Archive for April, 2017

Jews, Judaism & Jewishness

by Gilad Atzmon (December 15 2010)

Since Israel defines itself as the “Jewish state” we are entitled to consider what the word “Jewish” stands for.

I tend to differentiate between three distinct (yet occasionally confusing) categories:

1. Jews – the people

2. Judaism – the religion

3. Jewishness – the ideology

During my study of Zionism, Jewish politics, “identity politics” and culture, I have managed to avoid embroiling myself in the complexity involved with the first category – I do not deal with Jews as a race or an ethnicity. I also generally avoid dealing with Judaism (the religion). In fact, I am the first to admit that the only Jewish collective to support the Palestinians, are groups that exist within the Torah Jews. That such groups support Palestinian self-determination and autonomy is proof enough that aspects of religious Judaism can be interpreted as emphasising ethical precepts.

However – I am very critical of what I view as “Jewish ideology”, and I am also critical of what I consider to be “Jewish identity politics”.

“Jewish ideology” is basically an amalgam of racially orientated exclusive arguments. It is fuelled by assumptions about “ethno”-centric supremacy, and ideas such as “choseness”. Being a tribal setting then, Jewish ideology defies equality. It also opposes universalism. The followers of that ideology tend to believe that they are somewhat different and even better (chosen) than non Jews. And much Jewish political activity is a formulation, and expression of a tribal exclusive club that demands a “Jews only” entry card.

It is important to note that Jewish ideology and Zionism are not entirely the same – In fact, Zionism should be seen as just one manifestation of Jewish ideology. Though Israel is the fruit of the Zionist project – it is vital to realise that Zionism does not drive Israeli politics or ideology. In fact, Zionism is largely a Diaspora Jewish discourse.

While early Zionism presented itself as a promise to “resolve the Galut” (Diaspora) by “transforming” the Diaspora Jew into an “authentic civilised” human being – it is important to remember that the last few generations of Israelis have been born in Zion (Palestine) and are, therefore, not entirely shaped by Zionist ideologies. From a Zionist perspective, the modern Israeli is then, a “post-revolutionary” subject. And indeed, I myself, amongst millions of other Israelis, joined the Israeli army because we were Jews – not because we were Zionists.

Israelis do, however, follow what I define as Jewish ideology – they practise and perform a number of different measures that are there to maintain Jewish exclusivity on the land. When 94% of Israeli Jews supported Israel Defense Forces’s (“IDF’s”) murderous tactics against Gazans at the time of Operation Cast Lead, it wasn’t Zionism that motivated them. It was the total lack of empathy with other human beings. It was blindness towards others. It was supremacy and chauvinism; or, in other words, it was the ugliest homicidal manifestation of their choseness.

Almost every aspect of Israeli politics, whether it is the “unilateral disengagement” or the loyalty oath, can be grasped as an attempt to project and protect Jewish exclusivity on the land (instead of trying to resolve the Galut)

You may note that I neither refer to Jews as a racial or ethnic group; nor am I directing my critique towards Judaism, the religion. And whilst Jews can indeed succumb to what I define as “Jewish ideology”, (and many of them do) it is valuable to bear in mind they can also be its most virulent enemies: Obvious examples are Jesus, Spinoza and Marx, and one can also include Israelis such as Israel Shahak, Gideon Levy and others. It is also pertinent to mention that some early Zionists such as Nordau and Borochov were also strong opponents of Jewish ideology and culture – for them, Zionism was a necessary attempt to amend Jews. They believed that once dwelling on “their promised land”, what had hitherto been perceived as “Jewish tendencies”, (such as “non-productive inclinations”), would disappear.

It should be obvious that I am in total support of the universal and ethical ideas that are coupled with the One Democratic State (“ODS”) and State of its Citizens (“SOIC”). I would also be the first to endorse and explore any form of reconciliation between the indigenous people of the land (Palestinians) and the new comers (Israelis).

Yet, I believe that for any possible and intelligible discussion to take place – we surely must be able to freely explore the true nature of the ideology that drives the Jewish state, and Jewish politics around the world.

We must find a way to admit to ourselves that the Jewish ideological, political and cultural discourse is a tribal discourse: it is foreign to universalism and ideas of true equality. Also, we need to realise that the Israeli notion of “shalom” (peace) is interpreted by Israelis as “security for Jews” instead of reconciliation.

Unless we are brave enough to confront these issues, and discuss them freely, the pro- Palestinian movement is trapped in a futile discourse on the verge of self-indulgence.

Categories: Uncategorized

Why Does North Korea Want Nukes?

by Paul Atwood

CounterPunch (April 21 2017)



We are fighting in Korea so we won’t have to fight in Wichita, or in Chicago, or in New Orleans, or in San Francisco Bay.

– President Harry S Truman, 1952



Why has this tiny nation of 24 million people invested so much of its limited resources in acquiring nuclear weapons? North Korea is universally condemned as a bizarre and failed state, its nuclear posture denounced as irrational.

Yet North Korea’s stance cannot be separated out from its turbulent history during the twentieth century, especially its four decade long occupation by Japan, the forced division of the Korean peninsula after World War Two, and, of course, the subsequent utterly devastating war with the United States from 1950~1953 that ended in an armistice in which a technical state of war still exists.

Korea is an ancient nation and culture, achieving national unity in 608 CE, and despite its near envelopment by gigantic China it has retained its own unique language and traditions throughout its recorded history. National independence came to an end in 1910 after five years of war when Japan, taking advantage of Chinese weakness, invaded and occupied Korea using impressed labor for the industries Japan created for the benefit of its own economy. As always the case for colonization the Japanese easily found collaborators among the Korean elite Koreans to manage their first colony.

Naturally a nationalist resistance movement emerged rapidly and, given the history of the early twentieth century, it was not long before communists began to play a significant role in Korea’s effort to regain its independence. The primary form of resistance came in the form of “peoples’ committees” which became deeply rooted throughout the entire peninsula, pointedly in the south as well. It was from these deeply political and nationalistic village and city committees that guerrilla groups engaged the Japanese throughout World War Two. The parallels with similar organizations in Vietnam against the Japanese, and later against the French and Americans, are obvious. Another analogous similarity is that Franklin Roosevelt also wanted a Great Power trusteeship for Korea, as for Vietnam. Needless to say both Britain and France objected to this plan.

When Russia entered the war against Japanese in August of 1945 the end of Japanese rule was at hand regardless of the atomic bomb. As events turned out Japan surrendered on 15 August when Soviet troops had occupied much of the northern peninsula. It should be noted that American forces played no role in the liberation of Korea from Japanese rule. However, because the Soviets, as allies of the US, wished to remain on friendly terms they agreed to the division of Korea between Soviet and American forces. The young Dean Rusk, later to become Secretary of State under Kennedy and Johnson, arbitrarily drew a line of division across the 38th Parallel because, as he said, that would leave the capital city, Seoul, in the American zone.

Written reports at the time criticized Washington for “allowing” the Red Army into Korea but the fact was it was the other way around. The Soviets could easily have occupied the entirety of Korea but chose not to do so, instead opting for a negotiated settlement with the US over the future of Korea. Theoretically the peninsula would be reunited after some agreement between the two victors at some future date.

