A Grim Fairytale: On the North Korean situation and the real risks it entails

Confused bald eagleConfusing, isn’t it?


“Do as I say, not as I do” has stealthily replaced “E Pluribus Unum” as our national motto, polarized feathers scattering from a balding eagle.  Hypocrisy reigns as we become the masters of double standards in almost everything we do.

“Yeah, we know”, “we’re exceptional so we don’t care”.  “The new Israel”, “the new Chosen People”; “the new Master Race”.  “The authors of history so we can make it come out any way we want.”  “Hollywood tells us so”.


Irrelevant, … It does not compute.  It’s relative anyway, like beauty, in the eye of the beholder, and we’ve seventeen specialized agencies to create truths to our liking, all with clever initials like CIA, NSA, FBI, etc.  The Acronymicon.  And then again, we have Hollywood.

What a country!

What a country!!!

Only thing is we have a few thorns in our collective shoes that refuse to see things our way despite the fact that at one time or another we’ve bombed them into the Stone Age.

Destruction of Mosul
Democracy, our style!


Resilient little bastards!!!  Like fleas or mosquitoes or cockroaches.  I sometimes wonder what dinosaurs thought of those insects.

A troubling thought, at least for Christians and perhaps Muslims (to whom Jesus is very, very sacred): “Just what did Jesus mean when he purportedly said that the meek would inherit the Earth”?

Speaking (OK, writing) of pests, take North Korea for instance.

How dare it even consider reunification?  And nuclear weapons and missiles?  They’re reserved for us and our allies.  You know, the peace loving nations that have to carry the White Man’s Burden throughout the world in the name of democracy.

Well, we do!

“In the name of” doesn’t actually require us to respect democracy just like “in the name of the right of national self-determination” doesn’t require us to respect the decisions of people in other countries about their own political, social, civic or cultural aspirations.  “Self-determination!!!  Imagine.  Certainly not in our own country.  It’s fine for breaking apart countries which impede our noble quest for hegemony, countries like the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia; and as our Israeli allies tell us over and over and over again, the Middle East would be much lovelier as a duplicate of the old Holy Roman Empire, hundreds of little fragmented states at each other’s throats.

But that damned North Korea, …

Nuclear weapons and missiles too?  That’s only for our buddies, the members of our gang: the Wall Street Eagles, the British Falcons, the Froggies and the Shabbat Guys.  The other guys, the Ruskies and the Chinks and the Pakies and the Hindi, well, we’re working on eliminating them too, but for now, it’s the f*!#ing North Koreans we’re focused on.

[From the sidelines]: “OK, good rant.  Time out.  Look away, disperse, nothing to see here.  We’re done!  Fade to black.  Bjiga bijga … that’s all folks!!!!”

[A response apparently from inside a mirror]  “Oh, oh!  Seems like the algorithm sensors may have found us.  Let’s all just step out of the mirror, it’s OK, it’ll work, just follow Alice.”

[So, … stepping out into the Twilight Zone:]


[The author re-assuming control, somewhat pedantically]

Let’s look at reality and then at the real risk facing us with respect to North Korea.

We and our allies, at the behest of they who control our foreign policy and domestic politics (the Israelis), have ravaged the Middle East to make space for the foreordained Greater Israel and in doing so have, among others, dismembered Iraq and Libya.  In those two specific cases, dismemberment was incidentally “undertaken” (a pun, I know) on their former leaders, Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti and Muammar Mohammed Abu Minyar Gaddafi.

Isolated though the North Koreans are said to be, the current leader, Kim Jong-un, the third of his ironically dynastic line, is fully aware of what happened and how:

gadafi murder
“We came, we saw, he died!!!!   Cackle, cackle, cackle, (Hillary Clinton)


Iraq and Libya, two locally powerful states possessed of weapons of mass destruction and nascent nuclear programs gave them up at the insistence of Israel, conveyed through the United States, conveyed through the United Nations (a three stage filter) and were then obliterated.  Not wanting to be “charmed” (as in the third time’s the charm), the North Koreans slowly but steadily supplemented their considerable and strategically located armed forces with nuclear weaponry, an amazing feat given the constant bipartisan United States’ carrot and stick whiplash: threats of military intervention intermixed with offers of economic aid to ameliorate the orchestrated economic sanction-wreaked havoc; “trust us; we’d never go back on our word” somehow ringing hollow.

