Ineffectual Scolding To Follow

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Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Ordinary Times. Relapsed Lawyer, admitted to practice law (under his real name) in California and Oregon. On Twitter, to his frequent regret, at @burtlikko. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.

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349 Responses

  1. Avatar Jaybird
    Ignored
    says:

    The only thing that I think we *MIGHT* be able to do is decapitation.

    But I don’t trust our ability to make it look like an accident, let alone look enough like an accident to have North Korea Media argue that it was an accident rather than Western Imperial Assassination That Demonstrates The Need For Glorious Weapons Of Great Power, let alone make sure that the next person to sit in that chair won’t be as bad/worse.

    There isn’t a single option on the table that doesn’t suck. The situation sucks so bad that even the option of “don’t do anything” sucks.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      I’m even going through my head thinking about Secretary of State dream teams and… I’m not coming up with anybody that makes me say “Man, *THAT* guy (or gal) would know what to do!”

      Christopher? Baker? Kissinger?

      I’m as fond of bashing John Kerry as much as the next guy but I’m not able to come up with anybody who would make me say “I wish that we had (so-and-so) back.”Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      When the option “don’t do anything” sucks, then it’s time to throw the dice, and let chips fall where they may.

      At some point, recklessness becomes the best option.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Kim
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        says:

        I’ve said in another context that when there are no good options, the task becomes picking the least bad option.

        Doing nothing may be the least bad option. Which is frustrating especially given that the taunting I sarcastically portray in the OP is only a degree away from reality.Report

        • Avatar Kim in reply to Burt Likko
          Ignored
          says:

          That’s missing the problem while searching for the solution.
          It is often the case that options have both good and bad outcomes, each with different probabilities. Most people try to mitigate the bad outcomes, even at the cost of relatively less good good outcomes.

          It works. Most of the time.

          It’s not always the optimal solution. Sometimes you take a 10% chance of the world ending, and cling to that option for dear life — walking the edge of the abyss.Report

  2. Avatar Pierre Corneille
    Ignored
    says:

    I’m not sure what “we” can do. Most of the scenarios I can imagine that go beyond mere scolding involve people–in most except one or two of the more improbable scenarios, people who are not me–getting hurt or killed.Report

  3. Avatar Chad
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    says:

    Wouldn’t we be well served by not being looked to as the world police which would put China in the position of being more responsible for it’s angry cousin? How we would do that without exposing South Korea to danger is the downside to that bit o’ strategic thinking.Report

    • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Chad
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      says:

      Generally I agree but I think US presence in the DMZ is the only thing that keeps North Korea from going really crazy.Report

      • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to NewDealer
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        says:

        I am inclined to think just the opposite. Our presence guarantees that North Korea gets away with a lot more.

        They know perfectly well that we don’t really want to fight another Korean War. But we will if our troops are there. It’s either that, or we put up with decade after decade of their nonsense.

        If we were to at least make noises about withdrawing and encouraging Japan to rearm, we’d do everyone a great deal of good. North Korea would fall into line, and even if it didn’t do so quite to our satisfaction, it would still be deprived of one of its chief grievances, and one of the few things that does occasion it some sympathy in the South.Report

        • Avatar greginak in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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          says:

          Well the South Koreans don’t want a war either. How does Japan rearming necessarily help SK? Will the Japanese be willing to send their troops to support SK? That seems like a huge leap i doubt they really want to make.Report

          • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to greginak
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            says:

            How does Japan rearming necessarily help SK?

            They will perform more or less the same functions that we do.

            Will the Japanese be willing to send their troops to support SK?

            A better question might be whether South Korea will accept them, but I think in the event of an invasion, the answer will be yes.Report

            • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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              says:

              Given the degree to which China and South Korea already freak out at anything remotely resembling Japanese nationalism, a full fledged rearmament and renunciation of Article 9 is likely to have severe consequences for regional stability and promote arms races and the possibility of skirmishes in regional border disputes.Report

        • Avatar Gaelen in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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          says:

          Similarly, our military presence in the South is a significant factor for the Chinese in their relations with the North. Having the US military on their border is a probably a deterrent to resolving this particular problem.Report

  4. Avatar Morat20
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    says:

    You do what you’ve always done. Complain publically, denounce, refuse to lift sanctions, and rely on MAD.

    Well, except it’s more like NKAD — North Korean Assured Destruction. And probably a lot of SKAD, since that’s who North Korea would aim for triggering the backlash.Report

  5. Avatar James Hanley
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    says:

    I’ve often wondered what would be the effect of saying, “let the little boy play with his toys, but if he pokes anyone in the eye with them we’ll tan his hide so hard he’ll never sit down again.’

    More seriously, sure we would prefer that L’il Kim, Jr. not have nuclear capabilities, and particularly nuclear-tipped missile capabilities. But we have no moral clout on this issue.

    And for all the talk that Kim Jong-il was nuts, it always looked to me like he was playing a very sensible strategy. Countries with nukes don’t get pushed around as much by the U.S.–sure we could turn their country to glass, but everyone assumes, and probably correctly, that we’re not willing to pay the price, which would be at least one U.S. city getting nuked. So it’s deterrence against U.S. aggression, not some plan to unilaterally attack the U.S. or its allies, because North Korean leaders aren’t willing to pay the price for that, either.

    Adding to the argument of North Korean sanity is that they’ve always pulled back on their programs when we rewarded them to–call it a bribe, call it extortion, the fact is that however little we like having to pay them to not go full speed ahead with their nukes, from their perspective that approach of leveraging our fears has worked pretty well.

    So more and more I’m inclined to say, “Here you go, we’ll give you the technology, but you do understand what we’ll do if you ever use it, right? Oh, by the way, we’re offering the same deal to Seoul, if they’d like to have it, too.”Report

    • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to James Hanley
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      says:

      “[E]veryone assumes, and probably correctly, that we’re not willing to pay the price, which would be at least one U.S. city getting nuked.”

      Here you are saying it…

      “I’m inclined to say, “Here you go, we’ll give you the technology, but you do understand what we’ll do if you ever use it, right? ”

      …and here you are taking it back.

      Either we’re willing to let them nuke Tokyo or we aren’t. If we aren’t, then it’s a serious problem that they have the ability to nuke Tokyo. Like, the kind of problem that we’d accede to any demand in order to solve. I’m pretty sure that, for example, a trillion dollars every year would be less expensive than Tokyo getting nuked.

      “But they’d never do that! They’d die!” You know that crazy kid we were talking about? If he burns your house down he’ll be in Real Trouble. Except that he’s been in Real Trouble before. And you like your house an awful lot.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jim Heffman
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        says:

        Jim,
        I get your point. I just think it changes if we actually give them the technology. We’re a different type of player then, and I think it changes the perception of us. We would have already shown we’re willing to take a bigger risk (bigger than we currently are willing to take); so it’s much less certain at that point that that we’ve reached our tolerance level for risk/pain. It’s eliminating the certainty about the current assumption’s correctness that makes the other player more cautious.Report

        • Avatar M.A. in reply to James Hanley
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          says:

          I get your point. I just think it changes if we actually give them the technology.

          Why? Who gave the crazy kid the matches and fireworks, and did it have any influence whose house they burned down?

          If anything it changes the perception of us to “suckers”, which isn’t a good place to be when dealing with someone who’s crazy.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley in reply to M.A.
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            says:

            You’re still assuming they’re crazy. I reject that assumption. Others have explained below why it’s a bad assumption, and I agree with their analyses.Report

            • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to James Hanley
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              says:

              They’re not crazy, but their incentive structure (I’m assuming we’re talking North Korea) is such that the leadership is likely to regard using nukes as an acceptable alternative.Report

            • Avatar M.A. in reply to James Hanley
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              says:

              You are making the assumption that their worldview is so similar to your own that you can correctly predict their reaction to your proposed incentives.

              One of the standard definitions of craziness is being possessed of a worldview so skewed that the majority of the population cannot relate to it.

              Corrolary: Einstein’s definition of insanity was trying the same thing over and over, expecting different results.

              That’s North Korea right there. They’ve proven NOT to react in the way you predict to incentives. Yet you want to keep trying incentives that have been proven not to work, on the assumption that North Korea’s leadership are not “crazy.”

              And yet, they still are. They do not react in the same worldview you think they do, because you cannot comprehend a worldview that leads them to being the crazy kid who would happily take the matches and M-80s you handed him and promptly take one, light it, and throw it into your raingutter while laughing at you.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to M.A.
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                says:

                That’s North Korea right there. They’ve proven NOT to react in the way you predict to incentives. Yet you want to keep trying incentives that have been proven not to work, on the assumption that North Korea’s leadership are not “crazy.

                This would actually suggest that we, not the North Koreans, are the crazy ones under Einstein’s definition. Just sayin’.

                I can’t really follow the rest of your comment.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to Chris
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                says:

                There is definitely a measure of insanity involved in assuming we can deal rationally with an irrational entity, yes.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to M.A.
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                says:

                I like that you continue to do little more than assert that they’re irrational or insane, rather than, say, providing an example in which their behavior is clearly irrational and/or insane. It lets you avoid the entire conversation we’ve had here.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to Chris
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                says:

                http://gizmodo.com/5983604/a-brief-timeline-of-north-korea-doing-insane-and-terrifying-things

                They’re crazy. Your continued handwaving assertions otherwise notwithstanding.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris
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                says:

                Yeah, you’re the one who’s just making “handwaving assertions.” Linking to a site that also calls their behavior insane is pretty much the definition of doing that.

                Here’s what I want from you: pick an action, and explain why it was irrational and/or insane. Any one on that list would do. But before you waste your time, I think it’s probably important to point out that, say, the invasion of the South was pretty damn rational, particularly when cheered on by the Soviet Union, and was nearly successful at unifying the peninsula, which not only, you know, unifies Korea, but makes the North much safer because it doesn’t have a major Cold War enemy’s client state on its southern border. Since after the war it continued to have said enemy on its southern border, its attempts to arm itself in a way that creates parody with the nuclear South Korea, doesn’t seem irrational or crazy, does it? Same goes for when the U.S. (or George W. Bush) decided that not only was it particularly interested in keeping up its treaty with North Korea, the treaty which was keeping North Korea from going full speed ahead in its attempts to acquire nuclear weapons, but we were also going to call them a member of an “axis of evil,” right before we invaded one of the other countries we included in that category. So, you know, getting nukes seems pretty rational at that point, too.

                So, take any of the other actions listed in there and explain to me, to us, how they are irrational and/or insane. Without that, again, you are, in your words, simply making “handwaving assertions.”

                Also, I hope you pick one of the propaganda items, because that would show just how unserious you are. So please, pick one of those.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Chris
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                says:

                Uh, M.A., that list of “insane and terrifying” actions includes NK signing the NPT and joining the UN. I think that–especially the latter–is sufficient to disqualify the list as a serious source.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to M.A.
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                says:

                When Saddam Hussein began his unjust and cruel war against Iran, he had the best and largest military in the region. As he pushed through Iran’s defences, he could have been in Tehran in a day.

                Instead, in a monumental act of folly, Saddam got cold feet and ordered his mechanised troops to dig in. Iran’s military was in very bad shape, certainly no match for Saddam’s troops. Iran sent forth the basij, boys armed with nothing but a stick, a sacred bandanna wrapped around their head. That bandanna, they were told, would render them bulletproof.

                And those boys, some of them as young as thirteen, moved forward against the entrenched Iraq troops. The resulting slaughter was horrific. They were machine gunned down in waves. The Iraqi troops were vomiting in horror, weeping as they shot down those basiji.

                I was told that story by an Iraqi who was at that battle.

                That’s Iran. That’s the flavour of crazy we’re talking about here. Will that example serve your purposes well enough, Chris? I do hope so.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to M.A.
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                says:

                Well, given that Iraq then didn’t conquer Iran, and lost a good chunk of morale in the process, I’m not sure that the result – from a Iranian utilitarian standpoint, mind you – is all that crazy.

                Ruthlessly amoral, sure.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to M.A.
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                says:

                That’s not amoral. It has been seen before, in the Children’s Crusade. It’s what happens when religious zealots tell things to trusting little boys from the countryside. From Iran’s perspective, it was a moral obligation.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to M.A.
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                says:

                There is definitely a measure of insanity involved in assuming we can deal rationally with an irrational entity, yes.

                Are you calling Chris irrational for trying to reason with you?

                That’s hard, man.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to Stillwater
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                says:

                Treating North Korea’s leadership as if it is rational, when decades of responses and actions by the North Korean leadership proves otherwise, is an irrational act yes.

                If you need the personal crazy of Kim Jong-Il to look at, here’s another decent list.

                Their actions regarding nukes are the sort of thing almost certain to get them into worse and worse trouble – a full importation blockade, for instance, cutting off even the most menial things that they need to survive. The only thing remotely allowing them to survive is China’s finding their crazy useful as a distraction at this point, and that’s not going to last.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Stillwater
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                says:

                So now we’re back to saying that “sanity” means “foregoing one’s sovereignty and bowing to the will of powerful states,” and in the case of North Korea, the addition of “when those states make agreements with you and then, after their regime changes, decides to say “fish you.”

                See, I told you M.A.’s “handwaving assertions” allow him to simply ignore the entire conversation here.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Stillwater
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                says:

                Treating North Korea’s leadership as if it is rational, when decades of responses and actions by the North Korean leadership proves otherwise, is an irrational act yes.

                Several of us have explained the rationality of NK’s actions, and you haven’t rebutted a single one of those demonstrations, but are just acting as though nobody’s said anything. That’s really weak.

                And nothing on that list you link to demonstrates irrationality in international relations.

                Their actions regarding nukes are the sort of thing almost certain to get them into worse and worse trouble

                Except it hasn’t, has it? And what countries that have nukes does the U.S. really try hard to fish with? What countries with nukes has the U.S. ever invaded?

