Wednesday, March 8, 2017

U.S. Weak in Korea

A news day like today makes it hard to imagine that the current U.S.-led neoliberal full-spectrum-dominance paradigm can go on for too much longer.

A privileged part of the paradigm is technology. People love their smart phones. They are an extension of their identity, if not identical to their identity. For instance, yesterday walking to work on a miserable, cold, rainy morning, I came to a stop at a busy intersection, along with the other pedestrians, waiting for the light to change. Immediately, no doubt to take advantage of the 30 seconds or so of downtime, a young woman whipped out her smart phone and started fingering it.

This is a large part of who we are now. Thanks to WikiLeaks' latest revelation we know that we are under surveillance; that our iPhones and Androids and even our Windows PCs and laptops are compromised. There should be a congressional investigation. There probably won't be. But at least there will be pressure on the tech giants to make a fuss.

Perpetual war is a big part of the paradigm. It looks like the contradictions of the world war in Syria are finally coming to the surface. The United States is at the point where it is signaling its permission for a Kurdish state.  Sending Army Rangers in Stryker vehicles to protect Manbij from Turkish forces and their jihadist proxies is a strong tell that the U.S. is not going to let Erdogan have his way in northern Syria. Of course the U.S. could reverse itself after Raqqa falls. That's why Trump's decision whether to provide the YPG with armored Humvees and heavy weapons will be key. The Syrian Kurds so provisioned would stand a chance against the Turks and their proxies.

But where the fantasy of U.S. full spectrum dominance falls apart is in South Korea. Rushing the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System (THAAD) is being spun as a response to North Korea's launch of four ballistic missiles on Monday. But the first part of the THAAD installation arrived the same day as the North's missile launch. So clearly there is not a cause-effect relationship.

The cause is the political situation in South Korea. THAAD is deeply unpopular and the anti-THAAD progressives are the rise. The U.S. wants to make sure to get its missile defense system installed before the conservatives are swept from power. According to "North Korea Tensions Pose Early, and Perilous, Test for Trump":
Seoul’s interim government wants to deploy the antimissile system before a progressive leader, skeptical of the deployment, can take power in a coming presidential election.
But progressives have held deep reservations about the Thaad deployment, seeing it as part of the United States’ effort to wrap the South into an anti-China coalition and arms race. They have already mounted a case against it.
On Tuesday, Woo Sang-ho, the floor leader of the main opposition Democratic Party, warned, “Our business are dying; our people residing in China are being threatened.”
Hong Ik-pyo, a senior policy maker in the opposition, said the Thaad deployment would do more harm than good for South Korea, whose economy depends on exports for growth and reaps a huge annual trade surplus with China.
“They say this is only to defend us from North Korea, but everyone knows this is part of the American missile defense plan,” Mr. Hong said. “China sees the Thaad deployment in South Korea the way the Americans saw the Cuban missile crisis in the 1960s.”
The U.S. can't win this one. For a punch list of its hopeless options consult today's editorial in The New York Times, "Rising Tensions With North Korea":
How Mr. Trump intends to handle this brewing crisis is unclear, but he has shown an inclination to respond aggressively. On Monday, the White House denounced the missile tests and warned of “very dire consequences.”
One possibility is intensifying the cyber and electronic warfare effort against North Korea undertaken by the Obama administration and first reported by The Times on Sunday. Other options include some kind of military action, presumably against missile launch sites, and continuing to press China to cut off support. The Trump administration has also discussed reintroducing nuclear weapons into South Korea, an extremely dangerous idea.
Granted, negotiating with the North Koreans has long proved frustrating. But the Obama and Bush administrations got nowhere by further isolating the already-reclusive nation. At this point, only a new round of engagement aimed at getting North Korea to freeze its nuclear and missile programs, and tougher sanctions to back that up, holds any reasonable promise of working.
No sanctions regime can be effective without China, and China has no reason to go along unless THAAD is removed. Would Trump make such a bold move? No.

The only card that the U.S. has to play is some act of war.  But there is no putsch, color revolution or jihadist option here. So Trump is about to get his clock cleaned.

No comments:

Post a Comment