The North Koreans have never invaded another country, at least in the sense that Union armies during the United States Civil War never invaded any other country.  Like Abraham Lincoln (a legendary, myth encrusted United States president), Kim Il-sung (the legendary myth encrusted Korean patriarch) sought to keep his country from fragmenting, albeit less successfully than did Lincoln.

North Koreans do not accept the status quo, just as Lincoln refused to accept the status quo following his first inauguration.  Nevertheless, during the past sixty-five years they’ve been exercising the allegedly Asian virtue of patience, concentrating on maintaining their own independence in the face of incessant United States and South Korean efforts to force unification on their own terms; efforts that include annual war games on North Korea’s borders and devastating economic warfare designed to exclude North Koreans from the world economic system: fear and starvation as geopolitical tools, the United Nations’ Charter ironically notwithstanding.

From the North Korean perspective (actually from the whole world’s perspective, excluding the United States), only one country has shown an inclination to use nuclear weapons to effect regime change.  Additionally, since that episode, only one country has spread its military tentacles throughout the world, stationing military personnel in approximately 800 military, air force and naval bases in more than 70 countries and territories abroad (and that does not include many, many more clandestine bases frequently staffed by contract warriors).  Only one country has consistently engaged in foreign invasions and interventions, albeit usually disguised in the veneer of multilateralism.  We all know which.  Us, the “US”; interesting linguistic coincidence that; perhaps it’s fate.

So, … with that bit of insight into how the North Koreans perceive the United States-led “free” world arrayed against them, let’s consider the options they’ve developed for their protection.

The scenario of an imminent North Korean nuclear attack on the United States, South Korea or Japan being marketed today through the mainstream media seems fallacious to me, promoting unlikely scenarios while passing over the real and very serious threat, the law of unintended (albeit perhaps merited) consequences at play.

The North Koreans do appear to have acquired at least embryonic hydrogen bombs and intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of delivering them to United States mainland cities.  They certainly seem capable of striking South Korea, Japan and Guam.  Shortly the North Koreans may attain the capability of covering the United States from shore to shore as it already does with respect to them (and, well, … everyone, everywhere).  Such capability would involve the crystallization for their benefit of the preventive and defensive power of the doctrine of mutually assured destruction.

Those old enough may recall a time in the last century when the People’s Republic of China was portrayed in much the same way as North Korea is today, the same claims of insane bellicosity, the same panicked calls for ever increasing defense spending, the same calls for encirclement and boycotts and isolation.  Those who are not that old might not believe that such tales are true, believing us perhaps already suffering from dementia, or else trying to scare them with horrific fairy tales from the somewhat exaggerated bad old days (“but I really did have to walk ten miles to school, and we really didn’t have computers or cell phones”).

[“But North Korea really is different!!!  (Wolf! Wolf! Wolf! Wolf! Wolf! Wolf! Wolf! Wolf! Wolf!)

 “Right!!!  Back to the home.”


No one (or at least, not many sane people) seriously believes that world hegemony or even Asian hegemony is a North Korean goal.  Koreans are traditionally isolationists, their historical experiences with outside powers always having been imposed and negative.  Their single aspiration seems to be, as was the case of Vietnam, national reunification.  No dominos for the North Koreans as there proved to be no dominos for the North Vietnamese, massive propaganda to the contrary notwithstanding.  The North Koreans and many (if not most) South Koreans only want to be reunited.  Of course, the very different economic and political development of the North and the South since the “West” intervened in their national development following World War II has resulted in two very antithetical societies making reunification complex.  Still, a federal or confederal political structure or one like China uses with Hong Kong could well overcome such evolutionary obstacles.  Thus, there are solutions to the Korean problem at least from the Korean perspective, if only they were left alone to determine their own fate.