However, the US immediately began to favor those Koreans who had collaborated with the Japanese in the exploitation of their own country and its people, largely the landed elites, and Washington began to arm the provisional government it set up to root out the peoples’ committees. For their part the Soviets supported the communist nationalist leader, Kim Il-Sung who had led the guerrilla army against Japan at great cost in lives.

In 1947 the United Nations authorized elections in Korea, but the election monitors were all American allies so the Soviets and communist Koreans refused to participate. By then the Cold War was in full swing, the critical alliance between Washington and Moscow that had defeated Nazi Germany had already been sundered. As would later also occur in Vietnam in 1956, the US oversaw elections only in the south of Korea and only those candidates approved by Washington. Syngman Rhee became South Korea’s first president protected by the new American armed and trained Army of the Republic of Korea. This ROK army was commanded by officers who had served the Japanese occupation including one who had been decorated by Emperor Hirohito himself and who had tried to track down and kill Kim Il Sung for the Japanese.

With Korea thus seemingly divided permanently, both Russian and American troops withdrew in 1948 though they left “advisers” behind. On both sides of the new artificial border pressures mounted for a forcible reunification. The fact remained that much of rural southern Korea was still loyal to the peoples committees. This did not necessarily mean that they were committed communists but they were virulent nationalists who recognized the role that Kim’s forces had played against the Japanese. Rhee’s forces then began to systematically root out Kim’s supporters. Meanwhile the American advisers had constantly to keep Rhee’s forces from crossing the border to invade the north.

In 1948 guerrilla war broke out against the Rhee regime on the southern island of Cheju, the population of which ultimately rose in wholesale revolt. The suppression of the rebellion was guided by many American agents soon to become part of the Central Intelligence Agency and by military advisers. Eventually the entire population was removed to the coast and kept in guarded compounds and between 20,000 and 30,000 villagers died. Simultaneously elements of the ROK army refused to participate in this war against their own people and this mutiny was brutally suppressed by those ROK soldiers who would obey such orders. Over one thousand of the mutineers escaped to join Kim’s guerrillas in the mountains.

Though Washington claimed that these rebellions were fomented by the communists no evidence surfaced that the Soviets provided anything other than moral support. Most of the rebels captured or killed had Japanese or American weapons.

In North Korea the political system had evolved in response to decades of foreign occupation and war. Though it was always assumed to be a Soviet satellite, North Korea more nearly bears comparison to Tito’s Yugoslavia. The North Koreans were always able to balance the tensions between the Soviets and the Chinese to their own advantage. During the period when the Comintern exercised most influence over national communist parties not a single Korean communist served in any capacity and the number of Soviet advisers in the north was never high.

Nineteen forty-nine marked a watershed year. The Chinese Communist Revolution, the Soviet Atomic Bomb, the massive reorganization of the National Security State in the US all occurred that year. In 1950 Washington issued its famous National Security Paper-68 (“NSC-68”) which outlined the agenda for a global anti-communist campaign, requiring the tripling of the American defense budget. Congress balked at this all-encompassing blueprint until, in the deathless words of Secretary of State Dean Acheson, “Thank God! Korea came along”. Only months before Acheson had made a speech in which he pointedly omitted Korea from America’s “Defense perimeter”.

The Korean War seemed to vindicate everything written and said about the” international communist conspiracy. In popular myth on June 25, 1950 the North Korean Army suddenly attacked without warning, overwhelming surprised ROK defenders. In fact the entire 38th Parallel had been progressively militarized and there had been numerous cross border incursions by both sides going back to 1949. On numerous occasions Syngman Rhee had to be restrained by American advisers from invading the north. The Korean civil war was all but inevitable. Given postwar American plans for access globally to resources, markets and cheaper labor power any form of national liberation, communist or liberal democratic, was to be opposed. Acheson and his second, Dean Rusk, told President Truman that “we must draw the line here!” Truman decided to request authorization for American intervention from the United Nations and bypassed Congress thereby leading to widespread opposition and, later, a return to Republican rule under Dwight Eisenhower..

Among the remaining mysteries of the UN decision to undertake the American led military effort to reject North Korea from the south was the USSR’s failure to make use of its veto in the Security Council. The Soviet ambassador was ostensibly boycotting the meetings in protest of the UN’s refusal to seat the Chinese communists as China’s official delegation. According to Bruce Cumings though, evidence exists that Stalin ordered the Soviet ambassador to abstain. Why? The UN resolution authorizing war could have been prevented. At that moment the Sino-Soviet split was already in evidence and Stalin may have wished to weaken China, something which actually happened as a result of that nation’s subsequent entry into the war. Or he may have wished that cloaking the UN mission under the US flag would have revealed the UN to be largely under the control of the United States, which indeed it was. What is known is that Stalin refused to allow Soviet combat troops and reduced shipments of arms to Kim’s forces. Later, however Soviet pilots would engage Americans in the air. The Chinese were quick to condemn the UN action as “American imperialism” and warned of dire consequences if China itself were threatened.

The war went badly at first for the US despite numerical advantages in forces. Rout after rout followed with the ROK in full retreat. Meanwhile tens of thousands of southern guerrillas who had originated in peoples’ committees fought the Americans and the ROK. At one point the North Koreans were in control of Seoul and seemed about to drive American forces into the sea. At that point the commander-in-chief of all UN forces, General Douglas MacArthur, announced that he saw unique opportunities for the deployment of atomic weapons. This call was taken up by many in Congress.

Truman was loathe to introduce nukes and instead authorized MacArthur to conduct the famous landings at Inchon in September 1950 with few losses by the Marine Corps vaunted 1st Division. This threw North Korean troops into disarray and MacArthur began pushing them back across the 38th Parallel, the mandate imposed by the UN resolution. But the State Department claimed that the border was not recognized under international law and therefore the UN mandate had no real legal bearing. It was this that MacArthur claimed gave him the right to take the war into the north. Though the North Koreans had suffered a resounding defeat in the south, they withdrew into northern mountain redoubts forcing the American forces that followed them into bloody and costly combat, leading Americans into a trap.

The Chinese had said from the beginning that any approach of foreign troops toward their border would result in “dire consequences”. Fearing an invasion of Manchuria to crush the nascent communist revolution the Chinese foreign minister, Zhou En-Lai declared that China “will not supinely tolerate seeing their neighbors invaded by the imperialists”. MacArthur sneered at this warning. “… They have no airforce … if the Chinese tried to get down to Pyongyang there would be a great slaughter … we are the best”/ He then ordered airstrikes to lay waste thousands of square miles of northern Korea bordering China and ordered infantry divisions ever closer to its border.

It was the terrible devastation of this bombing campaign, worse than anything seen during World War Two short of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that to this day dominates North Korea’s relations with the United States and drives its determination never to submit to any American diktat.

General Curtis Lemay directed this onslaught. It was he who had firebombed Tokyo in March 1945 saying it was “about time we stopped swatting at flies and gone after the manure pile”. It was he who later said that the US “ought to bomb North Vietnam back into the stone age”. Remarking about his desire to lay waste to North Korea he said “We burned down every town in North Korea and South Korea too”. Lemay was by no means exaggerating.