                The only country that’s taken a really hard line, we’re going to fish you up, stance against other countries having nukes is Israel, and DPRK knows damn well Israel isn’t going to launch a strike on them.

                You argue that we can’t understand DPRK, but you don’t even try to see the world as they see it. You refuse to try to understand their world view, and with that proud and determined hold on ignorance you feel comfortable claiming it’s an irrational one. There’s not one lick of logic behind that approach.

                From the foreward to Negotiating on the Edge: North Korea’s Negotiating Behavior, by Scott Snyder.

                “North Koreans are crazy!” is a familiar response to the threatening behavior of the [DPRK] that has so long characterized the enduring confrontation on the Korean Peninsula. In fact, they are not crazy; they are not even unpredictable. Their use of threats or violence is disorienting to Americans, and highly disturbing. But such behavior has an internal logic and repetitiveness to it. Dismissing the North Koreans, or other international actors, as “crazy” limits our ability to deal with their threatening behavior effectively. We need to better understand their way of looking at the world and use the predictability of their behavior to better manage what are often difficult and crisis-driven confrontations with the DPRK and other such “rogue” states.

                And from the foreward to Chuck Downs’ Over the Line: North Korea’s Negotiating Strategy;

                “The North Koreans pursue every tactic in the book and they are especially adept at brinkmanship. They have a reputation for being hard-nosed, unyielding, and uncompromising. By simply refusing to come to terms, they force tensions to a breaking point, leaving their cliff-hanging opponents biting their nails….They make a show that convinces us they mean business…They take from the negotiating table what they are unable to win in any direct conflict.

                Understandable? Oh, yes, very much so.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to M.A.
                Ignored
                says:

                They’ve proven NOT to react in the way you predict to incentives

                False. 100% false. When Clinton was negotiating with them and providing them some of the niceties they wanted, they slowed down their weapons development dramatically. The moment W. came into office and cut them off completely by saying, “we don’t negotiate with rogue states,” they responded by re-escalating the pace of their weapons development. That’s perfectly rational, perfectly responsive to incentives.

                You are making the assumption that their worldview is so similar to your own that you can correctly predict their reaction to your proposed incentives.

                Well, there’s this little issue of humans all being humans, and cultural differences only being a veneer on top of that, and a veneer that is understandable with some study.

                Your approach is effectively dehumanizing, not too far akin from describing Jews as rats, the Chinese as non-individual automatons, Africans as closer to apes than humans, etc. I reject any such dehumanizing approach; any approach that says “those people can’t be understood because they are so fundamentally different from us.” It’s based not on what they actually do, but on perceived innate characteristics. It’s wrong and its dangerous, because ultimately it justifies treating that group more viciously than we would treat other groups.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                I think Nob has posted on this before, but Americans have a habit of describing the behavior and motivations of Asian states as mysterious or crazy.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Chris
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                says:

                “Inscrutable Asians.”Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                “Especially tricky.”Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Chris
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                says:

                Yeah.

                Though granted, I imagine part of it is simply that we’re much smarter than most Americans and therefore it’s like Clarke’s third law but with intellects.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Nob Akimoto
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                says:

                I thought it was only Asian Americans that were smarter?Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                What James said about North Korea is quite true (and one of the reasons I cannot trust Republicans on foreign policy is their insistence that Clinton’s negotiation showed weakness, while Bush’s counter-productive threats were a sign of strength.) But it’s not racist to say that North Korea’s ruling party is especially difficult to deal with, or to call them evil. Both are true.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to MikeSchilling
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                says:

                it’s not racist to say that North Korea’s ruling party is especially difficult to deal with

                In fact it’s kind of a compliment to them.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                Clinton? Really? You’re going with that zero-verification mess that Jimmy Carter Dim-plomacy created?

                August, 1998. Clinton’s military chief of staff testifies to Congress that NK doesn’t have a ballistic missile program.

                September 1, 1998: NK lobs a missile over Japan.

                North Korea wasn’t “cooperating” during Clinton, they were playing him for a sucker and it’s one of his biggest failures that he fell for their lies.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to M.A.
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                says:

                You might want to look at what was happening between the U.S. and North Korea at that time. Also, you may want to look at the possibility (which the Russians seemed to believe at the time) that the missile wasn’t supposed to go over Japan. You might have trust issues with the Russians circa 1998, but I can’t imagine you think they’d have been happy about the North Koreans telling them they were going to fire a missile that would ultimately land just outside of (possibly inside of) their territorial waters. And the Russians were told about the launch beforehand (a crazy country wouldn’t have bothered to tell them).Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                I reject any such dehumanizing approach; any approach that says “those people can’t be understood because they are so fundamentally different from us.”

                They ARE fundamentally different from us.

                Not the entire North Korean people, mind you, and I REJECT your mischaracterization of my statements: I am referring to the North Korean leadership. They’re the Hannibal Lecters of the international stage. Unless you’re willing to get into their head to understand their crazy, you won’t be able to deal with them.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to M.A.
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                says:

                Hannibal Lecter was a fictional and brilliant evil psychopath. I think calling the Nork leadership brilliant and evil is giving them too much credit by half.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to North
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                says:

                I’m pointing out that they are psychopaths. They operate on a completely different set of assumptions than anyone else at the world table does, and it shows. Remember that the first two novels involve consulting Lecter for his insights into other serial murder cases (and it never ends well).

                The analogy is: if you want to get into the heads of someone as batshit warped as the NK leadership, you have to consult someone else that batshit warped. The mental pathways and development that keep most people “sane” won’t allow them to get inside the heads of someone that warped to look from their perspective.

                Anyone who’s convinced themselves that they know how North Korea will really react to a given policy need only look at the past. The world cooperates with them; they kept making fuel and working on a ballistic program anyways. The world (mostly) cuts them off, they bark like dogs and keep working on their nuke program.

                Eventually it’ll come to a head. Most likely it’ll involve Seoul or one of the Japanese cities being glassed by NK in the process.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to North
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                says:

                I agree.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to North
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                says:

                Kim: Who are you agreeing with?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to North
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                says:

                . They operate on a completely different set of assumptions than anyone else at the world table does, and it shows.

                This is completely ridiculous. They assume that if they act belligerently, they can get others to knuckle under to them. If you can’t think of any other states that have that assumption, you’re not looking. They assume that other states are so eager to keep them from having nuclear weapons that we’ll reward them well for not pursuing them. For the most part other states have shared that assumption. They assume that if they get nuclear weapons the U.S. will back off in its aggression towards them–every other state in the world that dislikes us shares that same assumption.

                You keep claiming differences and international-relations irrationality, but you have yet to actually demonstrate it.

                Quit arguing by assertion. Give some actual demonstrations or give it up.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to North
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                says:

                MA,
                with North. There are certainly brilliant psychopaths in this world.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to North
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                says:

                MA: we have plenty of psychopaths in power in America. Not at the highest levels of power, but we nearly elected one of them vice president.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to North
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                says:

                I’m pointing out that they are psychopaths.

                It seems to me you’re argument all along has been that if NK gets a nuke they’ll be likely to use it because they’re irrational. On my view of things, you can only come to the conclusion that they’d be likely to use it because you attribute rationality to them.

                It may be that the leaders of the NK government are morally insane (psychopaths). But that has nothing with whether they’re rational or not.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to North
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                says:

                psychopaths are not morally insane. god. how idiotic.
                they’re just as predictable as the next bunch of differently IQed individuals.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to North
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                says:

                kim, this comment strikes me as completely ignoring the content of my argument to focus on a semantic distinction that’s actually pretty irrelevant. But I like semantics, so …

                what the heck are you talking about?Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to North
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                says:

                Pyschopaths or sociopaths? Big difference.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to North
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                says:

                Burt, my brief perusal of wikipedia finds them equivalent. if you want to make a distinction, please do.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to North
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                says:

                Burt, here’s Wiki on the topic:

                Sociopathy, in common usage, refers to conditions similar to or synonymous with the following conditions:

                Psychopathy

                Or here:

                Hare notes that sociopathy and psychopathy are often used interchangeably, but in some cases the term sociopathy is preferred because it is less likely than is psychopathy to be confused with psychoticism, whereas in other cases which term is used may “reflect the user’s views on the origins and determinates of the disorder,” with the term sociopathy preferred by those that see the causes as due to social factors and early environment, and the term psychopathy preferred by those who believe that there are psychological, biological, and genetic factors involved in addition to environmental factors.

                We’re pretty deep in the semantic weeds here I think. If there’s an issue with what I wrote, I think it would be providing a definition of the term “morally insane”. Which I can’t. But no one’s asked me to. 🙂Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling in reply to North
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                says:

                Fro Wiki:

                Sociopathy, in common usage, refers to conditions similar to or synonymous with the following conditions:

                Psychopathy
                Antisocial personality disorder
                Dissocial personality disorder
                Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to North
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                says:

                Neither sociopathy or psychopathy are particularly scientific terms anymore. There are people with antisocial personality disorder, and these people are sometimes called sociopaths, or when they behave in particularly destructive ways, psychopaths. If we were doing a Venn diagram, PSYCHOPATH would be entirely encompassed by SOCIOPATH, but SOCIOPATH would be a significantly larger circle than PSYCHOPATH.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to North
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                says:

                Chris,
                It’s still a term used to describe people. Perhaps not in the DSM, but in less rareified climes.

                Anti-social personality disorder is radically different from Psychopathy.
                Psychopathy shares traits of narcissism, empathy-deficit, sadism…
                (could certainly see you advancing the argument that psychopaths are just /well -adusted/ anti-social personalities. but it’s the impulsivity and anger management that throw me.)Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to North
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                says:

                Chris,
                What’s your criterion for sayign they aren’t “very scientific” anymore? Rather than that we’ve normalized the psychopathic behavior into the “normal behavior” continuum, and call it “not in need of help” (like we did with homosexuality).Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to North
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                says:

                Kim, it’s used pretty regularly even in some non-clinical psychology literature (I’m not sure about the clinical literature, because I don’t read much of it). I see it a lot in the moral judgement literature, for example. It even shows up in some neuroscience literature.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to North
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                says:

                Kim, by not very scientific, I mean they’re no longer clinical diagnoses, and tend to be used somewhat haphazardly, even in the non-clinical literature.Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling in reply to North
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                says:

                Neither sociopathy or psychopathy are particularly scientific terms anymore.

                Well, they’re also being complete douchebags.Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to North
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                says:

                I was using the terms “psychopath” and “sociopath” to refer to people whose perception of reality is not congruent with those around them as a result of some sort of mental illness (psychopaths), and to people to whom the adherence to the generally-accepted compass of morality is a matter of irrelevance (sociopaths). I see now that in terms of clinical diagnosis, these terms are no longer favored, so I’m happy to take my lumps for not staying current on DSM terminology. I’ve also been assured that terms like “insane” and “crazy” are disfavored for clinical use as well.

                So to rephrase — is the DPRK leadership able to correctly percieve and understand reality for what it is, or is the DPRK leadership not responding to that reality in a manner that appears to exhibit wanton disregard for the basic demands of morality? Because it seems to me that experience demonstrates that since sanctions against North Korea are escalated up to the point of near-embargo already, and there is always emergency famine relief that comes in at the last minute no matter what, and no one is willing to re-initiate actual war with them, there are no appreciable consequences for almost anything DPRK might do, viz., sinking subs.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to North
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                says:

                is the DPRK leadership able to correctly percieve and understand reality for what it is, or is the DPRK leadership not responding to that reality in a manner that appears to exhibit wanton disregard for the basic demands of morality?

                I’m not sure those are mutually exclusive. The first refers to the ability of DPRK leadership to correctly apprehend the world around them and make decisions based on those observations. The second refers to a constraint on said leadership to be act consistently with normal morality in the process of decision-making.

                I might be wrong, but I don’t see those as mutually exclusive.Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to North
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                says:

                They aren’t mutually exclusive. But I’m not sure I agree with the notion that they perceive reality incorrectly. I suspect and fear that they perceive reality more clearly than do our own leaders.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to M.A.
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                says:

                They’re crazy. Here’s something they did! Look how crazy it is! They’re crazy, I tell ya! Crazy!

                If you say it enough times, you’ll convince the more recalcitrant among us, I’m sure.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to M.A.
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                says:

                They ARE fundamentally different from us…. I am referring to the North Korean leadership.

                No, they’re not. See the quotes I gave above. Their goals are different from ours, but that’s not the same as being fundamentally different. I’m not backing off the suggestion that your whole approach has a racist tinge to it.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                I’m not backing off the suggestion that your whole approach has a racist tinge to it.

                Far as I’m aware, “North Korean” isn’t a race, and I’m not suggesting remotely that the vast majority of North Korean citizens are crazy (highly programmed and brainwashed by NK official propaganda, perhaps, likely fearful of NK police catching even a hint of non-patriotism as well, but definitely not crazy in those terms).

                I’m not suggesting the South Koreans are crazy either. Nor the Japanese, nor the Chinese.

                I am, specifically, calling a very small group of people who are in the leadership of North Korea a group of psychopaths. That includes the way they act towards the outside world as well as the way they treat their own citizens.

                Now either apologize for calling me a racist with zero cause and acting like a complete troll, or shut the fish up.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                Now either apologize for calling me a racist with zero cause and acting like a complete troll, or shut the fish up.

                I think not. Certainly not as long as you continue to argue by assertion and pretend nobody’s rebutted your arguments with meaningful logic and evidence.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                Dude, calling someone a troll anytime they say something you don’t like isn’t going to get you very far.