That seems to be what the Koreans, North and South, would attempt if left to their own devices but they haven’t been and aren’t likely to be for the foreseeable future absent drastic changes in United States hegemonic policies.  Unfortunately, polarized as the United States is today, the principal area of bipartisan agreement for the foreseeable future (damn that foreseeable future, always getting in the way of peace and progress) is the absolute desire to fulfill the United States’ self-assigned hegemonic mission, a mission which started with the Monroe Doctrine, then flowed into the doctrine of Manifest destiny, then the inherited doctrine of the White Man’s Burden, and now, whatever new name we give the doctrine of permanent world supremacy.

So, what about the geopolitical context?

The problem, at least as perceived by the United States, is that North Korea has seemingly attained the capability of defending itself from United States military aggression and from imposed regime change through forced unification on United States’ terms.

How is that “problem” being addressed by the United States?

Well, for the nonce, there appears to be little that can be done about it other than bluster and threaten and bluff (at least most of us hope that it’s bluff).  The United States is engaged in an oxymoronic endeavor seeking to have our now traditional enemies (errr, I mean adversaries), Russia and China, persuade the North Koreans to relinquish the only weapons that keep us away and which incidentally, also keep the Russians, Chinese and Vietnamese at bay; to relinquish the only means the North Koreans have of preventing a repetition of the “Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti and Muammar Mohammed Abu Minyar Gaddafi” syndrome.

The endeavor is paradoxically set amidst our own belligerency against both China and especially Russia, a belligerency that would have long ago led more sanguine and opportunistic “adversaries” to promote North Korean interests confounding United States’ aspirations.  We regularly calumny the Russians accusing them of acting as though they were us, accusing them of intervening everywhere in other countries internal affairs.  Topping that off, we impose increasingly hostile economic sanctions against them, all the while demanding that they help us out of the petard upon which we’ve hoisted ourselves.  A bit quixotic one might think, if one were bothering to think at all.

The reality is that we seem to be claiming that we are trying to defend against an improbable danger, the use of North Korean nuclear weapons against “us”, while publically ignoring the real strategic ace in the North Koreans’ arsenal.  I find it inconceivable that we are not privately aware of the real threat, but it’s not being publicly emphasized for some reason.  It’s not as if it’s never been considered or hyperbolically addressed.  It was most recently in vogue following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, a much less threatening and more benign time now in the distant past (albeit not temporally).  But for some reason, right now, the improbable seems more important.  One wonders why?

So what is this mysterious real threat?  Blackmail?


A bit of context again (it generates literary tension as well as providing useful information).  The North Koreans have not been our only recent victims, not by far, not by very, very far.  We’ve created a world full of desperate enemies with an infinity of reasons to hate us and to cause us harm as we’ve done to them.  We’ve destroyed their countries and killed their families, desecrated their cultures and traditions, defamed and calumniated them, impoverished them but we’ve not destroyed them.  Instead, we’ve made them stronger and more widely dispersed, more wily and more clever, more patient as well.  A world full of victims we call terrorists though in reality we are terror’s purveyors and originators, we and our major terrorism-generating ally, Israel.  Fertile fields for mischief loaded with cash derived from our purported Middle Eastern allies (think of those democratic, libertarian and peace loving Saudis for example).  What a bizarre world, much stranger than the other side of the looking glass.

Thus the most likely and most dangerous scenario:

Taking advantage of the fertile fields we’ve planted, the North Koreans could, in one fell strategic swoop, fell multiple birds with one rock, both eagles and vultures.  By selling either actual weapons and delivery systems or the related technology to those enemies we’ve so callously created, they could solve their most pressing problems.  Enemies who’ve proven they have the courage to attack us on our own soil without regard to what happens to them.  Omnipresent enemies.

By selling them the weaponry and delivery systems it’s developed, North Korea need never use them while at the same time, alleviating the economic despair our sanctions have imposed upon its people.  It could proliferate real nuclear threats against us, threats by furtive, clandestine non-state actors against whom we’d have no real ability to retaliate because they could be anywhere, because they’re everywhere.  Armageddon inchoate.

This is the world we’ve created.

Is it at all reasonable to believe that the North Koreans are not aware of this?  That their contingency planning has not taken this into account?  Do our strategic planners wonder why it hasn’t taken place given our public portrayal of North Korean leadership as insane?

