Tuesday, May 25, 2010

More Danger

Before proceeding to this week's possibly gloomy prediction, here are a few "micro-news" items that are certain to generate blank looks from those on the receiving end. First, try to name the two TV drama series with the longest on-air tenure. If you are old enough to remember "Gun Smoke", well, that's one. The other is just wrapping up. If you guessed "Law and Order" you'd be right, but you've probably also spent too much time on front of the telly. I think I could do a whole blog on this, but it might be, ah, boring. What's unique about next month's FIFA World Cup competition? It's the first to be played in Africa. Good luck to the Republic of South Africa, the event's official host. What member of the Warren Commission (which investigated the Kennedy assassination) is finally set to leave his current job? Senator Arlen Specter, whose ploy of switching to become a Democrat didn't pay off in the recent primary. The guy's now 80 years old, so it's not as though he's been cheated. Have you acquired the old guy habit of monitoring precipitation? I have, and we have now topped 40 inches since last July. That's a lot of emptying the rain gauge. Finally. The Fab One (Italy's own coolly-named tennis player Fabio Fognini) won his first round match at the French Open. No predictions about the second round.

Bill Clinton once said that the DMZ dividing North and South Korea was the scariest place he had ever been. I haven't been there, but I find Clinton's statement easy to believe. It's not just a holdover from the Cold War. It's a place in which real soldiers in real uniforms strap on real weapons to prepare for real war EVERY day. And the fact that war hasn't resumed yet after over fifty years doesn't make it any more amicable. Both sides look for guards tall and nasty enough to intimidate their potential foes.
Sure, the PRK (the North) is a financial weakling incapable of carrying out any lengthy conflict, but that's not the whole story. A geographical quirk puts the other side's capital, Seoul, within range of the North's conventional artillery, to say nothing of their small nuclear weapons collection. What's more scary is that no one in the West has much first hand knowledge of the country's Stalinist-style dictator, Kim Jong Il. We do know that the North has no qualms about shorting their own people on things as basic as food. Refugees are willing to risk a long, dangerous route that ends in China. If that's your destination, you must want to get out pretty badly.
Given this setup, it's a little hard to see just how the West can effectively punish the north for sinking a ROK (the South) ship with 46 sailors aboard using a mini-submarine earlier this year. As I write, the North has broken all ties to the South in retaliation for the South cutting all commercial ties.
It's a small peninsula, and no one wants to be seen backing down. Perhaps this is the time we thank Richard Nixon for opening the doors to China, who, though not really our friends, nevertheless have an interest in avoiding being dragged into another Korean Conflict. I can hear the knocks at diplomatic back doors all over the world as we seek to keep the Koreans alive even if they don't care so much about themselves. This is where the expenses that go into the State Department seem like nickels IF they can keep the peace.


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