On November 27 1950 hundreds of thousands of Chinese troops suddenly crossed the border into North Korea completely overwhelming US forces. Acheson said this was the “worst defeat of American forces since Bull Run”. One famous incident was the battle at the Chosin Reservoir, where 50,000 US marines were surrounded. As they escaped their enclosure they said they were “advancing to the rear” but in fact all American forces were being routed.

Panic took hold in Washington. Truman now said use of A-bombs was under “active consideration”. MacArthur demanded the bombs … As he put it in his memoirs:

I would have dropped between thirty and fifty atomic bombs … strung across the neck of Manchuria … and spread behind us – from the Sea of Japan to the Yellow Sea – a belt of radioactive cobalt. It has an active life of between sixty and 120 years.

Cobalt it should be noted is at least 100 times more radioactive than uranium.

He also expressed a desire for chemicals and gas.

It is well known that MacArthur was fired for insubordination for publically announcing his desire to use nukes. Actually, Truman himself put the nukes at ready and threatened to use them if China launched air raids against American forces. But he did not want to put them under MacArthur’s command because he feared MacArthur would conduct a preemptive strike against China anyway.

By June 1951, one year after the beginning of the war, the communists had pushed UN forces back across the 38th parallel. Chinese ground forces might have been able to push the entire UN force off the peninsula entirely but that would not have negated US naval and air forces, and would have probably resulted in nuclear strikes against the Chinese mainland and that brought the real risk of Soviet entry and all out nuclear exchanges. So from this point on the war became one of attrition, much like the trench warfare of World War One. casualties continued to be high on both sides for the duration of the war which lasted until 1953 when an armistice without reunification was signed.

Of course the victims suffering worst were the civilians. In 1951 the US initiated “Operation Strangle” which officialls estimated killed at least three million people on both sides of the 38th parallel, but the figure is probably closer to four million. We do not know how many Chinese died – either solders or civilians killed in cross border bombings.

The question of whether the US carried out germ warfare has been raised but has never been fully proved or disproved. The North accused the US of dropping bombs laden with cholera, anthrax, plague, and encephalitis and hemorrhagic fever, all of which turned up among soldiers and civilians in the north. Some American prisoners of war confessed to such war crimes but these were dismissed as evidence of torture by North Korea on Americans. However, none of the US POWs who did confess and were later repatriated were allowed to meet the press. A number of investigations were carried out by scientists from friendly western countries. One of the most prominent concluded the charges were true. At this time the US was engaged in top secret germ-warfare research with captured Nazi and Japanese germ warfare experts, and also experimenting with Sarin, despite its ban by the Geneva Convention. Washington accused the communists of introducing germ warfare.

Napalm was used extensively, completely and utterly destroying the northern capital of Pyongyang. By 1953 American pilots were returning to carriers and bases claiming there were no longer any significant targets in all of North Korea to bomb. In fact a very large percentage of the northern population was by then living in tunnels dug by hand underground. A British journalist wrote that the northern population was living “a troglodyte existence”. In the Spring of 1953 US warplanes hit five of the largest dams along the Yalu river completely inundating and killing Pyongyang’s harvest of rice. Air Force documents reveal calculated premeditation saying that “Attacks in May will be most effective psychologically because it was the end of the rice-transplanting season before the roots could become completely embedded”. Flash floods scooped out hundreds of square miles of vital food producing valleys and killed untold numbers of farmers.

At Nuremberg after World War Two, Nazi officers who carried out similar attacks on the dikes of Holland, creating a mass famine in 1944, were tried as criminals and some were executed for their crimes.

So after a horrific war Korea returned to the status quo ante bellum in terms of political boundaries but it was completely devastated, especially the north.

I submit that it is the collective memory of all of what I’ve described that animates North Korea’s policies toward the US today which has nuclear weapons on constant alert and stations almost 30,000 forces at the ready. Remember, a state of war still exists and has since 1953.

While South Korea received heavy American investment in the industries fleeing the United States in search of cheaper labor and new markets, it was nevertheless ruled until quite recently by military dictatorships scarcely different than those of the north. For its part the North constructed its economy along five-year plans and collectivized its agriculture. While it never enjoyed the sort of consumer society that now characterizes some of South Korea, its GDP grew substantially until the collapse of communism globally brought about the withdrawal of all foreign aid to north Korea.

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, as some American policymakers took note of the North’s growing weakness Secretary of Defense Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz talked openly of using force finally to settle the question of Korean reunification and the claimed threat to international peace posed by North Korea.

In 1993 the Clinton Administration discovered that North Korea was constructing a nuclear processing plant and also developing medium range missiles. The Pentagon desired to destroy these facilities but that would mean wholesale war so the administration fostered an agreement whereby North Korea would stand down in return for the provision of oil and other economic aid. But in 2001, after the events of 9-11, the Bush II neo-conservatives militarized policy and declared North Korea to be an element of the “axis of evil”. All bets were now off. In that context North Korea withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, reasoning that nuclear weapons were the only way possible to prevent a full scale attack by the US in the future. Given a stark choice between another war with the US and all that would entail this decision seems hardly surprising. Under no circumstances could any westerner reasonably expect, after all the history I’ve described, that the North Korean regime would simply submit to any ultimatums by the US, by far the worst enemy Korea ever had measured by the damage inflicted on the entirety of the Korean peninsula.

(Acknowledgement to Bruce Cumings and I F Stone)

Categories: Uncategorized

Ready, Set, Splat

by James Howard Kunstler

Clusterfuck Nation (April 24 2017)

Now appearing Mondays and Fridays

As I write, the French stock market (the CAC 40), is doing a grand jete (up 4.5 percent!) in celebration of Emmanuel Macron’s assumed slaying of the dragon Le Pen. But that was just the first round under the interesting French election system. Consider that two other candidates who were eliminated, Monsieurs Fillon and Melenchon, got nearly forty percent of the vote. Are we so sure about where their voters go in the second and final round two weeks from now?

I suspect that most Americans – even the ones who follow Rachel Maddow – are about as interested in French politics as differential calculus. Macron, 36, is a blank slate. He was finance minister under current president Francois Hollande, of the Socialist Party, but declared during the election campaign that he’s not a socialist, he only wanted to be of service to his country, and this time he ran under his own party, En Marche! He appears to represent the continuation of business-as-usual with the European Union, which seems to put him on the wrong side of history at this crucial moment – if you suppose, as I do, that the EU is so riddled with hopeless financial contradictions and centrifugal political tensions that it is unlikely to persist.

Yet, understandably, people are reluctant to change the system they’re living under. Le Pen wants to blow the EU up, especially the bureaucracy lodged in Brussels that has become a self-serving and self perpetuating monster. Blowing up the EU would necessarily, it seems, mean the end of the European Central Bank, and with it the scams and Ponzi schemes that have provided an appearance of normality, despite an official 10.5 percent unemployment rate in France and a constant chain of public massacres by resident Jihadistas of one sort or another, some of them perpetrated by radical refugees allowed in under EU policy.

Macron might serve the interests of the American Deep State, which is determined to drive a wedge between Europe and the Chinese-Russian-Iranian “silk road” economic bloc that would consolidate trade in the Eastern Hemisphere. The US wants “the West” to remain what it had been for seventy years: the dominant posse. Even if the underlying conditions remained the same, this might not be possible.