Is that scenario unavoidable?

Well, … many things are possible.  Miracles have purportedly occurred.  Maybe the rapture.

But is there anything we ourselves can control, anything we ourselves can do to avoid our seemingly headlong plunge towards madness.


At least if we’re somehow capable of accepting reality, of rejecting our false Hollywood created invincible persona.  If we can acknowledge and correct our extensive series of geopolitical and strategic mistakes.  If we can find our way back to reason.

If we somehow accept an unpalatable and humiliating alternative, the minimal price for our hubris.  Not a guaranteed long term solution.  In fact, more like life under Damocles’’ sword.  Negotiated acceptance of a North Korea possessing the means to inflict mutually assured destruction, a North Korea politically and economically secure, a North Korea capable of selecting its own path into the future and as was the case with Vietnam, a reunification on terms it finds acceptable.  A pretty awful loss of face for the United States with negative strategic consequences for our imperial ambitions, true.  But at least we’d still have faces, and bodies, and lives, and a country to improve.

Metamorphoses such as the foregoing do occur but usually after a psychological transition towards sanity.  Not exactly where the United States finds itself today.  The truth today is, perhaps more so than at any time in our history, perhaps even more so than during the years immediately preceding our Civil War, that the United States has become completely dysfunctional due to internal power struggles?  We are a disunited United States with internal adversaries so desperate to save political face that they seem more than inclined to risk species wide nuclear annihilation in order to satisfy their addiction for power?  We are a United States were goading the opposition into mistakes, even fatal mistakes, is the primary goal of those out of power, and to Hell with the costs.  It would take one Hell of a leader to meet the global challenges our own hubris and ambition have created but at the moment we seem short of Mikhail Gorbachevs or Nelson Mandelas or Mohandas Gandhis or Martin Luther King, Jr.s.

We do have Dennis Kucinich and Jim West and Noam Chomsky and Tulsi Gabbard and other cognizanti but we also have a mainstream media dedicated at all costs to keeping them safely at bay, ensconcing them in cones of silence.  How many of us really know anything about them?  The mainstream media, the Deep State and the leaders of the neoliberal economic order dictate from whom we can chose our leadership in a manner even more constraining than does the Guardian Council in the Iranian Islamic Republic.

How did we permit ourselves to get into these interlocking catastrophes, foreign and domestic?  More importantly, how do we find the internal courage, the ability to admit and correct our mistakes, to repair our political, social and economic institutions so that we can start on the path we thought we’d embarked on in 1776?  How do we let go of each other’s throats so that together, we can experiment and develop the paths most likely to lead to the common welfare, to justice and equality and equity, to peaceful coexistence?

The future looks grim much to the delight of the Grim Reaper.

Grim Reaper

But grim is not synonymous with hopeless.  We are living a nightmare from which only we can extricate ourselves.  “We”, each one of us doing his part rather than expecting others to save us, restricting our participation to criticism and complaints and even worse, to lazy self-delusion.  “We” have to cease permitting others (of whom, as even our dishonest polls tell us, we disapprove) to manipulate us closer and closer to perdition.  We need to place our fate in our own hands, concerned about ourselves rather than seeking to impose our collective national will upon other countries.  We need to stop making enemies, internally and externally, and remember how to make friends, how to tolerate and understand opposing views and find ways to make them complementary.

We have answers aplenty.

All we need is the will, the tenacity and the courage to implement them.  To reject those who’ve brought us to the brink of annihilation and elect new leaders, forming new civic and political amalgamations reflecting our views, our aspirations, our values, and demanding that they meet their commitments with drastic consequences for them should they fail us.  And we need to remain alert, ever mindful that those addicted to greed and power for their own sakes are all too patient and all too persistent to ever ignore.

Our future looks grim because it is grim and there’s too little time to waste.

But it’s not yet hopeless.

© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2017; all rights reserved.  Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.

Guillermo Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia although he has primarily lived in the United States of America (of which he is a citizen).  Until recently he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales.  He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies).  He can be contacted at wacalvo3@autonoma.edu.co or guillermo.calvo.mahe@gmail.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.

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