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Boardman writes: "President Donald Trump is 71 and Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un is 27, but if they ever met, would there be a grown-up in the room?"

A mushroom cloud. (photo: Medium)
A mushroom cloud. (photo: Medium)


North Korea Does Not Threaten World Peace, the US Does

By William Boardman, Reader Supported News

08 July 17


Petulant leadership risks war to what end?

resident Donald Trump is 71 and Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un is 27, but if they ever met, would there be a grown-up in the room?

One of them knows full well that North Korea is not a threat to world peace and is not even a serious threat to South Korea. The one who knows that is not Donald Trump. Or if he does know it, he’s choosing to inflate the North Korean “threat” even more than some of his predecessors.

But wait, didn’t North Korea just fire a missile in the general direction of the United States? Yes indeed, and like every other North Korean missile (except the ones that blew up on launch), it hit smack dab in the Sea of Japan, unpleasantly for aquatic life but a danger to no one else. This is, after all, exactly what the US does periodically to the Pacific Ocean from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base, generally causing yawns around the world.

Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work witnessed just such a US test (the 15th or so in five years) in February 2016, after telling reporters the purpose was to demonstrate an effective US nuclear arsenal to Russia, China, and North Korea:

That’s exactly why we do this. We and the Russians and the Chinese routinely do test shots to prove that the operational missiles that we have are reliable. And that is a signal ... that we are prepared to use nuclear weapons in defense of our country if necessary.

Not only is that perspective less than comforting, it includes a major tell. For reasons that may be obvious but unspoken, North Korea is not allowed to do what the US, Russia, and China do. That’s the price of being a member of the US-determined Axis of Evil. That may be a stupid foreign policy position (Exhibit A: Iraq), but it’s American stupidity, not Korean stupidity. The North Koreans are well aware that they do not have “operational missiles that … are reliable.”

Do as US says, not as US does

US-imposed rules forbid other countries like North Korea or Iran from following rational patterns of self-defense, even in the face of overt US threats. And when North Korea ignores US rules and hits the ocean with another rocket, the US ratchets up the hysteria as if the North Korean launch were a hostile act while the Vandenberg launches are only benign peace-keeping splashes. The US framing of the world is clearly nuts, but we’re so used to it we hardly notice anymore.

Not only does North Korea pose no serious threat now, its hypothetical future threat is largely imaginary. Whatever military might North Korea has is unlikely to be used outside its own country unless the US or someone else attacks it first. That might well lead to all hell breaking loose, but it’s the only thing that will as far as North Korea is concerned. Washington is baffled: What doesn’t North Korea understand about its duty to do what the US tells it to do?

Fear-mongering over North Korea hasn’t worked — ever

Assessed objectively, North Korea’s missile tests demonstrate a missile program proceeding haltingly, with frequent failures as well as “terrifying” successes. What terrified Washington about the July 3 North Korean missile launch is the presently imaginary threat that the Independence Day ICBM prototype could deliver a nuclear warhead to the United States. It can’t. That’s a pure future threat, if it’s a threat at all. Capturing the widely proclaimed fear with merely modest hype, Business Insider led its report on the new North Korean missile with this: “North Korea claims that it has launched its first intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, which experts say could have the ability to reach Alaska.” (Reuters upped the ante, reporting that “some experts believe [the missile] has the range to reach Alaska and Hawaii and perhaps the U.S. Pacific Northwest.” As with other reports, these experts go unnamed and unchallenged.)

Unpack all that and what do you have? A North Korean claim, inflated by anonymous experts, selling a worst-case scenario. The North Koreans also claimed that the missile could hit any location on the planet. So nobody’s even trying to tell the truth here. The missile actually went about 580 miles, which isn’t even close to qualifying as an ICBM. The nearest point in Alaska (not target, just rocks) is about 3,000 miles away. Any point on the planet is 12,000 miles away, give or take a few thousand.

But the North Koreans have nuclear weapons. Yes they do, maybe even 20 of them, all smaller than the one the US dropped on Hiroshima. At this point there’s no evidence North Korea can deliver its nuclear weapons anywhere by any technology much more advanced than donkey cart. By comparison, the US nuclear arsenal, which was once over 31,000 warheads, is now down to 4,000, with about 1,900 methods of delivery to anywhere on the planet, and almost all those warheads are many times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb. For all that some worry about aging nuclear weapons, the US is not even close to being an inviting target to attack with impunity.

Not to minimize nuclear weapons of any sort, but seriously, some sense of proportion is expected of mature leadership. Chicken Little cluckings of impending doom is not mature leadership.