But those underlying conditions are changing, and in ways that much of the political maneuvering across the West cannot alter, or even comprehend, for instance, the inability of these mature industrial economies to grow anymore. That is largely a function of the end of affordable energy. Unfortunately, the absence of growth portends not stagnation but collapse as society fails to generate enough new wealth to pay its debts.

Now, we’ve seen a pretty impressive demonstration of advanced nations playing financial games to cover up this corrosive condition. But the dishonesty at work is pretty obvious, and the problem with dishonesty in financial affairs is that it represents unreality. The accrued momentum in colossal sums of money flowing this way and that way has allowed unreality to reign in international finance for a while. But that is now flying apart. The ultimate reality, politicians and economists will soon discover, is that you can’t create your own reality.

So whatever you think now about the French election, or the fate of the EU, is liable to change as the great debt crack-up our time finally gets underway and suddenly every nation has to scramble desperately to keep its shit together. That magic moment may be at hand this week as the US congress returns from Easter recess to face its budget and debt ceiling dilemmas. If the credit-worthiness of this country takes a wrong turn, it will upset the global currency system. In fact, it will rip a hole in financial time-and-space into which the presumed value of all sorts of things represented on paper and computer drives will disappear, never to be seen again.

Support this blog by visiting Jim’s Patreon Page:

Categories: Uncategorized

Wilkerson on North Korea Crisis

US Should Stop the Threats & Own Up to its Role

Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former Chief of Staff to Colin Powell, says the US should resolve the North Korea nuclear crisis through negotiations and should reckon with the impact of its previous actions.

The Real News Network (April 17 2017)

AARON MATE: It’s The Real News. I’m Aaron Mate. Amid rising tensions, the US and North Korea are both making threats. In a visit to South Korea, Vice President Mike Pence said while the US prefers peaceful means, all options are on the table.

MIKE PENCE: And I’m here to express the resolve of the people of the United States, and the President of the United States, to achieve that objective through peaceable means, through negotiations, but all options are on the table.

AARON MATE: A top North Korean official says the country’s army is on maximum alert, and is prepared, to quote, “launch merciless military strikes against the US aggressors”, unquote. It’s the latest salvo in a growing nuclear standoff. A recent North Korean missile test led the Trump administration to move a US navy force into the Korean Peninsula. Last week, North Korea warned of potential nuclear war, and this weekend, North Korea staged an annual military parade that showed off new weaponry. It followed that with another missile test that quickly failed. So, where is this headed? Well, joining us is Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, retired US army soldier, and former Chief of Staff to Secretary of State, Colin Powell. He’s an adjunct professor at the College of William and Mary, where he instructs on US national security.
Colonel Wilkerson, welcome.

LARRY WILKERSON: Thanks for having me.

AARON MATE: Vice President Pence saying today that the era of strategic patience is over. That, along with a series of bellicose messages from President Trump’s Twitter account, where do you see this going?

LARRY WILKERSON: I really am alarmed when people make statements like that without the diplomatic finesse to deliver them properly. Strategic patience, as it were, has produced no war on the peninsula since 1953. That’s a pretty darn good record. Although I don’t know what he means by, “the period of strategic patience is over”. I’m prepared, I think most Americans, and I know most Republic of Korea citizens – that is, South Korea – are prepared to be patient forever, if there’s no war in that forever.

AARON MATE: I believe it was the National Security Advisor, McMaster, who said this weekend that the status quo is not tenable. You have the situation where North Korea is armed with nuclear weapons and threatening its neighborhoods, so a new course is needed, also pointing to previous agreements with the regime not working out. How do you respond to that?

LARRY WILKERSON: Well, I respond to that by saying the previous agreements with the regime, the agreed framework for example, that Bill Clinton’s administration engineered, didn’t work out as much, because the United States didn’t live up to its obligations under those agreements. As for any other reason, so we can throw rocks at both sides with regard to agreements. What I’m concerned with is, if people run around this town, Washington, and they talk about people not being deterred by the fact that we have more nuclear weapons than everyone else in the world combined, except for Russia. If Kim Jong-un or any Kim dynasty leader, in fact any leader in Pyongyang with his hand on their button, were to fire a missile at Tokyo, Japan, or South Korea, or Guam, or Okinawa, or any place they might be able to currently hit. Or ultimately if they were to fire one in California, they would cease to exist. No US president would restrain himself, or herself, from responding. Pyongyang would cease to exist, and I dare say, the entire Kim dynasty. Whose objective, sole objective, is preserving themselves in power, would disappear in the flash of a mushroom cloud. So, I mean, this is ridiculous to think that they’re not deterred.

AARON MATE: You know, you mentioned the history of US-North Korean agreements, the recent history, and you talked about throwing rocks on both sides. Well, you have an inside take on this because you worked for the Bush administration, which abandoned the Clinton agreements, the key one being North Korea agreeing to freeze plutonium production. There also was some sort of indirect deal about buying up North Korean missiles. But President Bush abandoned this policy. Can you tell us what happened there and how that helped lead to today?

LARRY WILKERSON: Well, our intelligence community, really I don’t think can say whether the chicken came first, or the egg in this case. What we do know is that the money that we had promised, that the Europeans had promised, for the light water reactors, which were supposed to replace the dangerous plutonium-producing reactor at Yongbyon, actually didn’t come across. Europeans pretty much put up their billions, but our Congress was very reluctant, and in the end didn’t put up hardly anything. And in terms of the heavy fuel oil shipments we promised, the Congress was either dilatory in shipping it, or didn’t ship it to the amounts that were agreed to, or both. So, the North Koreans, as Jim Kelly, our Assistant Secretary for East Asia and Pacific found out October 2002 – when he visited Pyongyang and talked with Yi Jung and Kang Sak-ju – found out that they probably did hedge their bets, and had a secret program for enhancing uranium, to back up the plutonium program we had frozen. Whether they did that because we weren’t living up to our end of the deal, or they did that to hedge their bets, is still a question I think. But if either way, let’s just look at that.
We had frozen the most dangerous aspect of their program at Yongbyon, reprocessing plutonium, making a plutonium-based bomb. So, we had at least eliminated half of it, and at that point we didn’t have any nuclear weapons. Now we’ve got ten or twelve nuclear weapons, and we don’t have any agreement at all. We’re not talking. We’re not doing anything. So, the negotiations in the past, even if they only half worked, they worked a whole lot better than the non-negotiations of, say, my administration after October 2002.

AARON MATE: So, let me ask you, I mean, this is speculation, but do you think if President Bush had lived up to Clinton’s commitments, and also perhaps not put North Korea on the infamous, “Axis of Evil”, whether you think North Korea would have nuclear weapons today?