                Look, we were having a discussion about the use of the adjective “crazy” to refer to enemies of the U.S., and then you came into the thread and, ignoring that whole discussion, started throwing around “crazy” as an adjective to describe the North Korean government. You’ve yet to give an argument for why their behavior is crazy, but have instead accused those of us who have presented arguments for not calling them crazy (and we’ve presented them repeatedly) of hand-waving and being crazy ourselves. So you might want to take a step back and think about why you feel like you are the one being trolled, and you are the one who is owed an apology.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                I have provided evidence for why I believe North Korea’s actions are the actions of irrational individuals.

                I have refuted the point you tried to make claiming that they responded “rationally” and in the anticipated way to Clinton when in fact the appeasement strategy and incentivizations of Clinton/Carter did nothing to stop the North Korean leadership’s nuclear ambition.

                You have responded by calling me a racist. I believe that is a very clear violation of the comment policy and have asked you for your apology, which you have declined to provide.

                I shall leave it up to whoever needs to make a decision.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                M.A., can you point to the comments in which you provided the evidence (links to lists of actions you consider insane does not count), and in which you’ve refuted the arguments?Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                Dude, calling someone a troll anytime they say something you don’t like isn’t going to get you very far.

                Chris, he crossed the line when he very personally accused me of racism.

                And I’m done with you two both, until such time as I see the apology for that. He was trolling and you fishing well know it too, by crossing that line quite deliberately and doubling down on it.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                M.A.,
                I said your argument had a racist tinge. That is not the same as calling you a racist. You clarified who your argument applies and I accept that clarification at face value. But of course my comment can in no way be construed to have violated the comment policy, which reads:
                a comment will be deemed inappropriate if it makes no attempt to address a point germane to the original post or another comment and instead contains nothing more than a blanket personal attack directed at the author or another commenter will be deleted.

                Suggesting that an argument sounds as though it has a racist tinge is certainly a point germane–even if inaccurate–to another comment, and is far more than a “blanket personal attack.”

                But by all means, feel free to complain to the management.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                They ARE fundamentally different from us…. I am referring to the North Korean leadership.

                No, they’re not. See the quotes I gave above. Their goals are different from ours, but that’s not the same as being fundamentally different. I’m not backing off the suggestion that your whole approach has a racist tinge to it.

                VERSUS

                You clarified who your argument applies and I accept that clarification at face value.

                Yeah. We’re done here.Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                I know this thread is already heated, but can I ask a couple of serious questions?

                By the time we invaded Iraq, the WMD’s were nowhere to be found, despite the fact that the intelligence agencies of most if not all major nations had thought Iraq had them (or was working hard on them), even if they disagreed on what to do about that.

                Of the various theories to explain this massive intelligence failure, the most parsimonious are that the Iraqi regime either thought it had them (due to the kind of fear that totalitarian dictatorships exert over their citizens…nobody wants to be the one to say, “sorry, Mr. Dictator, our WMD program’s got nothin”) and so it acted as if it did; and/or, the Iraqi regime thought that pretending to have WMD’s (or, acting “crazy”) would give it leverage domestically and internationally.

                In either of these cases, the regime can be said to be acting “rationally” based on what it knows or believes; what appears to us to be “irrational” is a merely front designed to obtain concessions, or else they are sincerely mistaken about their relative capabilities – but they are not “crazy”.

                Question #1: This is sort of a reverse Turing test: if someone APPEARS to be irrational, is there any point at which we deal with them as if they ARE irrational, regardless of the truth; and if so, when is that point reached? What are the costs of a false positive, versus a false negative, and how do we reasonably guess which is which?

                Moving on to “psychopath”: brutal, closed, isolated, paranoid dictatorships get up to all kinds of stuff domestically that we would consider Dahmer-like (think: well, the ovens, and Idi Amin, and Saddam and his psycho sons, etc. etc.)

                Question #2 – To what extent is this gruesome behavior, which I presume we are all familiar with, inborn in the brutal men who seized power? To what extent is it encouraged by the grim realities of maintaining power in such a brutal regime? To what extent does it start out as strictly political (“enemies of the state” and such), and to what extent does it come to serve psychological needs (paranoia or sadism) on their part?

                Is there in fact an element of mental illness or instability in these men, and does it worsen over time?

                In short, there’s been more than one dictator that I think most would be comfortable calling a madman, no “pretending” about it.

                Do we really think that when NK finally collapses that we won’t be finding heads in freezers for years?

                None of this should be taken as endorsement for any action in re: NK. If Iraq taught us anything, it should be caution.

                But I think we should at least consider the possibility that “madman” or “psychopaths” may in fact be an apt descriptor of the ruler(s) of ANY brutally closed and paranoid society (which resemble cults in more ways than one).Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                M.A., you gotta Chill Out. Let’s slow things down and go thru them slightly more carefully. You wrote

                I have provided evidence for why I believe North Korea’s actions are the actions of irrational individuals.

                Yes, you have. In great detail. And yet despite that evidence people still dispute whether NK’s actions satisfy the definition of “irrationality”. Why is that? It might be because there’s two definitions in play and your interlocutors are accepting one that you don’t. That’s not a disagreement between views. It’s a breakdown in communication.

                I have refuted the point you tried to make claiming that they responded “rationally”…

                Sure. But according to your own definition. If people are using two different conceptions of what constitutes “rationality”, then it’s impossible to use one definition to refute a person using another. There needs to be some agreement on the meaning of terms before discourse can actually take place. I think that’s what’s driving the confusion here.Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                Prof. Hanley, M.A., I do hope I’m not being perceived as impolite when I interject myself into the apparently enjoyable argument you’re having here.

                I don’t think M.A.’s comments were racist. The comment posited that North Korea’s leadership does not think or respond to incentives the way a leader of an industrialized democracy such as the United States thinks they should.

                Prof. Hanley warned of the moral hazard of attributing innate characteristics to people under the guise of overestimating the importance of cultural differences as opposed to innate humanity.

                Seems to me that but there’s ample room for charitable readings of both sides of that exchange which avoid perceiving insult and taking offense. Now, if you want to perceive insult and find cause for offense, feel free to disregard my comment. But I bet that you’ll be happier if you don’t go looking for offense where there likely was none to be found.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                Glyph, a quick correction: Iraq said they didn’t have such weapons. They maintained that stance for years. However, for years they had ceased to allow UN inspectors to confirm that they didn’t have them in certain areas, because they were worried that the U.S., which had invaded Iraq and could reasonably be expected to do so again, was using the inspections to gather intelligence (it turns out we were, in fact, doing so). So all of the inspectors were removed from Iraq. Then, in the lead up to the Iraq war, they were allowed back in, and weren’t really impeded.

                Now, I’m sure Iraq was fine with a certain level of uncertainty, at least in the 90s, because Iran was next door, and while it may not be in their best interest for the U.S. to think they have the weapons, it would give Iran pause if it had any designs on attacking a weakened Iraqi military.

                I point this out because, even in this case, it’s not clear that Iraq was behaving irrationally, or that Saddam was in particular. I mean, he always caved in the end, and if he caved too early or gave way too much, his rule would likely have been over as surely as it was via invasion (though I doubt he predicted he’d be hung).

                I think it’s possible for states to behave irrationally, and in most cases, it’s fairly clear in hindsight that they’re doing so. The Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union might be a good example. I’m just not sure most claims that a state is behaving irrationally are the product of anything more than ignorance and animosity.Report

              • Avatar Bob2 in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                Glyph, that intelligence failure had a lot to do with the Bush administration looking for evidence to do what they wanted to do anyway. They used primary sources who were ex-pat Iraqis that had every axe to grind and lying would get them what they wanted. All you have to do is look up the source Curveball (Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi) or read up on Ahmed Chalabi to see this.
                They ignored and smeared Scott Ritter, who probably had the most accurate take on this.
                Wikipedia since it’s easier than looking up other sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scott_Ritter#Commentary_on_Iraq.27s_lack_of_WMDs

                Part of the problem is that Saddam didn’t deny having WMDs because what he feared most was Iran knowing he didn’t have them and invading. There’s even a chance as you say that his underlings lied to him about having a functioning WMD program, but the bluff seems more likely.

                M.A. – they are definitely using a very different definition of rational than you as it applies to geopolitics and game theory. It seems you’re using it more in the medical sense and they’re using it in the sense that their actions are predictable. If you look at the NYT link I posted downstream, you’ll see what in what sense they’re talking about rational.
                North Korea under Kim Jong-Il was actually very predictable in response by this measure. Like I said elsewhere, I fear they’ll install Caligula one of these days, because we lack data on how successors will act.
                For Iran, there’s a professor in New York who has a history of accurate computer predictions who predicts they’ll actually stop short of ever getting a nuke and it’ll end up being a stalemate.Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                Chris and Bob2 both – thanks. I didn’t mean to get too far off track with Iraq, so maybe that’s a bad example. But I still wonder about my questions:

                1.) Is there a point at which strategic appearance of irrationality, should be treated as de facto irrationality? Or should we always assume an opponent is acting rationally, even if we can’t perceive their reasons, and even if they turn out later to have been acting irrationally?

                2.) Given what we know about the type of men who tend to run these brutal and cult-like regimes, is the fear that they could be (or will eventually be, either through degeneration or succession) Caligula-like a reasonable one? And can we identify a “Caligula” before it’s too late, or only in hindsight?Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                Glpyh, I’m not sure, really. I’ll let Nob or James, the folks who actually study this stuff, answer that.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                M.A., your clarification and my acceptance of it came after my “I’m not backing off” comment. The sequence is kind of important there.

                But if you want, we could just proceed directly to FYIGM. 😉Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                M.A., your clarification and my acceptance of it came after my “I’m not backing off” comment. The sequence is kind of important there.

                You QUOTED my clarification.

                My clarification right here: https://ordinary-times.com/blog/2013/02/ineffectual-scolding-to-follow/#comment-481405

                Your quotation of my clarification, AND your refusal to back off suggesting that I am a racist, right here: https://ordinary-times.com/blog/2013/02/ineffectual-scolding-to-follow/#comment-481422

                I’m not going to respond to you again, because if I do, I’ll be far too tempted to break the commenting policy in your direction. You’ve been deliberately trolling me and you have misrepresented not only my comments, but you have misrepresented the entire timeline now to claim you didn’t do what you clearly did.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                1.) Is there a point at which strategic appearance of irrationality, should be treated as de facto irrationality? Or should we always assume an opponent is acting rationally, even if we can’t perceive their reasons, and even if they turn out later to have been acting irrationally?

                Typically if a state actor is behaving in a manner that you think they’re acting irrationally, it’s much more common in after-the-fact analysis that you misunderstood the rationale than it is that a dictator was just batshit crazy.

                Batshit crazy dictators occur, of course, but typically state-level actions only partially respond to the batshit crazy dude at the head. Hitler had some irrational ideas about mechanized war that didn’t help the overall strategy of the Reich in the long run, but when you look at the decision-making process it’s quite common for even mildly irrational strategies to be implemented, on the ground, by reasonably rational actors.

                Not that I’m a war specialist, or a foreign affairs specialist in public policy, but typically you probably want to err on the side of, “this nation wants something and is attempting to reach that goal” as your mechanism for evaluating state-level actors.

                2.) Given what we know about the type of men who tend to run these brutal and cult-like regimes, is the fear that they could be (or will eventually be, either through degeneration or succession) Caligula-like a reasonable one? And can we identify a “Caligula” before it’s too late, or only in hindsight?

                Just looking non-systemically, the biggest problem for the international community isn’t how Caligula-like a particular leader is, it’s what happens when a dictator dies.

                Dictatorships to not typically transfer power well. If I had to guess, I’d say that’s what’s driving North Korea right now more than anything else.

                It can be argued, for example, that the current head of the DPRK is attempting to ensure that he maintains his seat, and all of his external-facing actions are driven entirely by his calculus about how it affects his ability to manage the power factions inside the DPRK rather than any real care about the international community. The sanctions, such as they are, affect the general populace much more than the leadership. So doing something that will increase sanctions is unlikely to bother him much. Invasion by China, SK, or the U.S. are all very unlikely due to the inability of those three actors to coordinate or disengage.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                Patrick,
                Yes. I think that people are really misunderstand what “acting irrationally” means. It was irrational to send our President to Iran. We thought it was safe. (Mistaken Assumption Problem).

                It was arguably irrational to invade Iraq (it cost us a lot of money, if nothing else), but from the standpoint of America, and not its government, OIL made a lot of sense.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                Chris, you wrote However, for years they had ceased to allow UN inspectors to confirm that they didn’t have them

                From the Wiki:

                Blix was also the head of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission from March 2000 to June 2003, when he was succeeded by Dimitris Perrikos. In 2002, the commission began searching Iraq for weapons of mass destruction, ultimately finding none.

                Bold added!Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                Glyph,

                I think it’s important to keep Qadafi in mind. He was supposedly a mad man, and he also sought nuclear weapons. And yet when the international pressure got too great–including getting bombed by the U.S.–he recognized that he had miscalculated and became, if not exactly a model international citizen, a pretty tractable one. So I think it’s really really iffy to assume a leader is irrational.

                I prefer to stay away from the crazy/insane language. It’s too imprecise. How do we define it? Irrationality, on the other hand, has a clearly understood meaning–choosing means applicable to one’s preferred ends. It doesn’t actually even refer to ends/goals. It might seem crazy to want to take over the world, but by definition it can’t be rational or irrational to want that. However the means toward that end, and how one responds to incentives, reveals how rational one is (with all the caveats Nob gave above about having accurate knowledge, etc.).

                So that relates to your question 2: 2.) Given what we know about the type of men who tend to run these brutal and cult-like regimes, is the fear that they could be (or will eventually be, either through degeneration or succession) Caligula-like a reasonable one? And can we identify a “Caligula” before it’s too late, or only in hindsight?

