By Joe Brown | United States
Imagine living in a world where every day is your last. Waking up each morning knowing you have numberless hordes of rockets pointed at you. Imagine living under the smoking barrel of a gun, or sleeping on a bomb, knowing that at any moment your entire existence could be reduced to a smoldering pile of nothing.
Imagine looking into the eyes of death…and yawning.
As unbelievable as this sounds, that is exactly what life is like when living in the Korean Peninsula. Welcome to the world where war is as trite as your morning cup of coffee, and the threat of nuclear annihilation is as natural as the rising of the sun.
Due to recent developments in the realm of diplomacy, many now consider with hope the possibility of a unified and peaceful Korea. But with a less than favorable track record and warhawks running foreign affairs, many question the United State’s role in garnering peace in the region, and still the greater question remains:
Can peace ever be achieved in Korea?
Despite what you may have heard in middle school, Korea was divided before the Korean War. Years of Japanese rule came to an end with the Second World War, with treaties delegating the North to Soviet forces, while the South remained under Western control before the invasion that triggered the conflict in 1950. Unlike its German counterpart who eventually united under a single democratic government, the Korean War is still technically at war to this day, leaving the people of Korea with more of a question mark than a happy ending.
After nearly 70 years of perpetual tension and complete separation between the two countries, diplomatic strides are causing some to regain hope for peace in the region. The Chinese government confirmed that earlier this week a meeting was held between Chinese President Xi Jinping and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, in which, the latter promised to denuclearize the Korean peninsula.
The pledge comes after months of heightened tensions regarding North Korea’s escalating nuclear program, which included the testing of multiple warheads with nuclear capabilities. Although the announcement was welcomed by most, many wonder how China was able to reach such a solution with a country the rest of the world generally considered uncompromising.
The thought that such an agreement can be made without threatening military action, applying economic sanctions, or paying off government officials may come as a shock to an American, but victims of American “negotiating” would testify otherwise.
The failure of American diplomacy isn’t anything new, and it certainly didn’t start with Korea. If anything, the modern United States was built upon broken promises, dishonest pacts, and shredded treaties. Whether it’s the hundreds of formal agreements made with Native Americans, the recent rejection of American efforts to preside over peace talks between Israel and Palestine, or Roosevelt’s infamous “Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick” policy, peaceful and effective negotiations have never been America’s strong suit.
What’s the point in talking if you have the bigger gun, right?
The world needs leaders who are willing to compromise, rather than leaders who can’t take their fingers off the trigger.
Besides. No one can hear you if you speak softly, and you don’t need a big stick if your ideology is worth anything.
Michael Flynn, a retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General and former National Security Advisor, famously commented on American affairs abroad, saying:
“We’ve invested in conflict, not solutions….”
Even a man who many would consider hawkish recognizes that if peace is what the U.S. is really looking for, its actions aren’t backing up its claim. In fact, if you took a closer look at the American track record concerning nuclear weapons, you would see that tensions such as those in North Korea exist because of so called “peace efforts” rather than despite them.
We don’t have to go any farther than this past year to find evidence of American efforts to undermine diplomacy. John Bolton, the newly appointed National Security Advisor with a knack for warmongering, has long opposed peaceful resolution in Iran, repeatedly stressing that regime change is the only real option in the country, (nevermind the fact that American supported regime change is what got Iran where it is now in the first place).
During a conference call with AIPAC, the most influential Israeli lobby in the U.S., Bolton revealed the true darkness of his strategy when he expressed frustration with Iranian compliance with international law. Iran has been a member of the non-proliferation treaty since its conception in 1968, and as such, its inventory, facilities, and nuclear infrastructure are subject to regular inspections from the International Atomic Energy Agency. Bolton, knowing that Iran had agreed to the rules set by international entities, vehemently advocated for crippling sanctions against Iran in order to trigger the country into withdrawing from the treaty. Bolton planned on using this reaction as justification to invade Iran, to overthrow the government. As Bolton said himself during the call:
“They have not…withdrawn from the non proliferation treaty or thrown out IAEA inspectors which I actually hoped they would do, as that reaction would produce a counter-reaction.”
Bolton is essentially saying: “How am I supposed to justify an invasion if I can’t credibly accuse them of harboring weapons of mass destruction?”
America followed an almost identical formula to justify regime change in Iraq, even after Saddam Hussein invited chemical weapons inspectors from the U.N. to prove his country had no plans to use WMD’s. In order to preserve the false narrative that justified the invasion, John Bolton illegally exercised his influence to get the Chairman of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons fired in 2002, in what the United Nations’ highest administrative tribunal later condemned as an “unacceptable violation” of principles protecting international civil servants. His actions sent a clear message to the global community: The United States doesn’t accept dissident opinions.
This has grim consequences in the realm of negotiation.
Even as significant steps in diplomacy bring us closer to peace than we’ve ever been before, similar strategies have been used against North Korea in attempts to sabotage peace efforts. To the career politicians and lobbyists on capitol hill, an end to the conflict means losing the Korean War.
The recent strikes in Syria pose an additional threat to global security, as they jeopardize America’s fragile position as peacemakers in North Korea. With the groundbreaking talks between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un scheduled to happen within a month, many speculate that attacking one of the closest allies of Kim Jong-Un’s regime cripples America’s ability to negotiate. Simon Jenkins, one of Britain’s most acclaimed authors, notes that western patterns of opposition such as air strikes and economics sanctions act as an “elixir” that empowers dictatorships, spoils public image, and that promotes independence from domestic markets. All of which actually do more to support authoritarian regimes and contribute to a robust political and economic environment in which the U.S. has no power or influence.
Kim Jong Un is motivated by a desire to maintain power. He recognizes that the possession of nuclear weapons may be one of the only ways under the sun to prevent American aggression, and his administration has repeatedly stated that their nuclear weapons program would be suspended if they felt safe to do so.
As unpopular as the rocket man may be, Kim Jong Un paid attention in history class.
He knows what happened to Ukraine after the breakup of the Soviet Union, when regional leaders surrendered over 2,000 nuclear weapons in exchange for territorial autonomy. Following the deal, Ukraine would be invaded by Russian forces, and Crimea would be annexed.
He knows the only thing that preserved peace during the Cold War was the grim concept of mutually assured destruction
He knows that the complete lack of WMD’s still wasn’t enough to prevent an invasion in Iraq, and that the U.S. wouldn’t be bombing Syria if Assad possessed nuclear weapons.
Love him or hate him, the Supreme Leader has some legitimate concerns.
The problem isn’t that we’re dealing with a bully with a bad haircut who threatens other countries with nuclear weapons. The problem is that you didn’t know if I was talking about the Korean dictator, or the U.S. President.
By all means, hope for peace. But don’t be surprised by empty promises, broken treaties, and failed agreements. Whether by diplomatic incompetence or dark design, national interests have always been more important than peace.
Rather than asking: “Is peace attainable?” we should be asking: “Was peace ever even a priority?”
Of course peace is attainable. The real question isn’t whether or not peace is possible. The question is whether or not the current administration, or any administration for that matter, is willing or capable of garnering that peace.