LARRY WILKERSON: I’m not sure. That’s a hard question to answer. It’s a hypothetical; I’m not sure what the situation would be. If I … let me put it this way as a military professional, if I were Kim Jong-il, or Kim Il-sung, or Kim Jong-un, I would want to hedge my bets against a power that arrayed itself in front of me as threateningly as the US does. If I look out from Pyongyang – now, I’m trying to be empathetic. I’m not condoning the Kim dynasty or anyone in North Korea. I’m simply saying I’m being empathetic – I’m looking out from Pyongyang into the Pacific. I’m looking out across the inland seas; I’m looking down at the ROK, the Republic of Korea. I see 600,000 highly trained ROK troops. I see B2s on Guam; I see Vincent aircraft carriers steaming towards the Peninsula. I see all this threat to me; I’d want a nuclear weapon, too. So, if you want the bottom line, there isn’t anybody in the world today, after seeing us invade Iraq, after seeing us bomb Syria, after seeing us do – we’re at war with seven or eight countries right now in terms of drones. We’re flying across their borders and killing people inside their territory. So, if I were anyone in the world who thought my regime was in trouble, I’d think the trouble came from the United States, and I’d want a nuclear weapon too. That’s not at all to say I condone the proliferation of nuclear weapons. I’m simply stating the obvious. I’m stating the rational obvious.

AARON MATE: On the subject of US policy influencing North Korea’s thinking, there was a piece in The New York Times yesterday analyzing the current crisis. And they made an interesting point near the end, where they pointed to the fact that Libya, under Colonel Gaddafi, they made an agreement with the US about giving up on their nascent nuclear program, in return for some financial relief. Now, the financial relief never came, and then of course when you had this uprising against Gaddafi years later, the US joined the side of the uprising and actually helped overthrow Gaddafi. And the Times says that this experience has heavily influenced the leaders in North Korea. That actually, Libya is often talked about in North Korean strategic writing and discussion.

LARRY WILKERSON: Absolutely. Look at Iraq and the invasion in 2003. Many have maintained, and I think with some reason, that it was an illegal war. Look at Libya. Look at the strike on Syria recently. If I were someone out there looking around and considering my threats, and I thought a nuclear weapon would help me, at least in some ways, to keep that threat from coming my way and overthrowing my regime, I’d surely want to build one. I was there when we did what you just described briefly with Gaddafi. Tony Blair was wined and dined, and Condi Rice, and everyone was all hunky-dory loving Muammar Gaddafi at that particular point. And then suddenly we’d move a few years down the road, and bang, everybody’s getting rid of him. And we haven’t seen a good analysis of that conflict, yet. I’ve had students write papers on it, good papers. And this is not a moment of US brilliance, to be sure. Look at what we’ve got now. We’ve got, for example one of the biggest arms bazaars in Northern Africa – if not the world – to include shoulder-fired missiles. Gaddafi’s armed caches going out to the rest of the world, including ISIS, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Al-Qaeda, and other groups like that. So, Libya is not a success story. Not at all a success story. But it is something that teaches other leaders in the world to beware of the United States.

AARON MATE: Since we’re talking history, I want to go back even further to the wider historical context for US-North Korea tensions. We often don’t hear about the impact of decades of US-North Korean tensions. And specifically the Korean War going back to the 1950s, and I want to read you a quote from Air Force General Curtis LeMay, who headed the Strategic Air Command during the Korean War. He said, “Over a period of three years or so, we killed off – what – twenty percent of the population”. And Dean Rusk, who was later Secretary of State, said the US bombed, quote, “… everything that moved in North Korea, every brick standing on top of another”. Talk to us about this context that we often don’t talk about.

LARRY WILKERSON: Well, this was a really bloody war, there’s no question about it. The North invaded the South, the South responded by retreating all the way to Pusan. The United States was ill prepared for the war, and so joined them in that retreat, and then held out at Pusan until Douglas MacArthur, of course, conducted the brilliant amphibious invasion at Incheon. And we cut off the North Koreans, and then we pursued them all the way to Bealu (?), with Douglas MacArthur, saying, no Chinese will enter the war, telling Harry Truman that on Wake Island, when they met. And then the Chinese intervened with some 300,000, quote, “volunteers”, unquote, and then the casualties really mounted, as we fought three years of bloody stalemate. Finally coming to an end at approximately the same point we started. But we had preserved South Korea. And that was a great deal. It turns out that South Korea is one of the few, if not the only, major country in the world that has gone from being a debtor nation, to a creditor nation, in one generation. And is a flourishing democracy now. So, in the long run, that turned out all right for South Korea. But for the other millions of Koreans north of the DMZ, it put them in the so-called, Hermit Kingdom. And it gave them, as you said, these memories of the times when the Chinese intervened, the United States was on their territory. Even had Douglas MacArthur recommending that nuclear waste be sowed all across North Korea, in order to make it unpalatable, and to keep the Chinese out, and so forth. Yeah, the history is a long, bloody history. But the history since that 1953 truce agreement, peace agreement that was not, but truce, ceasefire, and we still have the war condition going on. Look at the DMZ. It spans the country right now at the point where we stopped. We have a lot of bitter feelings on both sides, I think. Most people probably couldn’t tell you what those feelings were really about today, on either side. In the North, the people were kept so poor, and so ill fed and in such conditions of poverty that the regime holds on by essentially keeping them worshipful of Kim, and not eating very much. In the South, you have this robust, dynamic, successful economy. I think if you were to leave the situation alone, that is to say a great power like the United States, or for that matter, Japan or China, were not making it different every day by their very shadow of their power, you would probably already have North and South having worked out reconciliation. You’d have unification, and the capital would be Seoul, not Pyongyang. And you’d have a whole bunch of Koreans in the North joining a whole bunch of Koreans in the South, and becoming a very dynamic economy over time, a generation, let’s say. And maybe even giving China some competition, which is one reason why I think China likes that buffer zone between it, and that very prosperous, economically vivacious South Korea.

AARON MATE: Yeah. On the issue of buffer zone, we often forget that there are 28,500 US troops in South Korea. So, that would seem to be an incentive for China to keep North Korea as its ally, even though it causes it a lot of problems.

LARRY WILKERSON: You put your finger on something there. I would suspect even, let’s just hypothetically think for a moment about a collapse scenario, which I’ve done as a strategist in the army, and we even war-planned one of the war plans off of this. Let’s just say that all of a sudden the Kim dynasty is no more, that this Kim is the last one, for example – which incidentally a lot of more conservative South Koreans believe – and say it collapses and the generals take over. Well, the first thing I would think China would do, would probably be to move some of those forces it keeps up there on the border, the Yalu, into North Korea, say fifteen or twenty kilometers, and establish a buffer zone. And then make that another DMZ, or like a DMZ between what would then become an ultimately reunified Korea, and the Chinese border. The only thing that might preclude that, and the Chinese might withdraw their troops, and not declare a buffer zone, is if once unification occurred, the United States left the peninsula entirely. You may have seen Doug Bandow’s article recently where he suggested that we ought to leave the peninsula. I’m not sure Doug is not onto something. US presence there is no longer required, really, for checking China, as we say, or for doing the kinds of things we say we have to do with proximity. We can fly B2s from Missouri, we can do most of the things we need to do from internal to the United States. So, this $70 billion a year we’re spending on over 800 bases overseas every year has got to stop sometime. And we might have a situation that is strategically more palatable, more peaceful and more stable, if the United States were not on the peninsula, than what we have now with the United States being on the peninsula. That’s something that ought to be looked at, and ought to be analyzed.