                If we want to make good judgements, on average, about how to deal with brutal dictators, we’re better off, on average, assuming they’re not Caligula-like (assuming your implication about Caligula, I don’t really know my Roman history). But that doesn’t mean a Caligula is impossible, so the real weight of the question is on the second part, can we identify one? That’s a tricky question of knowledge. If we can understand the Dear Leader’s goals, we can make intelligent judgements about whether his means are well-suited to them. And we can look at how he responds when events don’t transpire as he expects (does he keep doing the same thing or even escalate in the face of bad consequences, or does he do a Qadafi?). But of course it’s almost always the case that more information becomes available after the fact, so while it may not be impossible to identify the irrational leader in real time, it’s simply more likely that we’ll find it easier to do so once he’s gone.

                1.) Is there a point at which strategic appearance of irrationality, should be treated as de facto irrationality? Or should we always assume an opponent is acting rationally, even if we can’t perceive their reasons, and even if they turn out later to have been acting irrationally?

                That’s a damn good question. If you have good reason to believe it’s just the strategic appearance of irrationality, then you might decide it’s a good opportunity to call their bluff. But that’s very risky, because if you’re wrong, well then it turns out they truly are irrational. So before calling their bluff, you want to have a fairly high degree of certainty and you want to be sure you’re willing to pay the price of being wrong.

                The fact that the great majority of them are in fact rational would seem to suggest that responding to them as though they’re rational–calling their bluff–would be the best general response, but not necessarily, if the cost of being wrong is unacceptable.

                I think there’s kind of a multi-level response that normally happens, where even though we believe Dear Leader is rational, and in many respects we functionally respond as though he’s rational, we also play the game of pretending to kinda-sorta believe in his irrationality, as a bit of a sop to not risk leading him into real irrationality by making him think he’s losing control and that all his options are disappearing. There’s few things worse than totally trapping someone in a corner and taking away all their options except fighting back.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                1.) Is there a point at which strategic appearance of irrationality, should be treated as de facto irrationality? Or should we always assume an opponent is acting rationally, even if we can’t perceive their reasons, and even if they turn out later to have been acting irrationally?

                OPRE.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                Or should we always assume an opponent is acting rationally, even if we can’t perceive their reasons, and even if they turn out later to have been acting irrationally?

                I want to add a Jaybird-like fun fact, but I can’t remember the exact details. (Maybe someone can help me out?) But! Once upon a time, advisers to the President (I think it was Nixon, but maybe that’s too convenient) recommended that he engage in actual, for realsies, irrational aggressive actions just to confound our “enemies” from determining strategies based on a rational actor model.

                I say this in part to address part of Glyph’s question, but also to say that the US is at the forefront of the new Anti-Rational-Analysis technologies.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                Stillwater,

                That’s one of the more appropriate uses of OPRE that I’ve seen here.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                And of course, that inspired a a timeless critique of US presidents.Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                I mentioned this I think yesterday, but more than once I have read/heard that the Soviets really thought Reagan was bonkers. So maybe it was him 🙂Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to James Hanley
                Ignored
                says:

                That’s one of the more appropriate uses of OPRE that I’ve seen here.

                Heh. It’s a useful concept. It’s probably the first time I didn’t use it sarcastically.

                I’m not entirely sure TVD would approve.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                M.A.,
                No, I meant your clarification here.

                But I don’t suppose you’re in much of a mood to do anything but take offense. It’s your choice; may it profit you well.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                And your response to me, Professor Hanley, was to say the following:

                I think not.

                I’m done dealing with you. I’ve provided numerous examples of where the NK leadership has demonstrated an extremely warped worldview, chief among them the fact that, in the face of international “cooperation”, they did NOT follow the incentive you claimed and kept right on working on their underground nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

                They did not respond to the incentives as you claimed, and the proof is incredibly easy to look up. You claimed that proof they were acting in a sane manner was their behavior under Clinton but in order to get there you had to totally misrepresent their behavior.

                And then you called me a racist and have yet to issue even the most perfunctory apology.

                All you are doing is trolling me in violation of the comments policy. and until I see an apology from you, this will be my last response to you because I am not going to risk taking your fishing bait.

                It’s either that or Queensberry rules, and I’m not interested in the latter.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                Do you actually own a high horse, or did you have to rent one?Report

    • Avatar Bob2 in reply to James Hanley
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      says:

      If you google Game Theory and North Korea, this is exactly what Kim Jong Il was playing at.

      Kim il-Sung…I don’t know enough about to make a call here, nor do I know enough about game theory in this situation.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to James Hanley
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      says:

      We have this weird habit of painting our enemies, by which we often mean people who don’t do basically what we want them to when we want them to, as insane. We see it in Iran, and we see it in North Korea, and it wasn’t uncommon back in the days of the Soviet Union. It strikes me as a profoundly unhelpful way of thinking about people or states, because it makes them much more mysterious than they actually are.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris
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        says:

        makes them seem much more mysterious than they actually are.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Chris
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          says:

          Agreed. The realist approach in international relations theory normally assumes each state is a rational actor. It’s an imperfect assumption, but I think for the purposes of modeling and predicting other states’ behavior, it’s almost always a much more accurate assumption than the assumption that the other side is crazy/irrational.

          The real trick is knowing what the state’s goals are, because rationality applies only to means, not ends. If an observer know their ends, he/she can make sense of their actions. If the oberservers don’t understand their ends, their actions will appear, to that observer, to be irrational/crazy–but that doesn’t mean they really will be.Report

          • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to James Hanley
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            says:

            Of course the problem with rationality in an anarchic system is that rational != stable. There’s plenty of incentive for states to act in revisionist ways to change the status quo in substantial ways.

            Also, rationality is bounded by imperfect information. Saddam was a rational actor, but he miscalculated severely several times. North Korea’s leadership is likely as rational as anyone else, just that their incentive structure is substantially different enough that they’re likely to miscalculate the chances of getting away with certain types of behavior.Report

            • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Nob Akimoto
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              says:

              (Mind you, as I do more study into the nuts and bolts of the international system, the less Realist and more Constructivist I become. The efforts particularly of Tom Schelling and RAND into helping to shape how government reacts to potential crisis situations is a great example of how reactions to anarchy tend to be a constructed meaning based on how bureaucratic actors work within the system.)Report

            • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Nob Akimoto
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              says:

              Oh, that’s all very true. But don’t give up realism totally for constructivism. A good melding of the two, with some Marxist understanding, is the best way to approach things, I think.

              In fact I think both hard line realists and hard line constructivists are missing something critical. It’s undoubtedly true that states pursue their own interests as they define them, within the structures and constraints of the international system as they understand it. But those perceptions and understandings are in large part, although not totally, socially constructed understandings (and a touch of Marxism is useful for understanding the construction of understanding of some of the reactions to wealth and power differences). In a nutshell, the two theories each need each other or they are radically incomplete. IM(not so)HO.Report

          • Avatar Kim in reply to James Hanley
            Ignored
            says:

            ” it’s almost always a much more accurate assumption than the assumption that the other side is crazy/irrational.”
            I think this depends heavily on the degree of centralization of power… and how good you are at pushing people’s buttons.Report

      • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Chris
        Ignored
        says:

        Especially considering there’s a simple explanation: Countries with nuclear weapons don’t get invaded.

        And when the United States knocks off a nearby country and then eyeballs you and calls you part of an “Axis of Evil”, I suspect that would push it to an even higher priority.

        Out of all the evil countries Bush identified, we invaded the one we were certain didn’t have nukes or significan chemical or biological capacity. I sincerly doubt that tidbit was lost on everyone else.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Chris
        Ignored
        says:

        We set up really unfair Catch-22’s.

        “Why is Iran crazy?”
        “Because they’re trying to get nukes!”
        “Why is that a problem?”
        “Because they’re crazy?”
        Etc.Report

        • Avatar M.A. in reply to Kazzy
          Ignored
          says:

          That’s not a catch-22. Well, what you phrased is, but the situation with Iran is.

          “Why is Iran crazy?”

          “Because their leadership are members of an apocalyptic cult who have said that for their messiah to return Israel has to be destroyed and that it would be worth the deaths of as many Muslims as it took to achieve that, and they are trying to get their hands on nukes towards that goal!”.

          “Why is that a problem?”

          “Because as was just explained in the answer to why they are crazy, they are REALLY crazy and have the intent to use a nuke for genocidal purposes.”Report

          • Avatar Bob2 in reply to M.A.
            Ignored
            says:

            It’s worth nothing here that Israel has lots of nukes and large portions of Iran would be completely annihilated in the process.

            I’d also point out as a side note about posturing that Saddam pretended to have certain types WMDs for fear of Iran invading even though he didn’t actually possess them anymore.Report

            • Avatar M.A. in reply to Bob2
              Ignored
              says:

              It’s worth nothing here that Israel has lots of nukes and large portions of Iran would be completely annihilated in the process.

              But it’s also worth noting that the government of Iran, both the Ayatollah and the current President, have said that they believe the cost of Muslim lives in a retaliation would be worth it if Israel’s destruction were assured, so long as the number of Muslim lives was not 100%.

              They consider vast numbers of Muslims expendable, and are willing to use a nuke knowing the consequences. That makes them an irrational actor.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 in reply to M.A.
                Ignored
                says:

                No, they’re willing to say that. That doesn’t mean they’re willing to do that, or even believe it.

                To put it bluntly: In theocracies, the little guys are the martyrs. It’s a rare, rare religion where the big cheeses are eager to die for God.

                And I have no doubt the Ayatollah is quite happy to remain firmly alive, railing against the Great Satan.

                You’re making the same arguments used about the Russians, which also weren’t true. Brinkmanship and rhetoric is part of policy — but what about the actual lives, powers, and privaleges of the people who lead and run Iran and North Korea makes you think they’re particularly eager to die?

                Or that their military will go along with it, especially in North Korea’s case?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Morat20
                Ignored
                says:

                No, they’re willing to say that. That doesn’t mean they’re willing to do that, or even believe it.

                I.e., talk is cheap, credible commitment is hard.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to James Hanley
                Ignored
                says:

                Nobody believes the guy who constantly talked about shooting people in the streets would ever snap enough to do it either. He was always “such a nice boy, kept to himself really.”Report

              • Avatar Bob2 in reply to M.A.
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                says:

                There’s a big difference between the propaganda of the state and what they will actually do. The point about Saddam was that posturing is very what the state will do, and in the case of Iran, such jingoist propaganda is good for unifying a country under severe economic sanctions. Simply put, I don’t believe they would despite what they say in public.

                Khomeini and Ahmadinejad do not want to die, and they most assuredly would in the ensuing nuclear battle, or afterwards in a highly destabilized Iran after Tehran’s been blown to smithereens and as an international war criminal for firing a nuke. As it stands, the same goes for DPRK, owning a nuclear deterrent allows the people at the very top to to continue living their rich lives with their European private schools, etc. without fear of being overthrown by outsiders.Report

              • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to Bob2
                Ignored
                says:

                “Khomeini and Ahmadinejad do not want to die,”

                Khomeini lives on in all our hearts.Report

              • Avatar Bob2 in reply to Pierre Corneille
                Ignored
                says:

                oops. khamenei lol.Report

              • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to Bob2
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                says:

                The said part is that I had to google it just to make sure I wasn’t wrong.Report

              • Avatar Bob2 in reply to M.A.
                Ignored
                says:

                I think you’re missing that in game theory, it’s totally rational for them to pretend to act irrationally if it gets them their desired outcome. These are not stupid people contrary to what we say about them being evil and whatnot.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 in reply to M.A.
                Ignored
                says:

                Or to sum up: people who want to die martyrs rarely live long enough to run for political office.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chris
        Ignored
        says:

        To the degree that the governments of Iran, North Korea, and the Soviet Union were not representative of the people, they ought to be considered “bad”. Hell, it’s possible to apply that formula to USG.

        Using that formula raises questions, however.

        I think we use “insane” because “evil” is passe.Report

        • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird
          Ignored
          says:

          I think “insane” and “evil” have different connotations, and I think both of them are problematic in such contexts. Bad is fine, but vague. What makes Iran’s government bad? Its treatment of women? Its treatment of religious minorities? Its treatment of political dissent? Is it bad in the same way that North Korea’s horribly repressive regime, which in some cases actually results in the starvation of its people, is bad? What about the Soviet Union? Was it bad in the same way? Better to just say what you don’t like, at least in intelligent discussions.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chris
            Ignored
            says:

            I find Secret Police to be distasteful. The thought of state-controlled media and heavy censorship of civilians is unpleasant to me. I think that violations of human rights are aesthetically ugly.Report

            • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird
              Ignored
              says:

              Me too. My point isn’t that these states do bad things (though all states do bad things, even ours), it’s that they’re bad in different ways, and that the distinctions between their various types of badness is important. Furthermore, once we start to call a state “bad,” or worse, “evil,” it start to allow us to think of all of their actions in that light. So maybe we should just say, “state-controlled media” is bad, and “heavy censorship of civilians” is bad, and “violations of human rights” are bad, and the governments that do these things are behaving badly when they do so, while recognizing that large states with multiple international and internal political and diplomatic pressures are complex and complicated and simple value judgments are pretty much pointless either descriptively or predictively. It works for chest pounding and righteous indignation, but it doesn’t do much for actually understanding what’s going on in the world.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chris
                Ignored
                says:

                I do think that it’s not *THAT* difficult to come up with a level of badness beneath which we can say “THIS SHIT WILL NOT STAND! Oh, you have chemical/biological/nuclear weapons? Well, we should just stand around until you collapse from your own pathologies.”

                Personally, I think that if there is something similar to the Stasi, we have a good place to draw that line.