Isn’t 64 years long enough to get a peace treaty?

The Korean War began June 27, 1950, when North Korea invaded the south. The armistice was signed July 27, 1953, ending hostilities, but not the war. There is a cease-fire but no peace treaty. The US entered the war under UN auspices. Congress never declared war, but supported the war with appropriations. Currently, some in Congress are seeking legislation to prevent the president from taking any military action against North Korea without explicit permission from Congress. That hardly seems to matter.

The new president of South Korea wants to negotiate with North Korea, but that hardly seems to matter either. South Korea engaged in perennial massive war games with the US that North Korea deems threatening, as would any neighboring country facing the same reality. Worse, the US has introduced anti-missile weapons into South Korea without telling the South Korean president.

And President Trump publicly blames China for not bringing North Korea to heel, as if China had either that responsibility or ability. China has increased trade with North Korea by a reported 40 percent, which should be a stabilizing factor, especially over the long term. But the US is demanding short-term results.

What could the world community do to reverse this growing threat, real or imagined, from North Korea? It would help to allow North Korea to feel safe and unthreatened, maybe even as safe and unthreatened as Vermont. That, as Korea expert Christine Ahn argued on Democracy NOW, would require President Trump to do what he claims to be good at: negotiating, making a deal. Something very like this view was formally articulated to President Trump in a June 28 letter from such policy experts as former secretary of state George Schultz, former defense secretary William Perry, and former senator Richard Lugar:

As experts with decades of military, political, and technical involvement with North Korean issues, we strongly urge your administration to begin discussions with North Korea…. Talking is not a reward or a concession to Pyongyang and should not be construed as signaling acceptance of a nuclear-armed North Korea. It is a necessary step to establishing communication to avoid a nuclear catastrophe. The key danger today is not that North Korea would launch a surprise nuclear attack. Kim Jong Un is not irrational and highly values preserving his regime. Instead the primary danger is a miscalculation or mistake that could lead to war. [emphasis added]

A more colloquial way of saying much the same thing might be that you don’t control a bratty child by burning down the house, unless you’re another bratty child yourself, and you don’t really care all that much about the house.



William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.

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+20 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2017-07-08 12:07
Thanks for this. It is a necessary antidote to the hysteria coming from the mainstream media and from Trump. Most nations in East Asia know that there cannot be a re-opening of the war between the US and North Korea (the UN was only a fig leaf for US aggression as it has been on so many other occasions). The cost in civilian lives would be just too great.

There won't be a war. North Korea has an official policy of No First Strike. The US has a first strike policy but it could not get Japan. S. Korea, China, or Russia to go along.

There will be no war, so why not conclude a final peace treaty and non-aggression pact to end the war of 1950? The answer is obvious. The US needs hostility in order to justify its massive military occupation of S. Korea as a preparation for a war against China. The US has always planned a ground assault on Beijing - only 250 miles from Pyongyang and a little over 300 miles from Seoul. There are good highways and railways between Pyongyang and Beijing.

It is not often talked about that the US maintains over 100 supply depots in S. Korea with all supplies needed for a full ground assault on China -- trucks, tanks, feul, rations, weapons, everything. The US war planners do not want to repeat D-Day across the Sea of Japan.

Staging materials for what would be a world war in a small country is a real problem. S. Koreans hate this. They want the US out. I do too.
 
 
+8 # economagic 2017-07-08 20:21
In 1949-50 the US had good reason to fear China. Due mostly but not entirely to "our" actions in the meantime, we still do. We need a sane president with the courage to face down the entire establishment STARTING with the MIC, and soon, or the nation and especially the MIC will be brought to its knees.
 
 
+4 # James38 2017-07-08 21:06
"It is not often talked about that the US maintains over 100 supply depots in S. Korea with all supplies needed for a full ground assault on China -- trucks, tanks, feul, rations, weapons, everything. The US war planners do not want to repeat D-Day across the Sea of Japan."

"A full ground assault on China"? Are you totally out of your mind? Even the Chinese, who occasionally mention this sort of stuff when they feel like criticising the US, don't seriously think for a moment that the US has the remotest intention or interest in starting a ground war with China - or any other kind for that matter. All of that stuff is there to deter NK, or to make sure that NK is stopped quickly if they go nuts and attack SK.
 