AARON MATE: I want to play the comments of former Defense Secretary William Perry about North Korea. This is what he said.

WILLIAM PERRY: I think this is a time for us [do] to some creative diplomacy. Paradoxically, the dangerous situation we’re in right now has created the environment in which now this diplomacy actually might be successful.

AARON MATE: Colonel Wilkerson, what do you make of what he said, and what do you make of the prospects for talks? I mean, people often look to the North Korean regime and say; this is the worst government in the world. So, how could we talk to them?

LARRY WILKERSON: Well, Bill Perry’s pretty smart. Bill Perry and I were the two characters – huh, if you will – on the US side in the last Pyonghwaa simulation we ran in Seoul. Bill played the US Minister of Defense, and we had ROK Minister of Defense on the other side, and we did sort of a war game together. He knows the peninsula well. He was there when we came very, very close to war in 1994. And I think he’s right. This is not an insane regime. It’s a very rational regime. It wants to preserve its own power. So, the very idea that deterrents wouldn’t work against them is simply nonsense. But it’s also a high stakes poker regime. They do their brinksmanship, they play their high stakes poker games, they drop artillery rounds on South Korea, they sink a South Korean boat, or some other brinksmanship-like move. And they do it because they want us to come back to the talks. Well, I say we need to be the kind of power that recognizes it could eliminate them from the face of the earth at any moment that it wanted to, but be magnanimous and deal with this, deal with the situation as you have it. Go back to talks. I don’t care if we talk until we’re blue in the face, as long as strategic patience continues to work, and prevent a war. These people who walk around and pontificate about, oh there’ll be a war, oh, there’ll be a war, oh, they’ll shoot Japan, oh, they’ll shoot South Korea, oh, they’ll shoot Guam, oh, they’ll shoot California. That’s just what those people’s place in life is about: starting wars. I like strategic patience. I like no war. I like stable situations where no one’s dying, and no one’s dropping bombs on someone else, least of all my own country.
So, I don’t see any problem with talking again, and I hope – I hope – I don’t have a lot of hope with this administration of amateurs, but I do hope that what Trump is seeking is high ground in the eventual talks that he will conduct. I hope that he revivifies the five-party talks. I hope that we talk to the North Koreans. My goodness, we couldn’t even talk directly to the North Koreans during the five-party talks with George W Bush, because Dick Cheney wouldn’t allow it. So, if we had meaningful talks, and we offered something meaningful to the North Koreans in those talks, we would not get a non-nuclear North Korea. We’re beyond that. They’re never going to give up their nuclear weapons. But we might get a situation where the North and the South were talking to each other more regularly, dealing with each other more regularly. We back out of this situation, sort of, and you wind up with an agreement within a generation or two – talk about strategic patience – that brought the peninsula together, and brought it together, as I said, with a capital Seoul and not Pyongyang. Which I think is inevitable.

AARON MATE: In this scary situation, we’ll leave it there with that hope. Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, thanks as always for joining us.

LARRY WILKERSON: Thanks for having me.

AARON MATE: And thank you for joining us on The Real News.


Categories: Uncategorized

Oliver Stone Rages …

… Against the Deep State’s Wonderful Job of Throwing America into Chaos

by Tyler Durden

Zero Hedge (April 19 2017)

In March of last year {1}, Academy Award-winning director Oliver Stone warned the world:



we’re going to war – either hybrid in nature … or a hot war (which will destroy our country). Our citizens should know this, but they don’t because our media is dumbed down in its Pravda-like support for our “respectable”, highly aggressive government.



And strongly rejected the establishment’s “the Russians are coming” narrative shortly after the election {2} and correctly forecast that it wouldn’t be long before the deep state pushed Trump into an anti-Kremlin position …

As much as we may disagree with Donald Trump (and I do) he’s right now target number one of the mainstream media propaganda – until, that is, he changes to the anti-Kremlin track over, God knows, some kind of petty dispute cooked up by CIA, and in his hot-headed way starts fighting with the Russians …

I never thought I’d find myself at this point in time praying for the level-headedness of a Donald Trump.

Stone was correct and in a Facebook post tonight {3} expresses his disappointment at Trump and disgust for The Deep State (and America’s wilful ignorance).

So It Goes

I confess I really had hopes for some conscience from Trump about America’s wars, but I was wrong – fooled again! – as I had been by the early Reagan, and less so by George W Bush. Reagan found his mantra with the “evil empire” rhetoric against Russia, which almost kicked off a nuclear war in 1983 – and Bush found his “us against the world” crusade at 9/11, in which of course we’re still mired.

It seems that Trump really has no “there” there, far less a conscience, as he’s taken off the handcuffs on our war machine and turned it over to his glorified Generals – and he’s being praised for it by our “liberal” media who continue to play at war so recklessly. What a tortured bind we’re in. There are intelligent people in Washington and New York, but they’ve lost their minds as they’ve been stampeded into a Syrian-Russian groupthink, a consensus without asking – “Who benefits from this latest gas attack?” Certainly neither Assad nor Putin. The only benefits go to the terrorists who initiated the action to stave off their military defeat.

It was a desperate gamble, but it worked because the Western media immediately got behind it with crude propagandizing about murdered babies, et cetera. No real investigation or time for a UN chemical unit to establish what happened, much less find a motive. Why would Assad do something so stupid when he’s clearly winning the civil war?

No, I believe America has decided somewhere, in the crises of the Trump administration, that we will get into this war at any cost, under any circumstances – to, once again, change the secular regime in Syria, which has been, from the Bush era on, one of the top goals – next to Iran – of the neoconservatives. At the very least, we will cut out a chunk of northeastern Syria and call it a State.

Abetted by the Clintonites, they’ve done a wonderful job throwing America into chaos with probes into Russia’s alleged hacking of our election and Trump being their proxy candidate (now clearly disproved by his bombing attack) – and sadly, worst of all in some ways, admitting no memory of the same false flag incident in 2013, for which again Assad was blamed (see Seymour Hersh’s fascinating deconstruction of this US propaganda, “Whose sarin?”, London Review of Books (December 19 2013). No memory, no history, no rules – or rather “American rules”.

No, this isn’t an accident or a one-off affair. This is the State deliberately misinforming the public through its corporate media and leads us to believe, as Mike Whitney points out in his brilliant analyses, “Will Washington Risk World War Three” and “Syria: Where the Rubber Meets the Road”, that something far more sinister waits in the background.

Mike Whitney, Robert Parry, and former intelligence officer Phil Giraldi all comment at the links below. It’s well worth thirty minutes of your time to read. Lastly, below is a link to Bruce Cumings’s “Nation” analysis of North Korea, as he again reminds us of the purposes of studying history. {4}, {5}, {6}, {7}, {8}, {9}, {10}, {11}, {12}

Can we wake up before it’s too late? I for one feel like the John Wayne veteran (of war) character in “Fort Apache”, riding with the arrogant Custer-like General (Henry Fonda) to his doom. My country, my country, my heart aches for thee.