                Across the board, of course.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Well, “you have chemical/biological/nuclear weapons?” is different from “you have secret police?” The former makes them a threat to us (though I should note that we have those things, so are we bad?). The latter makes them a threat to their people. I’m more sympathetic to the latter than the former, even though I’m for universal disarmament, because I’m not sure we have much moral standing in the former (if we have any). But again, just calling them “bad” doesn’t help us much, because the inferences it licenses tend to be unproductive, if not counter produtive.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chris
                Ignored
                says:

                though I should note that we have those things, so are we bad?

                To the extent that we have a secret police, I’d argue that they need to be purged and, preferably, hung from lampposts with a hemp rope and left there to be eaten by birds until the rope breaks at which point the bodies can be eaten by dogs.

                We should probably set something up so that traffic wouldn’t be affected.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                I meant the weapons. I don’t know that we have “secret police” in the same way that, say, North Korea does. I know the police infiltrate political groups, which is bad, but I’m not sure they arrest political dissidents and take them to reeducation camps. At least, I haven’t seen evidence that they do.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                At least, I haven’t seen evidence that they do.

                There’s the proof that they’re “secret”.

                {{QED.}}Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                I tend to not have a problem with the weapons being in the hands of countries that have something akin to representative government.

                I have less of a problem with the US having them than with, say, India having them and less of a problem with India having them than Pakistan and less of a problem with Pakistan than with the People’s Republic of North Korea.

                All governments aren’t equally valid. The more invalid, the more hesitation I have when it comes to me being cool with such things as nukes.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Jay, I can dig that, though I wonder how many countries Iran, or North Korea, or Pakistan, or India have invaded lately (well, India’s been behaving a bit badly, maybe Pakistan too). Also, Iran does have a representative government. Maybe not quite what we wish they had, or what they could have without some theocratic elements, but they’re not North Korea. Hell, they’re not even Pakistan, and we are more or less buddy buddy with Pakistan.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jaybird
              Ignored
              says:

              What makes a police force secret?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Kazzy
                Ignored
                says:

                Uhhh. [Looks around.] What police force? I don’t see a police force.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Kazzy
                Ignored
                says:

                What makes a police force secret?

                You mean that our own government isn’t already doing to us?Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to Jason Kuznicki
                Ignored
                says:

                I think of ours as more of “Surprise!” Police.

                Have you ever had a “surprise” birthday party? Well, it’s kind of like that, except it’s the middle of the night and you are sleeping in your own bed when they bust down the door in with flashbangs and military gear and order your family onto the floor and shoot your dog and then realize that they have the wrong address and then ransack the place anyway then hopefully just leave without an apology or planting a small amount of drugs in a sock drawer to justify their epic screwup.

                Then, the city code violation for having your broken door – which you’ve been attempting to have the city fix, or at least pay for – in your front yard, comes a week later.

                So that’s like the icing on your “Surprise!” cake.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Glyph
                Ignored
                says:

                I think there are some secret elements to our police, particularly when they work undercover to infiltrate political groups, but “surprise police” is my new favorite epigram for our militarized police force.Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to Chris
                Ignored
                says:

                I was pretty proud of it. I thought about googling to see if it’s original, but that’s probably the best thing I’ll produce all day and I don’t want to be sad.

                Surprise Police, they shoot my dog in the head
                (shoot my dog in the head!)
                Surprise Police, they roust me out of my bed
                (roust me out of my bed!)
                Surprise Police
                (police! police!)
                Report

              • Avatar mark boggs in reply to Chris
                Ignored
                says:

                That’s a cheap trick.Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to Chris
                Ignored
                says:

                The next one’s the first song on our new album.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kazzy
                Ignored
                says:

                What makes a police force secret?

                I’m willing to use the definition from The Wikipedia:

                Secret police (sometimes political police) are intelligence agencies and or police agency, law enforcement office which operates in secrecy and also quite often beyond the law to protect the political power of an individual dictator or an authoritarian political regime.

                Instead of transparently enforcing the rule of law and being subject to public scrutiny as ordinary police agencies do, secret police organizations are specifically intended to operate beyond and above the law in order to suppress political dissent through clandestine acts of terror and intimidation (such as kidnapping, coercive interrogation, torture, internal exile, forced disappearance, and assassination) targeted against political enemies of the ruling authority.

                If I had a nutshell definition, I’d go with the Instead of transparently enforcing the rule of law and being subject to public scrutiny as ordinary police agencies do, secret police organizations are specifically intended to operate beyond and above the law part.Report

              • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                So, just like the police in the US.Report

          • Avatar M.A. in reply to Chris
            Ignored
            says:

            “Evil” is “rational, but with malicious purposes.”

            “Insane” is “irrational, but with malicious purposes.

            Iran is clearly irrational, as is NK.Report

            • Avatar Chris in reply to M.A.
              Ignored
              says:

              This is myopic.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to Chris
                Ignored
                says:

                It’s your contention that the government of Iran is a rational actor?Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to M.A.
                Ignored
                says:

                Yes, it is. I see no evidence that they’re behaving in a way that is not in their interest.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Chris
                Ignored
                says:

                Yes. Agreed. Once you understand that Iran has no reliable allies in the world, due primarily to historical accidents of religion and ethnicity*, their sabre-rattling and pursuit of nuclear weapons makes a lot of sense sense.

                *Non-Muslim countries distrust them because they’re Muslim; Muslim countries in their region distrust them because they’re Persian. If Iran is invaded, who will come to their defense? Their only real partners are Russia and Syria, and in each case it’s wholly an instrumental agreement. They have no real commitment to each other’s interests.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to M.A.
                Ignored
                says:

                +1 to Chris. Yup, self-interested. Tolerates drinking, fraternization between men and women. Total subculture there, all operating within the informal laws. the prayermen seethe.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater in reply to M.A.
              Ignored
              says:

              Why do you think Iran is “irrational with malicious intent”? Because of a mistranslated quote attributed to Ahmadinejad?

              Personally speaking, if I were in the Iranian leadership I would have viewed the US invasion of Iraq as ample evidence that acquiring a nuke to prevent the possibility of a US invasion was not only justified but necessary.

              I’m with Chris on this stuff: somehow a pretty transparent chain of reasoning is viewed as “irrational” or “evil” or “insane” for reasons that have nothing to do with the reasoning itself.Report

        • Avatar Glyph in reply to Jaybird
          Ignored
          says:

          “The Unpleasant Empire Which Follows A Different Political/Economic Theory” just doesn’t roll off the tongue.

          “Axis Of Meh.”Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Chris
        Ignored
        says:

        Depictions in popular media are one thing. Would you prefer the term “not as risk-averse as we are” to “insane”?Report

        • Avatar Chris in reply to Burt Likko
          Ignored
          says:

          Burt, I’m not even sure that makes sense. How are the three examples I gave less risk averse than us? What about the Taliban, when they were in power? It seems that “risk averse” means, in these cases, “bowing to the will of the United States government,” which means that being “risk averse” means “forfeiting one’s sovereignty.” I mean, North Korea has done what that’s too risky? Develop weapons that all of its immediate enemies already have? Strike at a country that it has, technically, been at war with for more than 60 years?

          What about Iran? Again, developing weapons that its immediate enemies have, and that would, should it possess them, give it a great deal of pull in its region?Report

          • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Chris
            Ignored
            says:

            Agreed that “bowing to the will of the U.S. government” may be a less expensive or less risky choice than “defying the will of the U.S. government” or simply “ignoring what the U.S. government wants” under a lot of circumstances and for a lot of actors and DPRK is certainly well within that description.

            Technically, there’s just a cease-fire in place, but as a practical matter, ROK and DPRK are not at war unless they actually want to start shooting at each other. The “risk” is that ROK and/or its allies will find something that DPRK does intolerable enough to start shooting again. Perhaps DPRK is indeed more rational and clear-eyed than everyone else. Sinking an ROK submarine was not enough to provoke any meaningful military response from the PRC, Russia, ROK, Japan, or USA, after all.

            And perhaps it’s the case that developing nuclear weapons is not a particularly risky thing to do. The only time that any nation has even ostensibly taken military action against another for developing WMDs was the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and not a lot of people other than the American public thought that was the reason for the invasion in the first place. So if the truth of the matter is that developing nukes is a low-risk, high-reward strategy the miracle of it is that every even halfway industrialized nation doesn’t have them already.Report

            • Avatar Chris in reply to Burt Likko
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              says:

              I think sinking the sub was stupid, as was the artillery strike (though I get the impression the artillery strike was a local call). I often wonder what sort of decision-making produced the sinking of the sub.Report

              • Avatar Bob2 in reply to Chris
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                says:

                I believe the accepted rationale is that Kim sung-il needed some military creds if he was going to be the next leader. Sinking an sk sub to consolidate his power makes perfect sense by this rationale.Report

            • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Burt Likko
              Ignored
              says:

              The thing is developing nukes is actually rather harder than it might appear. A lot of industrialized states have TRIED. It’s not from a lack of effort that South America for example has no nuclear states, or that Africa is now denuclearized.

              Might have to do a post on counter-proliferation in the future.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Nob Akimoto
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                says:

                Nob, I have to disagree with you here. The technology for nuclear weapons is not that difficult, particularly if a country just goes for a simple gun-type bomb. The difficult part is access to uranium. And it really is for lack of trying that no South American or African countries have nukes. Argentina had a nuclear program, but abandoned it–quit trying–after it became democratic again in the ’90s. And of course South Africa actually had nukes, but gave them up (when, ahem, it realized it was going to have to allow non-whites to have access to political power). The only African country that’s really tried since then is Libya, and their problem wasn’t the difficulty of the technology, but the close eye of U.S. intelligence.

                On another line of thought, I’ve just recently become aware of claims that Japan’s nuclear program was more well developed than has generally been thought, and there’s even a claim that they tested a weapon in North Korea after the bombing of Nagasaki but before the formal instruments of surrender were signed. Have you ever heard of that? (The evidence about the extent of their success, including actually detonating a bomb, is pretty sketchy, though.)Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Nob Akimoto
                Ignored
                says:

                James, you’re thinking of this:

                http://www.reformation.org/atlanta-constitution.html

                There was a show, on the History Channel maybe, that talked about this as well.

                From what I can tell, we know that Japan had a nuclear program, that it was fairly advanced, and that it may have been moved to Korea late in the war as the bombing of the Japanese mainland began to hamper it (much of the equipment was destroyed in one raid). That they ever got to the point of building a bomb, much less testing one, is something that there is little if any evidence for. There are no documents to suggest this (though conspiracy theorists might think that the Soviet occupiers of northern Korea got their hands on the documents and the materials, including heavy water, and made sure the West was none the wiser), and the tiny little island where the detonation is supposed to have taken place is unavailable for testing because it is within the territory of North Korea.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Chris
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                says:

                Chris,

                There was a 1945/6 report by an American journalist of an interview with a Japanese scientist who claimed to have been part of the test. But who knows how valid that report was?

                But in general, yes, the possibility that the Soviets got the documentation from the program in North Korea, and our inability to access the site, these are the things that make it plausible, but unverifiable. It’s almost like a perfect conspiracy theory. I find the prospect fascinating, even as I find the claim of successfully detonating a bomb a bit implausible (primarily because the level of investment in the program, and the number of people working in it, just seems far too little–or if it was sufficient, then we waaaaaaayyyyy overspent on the Manhattan Project!).Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to James Hanley
                Ignored
                says:

                James, that link in my last comment is to the 1946 report in the Atlanta Constitution.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Chris
                Ignored
                says:

                Ah, I didn’t look closely. Sorry. I did watch the History Channel documentary (on youtube, broken up–awkwardly–into 5 sections), and my colleague just read a book on it that he’s going to pass on to me. While I’m skeptical about the successful detonation, it is very interesting to think that Japan might have been further along than we expected. Especially given how long it took to get our program really moving. Had we dawdled a bit longer, and had we struggled more in the Pacific theater…well, I think there’s no doubt we would have won in the end, anyway, because we simply had more material and manpower, and once Germany was done and the USSR came in against Japan that material and manpower was increased yet again. But damn could it have changed the last months of the war in ways we wouldn’t have liked.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris
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                says:

                Yeah, I imagine if they had developed a bomb, they would have been unable to reach U.S. soil, even Hawaii, so they would probably have tried to bomb a major U.S. military base in one of the occupied islands, or a fleet maybe.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Nob Akimoto
                Ignored
                says:

                Ecch, there are all sorts of claims of this sort. All terribly interesting on a historical basis. James is right: it’s mostly a question of access to uranium or plutonium but it requires a huge industrial complex to turn it into a bomb. It’s trivial to detect those installations from space, they leave big hot signatures in the detectors.

                I really don’t fear nations with nuclear bombs, it’s past the threshold of caring about. What worries me is not a nuclear detonation but a dirty plutonium bomb. Plutonium dust mixed into a thermite type bomb. Put it this way, people are now living in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There were a lot of cancer cases — from the fallout. But a dirty bomb would make an instant mini-Chernobyl situation. Plutonium is the nastiest poison, ever. And such a weapon doesn’t require all that fancy implosion tech or ICBMs or guidance systems.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Chris
        Ignored
        says:

        Fouccault talked about this alot.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Chris
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        says:

        This isn’t an exclusively American phenomenon. It’s my understanding the Soviets feared that Reagan was bonkers. YMMV as to how much you agree with that assessment.Report

      • Avatar Russell M in reply to Chris
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        says:

        yeah but ivan was crazy in a fun gogo kind of way.Report

  6. Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto
    Ignored
    says:

    I think China likes North Korea acting like this as it allows them to seem like an order imposing actor, especially given their more recent bull in a china shop (pun intended) behavior with regard to the SCS.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Nob Akimoto
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      says:

      On one hand yeah, I’m sure they like playing the hand that holds the leash on the mad dog. On the other hand there’s a limit to this kinda stuff, if the global economy got disrupted China would be in it up to their ears.Report

      • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to North
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        says:

        They’ve been playing with a lot of fire lately…hell they have active duty members of the PLA going around talking about the need for “short, sharp wars” to establish Chinese credibility…Report

        • Avatar North in reply to Nob Akimoto
          Ignored
          says:

          Well yes, populism, jingoism and the like are useful tools for politicians to influence their masses and China has a hell of a lot of masses that their politicians would dearly like to influence. But of course too much of those thing and suddenly you’re riding the tiger.Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Nob Akimoto
      Ignored
      says:

      I had this same thought.