 
+10 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2017-07-09 09:39
""A full ground assault on China"? Are you totally out of your mind? "


It is not me who is out of his mind. I think any suggestion of a war against China is total insanity. Since the 70s (at least as far as I'm aware) the Pentagon has been commissioning war plans for an invasion of China. The ones I've read always note that pre-positioned munitions and equipment in Korea are essential. The Pentagon lists in its data about 60 bases in S Korea, but it only counts bases that are named and have one branch (i.e., marines, navy, arme) assigned to it. Supply depots are not counted.

China does say that the US intends to build military bases in North Korea, if it can bring off a regime change there. For China, this is a "red line." It will not allow US military bases in N. Korea.

We see the US building bases and positioning missiles to encircle Russia and China. This process creeps closer year by year. What are we to make of it?

The Pentagon and the war planners in the US are basically cowards. They have never fought a nation that could defend itself or could strike the US. They fight poor and defenseless nations and people. Basically, the US fights civilians. The US has never gone up against a nation with a modern military. So I don't believe it will attack China or Russia. But these people are insane. Anything is possible. They do have a collective death wish.

There is no need to deter NK -- it has a published "no first strike policy."
 
 
+2 # rivervalley 2017-07-09 16:19
Their job is to dream up all sorts of scenarios with various countries and events, to work out the kinks. But I agree, there is extra concern about China. My understanding is that these adventures are mostly to militarily secure future access to oil & minerals which the US deems essential, and which would be profitable to certain industries. Afghanistan, for instance has mineral resources, and is also the best pipeline route for the 'Stan's oil; hence our helpful domination of Afganistan. (Think "American Interests".)
Renewable energy is scaling up fast; as it does, the use of oil will decrease. But I have no doubt they'll figure out new reasons.
China's our only likely future adversary, so the US is simply trying to stay dominant. The idea of peacefulyl coexisting in the world probably never occurred to them.
 
 
0 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2017-07-11 06:12
river -- yes, I think you are right. Chins'a economy is actually now bigger than the US and it is still based on production while the US economy is based on investment and market speculation. The US economy could collapse overnight but the Chinese economy could not. It is these sort of vulnerabilities that make US war planners fear China.

The US has to get used to the idea of a "multipolar" world. Russia, China, even Brazil, are powerful states and can compete on an equal basis with the US. The neo-cons have declared many times that there will be uni-polar world forever. They are defending their "right" a uni-polar world.
 
 
+19 # dbrize 2017-07-08 12:32
On the mark .

This is mostly about...you guessed it, money and contracts for the defense industry.

It is like channeling Lewis Carroll when listening to the warmongers being interviewed on tv. Grave faces frought with concern, they speak to the soccer Moms and armchair warriors of the nation of how this third rate dictatorship with a barely discernible GDP, a military comprised of bribed, unskilled, poorly equipped but reasonably (compared to their civilian counterparts) well fed troops is going to nuke us in our jammies.

It's a tired refrain but who can blame them. Each time they trot it out the money rolls in.
 
 
+1 # msl421 2017-07-08 13:45
This is a top-tier entry for the Neville Chamberlain award for 2017. Maybe even the front-runner!
Just because an imbecile and a lunatic (you decide whom is which) are on opposing sides doesn't mean there isn't a grave threat to the world from either or both.
 
 
+9 # economagic 2017-07-08 20:26
So, how is this present situation ripe for an award for appeasement? Where do you see any appeasement? A little "appeasement" from this side, in the sense of a modest relaxation of threats and honest negotiation, would seem to be in order. I'm not holding my breath, but how else?
 
 
+7 # dbrize 2017-07-09 13:29
Quoting msl421:
This is a top-tier entry for the Neville Chamberlain award for 2017. Maybe even the front-runner!
Just because an imbecile and a lunatic (you decide whom is which) are on opposing sides doesn't mean there isn't a grave threat to the world from either or both.


First, Chamberlain negotiated from weakness and actually bought some valuable time for the Brits.

When you have the most powerful military in the world, spending more on national defense than the next eight or nine nations combined, usage of the term "appeasement" is farcical.
 
 
0 # WBoardman 2017-07-13 21:42
msl421 needs to re-read my piece if
msl421 thinks it says there's no grave threat.

Actually, just re-read the headline ;-)))
 
 
-20 # bardphile 2017-07-08 14:08
Boardman seems to think that North Korea's nuclear war capability is frozen in time, and we shouldn't care in spite of the rapid progress it has made; and he totally ignores the goal of non-proliferati on. Maybe he takes consolation in the probability that he'll be dead before the consequences of NK's arms build-up play out. But future generations WILL have to deal with them. He should be honest enough to say that it's a horrible situation that has no easy solution, rather than deny that the problem exists.
 
