21 thoughts on “Monday Message Board

  1. I came across a useful new set of categories (obviously not really new, but new to me) that help make sense of the outcomes of the gradual disintegration of the established parties.

    From Stan Grant’s piece “Making people feel excluded — that’s not an Australian value” http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-21/making-people-feel-excluded-is-not-an-australian-value/8461874

    Goodhart says the old political categories of Left and Right no longer fit. He prefers “Somewheres” and “Anywheres”.

    By his reckoning I am an “Anywhere” — someone who is well travelled, multicultural, university-educated, professional — I am at home anywhere.

    My parents though would be “Somewheres” — they are connected to tradition and place; they live in a small town not far from where my father grew up. They are from somewhere and it matters.

    Goodhart argues that “Anywheres” have “achieved” identities and “Somewheres” have “ascribed” identities.

    It’s not that this is a new development, but in the absence of the old allegiances it’s motivating people to support parties like One Nation.

  2. I am surprised after the Iraq episode that so much of the press – even the left of centre press such as The Age – are so gung ho about the US launching a preemptive strike on North Korea. It seems to me that NK is mainly accelerating its shift towards nuclear weapons because of the threats other countries pose to it in terms of their commitment to NK regime change. They deny it but the US and South Korean navies run annual exercises off the NK coastline which is very threatening. But NK itself does not yet seem to be acting imperialistically. The cost-benefit case for a US-lead strike is therefore that it will achieve benefits from regime change that exceed the possible costs of the strike not being successful and NK lashing out at South Korea and Japan thereby causing massive loss of life. Regime change that involved a takeover of NK by South Korea or China would seem to be an improvement for the people of NK but there would still be the issue of how to handle those who lose out in NK from such a change. A few missiles into Seoul could cause massive loss of life and presumably, loss of life among innocents in NK. I think the US should avoid the temptations of a quick hit solution and tag along with the Chinese approach. For example, offer the Great Leader sanctuary in China with e.g. $10b handout and guaranteed personal security or preserve the Great Leader in NK but with China providing a guarantee of NK’s “security” as a whole – the latter would mean that NK became a client state of China which would be better than the current situation.

  3. @hc

    You think that North Korea is not a threat to any other country. But how confident can you (or anyone else) be? During the Cold War the threat of mutual assured destruction was credible because both sides were rational and believed each other to be rational. But with the crazy fat kid, who knows? He might actually be crazy. In which case, it might be better to strike first to minimise the damage if you think he is going to strike.

    Of course this would be super high risk. The NKs could launch missiles into Seoul and kill a million people without much trouble. This is why everyone wants the Chinese to keep the crazy fat kid under control. But maybe they can’t or won’t.

    If the crazy fat kid isn’t really crazy he is playing a dangerous game. He wants everyone to think he might be crazy but no one to think he really is crazy.

  4. @Smith

    It’s certain that a “pre-emptive strike” would produce massive retaliation. So, it guarantees massive population loss in South Korea and probably also Japan and other US allies in the region. The benefit is that, if followed by an invastion, it preclude the possibility of an NK missile reaching the US.

    he only other option would be a massive nuclear first strike, wiping out the great majority of the NK population, and eliminating the possibility of retaliation. That would presumably cause massive collateral damage in China, raising the risk of nuclear obliteration for the entire world.

    So, there’s not much alternative to sitting tight and hoping the fat kid isn’t crazy.

  5. @Smith The fault in your argument is that you assume that “both sides were rational and believed each other to be rational.”

    Doesn’t seem like a rational argument to me.

  6. @hc I agree with Harry, the idea that NK are not entitled to be paranoid denies them the opportunity to be as paranoid as everybody else. NK should be left alone, to allow the natural process (free market) to apply its invisible hand.

  7. How come Anzac day has morphed into Anzac week? It’s getting a bit silly. I’m reminded of this:

    Bart: I just think our veterans deserve a little recognition.
    Lisa: That’s what Veterans Day is for, Bart.
    Bart: But is that really enough to honor our brave soldiers?
    Lisa: They also have Memorial Day!
    Bart: Oh, Lisa, maybe you’re right, maybe you’re wrong, the important thing is that veterans deserve a day to honor them!
    Lisa: They have two!
    Bart: Well, maybe they should have three. I’m Bart Simpson.

  8. @rog

    Appreciate the humour Rog. But not saying that. I would like to see the end of the Great Leader as much as anyone. But currently the military exercises and diplomatic attacks are driving him in an errant direction. They are not irrational in nuclearizing if their objective is to prevent regime change. Prefer the patient approach of China. Reject their nuclear buildup but keep open avenues for discussion and stop threatening NK. This is hardly a perfect strategy but the alternative of launching a strike is incredibly dangerous to innocents in NK and to our allies in Japan and South Korea.