      “Well, we can deal with the Chinese. They’re not crazy like DPRK”.Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Nob Akimoto
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      says:

      I think China is playing a long game here, with the goal of becoming the dominant regional power both militarily and economically. You pretty much have to believe that the Chinese have told Kim Jong-il and the top military people that none of them will personally survive the actual use of a nuke outside of the NK test site. Granted that might be an empty threat against a truly insane person; the chances that all of them are that crazy seems vanishingly small. This assumption supports your notion that they like — or at least don’t mind — North Korea posturing like crazy.

      The South China Sea stuff is, pretty obviously, about oil and natural gas. At this point, I suspect that China’s goal is simply to have the stuff developed on a large scale. That they don’t really care who does the development, as long as it goes forward. All of the other parties in the dispute(s) are oil importers; SCS production would offset current imports and free that up for China to bid on. So far, no country in the world has been able to successfully take the position, “We’ll limit production to our own needs, and hold on to the rest of the reserves for 20-30 years down the road.” And at least at the present time, China seems able to outbid almost everyone, at least for oil.

      I don’t think China wants to conquer the other countries — they just want to dominate them. The only major military roadblock is the US. But the logistics for large-scale ongoing involvement in Asia for the US suck, and are only going to get worse. My own guess is that in another 25 years, the US will no longer be a major player in that part of the world.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Michael Cain
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        says:

        My own guess is that in another 25 years, the US will no longer be a major player in that part of the world.

        And to throw a bone to the PNAC/NeoCon crowd, that’s exactly what they were arguing. Whoever controls eurasian natural resources will dominate the 21st century. It’s not a crazy hypothesis they were acting on. The result may be foregone, but they did – and still are – giving it a heroic effort.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Michael Cain
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        says:

        I don’t think China knows how to be a major power in the world. The last time the People’s Liberation Army sent troops anywhere, the Vietnamese damned near liberated their asses from their pelvises. It was just terrible. I cannot see that the PLA is capable of doing anything but strutting down the street on May Day. Their massive army is good for nothing but bullying Tibetans and the generals are corrupt to a man. A fatter, lazier army cannot be imagined. Don’t overrate the Chinese military. It’s an impediment to Chinese society and a boat anchor on their economy.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to BlaiseP
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          says:

          But, so goes the hypothesis, the Chinese won’t dominate because of military power but economic power. Trade agreements, purchasing power, that sort of thing. And since the US is economically weak our counter-move is necessarily militaristic. We’re seeing that play out right now, in fact, wrt the US’s role in MENA while Iran and the Chinese are cementing trade relations.Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Stillwater
            Ignored
            says:

            China’s economy is in serious trouble. There’s no oil in the crankcase. Jobs are already starting to leave China and prosperity was always a rind along the coast which never reached inland very far. China’s made huge mistakes, building cities nobody’s ever going to live in, allowed nepotism to become an art form. Now Xi Jinping is lecturing folks about corruption — ordinary people are getting sick of his shit already. He’s already the butt of jokes: “Who is Xi Jinping? Oh, that guy, Peng Liyuan’s husband.”

            Peng Liyuan is a major general in the People’s Liberation Army. She is also a singer, a glorified karaoke chanteuse who nobody particularly likes but she gets lots of press because PLA gets her on the air all the time, singing overwrought Chinese folk songs, winning all sorts of national awards.

            China is starting to believe its own PR. Little riots are constantly breaking out what with farmers being driven off their land by corrupt officials, several every day. The weakness of the USA’s economy is really not the issue here: China’s rattling its sabre and trying to find allies here and there, with little success. Iran is hardly a great prize. SINOPEC is going into Iraq, they don’t really need Iran’s oil.Report

          • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Stillwater
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            says:

            The “US is economically weak” compared to what? Even on a PPP basis, it’s got 3x the GDP of China, and more than the next three largest East Asian economies COMBINED. That’s not changing for the next 30 years, especially if Xi Jinping and his cadre are (as it appears) going to be doubling down on nationalism rather than reform to get them through the bumpy roads ahead.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Nob Akimoto
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              says:

              I think all this Chinese nationalism is a dodge, a distraction from China’s bigger internal problems.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to BlaiseP
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                says:

                I don’t know if it’s a “dodge” per se, as much as a skewed priority.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Nob Akimoto
                Ignored
                says:

                What makes you think it’s not a dodge? Look at these protests. Someone’s printing up those banners.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to BlaiseP
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                says:

                I don’t think it’s a dodge, in that I think the CCP genuinely feels constructing a national identity and strong nationalist movement within the country is part of their long-term interests in order to keep national coherence while economic inequality increases. In addition it’s also part of their imperial project in integrating the more ethnically non-Han regions into the Chinese state. It’s the project of every Chinese Empire since the Zhou.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Nob Akimoto
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                says:

                Well, let’s distinguish between minzu zhuyi and shawen zhuyi. The first is patriotism. The second, sha-wen, sand-culture, ugly mob nationalism. wen zhuyi is a racist outright.

                I guess if you wanted to say it in Japanese, it would be something like shusenron, that crazy Two Minute Hate stuff.Report

              • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to BlaiseP
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                says:

                “I think all this Chinese nationalism is a dodge, a distraction from China’s bigger internal problems.”

                Works great up until some general in charge of a road-mobile independent-command ICBM battery decides to initiate Attack Plan L.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Jim Heffman
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                says:

                The Chinese have surprisingly few nuclear warheads, fewer than 200. They wisely avoided the arms race. They have maybe 100 nuclear-armed ICBMs and maybe 24 nuclear armed submarine missiles. The generals are waist deep in the economy: the PLA has a whole separately-traded class of stock and owns huge swathes of the private sector. They have no incentive to launch anything.

                The shawen zhuyi ignorant jingoism comes from the politicians’ propaganda machine, not the Chinese military.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to BlaiseP
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                says:

                http://blogs.defensenews.com/intercepts/2013/01/chinese-generals-call-for-war-with-just-about-everyone/

                The military is playing with a lot of jingoism lately, probably as a push to cement its influence as a symbol of national unity and pride. It’s also probably part of wanting to modernize and reform the PLA, there’s basically two elements of the PLA at present: The old outdated couple million strong armed forces and the small cadre of professional military elites.

                The latter stand to gain substantially under a Xi Jinping presidency if what I’ve heard is accurate.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Nob Akimoto
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                says:

                That was a lot of drunken talk in a casino in Australia. But yeah, that fart was heard in many quarters, scared everyone in the Pacific and annoyed the senior brass. The official press tried to smooth over that outburst.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Nob Akimoto
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              says:

              Hmm. Good point. Maybe the argument is that the Chinese are able to project economic power over resource rich eurasion nations while the US is limited to only the exercise of military power, and that’s a consequence of certain political facts. Even that’s probably not nuanced enough. I should go back look at The Grand Chessboard and other PNAC stuff…Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Stillwater
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                says:

                The simplest point here is that China might appear to be projecting economic power because it does so directly through state intervention, rather than indirectly through non-state actors like MNCs. The political reality is that yes, the US doesn’t want/won’t project state power into economic activity, but that’s ideological and philosophical, not necessarily a matter of power. Moreover, the Chinese have shown a remarkable ability to overpay for just about everything and try to demand delays for everything from extraction to construction laborers that’ll probably give rivals an opportunity in the next 5-10 years.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Nob Akimoto
                Ignored
                says:

                Nob, I’m not defending the PNAC proposal. (Or even clearly articulating it’s justification.) I’m just saying that we’re acting consistently with it in MENA.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Stillwater
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                says:

                Honestly, as Drezner is fond of pointing out….

                …reports of Chinese preeminence are exaggerated and overwrought.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Nob Akimoto
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                says:

                The actual state of the Chinese economy is sort of besides the point as far as PNAC’s objectives are concerned. The mere fact that the Chinese could play a larger geopolitical than it currently does is what needs to be guarded against. And from the PNAC pov, a necessary component to preventing another country from even potentially challenging US global preeminence is to control – or perhaps to prevent another country from controlling – eurasian oil and gas reserves.

                I mean, I imagine you’ve read those arguments, yes? My point isn’t to debate whether those arguments are sound or not. It’s merely to highlight that the US is acting on them.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Nob Akimoto
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                says:

                I’m familiar with PNAC. What I think of their analysis would probably be in violation of commenting rules, so I refrain from speaking of them directly.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Nob Akimoto
                Ignored
                says:

                Heh. PNAC as a movement is dead and should be given a decent burial, or at least hauled off to a mass grave.

                Hey Nob, what’s your take on Xi Jinping and his role in all this? I don’t think he’s warmed up the seat of his throne yet and some of this sabre rattling is a reflection of his insecurity.Report

  7. Avatar North
    Ignored
    says:

    Yeah personally I’m inclined to say ignore them but for general expressions of displeasure. There’s something they’re after with this test, possibly it’s to extort loosening of sanctions or bank controls or for the world to provide aid. Also possily this is directed inward as a way of pleasing the new boss mans hawks. If it’s the former I say we don’t reward them. If it’s the latter then ignoring it substantively makes even more sense.Report

  8. Avatar M.A.
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    says:

    There is no good way to deal with North Korea, for North Korea is to China what Syria and Hezbollah have been to Iran.

    Oops, we aren’t supposed to publicly say that North Korea is the distraction factor for China like Syria/Hezbollah are for Iran, but it’s the truth.

    There is no more certain indicating factor for this than the reality of the timing of NK’s little “test”; it’s designed to distract from the large number of other things China has going on. They just started another Tibetan crackdown as well as a crackdown on any non-official-state christians and Catholics in particular on word of the death of the Pope (keeping in mind, the CPCA has their own “state official” bishops and priests just as the Chinese have their own fake Dalai Lama), there’s another round of proof of widespread, government-sponsored intellectual property theft by the chinese, and China’s getting into another tiff with the Japanese shipping and fishing industries and navy as well.

    NK setting off a nuke allows China to play the “good guy” and issue a formal condemnation publicly. That’s all this ploy is. The hand puppet does the bad things and makes a fuss so that nobody sees what the rest of the puppetteer is up to.Report

  9. Avatar Tod Kelly
    Ignored
    says:

    A bit off topic, but this post tickled something from the Guns symposium.

    I’m suddenly wondering why the Venn diagram of people who argue that the more people we arm with deadly force the less violence we’ll have and people who argue that we must do everything within our power (including preemptive strikes) to make sure only a few countries have dangerous weapons overlaps so neatly?Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Tod Kelly
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      says:

      Because those people have “other” issues. Xenophobia, etc. They’re willing to accept their own ability to police the “dumb shits” nearby, but unwilling to grant other places the same power (possibly with reason, judging by the number of maniacs that rise to power in other places. Of course I could say some things about certain CEOs in this country…)Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to Tod Kelly
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      says:

      Well, if one wants to be cynical in a way that ambiguously implicates basically everyone on all sides of the gun debate, one could note that it’s almost a truism that the best way to defend oneself is always to ensure that others remain disarmed (like I said, IMO this cuts both ways, so don’t flame me as pro- or anti- gun-control based on it).

      I also think even the most ardent “arm everybody” guys don’t want “madmen” (however defined by them) armed; to the extent that they see NK or Iran as “madmen”, there is no conflict between “arm everybody!” and “…except crazy/bad guys”.

      Last, Mike (not a “more guns” guy, obvs.) has noted that one can easily draw a distinction between conventional weapons (about which some say “arm everybody!”), and world-civilization-ending ones (about which they might say “uh, maybe not EVERYBODY…”). So again, no conflict.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly
      Ignored
      says:

      Back in the day the conservative expression of that thought was “peace thru strength”. You don’t hear it used much anymore. It applied to both interpersonal as well as international conflicts. At the international level, it meant something like “world peace if the US and no one else has strength”. (The US acts as the world cop.) On the interpersonal level, it meant “social peace if everyone is armed”. (An armed society is a polite society.) So yeah, there’s a bit of an inconsistency there.Report

      • Avatar George Turner in reply to Stillwater
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        says:

        Actually, peace through strength refered to maintaining a credible parity with the communists or other bad actors, not being the world policeman, which is probably why you don’t hear the phrase much anymore.

        Regardless, the best option I can come up with for North Korea is for us to unconditionally surrender and demand occupation by North Korean troops. Unlike most countries on Earth, they can’t dare allow their soldiers or population into the outside world or they’ll never go back, and would be a threat if they did. I figure our surrender and incessant demands for more North Korean occupation troops would totally discombobulate them.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to George Turner
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          says:

          Heck, we could just let them invade Hawaii. It’s probably large enough and it’s relatively close. Once they arrived we could subsidize them with vouchers for Latte’s and Aloha shirts and whatnot, since the prices are so high. Hawaii is an expensive place to occupy.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to George Turner
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          says:

          peace through strength refered to…

          I heard the phrase all thru the nineties and right up until the invasion of Iraq. There were lots (well, not lots) of pundits who justified the invasion on the “peace thru strength” principle. Which struck me as a bit ironic.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Tod Kelly
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      says:

      For the record, I fully support North Korean civilians all being armed with handguns.

