Jake's View

Why does the US goad Kim’s paranoia with war games and aircraft carrier?

The danger has always been that a mad man would push the button in panic. Why incite one to that panic then?

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 April, 2017, 3:51pm
UPDATED : Monday, 10 April, 2017, 10:58pm

While the US and North Korea would avoid unilateral action, rising tensions in the region mean either one might, in haste, misread moves by the other. -- SCMP, April 10

The thing about paranoia is that it’s not subject to reasonable assurance.

You can tell a paranoid person repeatedly that you are no threat to him, and all he’s likely to do is read a threat into the fact that you told him repeatedly.

Every March, for instance, the United Nations tells the North Korean military command that US and South Korean armies are about to begin joint military exercises on South Korean territory and that these are purely defensive in nature. North Korea need not worry.

The exercises come in two parts, Foal Eagle at the beginning of March and Key Resolve in mid-March. Last year, they involved more than 300,000 soldiers with all their tanks, war planes and high tech weapons, all practising how to make a high speed dash for the North Korean border.

But, hey, we’re just kiddin’.

I don’t know how many soldiers were involved this year, but the exercises featured a new angle, OPLAN 5015, widely reported to be a scheme for killing the North Korean political leadership through a pre-emptive strike.

Now take a man like North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, who certainly comes across as a classic paranoid. He had an uncle shot with an anti-aircraft gun, and more recently is thought to have had his half-brother murdered at the check-in of the Kuala Lumpur airport.

Can anyone really expect the reasonable assurances of the United Nations to assure a man like this, that Foal Eagle and Key Resolve are purely defensive, and not aimed directly at him?

Take into account also the history of the Korean war. Yes, North Korea bears most of the blame for starting it, but equally also suffered the most.

Hundreds of thousands of its people died, perhaps well into the million with post-war purges. Pyongyang was bombed until not one brick stood on another and the industrial economy was destroyed.

Can we really expect people who suffered that much in a cause they thought just, or even their immediate following generations, to say, “Well, we got that one wrong. Let’s forget it and see if we can join up with the people who did it to us”?

It’s not going to happen, at least not for another few generations. There are wounds still to heal, and the best way to help that healing process along is to stop provoking these people.

The hard fact is straightforward. The cause of the recent tension, this year and every year at this time year, is Foal Eagle and Key Resolve.

Kim Jong-un has not just been shooting off missile tests and making nuclear threats because he’s an evil little runt, although he is, but because he’s also a paranoid one and the US military has inflamed his paranoia.

He has pleaded – pleads every year – that Foal Eagle and Key Resolve be stopped. He has even asked the United Nations to help him stop these war games and has been turned down flat every time.

He was sabre-rattling last month because he was himself sabre-rattled.

Ordinarily, he would calm down a little in April with the end of the war games but now, unfortunately, the sabre rattling is to continue. The US military has decided to station an aircraft carrier task force off the Korean peninsula.

It’s just the wrong way to go about things with a paranoid. You don’t pacify him by goading him. You just leave him alone and be careful to give him no reason to indulge his paranoia.

He thinks it is he who has adopted the defensive posture against a military threat and he has reacted in the only way he can see open to him, by making a counter threat.

It’s a well-known tactic. In fact, it’s the US military, which in the 1950s first gave a name to this sort of posturing, Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). Drop the bomb on us, Moscow, and we’ll drop it on you.

But the danger has always been that a mad man would push the button in panic. Why incite one to that panic then?