Sunday, January 14, 2018

Alert!

Yesterday, the citizens of Hawaii and Seoul received alert messages on their mobile phones advising them to seek shelter - the former from a missile heading their way, the latter from massive air pollution about to hit them the next day. As it turns out, the missile alert in Hawaii was a human error*, and light precipitations have kept - so far - Seoul's Air Quality Index way below the expected Airpocalypse.

Still. In both cases, a bad taste keeps lingering in the air:
  • The Hawaiian scare caused a panic wave across America that certainly helps reality sink in for many people who were not taking North Korea seriously, but also fuels the rhetoric of hardliners willing to strike Pyongyang as soon as possible (see "This time it's different").
  • The air actually tasted sour this morning in Seoul. And to add insult to injury, the official AQI measures were much lower than the ones reported by other sources. May have something to do with the fact that many of said measures are taken from the top of the capital's lungs (its mountains)...
So let's return to the DPRK, and put aside these Pyeongchang 2018 talks, or Trump's confirmation that he could end up palling around with KJU as easily as he does with other dictators. KIM Jong-un is still itching for a final test with a charged ICBM, and Donald Trump is still itching for action. 

Even the POTUS' putative envoy for South Korea, Victor CHA, 'courageously' took position in favor of strikes... while remaining in D.C., which probably explains why the US Embassy to Korea is still expecting its new boss.

'Could you be more specific, @VictorDCha? What do you mean by 'limited strikes' on North Korea? To achieve which goals, beyond scratching Trump's itch, and causing the destruction of Seoul?' (20171224 - twitter.com/theseoulvillage/status/944844826373079042)

On Christmas Eve, Victor CHA tweeted 'Limited Strikes on North Korea Are Past Due', an hawkish piece by a retired US Navy Captain, David Allan Adams, known for his poor judgement - he was against the 2009 surge in Afghanistan, and the nuclear submarine he had in charge had an embarrassing accident. The US Naval Institute published this 10 years after rewarding Adams in a essay contest for his already evocative 'Preemption without Regime Change'. As we'll see, Adam's rationale is scarily cynical, but it's even scarier to know that the would-be Ambo to Korea supports it. 

Adams' 'escalate to deescalate' 'strategy' could be summed up by 'let's gamble that shithole peninsula right now, once and for all': 
'the only way to absolutely discern the true nature of North Korea’s provocative decisions may be to gauge the regime’s response to limited military action' (...) 'if a limited military move against North Korea prompts an irrational shelling of Seoul and a wider war on the peninsula, then it is better to find out sooner than later. The only thing worse than a devastating war on the Korean Peninsula today is a war against an irrationally behaving, nuclear-armed North Korea capable of demolishing Honolulu, Tokyo, and Tumon tomorrow'.
It was probably a good thing to relieve this guy from the command of that nuclear submarine. Adams doesn't seem to realize that even today, even regardless of nukes, the effects of 'a wider war on the peninsula' would not be limited to Korea. Maybe he never heard of a country named China. Maybe he believes that Tokyo can't be hit today. Maybe he realized only yesterday that Honolulu was only 20 minutes away. An eternity seen from Seoul (toasted within a minute), but not much considering the 38 minutes it took to cancel the false alert (not to mention the time to reach Trump on his golf course**).

Trump to KJU: 'Drop your weapons! Now! Er... let me rephrase that...' (KAL cartoon in The Economist - 20170902 - kaltoons.com)
So hold your breath.

And welcome to Season XII of this excuse for a blog.

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* by 'human error', I don't refer to any specific head of state, but to staffers who issued by mistake an alarm ubi et orbi during an innocent drill.
** as usual, the POTUS tweeted today that the buck didn't stop anywhere near him.

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20180117 addendum - Seoul's official AQI website*** is misleading:
- bad air looks bright yellow instead of the advertised orange
- measures are 15-30% below rival estimates
- 30-80 is green and 'standard' here, but elsewhere, 50-100 is generally yellow and 'bad'

(20180117 - twitter.com/theseoulvillage/status/953407244728614913)
 *** launched in 2009 - see "Clean Air @ Seoul"

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