      Much of the problem of North Korea is how dreadful the government treats its own people. If they had the option of shooting the secret police who come to the door in the middle of the night, maybe we’d have less of a problem over there in general.Report

  10. Avatar BlaiseP
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    says:

    I don’t see any point to further sanctions. China’s furious at this development. Currently, China’s pushing its weight around over the Senkaku Islands: the last thing they need now is Japan building nuclear weapons at this point. If Japan builds nukes, South Korea will follow suit.

    It’s passed into truism to say the USA doesn’t invade anyone with a nuke. But there’s a flip side to that problem: those threatened by nukes will develop them in response. If Japan goes nuclear, China’s plans will be balked. China’s already looking ridiculous, tolerating the ghastly Kim regime on its doorstep.

    Put it this way, sanctions aren’t working. If anyone responds to DPRK, it will be China.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to BlaiseP
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      says:

      So would you say leave the sanction level as it is; or are you suggesting the existing sanctions should be discontinued? I agree heartily that the only people the Nork’s would seriously sit up and listen to would be China right now.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to North
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        says:

        Sanctions are like sieges: they don’t always work out for the besieger. We’ve been at these sanctions with Cuba and DPRK forever and they just haven’t made a difference. We’re such stupid besiegers we’re actually sending food supplies to DPRK. We are, to put this plainly, idiots.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to BlaiseP
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          says:

          Isn’t the whole point of economic sanctions and embargoes and what not a thinly veiled call to domestic revolution in the targeted country? To make the domestic living conditions so intolerable that either the intransigent government gets overthrown or finally concedes to international desires to prevent being overthrown? Isn’t that the logic behind “we think it’s worth it”?Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Stillwater
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            says:

            (waves hand contemptuously) Sanctions don’t work. They’ve never worked.

            Japan was fighting in Manchuria. America, Britain and the USSR were supplying China with arms. Japan had asked the world to embargo China so they could finish conquering it. In response, the Allies embargoed Japan, especially American steel and British petroleum. That’s why Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.

            Sanctions are pitiful. Not only do they not work as intended, they serve as hoops holding the barrel staves of bad regimes together. If we lifted the embargo on Cuba, that regime would fall in a week.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater in reply to BlaiseP
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              says:

              they serve as hoops holding the barrel staves of bad regimes together

              Yeah, that’s it. The effect is the opposite of the intention. And it’s not even an intention, it seems to me. It’s just an article of faith or an accepted fact that strangulating commerce in a country will inspire the domestic population overthrowing the domestic government. It’s nuts.Report

          • Avatar Bob2 in reply to Stillwater
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            says:

            Sanctions are purported to serve multiple purposes of which encouraging domestic revolution is but one. Avoiding armed conflict and dead soldiers. Slowing the flow of materials required for functioning nukes in modern cases. Being able to more easily freeze international assets of terrorists or sponsors of terrorism, etc. Being able to negotiate for inspections from a position of power. There’s no point to having a carrot on a stick if there’s no reason to take it.

            Perhaps the only one that may have worked that I recall was South Africa on apartheid, and even that is questionable since I don’t know how the history on that one broke down for certain, just that they claimed victory for sanctions.Report

            • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Bob2
              Ignored
              says:

              To pull in something from another post: Using sanctions to encourage social change is like boycotting DragonCon to encourage them to get rid of an odious board member. If that were a possibility then you wouldn’t need sanctions because the situation you wanted would already exist.Report

            • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Bob2
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              says:

              Sanctions literature is kind of mixed. The 120 or so case studies between 1914 – 1990 give about a 1/3 failure, 1/3 success and 1/3 partial success track record.

              And based on this track record additional conclusions are:
              1. that cooperation and sanction success have no correlation
              and
              2. unilateral sanctions by sponsor states might work better than multilateral sanction regimes.

              The latter is the important variable for most of the cases currently kicking around the world. North Korea, Iran and Syria are both cases where conflict expectations are so high viz. US efforts at sanctions that they’re unlikely to have an impact, BUT friendly sanctions from states like Russia and China might have a dramatic impact on the sanction-target’s behavior.

              This is probably why much of the rhetoric on sanctions is asking for multilateral, cooperative sanction regimes.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Nob Akimoto
                Ignored
                says:

                I’d be interested in looking at some evidence sanctions have ever worked and apply your two maxims to that evidence.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to BlaiseP
                Ignored
                says:

                http://web.clas.ufl.edu/users/zselden/Course%20Readings/Drezner.pdf

                Is a pretty good introduction to the subject and on the problem with the pessimist conventional wisdom.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Nob Akimoto
                Ignored
                says:

                Thanks, here’s Drezner’s nut graf

                This is not so. Economic sanctions do not always fail. One comprehensive study of 116 sanctions episodes between 1914 and 1990 concluded that economic sanctions failed about a third of the time, succeeded about a third of the time, and partially succeeded about a third of the time.(3) The data also show that the end of the Cold War has increased the odds of sanctions success, and the reason is simple: there is no Soviet Union to serve as a “black knight”, replacing the United States as a source of aid.

                — which leads me to this

                3 Gary Clyde Hufbauer, Jeffrey Schott, and Kimberly Ann Elliott, Economic Sanctions Reconsidered: History and Current Policy, 2nd ed. (Washington: Institute for International Economics, 1990).

                And I don’t have access to that. I hate to sound as if I’m one of those weaselly pedants who wriggles out of a bad position by making his opponent do all the work. But I’d really like to change my mind on this issue and I have yet to see any evidence which would convince me. Which embargo ever worked? Drezner points to some embargo against India about atmospheric tests and that’s all I see in that paper. There are always Black Knights willing to fill the bill: the hawala financial system circumvents financial embargoes. Iran is paying for imports in gold.

                I agree with your maxims, by way of Drezner. If only these sanctions schemes didn’t leak like sieves.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to BlaiseP
                Ignored
                says:

                I’ll grab some literature on successful embargo/sanction regimes tomorrow when I’m not so braindead.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Nob Akimoto
                Ignored
                says:

                Here’s my little anecdata point: consider the most-just embargo in modern times, the embargo of South Africa for its apartheid policies. The RSA government coped quite nicely by trapping capital in the country. Furthermore, during that period, RSA went nuclear with the assistance of Israel.

                For all those earnest do-gooder efforts at disinvestment from RSA, the embargo only served as the aforementioned barrel hoops around apartheid. Only when Pik Botha, a truly noble man, got de Klerk to free Nelson Mandela, was apartheid finally dismantled.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to BlaiseP
                Ignored
                says:

                Yeah, the South Africa example is actually one of the case studies that’s often used to examine the ineffectiveness of sanctions. Though interestingly the economic sanctions put on South Africa to end Apartheid were probably at least partially responsible for their nuclear disarmament in that disarmament helped normalize relations that it had damaged during apartheid.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP
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                says:

                As with wars and sieges, embargoes don’t neatly fit into Winners and Losers. Each one is a different story, different actors, different outcomes. RSA was afflicted/blessed with men of conscience on both sides of that struggle.

                I look forward to what you can dig up on the subject of embargo as a viable tactic in modern times.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to BlaiseP
                Ignored
                says:

                http://www.piie.com/research/topics/sanctions/sanctions-timeline.cfm

                Peterson Institute of International Economics has an index of sanctions cases from 1914 – 2006, and they keep the cases online (even if the actual metrics aren’t discussed outside of the book).Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to BlaiseP
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                says:

                I don’t think I’ve ever heard Botha described as a “truly noble man” before.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to BlaiseP
                Ignored
                says:

                Ah, I’m thinking of the other Botha, P.W.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP
                Ignored
                says:

                @Chris: Pik Botha was constantly trying to get Mandela out of prison and was widely hated for it, especially by the odious P.W. Botha. de Klerk finally saw the wisdom of it.

                It’s a story not many people know, though they know of Mandela well enough. There were men of conscience among the Whites. They paid a heavy price for their consciences.

                Pik Botha is proof a man can change his mind. As a lawyer, he had been instrumental in establishing the legitimacy of the white regime. When he came out for Mandela, everyone turned on him. Here’s a bit of backgrounder on Pik Botha, a man I’ve often used as proof a racist can repent.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP
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                says:

                @Nob: I’ve been looking over that list. Rather than quibble about the interpretation of certain line items, (though I think some of them are factually in error, especially the Nicaragua embargoes) I’m trying to process how they’ve scored these embargoes.Report

    • Avatar KatherineMW in reply to BlaiseP
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      says:

      Is there any chance whatever that Japan would build nukes? I thought general opinion there was far too averse to them due to being the only country that’s ever been hit with them. I wouldn’t have though it was even being considered as an option.Report

  11. Avatar zic
    Ignored
    says:

    I seriously doubt ineffectual scoldings are given for the benefit of the offender.

    Rather, they’re purposes include making the authority figure feel they’re doing their job, examples for the well-behaving public, so that they feel the authority figure is doing a good job, and perhaps some nudging to the right light side of the force for miscreants on the line.Report

  12. Avatar DRS
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    says:

    Your analogy is not a good one. North Korea is not a kid, and doesn’t live in your town. It’s an independent country, with a history going back millenium, and like all independent countries is free to do what it wants internally – up to the point it impacts on the international community. There are other international actors with far more reason to take an interest in NK’s actions and they are China, Japan and to a lesser extent Russia. Apparently that’s already happening with China. It would be smarter for America to watch what pans out and then make a decision about how to react, and it would be best if it does so in conjunction with other countries in a real coalition.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to DRS
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      says:

      I don’t claim it’s a perfect analogy. Analogies rarely are perfect. They’re useful when you want to isolate out a small number of facets of a given scenario. The more details you add, the more complex they become and the less susceptible of understanding particular facets of the situation become. But of course like all analytic tools, their usefulness is eventually depleted. Take this one for whatever value you can find in it, and if that was zero, well, sorry. I tried.Report

  13. Avatar NewDealer
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    says:

    I think that doing nothing right now is the least bad option.

    I’d suggest cutting them off from all outside resources but that would take serious international effort and probably convince N.Korea to do something really stupid.

    The North Korean government figured out how to be the right level of crazy. They are probably smart enough not to do anything really dumb (like a full-out attack on South Korea) but brazen enough so every one stands 10 feet back. They are kind of like the loud drunk or schziophrenic on the bus. Probably not going to do anything but off enough to put everyone on edge.

    All I have to say is that if and when the North Korean government fails, reconstruction and reunification are going to be a bloody mess. It is going to make denazification look like a picnic.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to NewDealer
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      says:

      I think the more appropriate analogy would be German reunification and yes, East Germany was never as nightmarishly twisted as the North Korean population has been.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to North
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        says:

        I think it is a bit of both. Reunification is largely economic and getting North Korea up to speed. Again more freakish because North Korea feels like it is light years behind South Korea on so many fronts.

        Denazification deals with erasing the cult of personality that is the Jung fami;y and removing all party people from positions of power.

        I agree with you that as bad as East Germany was, they were far away from the Hermit Kingdom in terms of being nightmarishly twisted.Report

  14. Avatar Kazzy
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    says:

    This seems to touch on what we explored in my latest BIBI, namely what to do about nuclear proliferation. Any individual nation should be free to determine the conditions under which it will engage in relations with any other nation. If the US only wants to trade with non-nuclear powers and nuclear powers that meet a certain muster, such is our right. If other nations want to do the same, forming a pact of sorts, so be it. I don’t think they should prevent other countries who do not have such conditions from engaging in relations. And I certainly don’t think we should intervene in any way unless and until the country in question (North Korea, here) violates the rights or sovereignty of a foreign nation.

    I’ll fully concede that my theory has a glaring whole when it comes to countries violating the rights or sovereignty of its own people.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Kazzy
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      says:

      It’s also complicated by non-state actors. The North Koreans have been seriously entangled in terrorist support, weapons selling etc etc for as long as there’s been a North Korea. They were integral to Pakistan getting the bomb for instance IIRC.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to North
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        says:

        I’m probably in a strange minority when I say that I don’t think we should take actions against folks, be they states, non-state groups, or individuals, unless and until they violate the rights/sovereignty of others. So if members of Al Quaeda should procure a nuke from North Korea which they want to hide in a cave in the mountains of Pakistan with the Pakistani government’s blessing, so be it. The moment they cross into another country’s space with that weapon without permission, that country is free to take the necessary steps in accordance with their laws and statutes.Report

        • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Kazzy
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          says:

          That’s taking a really fucking big risk with a lot of groups.Report

        • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Kazzy
          Ignored
          says:

          A nuke does a lot of damage and even an accidental detonation can have serious side effects for hundreds of thousands of people if not more. Even in the mountains of no-where land.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to NewDealer
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            says:

            So maybe NOBODY should have nukes. I wouldn’t disagree with this.

            What I disagree with is the US unilaterally deciding who does and does not get to have nukes, especially when the power to do so is largely derived from our having of nukes.Report

        • Avatar Bob2 in reply to Kazzy
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          says:

          Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is horribly naive Kazzy. When other actors don’t believe in the same principles of sovereignty as you, you’re handicapping your security and you lose a boatload of advantages.
          All they need in this particular power relationship is an opportunity, like when the Rhine froze for the Visigoths. The problem with loose nukes is on a scale much larger than the sacking of Rome.Report

          • Avatar Bob2 in reply to Bob2
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            says:

            If you put a set of rules in place that limit your power, your enemy is going to take advantage of those rules and step all over you at some point.
            Even when your principles actually protect your country in the short term, like Swiss neutrality did, they could still have potentially gotten rolled over in the long run had the Allied powers lost.
            Sun Tzu Art of War is still being read in schools for a reason after all.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Bob2
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              says:

              I think there is a lot of heavy lifting that the US has to do before we seek to intervene in NK selling nuclear technology to Iran. I think we rarely does this.Report

              • Avatar Bob2 in reply to Kazzy
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                says:

                Perhaps, but the USA very much likes being the world’s premier military power as it affords them many advantages that would disappear if they stopped being the world’s police. Iran with a nuke is one less country we’d have major leverage over.