* * * * *














Categories: Uncategorized

How Western Civilization Could Collapse

by Rachel Nuwer via (April 19 2017)

Zero Hedge (April 19 2017)

The political economist Benjamin Friedman once compared {1} modern Western society to a stable bicycle whose wheels are kept spinning by economic growth. Should that forward-propelling motion slow or cease, the pillars that define our society – democracy, individual liberties, social tolerance and more – would begin to teeter. Our world would become an increasingly ugly place, one defined by a scramble over limited resources and a rejection of anyone outside of our immediate group. Should we find no way to get the wheels back in motion, we’d eventually face total societal collapse.

Such collapses have occurred many times in human history, and no civilisation, no matter how seemingly great, is immune to the vulnerabilities that may lead a society to its end. Regardless of how well things are going in the present moment, the situation can always change. Putting aside species-ending events like an asteroid strike, nuclear winter or deadly pandemic, history tells us that it’s usually a plethora of factors that contribute to collapse. What are they, and which, if any, have already begun to surface? It should come as no surprise that humanity is currently on an unsustainable and uncertain path – but just how close are we to reaching the point of no return?

A South African police van is set on fire following protests about inequality in 2016

While it’s impossible to predict the future with certainty, mathematics, science and history can provide hints about the prospects of Western societies for long-term continuation.

Safa Motesharrei, a systems scientist at the University of Maryland, uses computer models to gain a deeper understanding of the mechanisms that can lead to local or global sustainability or collapse. According to findings {2} that Motesharrei and his colleagues published in 2014, there are two factors that matter: ecological strain and economic stratification. The ecological category is the more widely understood and recognised path to potential doom, especially in terms of depletion of natural resources such as groundwater, soil, fisheries and forests – all of which could be worsened by climate change.

That economic stratification may lead to collapse on its own, on the other hand, came as more of a surprise to Motesharrei and his colleagues. Under this scenario, elites push society toward instability and eventual collapse by hoarding huge quantities of wealth and resources, and leaving little or none for commoners who vastly outnumber them yet support them with labour. Eventually, the working population crashes because the portion of wealth allocated to them is not enough, followed by collapse of the elites due to the absence of labour. The inequalities we see today both within and between countries already point to such disparities. For example, the top ten percent of global income earners are responsible for almost as much total greenhouse gas emissions as the bottom ninety percent combined. Similarly, about half the world’s population lives on less than $3 per day.

For both scenarios, the models define a carrying capacity – a total population level that a given environment’s resources can sustain over the long term. If the carrying capacity is overshot by too much, collapse becomes inevitable. That fate is avoidable, however. “If we make rational choices to reduce factors such as inequality, explosive population growth, the rate at which we deplete natural resources and the rate of pollution – all perfectly doable things – then we can avoid collapse and stabilise onto a sustainable trajectory”, Motesharrei said. “But we cannot wait forever to make those decisions”.

One of the most important lessons from Rome’s fall is that complexity has a cost

Unfortunately, some experts believe such tough decisions exceed our political and psychological capabilities. “The world will not rise to the occasion of solving the climate problem during this century, simply because it is more expensive in the short term to solve the problem than it is to just keep acting as usual”, says Jorgen Randers, a professor emeritus of climate strategy at the BI Norwegian Business School, and author of 2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years {3}. “The climate problem will get worse and worse and worse because we won’t be able to live up to what we’ve promised to do in the Paris Agreement and elsewhere”.

While we are all in this together, the world’s poorest will feel the effects of collapse first. Indeed, some nations are already serving as canaries in the coal mine for the issues that may eventually pull apart more affluent ones. Syria {4}, for example, enjoyed exceptionally high fertility rates for a time, which fueled rapid population growth. A severe drought in the late 2000s, likely made worse by human-induced climate change, combined with groundwater shortages to cripple agricultural production. That crisis left large numbers of people – especially young men – unemployed, discontent and desperate. Many flooded into urban centres, overwhelming limited resources and services there. Pre-existing ethnic tensions increased, creating fertile grounds for violence and conflict. On top of that, poor governance – including neoliberal policies that eliminated water subsidies in the middle of the drought – tipped the country into civil war in 2011 and sent it careening toward collapse.

In Syria’s case – as with so many other societal collapses throughout history – it was not one but a plethora of factors that contributed, says Thomas Homer-Dixon, chair of global systems at the Balsillie School of International Affairs in Waterloo, Canada, and author of The Upside of Down {5}. Homer-Dixon calls these combined forces tectonic stresses for the way in which they quietly build up and then abruptly erupt, overloading any stabilising mechanisms that otherwise keep a society in check.

The Syrian case aside, another sign that we’re entering into a danger zone, Homer-Dixon says, is the increasing occurrence of what experts call nonlinearities, or sudden, unexpected changes in the world’s order, such as the 2008 economic crisis, the rise of ISIS, Brexit, or Donald Trump’s election.

Some civilisations simply fade out of existence – becoming the stuff of history not with a bang but a whimper

The past can also provide hints for how the future might play out. Take, for example, the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. By the end of the 100 BC the Romans had spread across the Mediterranean, to the places most easily accessed by sea. They should have stopped there, but things were going well and they felt empowered to expand to new frontiers by land. While transportation by sea was economical, however, transportation across land was slow and expensive. All the while, they were overextending themselves and running up costs. The Empire managed to remain stable in the ensuing centuries, but repercussions for spreading themselves too thin caught up with them in the third century, which was plagued by civil war and invasions. The Empire tried to maintain its core lands, even as the army ate up its budget and inflation climbed ever higher as the government debased its silver currency to try to cover its mounting expenses. While some scholars cite the beginning of collapse as the year 410, when the invading Visigoths sacked the capital, that dramatic event was made possible by a downward spiral spanning more than a century.

According to Joseph Tainter, a professor of environment and society at Utah State University and author of The Collapse of Complex Societies {6}, one of the most important lessons from Rome’s fall is that complexity {7} has a cost. As stated in the laws of thermodynamics, it takes energy to maintain any system in a complex, ordered state – and human society is no exception. By the third century, Rome was increasingly adding new things – an army double the size, a cavalry, subdivided provinces that each needed their own bureaucracies, courts and defences – just to maintain its status quo and keep from sliding backwards. Eventually, it could no longer afford to prop up those heightened complexities. It was fiscal weakness, not war, that did the Empire in.

So far, modern Western societies have largely been able to postpone similar precipitators of collapse through fossil fuels and industrial technologies – think hydraulic fracturing coming along in 2008, just in time to offset soaring oil prices. Tainter suspects this will not always be the case, however. “Imagine the costs if we have to build a seawall around Manhattan, just to protect against storms and rising tides”, he says. Eventually, investment in complexity as a problem-solving strategy reaches a point of diminishing returns, leading to fiscal weakness and vulnerability to collapse. That is, he says “unless we find a way to pay for the complexity, as our ancestors did when they increasingly ran societies on fossil fuels”.

A protest group in Argentina demonstrates against United States interference in the crises in Syria and Venezuela

Also paralleling Rome, Homer-Dixon predicts that Western societies’ collapse will be preceded by a retraction of people and resources back to their core homelands. As poorer nations continue to disintegrate amid conflicts and natural disasters, enormous waves of migrants will stream out of failing regions, seeking refuge in more stable states. Western societies will respond with restrictions and even bans on immigration; multi-billion dollar walls and border-patrolling drones and troops; heightened security on who and what gets in; and more authoritarian, populist styles of governing. “It’s almost an immunological attempt by countries to sustain a periphery and push pressure back”, Homer-Dixon says.

