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Monday, October 23, 2017

This time it's different

You know the bad cop - bad cop routine with North Korea: provocations, sanctions, provocations, sanctions, war threats, journos flocking to the peninsula, and leaving a couple of weeks later with stories about how apathetic South Koreans can be, or with 'rare glimpses' into rural DPRK caught from the windows of their buses to remote museums honoring past leaders...

Of course, we all know that the gimchi will eventually hit the fan, that this regime won't last forever, that someday something will happen, and that whatever the scenario, it will be messy. 

But we also take for granted that if something really really stupid happens, it won't come from the US.

This time it's different*.

To start with, somebody really really stupid sits in the Oval Office. A narcissic, delusional, short-fused bully with the attention span of a goldfish, desperate to score awesome wins bigly, and surrounded by dangerous and incompetent advisors eager to strike as soon as possible, but without any clue about what's at stake. Certain days, it seems that the only sane person in 1600 Penn Ave is a Mad Dog (James Mattis).

This time, it's different. 46% of GOP voters are okay with a strike against NK, much more than the usual 33+% base of hardcore trumpolatres who would follow their leader beyond the gates of Hell. And well beyond party lines, in many American minds, the leader of North Korea has logically grown from than a distant, weirdly combed clown-meme, to a clear and immediate danger able to launch nukes all the way to their front yard. Among them, how many are aware that tens of thousands of US citizens have already been living for decades South of the DMZ, knowing that they could be wiped out in minutes even without nukes being involved?

This time, it's different. In South Korea, apathy gave way to genuine concern. Particularly since MOON Jae-in seems inaudible on the international scene, and completely out of the loop, and not just because Trump is not much into diplomacy (BTW still no new Ambo to Korea). In 1994, the US did listen to KIM Young-sam, and canceled their strike. During the Sunshine years, they lost key entry points in the North, and last year, they saw the most confidential allied plans hacked by Pyongyang. Now Donald TRUMP only trusts fellow radical Shinzo ABE, who played him from day one, and confirmed that KIM Jong-un could prove very useful to revive a political career, and to score big legislative wins in spite of awful popularity ratings.**

This time, it's different. On his upcoming trip to East-Asia, the POTUS may skip the classic DMZ tour, and instead visit the Pyeongtaek base. Not to better understand the realities on the frontline, but as usual to elude reality; to avoid facing directly the North, and to remain in his comfort zone - his aides will probably set up yet another one of his self-morale-boosting campaign-style rallies. Chances are his tweeting bird brain will interpret cheerleaders applauding his warmongering rethorics as the ultimate 'GO FOR IT'.

This time, it's different. Storytellers are already assuring us that this is not the next Iraq, but no one dares bulls...t us about surgical strikes, because there are too many targets (and elusive at that), too many unknown unknowns. And you can't clean the mess afterwards, even with such an 'ace' cleaner as the Winston in Pulp Fiction***.

This time, it's different. Of course, no one should defend the DPRK regime - everybody knows about their human rights violations, WMDs, nukes, chemical weapons, you name it. Of course, the UNSC remains unanimous behind tougher sanctions, but how far will the world let Trump play KJU's risky escalation game? 
- Where is the international community? Where are the moderates?
- Where are FoPo doves? (certainly not non-expert Ted Cruz delivering his angry two cents in the NYT) Where is Obama? (strategic silence - so happy that the gimchi didn't hit the fan during his mandate) Where is Jimmy Carter? (oh he's still there, but for how long, and why would Trump let him go to Pyongyang)
- Where's China? (well the priority for XI Jinping was to secure his grip at home, and KJU was smart enough to spare him more embarrassment during the CPC's 19th National Congress)
- Where's Putin? (watching DJT make China and Russia great again, and gaining clout in North Korea, but with which guarantees?)
- What is Trump's red line? is the Congress aware of it - heck, is the Donald himself even aware of it?

When Elusivarus Rex Tillerson said diplomacy was still on until the first bomb drops, he didn't specify who would drop the first bomb.

Seoul Village 2017
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* from "This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly" to "This Time Is Different: Seven Decades of Political Folly"?
** According to Asahi Shimbun, 80% of the new assembly favor a revision of the constitution, even if less than half of the population does so - already a victory for Nippon Kaigi considering how pacifism used to dominate. The neofascist lobby rules more than ever Japan politics: Nippon Kaigi claims main ABE rivals Yuriko KOIKE (who founded a new party), and Seiji MAEHARA (who claimed the DPJ, forcing a split in the main opposition party, Yukio EDANO leading the new Constitutional Democratic Party created to defend democracy).
*** modeled after Victor in Besson's original Nikita movie

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