  9. North Korea isn’t Iraq. It is more like East Germany. Sitting on one’s hands and allowing North Korea to build and perfect nuclear weapons is not a sensible response. North Korea has periodic famines that kill millions of people. The likely loss of life following a massive preemptive strike has to weighed against the death and misery of allowing the North Korean people to subsist under this evil regime. I don’t support Trump’s politics but I am sickened by the thought of not liberating North Koreans just because we think its gonna dirty our hands a little.

  10. @deftones

    This is exactly the argument that elements of the Left used to justify invading Iraq. Get rid of the crazy fat kid and the North Koreans will be better off than they are now. You might think anyone else would be better. But he might be succeeded by another Pol Pot. Nobody knows.

  11. @rog

    Hardly surprising since the US provided tactical nuclear weapons to South Korea in 1958 and subsequently South Korea developed its own nuclear program. The latter has since been abandoned though a substantial latent local nuclear capacity exists in the South.

    Remember that nominally the US and South Korea are at war with the North. How would NK be expected to react assuming it fears regime change?

  12. Once a country has nukes, there are no military ways of removing the nukes (i.e. without getting nuked in return), and there are no diplomatic ways of removing the nukes. The nukes, once available, are there for good. Perhaps some international negotiation can see a reduction in nuke force, but it won’t entirely eliminate it. No country is going to do that (unless protected by some other means).

    Therefore, it really doesn’t matter how rational or irrational the NK leadership is in terms of their thinking, for should war break out, they have little to lose in simply nuking any other country that they deem “the enemy” and is within reach. If on the other hand we simply ignore NK and get on with our business, then NK has nothing to gain by threatening other countries—being ignored turns their threat into a hollow one and robs it of its power. Furthermore, being ignored by other countries can hardly be seen as a military threat to be countered, whereas all this chest thumping by the USA simply ensures the NK threat-maker is viewed seriously, and that has great propaganda power. Why play into their hands?

    Deliberately stoking the fire, as Trump is doing, isn’t going to do anything more than increase the risk of a fateful slip of the trigger finger.

  13. NK rationality may be subject to stress and I believe that, rightly or wrongly, they think that they are under constant threat of invasion and have lived under that stress for generations. NK, as an irrational actor, now presents a real threat and must somehow be given assurances and somehow coaxed into opening up to the rest of the world. Leaders must be wary considering pending charges of breaches human rights by the UN.

  14. @Donald Oats
    South Africa and Ukraine both gave up their nuclear weapons, so it’s not inconceivable. Hard to see it happening with North Korea though.

  15. I wonder if N.K. and China would like a nuclear armed Sth. Korea and Japan on their doorstep? It could be put to China (in a brinkmanship fashion) that Sth. Korea and Japan will be forced to become nuclear weapons armed powers if Nth. Korea does not give up nuclear weapons.

    This is the kind of proposition which would need to be made secretly to China. Perhaps it already has been. The public in the various countries would never be told. It would be greatly in China’s interest to ensure that both of the “Koreas” and Japan did not have nuclear weapons.

    However, this kind of brinkmanship can lead to disasters too, so it is very hard to know what to do. Letting the situation drift is also becoming untenable. How could tensions be de-escalated? It is hard to see any practical solution.

  16. Having been to the left bank of the Seine River in Paris and compared it to the right bank, I see little difference today. Perhaps that is why the socialist parties around the world seem to have lost democratic support. Karl Marx was not very complimentary of socialism when he labelled it “utopian”, but I expect Marx’s point was that British socialists in 1850 were not going far enough in their condemnation of capitalism. This birth defect of the socialist movement seems to have resurfaced some 150 years later. As for the so called right, it seems to be either, right of Ghenghis Khan, or, trying to grad the centre from pretend socialists. No wonder the French voters are so unimpressed with their Presidential candidates. North Korea suffers from an inept leader, as does a lot of countries today, but western democracies have no high moral ground to defend. Participatory democracy is the only answer, but no one is asking the right questions. The Rive Gauche comes from an earlier era, closer to the days of Karl Marx and the Paris Commune, it has “gone south” since then, much as the River Seine does today.

  17. The threat of NK to China itself must be exercising Beijing. It isn’t that long ago that China and Russia (USSR) were ‘at it’ across their Ussuri River frontier.
    Cutting fuel to the regime to limit their ability to control their border with China could spur defections. If this ‘trickle’ were to be managed by a US-China-SK cost sharing agreement – hopefully tacit and secret – the potential for a ‘Berlin wall’ mass exodus might be countenanced. A long shot to be sure but the only humane way this looming tragedy could be avoided IMO. A tyrannical regime minus it’s people doesn’t amount to much, nuclear armed or otherwise.

  18. @witters

    That is the first time I have seen the yearly comparative top 5 ppm (5.22ppm) where ‘usually’ we have seen figures variously affected by the 2015-16 El Nino ie approx 3ppm. It is worrying that at a time when we should be seeing figures declining we get a figure such as this. I base my interest on blog site Real Climate monthly – unforced variations.

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