 
+11 # engelbach 2017-07-09 11:19
On the contrary, Boardman describes the problem quite well.

And he pushes hard for a diplomatic solution.

Like him, I'm more worried about the US than about North Korea.

Kim is less likely to risk his tiny country being blown to hell than the GOP is to risk the rest of us.
 
 
0 # WBoardman 2017-07-13 21:52
bardphile projects an assumption that is
quite unsupported by what I wrote.

Non-proliferati on is a red herring, since
North Korea already has the bomb.

If bardphile wants to bring up treaties, how about
the nuclear disarmament treaty just signed by 122 nations,
after years of opposition by the US.

Calling the NK military an "arms build-up," while
technically correct in that it's not a decline, is a form of
fear-mongering that would dissipate when compared to
the American arms build-up, I mean defense of past decades.

bardphile should reconsider his last comment after
re-reading what I wrote, especially this:

Not only does North Korea pose no serious threat now, its hypothetical future threat is largely imaginary. Whatever military might North Korea has is unlikely to be used outside its own country unless the US or someone else attacks it first. That might well lead to all hell breaking loose, but it’s the only thing that will as far as North Korea is concerned. Washington is baffled: What doesn’t North Korea understand about its duty to do what the US tells it to do?

I'll ignore bardphile's ad hominem stuff.
 
 
+24 # Emmanuel Goldstein 2017-07-08 14:27
Beautiful, Mr. Boardman!
Nice to see a little sanity about North Korea for a change, nice to see something other than the never-ending US propaganda about North Korea being a "threat" to the civilized world. As usual, it's the UNITED STATES that's the threat, NOT North Korea!
 
 
+14 # economagic 2017-07-08 15:00
Thanks, Boardman.I believe you're mostly preaching to the choir here, but the choir can always stand to hear it again. I didn't even bother to look up the exact distance between Korea and the tail end of the Aleutian chain, as the 580 miles figure was in one of the early reports before it disappeared.

I just read a short essay titled "On Bullshit," written by a philosophy professor and first published in a journal in 1986, then as a book by Princeton in 2005. The author would probably class President Kim's pronouncements as bullshit (in this case bravado in self defense, like a cat fluffing its fur), rather than lying, since everyone who cares to can see the actual truth. The book does not deal with the stance of the US toward the world since 1945, but it would be closer to lying. The philosopher cites an essay by Saint Augustine listing 8 different kinds of lies, with this being close to the one pure lie, told for the sheer enjoyment of it.
 
 
+27 # chrisconnolly 2017-07-08 15:42
"You don't control a bratty child by burning down the house, unless you're another bratty child yourself, and you don't really care all the much about the house."
That about sums it up. We have a bratty spoiled delusional man child in the White House and North Korea has close to the same. Thank you Mr Boardman for putting the first fine point to this subject I have ever read. Our foreign policy is nothing but hypocrisy piled on hypocrisy. Domestic abusers use the same tactic; demand behaviors of others that the abuser has no intention of ever performing himself. And we have the highest order of abuser governing world affairs.
 
 
+6 # ReconFire 2017-07-09 01:32
Great analogy. Don't forget the bratty MIC.
 
 
+10 # Dale 2017-07-09 09:22
North Korea has endured a vast military buildup since 1950 on its southern border, boycott, sanctions, isolation...
Of course they need to defend themselves from 67 years of U.S. aggression. The answer is to negotiate total withdrawal, lifting all sactions...in exchange for N. Korea leaving aside its nuclear ambitions.
 
 
+4 # Jim at Dr.Democracy on Facebook 2017-07-10 11:54
Dale, you make good sense. Any sensible American with enough power would do do this.

Just one drawback: sensible actions like this would, over time, greatly reduce the flood of money to the military industrial complex. So... again... money is the primary driver of just about all this insanity.
 
 
-1 # elkingo 2017-07-09 11:50
If Big Brother has nukies, why can't Little Brother have them too???!!! It's just not
FAY-YAIRE!!!!
 
 
+4 # Jim at Dr.Democracy on Facebook 2017-07-10 11:45
Thank you, William Boardman. This is one of the most difficult truths to communicate.

People's innate love of family, friends, neighbors...the familiar. The incessant and historically UN-American fetishism with patriotic songs, signs and other symbols. The completely insipid and sometimes deliberately misleading--but always saluting--corpo rate press.

Thank you, William Boardman, for working to communicate one of the most true and most difficult messages to get through.
 
 
+1 # economagic 2017-07-10 20:48
Yes. It was not always quite this bad, though always lurking just beneath the surface.
 

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