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Is North Korea Different?

This Week in the Narrative – 45

Nigel Clarke

Earlier this week I was chatting with two casual acquaintances whom I sometimes run into at the park. The first was a man from Pennsylvania, a staunch Trump supporter; though, it should be said that, as far as Trump supporters go, he is usually very reasonable. The other was a Canadian woman, a self-described “liberal.”

At one point, the conversation turned to North Korea. The man believed Trump should have already fired nukes to show the world not to “fuck with us.” The woman believed something needed to be done for the suffering North Korean people, to say nothing of the country’s neighbors.

Ideologically, I almost always oppose the United States military marauding around the world interfering in the affairs of other countries, even if those affairs are internally gruesome. Reciting a laundry list of debauchery from Dictator X does not, for me, build a compelling argument.

This is not because I am apathetic to the suffering of those in other countries. Quite the opposite. Time and time again, US interventionism has proven to be something between ineffective and disastrous. Further, I believe there are more pragmatic, functional discussions to be had.

When Saddam Hussein was the villain-du-jour, the discussion of his potential overthrow might have included whom he overthrew to take power, and how. (Hint: He didn’t do it alone — if emojis were to be used here, there might be a winky face and an American flag)

It might also have included a discussion of the effects on a country of sanctions which result in the deaths of over 500,000 children. Yea, insert the Madeleine Albright — Secretary of State at the time — clip where she tells us it was “worth it.”

Or now, with Syria, instead of discussing how many bombs to shoot and how big the bombs are going to be, what about a discussion on where all these militias fuelling the civil war came from (same emojis as above), and what geopolitical dick measuring contest the suffering of the Syrian people is being used as a pawn in.

I am not a member of any political party; partially because I believe the system, in general, to be corrupt, partially because I rarely find myself agreeing with Republicans or Democrats, but mostly because, for many, party membership means the adoption of party platform as personal ideology, and I do not like the idea of having my opinions predetermined for me.

When I self-define as a progressive I apply this same standard to the definition. The issues which are most interesting, most sumptuous to mentally devour, are those which are ideologically unclear.

Yes, Nazis are bad, the US is a country of immigrants, “the system is rigged,” universal healthcare should be a baseline provision of a functioning government, and so on. These are relatively simple.

It seems obvious in a discussion of North Korea for me to take the non-interventionist position.

But as my acquaintances spoke about Kim Jong-un, and nuclear weapons, and war, I began to wonder: Is North Korea different?

Earlier this week, North Korea fired a missile over Japan, the second time they have done so in two weeks. They have also, reportedly, threatened to use nuclear weapons continuously over the past few months.

An ideology which opposes US interventionism likely implies an opposition to countries, in general, threatening their neighbors with military force; which, firing missiles over would seem to be. Additionally, support of nuclear non-proliferation would seem to condemn countries threatening to use, or using, nuclear weapons. I certainly condemn the US government when they do so.

On the other hand, much of the story of the belligerent and unstable North Korea has been created and promoted in the mainstream media.

Other independent sources seem to be telling a different story — that the provocateur of tension is not, in fact, North Korea, but the United States; that de-escalation is still an option; that there are solutions other than war.

I think the problem for me mentally is a problem with what would be called the ‘burden of proof’ in the justice system.

For me, those advocating for something as dramatic as military intervention should be required to provide a case for global safety so overwhelming as to be undeniable.

Of course, the opposite is the case. Military intervention is almost always the first, middle, and last option for US governments, Republican and Democrat alike.

So, is North Korea different? Maybe, maybe not. But it is most definitely one in a procession; neither the first nor the last. And really, that is the problem.


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Written by Nigel Clarke

Writer and notorious vagabond. From the frozen north. Follow Nigel on Twitter @Nig_Clarke.

Nigel Clarke is a Writer for Progressive Army.

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Is North Korea Different?