is starving, the industry is falling apart, the natives are restless. Kim won’t change his particular brand of communism and the military can’t openly defy the beloved leader. But they can vilify the South and then rattle the saber and hope to win concessions from the international community and maybe get some relief for their countrymen without appearing to defy Kim. This doctrine has always worked in the past.

    Bet that if Kim Jong-il were to order use of the nukes, there’d be a communications failure or malfunction or something that prevented their use – and some poor hapless Major or Colonel would go to the wall for it. Also, it is pretty unlikely that they could deliver them in anything other than a UPS truck. The weapons are large, primitive, and bulky and unlikely to fit on those long range missiles of theirs. Additionally, using Nukes that close to China? Not in China’s best interest. Saber rattling is however in China’s interest – watch if they don’t step in as the peacemaker. Oh, wait…

  19. Kim-Jong-Il: making Muammar al-Gaddafi look positively sane.

  20. Eric, we can debate about when the Commies stoppped being commies all day, I love that topic. :D

    It's an awesome topic, but I'm not sure it would even be a debate--the correct answer to "When did the Soviets stop being commies?" might be "Yes." :D

  21. You two stop agreeing with each other right now.


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