Open Sources, October 26, 2012
I THINK THIS SAYS IT ALL: “This story may or may not be true.”
CAMP 22 UPDATE: The Daily NK reports on who it believes now occupies the camp, but I still have questions.
USFK TRIES TO REJOIN U.S. ARMY by expressing interest in joining off-peninsula exercises. And in other USFK news, I’m glad to see that Leon Panetta and Kim Kwang-Jin are putting some thought into how to respond to limited North Korean provocations, more than two years after North Korea got away with sinking a South Korean warship and shelling a South Korean fishing village. I’m less glad to see that we’re focused on conventional military responses when it would make (and would have made) a lot more sense to turn the valve on the money pipeline to Pyongyang into the full counterclockwise position and subvert Pyongyang’s political control. I do agree with this much: any alliance that can no longer deter the present threat, is eclipsed by better alternatives, and has become a stimulus program for soju distributors does stand at “a critical juncture.”
DAVID ALBRIGHT, WHO CLUNG FOR YEARS to his skepticism about North Korea’s uranium enrichment program as the evidence for that program mounted, now sounds the alarm that North Korea is accelerating the production of nuclear weapons. I still find it curious how quickly WMD skeptics went into hibernation right around the time of Hillary Clinton’s confirmation hearing. I’m all for skepticism, but I’m not in favor of denial, and I don’t agree with those who would reward opacity and mendacity with the benefit of the doubt.
I’M WITH SHEENA: That was one dull debate, with a very low foreign-policy content. Barack Obama articulated his views on foreign policy in 2008, but hasn’t governed much like he campaigned (to his credit — he kills terrorists and has paid the North Koreans less than his Republican “neocon” predecessor). No one who relied on that debate to learn about Romney’s foreign policy views learned much, and I suspect that’s deliberate. Romney was trying to convince viewers that he isn’t a neocon by agreeing with Obama, who has often governed like one (Libya). My impression of both men is that foreign policy doesn’t interest them. Both see it as a distraction from their true interests, but foreign policy is always a distraction to presidents, and often an unwelcome one. Obama delegated it, and so would Romney. But to whom? Presidents can’t be experts on all things. Personnel is policy.
MELANIE KIRKPATRICK TALKS ABOUT “Escape from North Korea” with the WSJ’s Evan Ramstad at Korea Real Time. In related news, UNHCR’s South Korean representative whimpers her message of relevance to a world that doesn’t care. Why is the U.N. more interested in the right of extremist petty despots to shield their flocks from blasphemous ideas than it is in the right of North Koreans to eat and breathe? Because the North Korean refugees aren’t firebombing Chinese police stations, silly.
SO THE BALLOON PEOPLE WENT AHEAD WITH THEIR LAUNCH, terrorist threats be damned. Good. I’m glad that the South Koreans communicated that they would shoot back if the North Koreans fired, and I’m disappointed that South Korea also sent the KNP out to stop the launch. Recently, we’ve seen a lot of established and aspiring despots use terrorism to suppress speech they don’t like. It’s hard to believe that that trend can be divorced from the growing tendency of democracies to chill or curtail free speech to mollify those despots. But as long as the North Koreans engage in unacceptable behavior, there will always be people — North Koreans in particular — who will criticize it. The logical extension of mollifying the North through censorship is to keep expanding the reach of North Korean censorship.
Having said this, I think announcing the location of balloon launches is a bad idea, tactically and politically. Tactically, it gives the North Koreans a head start at intercepting them (which admittedly puts a strain on the NKPA’s fuel, maintenance, and personnel). Politically, the activists need to be mindful that South Korean society combines an underdeveloped sense of moral perspective with an overdeveloped impulse to blame North Korea’s victims. Granted, South Koreans’ reactions can be difficult to predict, but I predict with moderate confidence that North Korea will eventually shell one of those launches, and I predict with high confidence that if North Korea does that, plenty of South Koreans will blame the activists instead of North Korea. The activists should also consider the powerful theatrics of playing cat-and-mouse with the South Korean cops, and with the North Korean sympathizers who invariably show up to counter-protest.