Meanwhile, a widening gap between rich and poor within those already vulnerable Western nations will push society toward further instability from the inside. “By 2050, the US and UK will have evolved into two-class societies where a small elite lives a good life and there is declining well-being for the majority”, Randers says. “What will collapse is equity”.

Whether in the US, UK or elsewhere, the more dissatisfied and afraid people become, Homer-Dixon says, the more of a tendency they have to cling to their in-group identity – whether religious, racial or national. Denial, including of the emerging prospect of societal collapse itself, will be widespread, as will rejection of evidence-based fact. If people admit that problems exist at all, they will assign blame for those problems to everyone outside of their in-group, building up resentment. “You’re setting up the psychological and social prerequisites for mass violence”, Homer-Dixon says. When localised violence finally does break out, or another country or group decides to invade, collapse will be difficult to avoid.

Europe, with its close proximity to Africa, its land bridge to the Middle East and its neighbourly status with more politically volatile nations to the East, will feel these pressures first. The US will likely hold out longer, surrounded as it is by ocean buffers.

A severe drought in Syria left many people – especially young men – unemployed, discontent and desperate, which may have been a factor that led to civil war

On the other hand, Western societies may not meet with a violent, dramatic end. In some cases, civilisations simply fade out of existence – becoming the stuff of history not with a bang but a whimper. The British Empire has been on this path since 1918, Randers says, and other Western nations might go this route as well. As time passes, they will become increasingly inconsequential and, in response to the problems driving their slow fade-out, will also starkly depart from the values they hold dear today. “Western nations are not going to collapse, but the smooth operation and friendly nature of Western society will disappear, because inequity is going to explode”, Randers argues. “Democratic, liberal society will fail, while stronger governments like China will be the winners”.

Some of these forecasts and early warning signs should sound familiar, precisely because they are already underway. While Homer-Dixon is not surprised at the world’s recent turn of events – he predicted some of them in his 2006 book – he didn’t expect these developments to occur before the mid-2020s.

Western civilisation is not a lost cause, however. Using reason and science to guide decisions, paired with extraordinary leadership and exceptional goodwill, human society can progress to higher and higher levels of well-being and development, Homer-Dixon says. Even as we weather the coming stresses of climate change, population growth and dropping energy returns, we can maintain our societies and better them. But that requires resisting the very natural urge, when confronted with such overwhelming pressures, to become less cooperative, less generous and less open to reason. “The question is, how can we manage to preserve some kind of humane world as we make our way through these changes?” Homer-Dixon says.









Categories: Uncategorized

What Would Korean War Two Look Like?

by Eric Margolis (April 15 2017)


If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will.



So thundered President Donald Trump last week. Unfortunately, neither China nor North Korea appeared intimidated by this presidential bombast or Trump’s Tweets.

What would “we will” actually entail? This clear threat makes us think seriously about what a second Korean War would be like. Memory of the bloody, indecisive first Korean War, 1950~1953, which killed close to three million people, has faded. Few Americans have any idea how ferocious a conventional second Korean War could be. They are used to seeing Uncle Sam beat up small, nearly defenseless nations like Iraq, Libya or Syria that dare defy the Pax Americana.

The US could literally blow North Korea off the map using tactical nuclear weapons based in Japan, South Korea and at sea with the Seventh Fleet. Or delivered by B-52 and B-1 bombers and cruise missiles. But this would cause clouds of lethal radiation and radioactive dust to blanket Japan, South Korea and heavily industrialized northeast China, including the capital, Beijing.

China would be expected to threaten retaliation against the United States, Japan and South Korea to deter a nuclear war in next door Korea. At the same time, if heavily attacked, a fight-to-the-end North Korea may fire off a number of nuclear-armed medium-range missiles at Tokyo, Osaka, Okinawa and South Korea. These missiles are hidden in caves in the mountains on wheeled transporters and hard to identify and knock out.

This is a huge risk. Such a nuclear exchange would expose about a third of the world’s economy to nuclear contamination, not to mention spreading nuclear winter around the globe. A conventional US attack on North Korea would be far more difficult. The North is a small nation of only 24.8 million. Its air and sea forces are obsolete and ineffective. They would be vaporized on the first day of a war. But North Korea’s million-man army has been training and digging in for decades to resist a US invasion. Pyongyang’s 88,000-man Special Forces are poised for suicide attacks on South Korea’s political and military command and control and to cripple key US and South Korean air bases, notably Osan and Kunsan.

North Korea may use chemical weapons such as VX and Sarin to knock out the US/South Korean and Japanese airbases, military depots, ports and communications hubs. Missile attacks would be launched against US bases in Guam and Okinawa.

Short of using nuclear weapons, the US would be faced with mounting a major invasion of mountainous North Korea, something for which it is today unprepared. It took the US six months to assemble a land force in Saudi Arabia just to attack feeble Iraq. Taking on the tough North Korean army and militia in their mountain redoubts will prove a daunting challenge. US analysts have in the past estimated a US invasion of North Korea would cost some 250,000 American casualties and at least $10 billion, though I believe such a war would cost four times that much today. The Army, Air Force and Marines would have to mobilize reserves to wage a war in Korea. Already overstretched US forces would have to be withdrawn from Europe and the Mideast. Military conscription might have to be re-introduced.

US war planners believe that an attempt to assassinate or isolate North Korean leader Kim Jung-un – known in the military as “decapitation” – would cause the North Korean armed forces to scatter and give up. I don’t think so.

My visits to South and North Korea have shown me that soldiers of both nations are amazingly tough, patriotic and ready to fight. I’ve also been under the Demilitarized Zone (“DMZ”) in some of the warren of secret tunnels built by North Korea under South Korean fortifications. Hundreds of North Korean long-range 170 mm guns and rocket batteries are buried into the hills facing the DMZ, all within range of the northern half of South Korea’s capital, Seoul. North Korea is unlikely to be a pushover in a war. Even after US/South Korean forces occupy Pyongyang, the North has prepared for a long guerilla war in the mountains that could last for decades. They have been practicing for thirty years. Chaos in North Korea will invite Chinese military intervention, but not necessarily to the advantage of the US and its allies.

Is Commander-in-Chief Trump, who somehow managed to avoid military service during the Vietnam War, really ready to launch a big war in Asia? Most Americans still can’t locate Korea on a map. Will Congress tax every American taxpayer $20,000 to pay for a new Korean war? Will Russia sit by quietly while the US blows apart North Korea? Does anyone in the White House know that North Korea borders on Russia and is less than 200 kilometers from the key Russian port of Vladivostok?

All this craziness would be ended if the US signed a peace treaty with North Korea ending the first Korean War and opened up diplomatic and commercial relations. No need for war or missile threats. North Korea is a horrid, brutal regime. But so is Egypt, whose tin pot dictator was wined and dined by Trump last week.

But pounding the rostrum with your shoe is always much more fun than boring peace talks.

Copyright Eric S Margolis 2017

Categories: Uncategorized