                Nations like Iran are more likely to use them as deterrents against invasion than actually nuking Israel, but having one does shift the overall power to their advantage and they know this, so we end up in a game of sabre rattling about invading, but really don’t intend to do so. We have to make them think we’re crazy enough to invade if they get closer to a nuke to deter them.

                I am actually very much more concerned with digital warfare in the short term than nukes unless they fall into the hands of terrorists. Our ability to handle the massive jumps in computer hacker tech and overall lack of computer security infrastructure is stunning. Manipulation of information for propaganda purposes or revealing misdeeds is a far more dangerous thing to a nation given the fear of nuclear apocalypse is a massive deterrent to actually using a nuke.
                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stability-instability_paradox
                Bradley Manning and Julian Assange wouldn’t be being pursued so hard if the security risk weren’t recognized to be so high.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Bob2
                Ignored
                says:

                “Perhaps, but the USA very much likes being the world’s premier military power as it affords them many advantages that would disappear if they stopped being the world’s police. Iran with a nuke is one less country we’d have major leverage over.”

                And so would every other country. Why is the US entitled to this unique and highly privileged position? Just because it is more convenient for us if Iran doesn’t have a nuke doesn’t mean that Iran shouldn’t have a nuke nor that we should intervene in their affairs.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Kazzy
                Ignored
                says:

                Why is the US entitled to this unique and highly privileged position?

                Entitled? Dude, we bought it. We pay for it to the tune of nearly a quarter of a trillion dollars a year.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                Are you referring to foreign aid? That is a fair counter. But how much foreign aid do we send to Iran? North Korea? Any? If the amount is zero, it seems we have conceded any right to insert ourselves into their affairs.Report

              • I do think the US sends or has sent humanitarian aid to N. Korea (I’m not sure about Iran).Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                Kazzy, the US doesn’t spend anywhere near a quarter trillion dollars a year in foreign trade. Pat’s referring to the defense budget, and the fact that the US, by dint of being the military hegemon gets to dictate terms.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Kazzy
                Ignored
                says:

                People who would be threatened by that nuke for one thing. Israel is not going going to stand idly by if they discover Hamas or Hezbollah have a nuke. The only way for Israel to act in your situation is after the nuke goes off over Haifa or Tel Aviv.

                Seriously Kazzy, you are being really naive here and ignoring geo-political reality. Terrorist groups exist and they are bad for reasons. They like spreading damage and harm and are not to be trusted with nukes.

                I think you can get into serious political arguments about whether the United States was correct for using the Atomic Bombs at the end of WWII or not. That is not an easy question to answer.

                I don’t think you can argue seriously that the US has not been responsible with her nukes since then (it is not like we use them often). And you can not seriously argue that terrorist groups should have nukes out of hippie self-autonomy concepts.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to NewDealer
                Ignored
                says:

                *grins* Okay. Let israel give up her nukes.
                Wholesale execution of “terrorists” without trial ought to make her something, if you don’t want to use the word terrorist (what, you squeamish? Jews were the original terrorists[do not ask me to actually verify this statement. I’ve got multiple cites that are older than Arab terrorists, though.])Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to NewDealer
                Ignored
                says:

                Do you think the people of Iran or NK feel threatened by the US having nukes? Do you think their were Iraqi or Afghani citizens who feared we would drop one on them?Report

              • Avatar NewDealer in reply to NewDealer
                Ignored
                says:

                Kim,

                Now I see the crazy talk that gets you known here.

                The Israelis/Jews were not the original terrorists. The Arabs and Palestinians were the ones who rejected the original UN patrition plan in 1947. The Palestinians were the ones who met with Hitler while the Jews fought under the UK flag. The Arabs were the ones who rioted in the 1930s because Jews tried to escape Nazi persecution and save their lives.

                And you ask me not for sources. Ha!Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to NewDealer
                Ignored
                says:

                NewDealer,
                Further back than that, I can certainly cite sources. Who do you think was killing nobles in Tsarist Russia? Why, (predominantly) the jews!
                (Tsar Nicolas insisted on trials, and the peasants, amused, let the Jews off. Again and again).
                [Why yes, I did take a russian history course in College. Sources can be cited if necessary.]

                Come now, you aren’t even making me try, at this point. If you had actually bothered to bring up Amalek, then I might maybe have to concede my point.

                😉Report

              • Avatar NewDealer in reply to NewDealer
                Ignored
                says:

                Kazzy,

                Read the story Bob2 published on the North Korea gulag. Is this a country you want having nukes? If a country does this to her own citizens, don’t you think they are more likely to be reckless with a nuke to another country.

                North Korea used to kidnap Japanese citizens so they could work as translators. This was a big story when I lived in Japan in 2002 and 2003 when the info finally came out:

                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Korean_abductions_of_Japanese_citizens

                Justify that you think North Korea will be responsible with Nukes.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to NewDealer
                Ignored
                says:

                I can’t think of any country I’d trust with nukes, including our own.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to NewDealer
                Ignored
                says:

                Kim and New Dealer,

                Let’s please reject collective guilt. I would prefer not to call either Israelis or Palestinians “terrorists” as a group, particularly when it’s owing to anything that happened before the individuals in question were born.

                Goodness knows the Jews have experienced plenty of collective guilt in the history of Christendom. We ought to recognize that it’s unjust and avoid it wherever it appears.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to NewDealer
                Ignored
                says:

                Jason,
                please do not take my trollery so seriously!
                Barbed my words may be…, I’m not that cruel.

                (also, have you noticed that you just asked two Jews to reject collective responsibility, which is one of the tenets of their faith)Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to NewDealer
                Ignored
                says:

                I agree, Chris.

                It doesn’t offer much solace for the US to say, “Well, we haven’t used them since that time we were the only country to have ever used them in the history of ever.”

                Right now, everyone but us is batting 1.000 when it comes to not using their nukes.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to NewDealer
                Ignored
                says:

                (also, have you noticed that you just asked two Jews to reject collective responsibility, which is one of the tenets of their faith)

                It was, at any rate, once an article of the Christian faith that Jews bore a collective responsibility for the death of Jesus. That’s what I was referring to.

                Accept whatever collective responsibility you personally wish to accept, but I won’t be inflicting it on you, and I won’t approve when you inflict it on others.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to NewDealer
                Ignored
                says:

                @Kazzy,
                It doesn’t offer much solace for the US to say, “Well, we haven’t used them since that time we were the only country to have ever used them in the history of ever.”

                Hey, the U.S. has gone longer without using nukes than any other country that has nukes!Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kazzy
                Ignored
                says:

                There is part of me that says we should just withdraw and leave the rest of the world to its own devices. Let the Persians be Persians, let the Germans be Germans, let the Russians be Russians, let the Chinese be Chinese, let the Japanese be Japanese.

                In a couple of decades, we’ll be able to split everything 70/30 with the Canadians.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Oh Jay me lad; you sweet dewy eyed optimist you. *sigh* Do you honestly think the Canadians would let America have 30 whole percent?!?
                Precious!Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                I KNEW it…everyone thinks the Canadians are friendly and polite, but it’s all a front; they are just biding their time, until they unleash the moose-riding shock troops…

                OPERATION MAPLE SYRUP DELUGEReport

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                I’ve seen Canadians when the temperatures hit 29 degrees. They’ll say that they want all that space but then it’ll be May, at which point they’ll migrate back.

                “What did you think about Sicily?”
                “Oh, I guess it’s all right.”Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Of course, given that we’re fighting 2 wars (really more than that), and that many of the problems in many areas of the world are the result of the Cold War in which we were one of the two major players, and that Europe seems to be doing just fine, I wonder if in a couple of decades the rest of the world wouldn’t be coming over here to put things back together.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                You have a higher opinion of Europe’s stability than I. I also suspect that China/India’s gender imbalance is a powderkeg.

                The US leaving the scene will feel like the cops going away.

                While it’s true that there are a lot of places in the world where the police going away wouldn’t make things worse (and, indeed, would even improve things), I suspect that our policing resulted in things being put on a back burner rather than being addressed. Our absence would allow those things to move back to the fore… and I suspect that governments would be a lot more interested in filling power vacuums and settling old scores than delighting in their new-found freedom.

                But I’m a pessimist. Maybe it’d result in Libertopia, finally.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Kazzy
                Ignored
                says:

                Also we can determine this by prior actions of Hamas, Hezbollah, and other terrorist groups.

                They launch rockets and commit suicide bombings. They have attacked before and will try to attack again. It is really silly to say “Hamas might not do anything with their atomic bomb”Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to NewDealer
                Ignored
                says:

                How does Israel stand under this metric, with their history of “unprovoked attack”?Report

              • Avatar NewDealer in reply to NewDealer
                Ignored
                says:

                A preemptive strike with enough good intelligence is not an unprovoked attack.

                Example: The 6-Day WarReport

              • Avatar Kim in reply to NewDealer
                Ignored
                says:

                Point to you.
                Their attacks on proto-nuclear facilities do not fit that criterion, do they?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to NewDealer
                Ignored
                says:

                NewDealer, this is a little off thread, but do you think Palestinians have any legitimate grievances/demands/requests wrt Israel?

                So you think any of the actions Israel has taken wrt Palestinians and Arabs generally can be legitimately criticized?Report

              • Avatar NewDealer in reply to NewDealer
                Ignored
                says:

                Stillwater,

                Palestinians yes. Arabs no.

                I believe in the two-state solution and am against the settlements.

                However Abba Eban was right when he said: The Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

                Hamas is not to be trusted and needs to grow up and accept that there will always be a Jewish state called Israel. Same with the rest of the Middle East.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to NewDealer
                Ignored
                says:

                Newdealer,
                I agree that Hamas should “grow up” and accept that counterfactual.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to NewDealer
                Ignored
                says:

                I believe in the two-state solution and am against the settlements.

                Everyone is, aren’t they? Everybody always talks about the weather a two state solution but no one ever does anything about it. In particular, the one regional actor with the power to make it happen.

                I’ll be honest about it NewDealer, I don’t think Israel is blameless. On this or any other issue, for that matter. There’s plenty of blame to go around.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to NewDealer
                Ignored
                says:

                *THREE* State Solution!

                There’s no reason that Gaza should be held accountable for when the West Bank starts firing rockets into Jerusalem.Report

              • Avatar Bob2 in reply to Kazzy
                Ignored
                says:

                I did not presume to say if we were entitled or not, just that we currently are, and we don’t want to let go of it for a lot of reasons that are practical, and that being overly idealistic can be harmful in many many ways, like fears of a dirty bomb attack or a nuclear attack by a decentralized terrorist organization.

                That you think it’s no problem for Israel or the US for Hamas to keep a nuke in Syria with Syria’s permission means you don’t understand the cost-benefit analysis of the situation and practical effects of power here. If we act in the way you propose, merely shrugging our shoulders and saying whatever could go wrong is an acceptable risk?

                This is pretty cold comfort for citizens of Israel when you escalate tensions to that level. It’s also a good way to get an even further right wing government in Israel than it already is.
                Or how a bomb going off could affect oil supply or various other things economically in a global economy.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Bob2
                Ignored
                says:

                Three crop dusters on a warm summer night and Tel Aviv is dead.
                Pretty much every single soul.

                Tensions are already as high as they need to be for a complete clusterfuck of a catastrophe.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Bob2
                Ignored
                says:

                Bob,

                My real point (which I discussed in more detail in a separate post) is that America needs to make much stronger principled arguments that it is okay for countries A, B, and C to have nukes but not okay for countries X, Y, and Z to have nukes than, “Well, A, B, and C are good and sane and X, Y, and Z are evil and crazy.” Far too often, those are the ideas trotted out, which is really what I’m pushing back against here.

                Perhaps Hamas or Hezbollah should rightly be barred or prevented from acquiring nukes. But what about Iran? Has Iran shown any real reason to believe they would launch a nuke at Israel? Have they acted irresponsibly with their weapons before? Any more irresponsible than other countries? Who has North Korea launched missiles at recently?Report

              • Avatar Bob2 in reply to Bob2
                Ignored
                says:

                Point taken, but people have been making arguments all along that aren’t about “X, Y, and Z are evil and crazy.” Those primarily appear in propaganda speeches like Bush Jr’s crazy axis of evil speech. Ugh…why poke a hornet’s nest?

                In the short term, I believe Iran won’t fire a nuke at Israel, but their government is not one I’d trust to never do it. Going from 0% risk to even 1% is unacceptable from Israel’s perspective, and it’s an argument I’d have to take very very seriously. I think Nouriel Roubini was correct that Nassim Taleb was wrong about Black Swans..that crises are rare events with major impacts….but that crises are very very common.

                That Iran’s style of leadership could potentially lead to even a small chance of the usage of a nuke is not a small concern. The same goes for the DPRK given that one person there has authority to do anything he wants at a time. We can’t necessarily trust that his generals will overthrow him if he ever wants to fire one at South Korea or Japan. How much risk is acceptable to the countries in danger?

                There are too many potential scenarios if more countries obtain nuclear missiles. Firing a regular missile from Iran could cause Israel to fire back a nuke with a single miscommunication.
                Having a permanent Bay of Pigs situation probably is not a good idea.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Bob2
                Ignored
                says:

                What the hell are you talking about with three crop dusters Kim?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Bob2
                Ignored
                says:

                Bob2,

                Are you a citizen of Israel? That’s the impression I’m getting, but I’m not sure if I’m reading you correctly.

                Not that it matters, substantively, I’m just curious about where the League draws readers from.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Bob2
                Ignored
                says:

                NewDealer,
                Chemical warfare, basically. People tend to leave their windows open over there…
                bob2,
                I’d lay more odds on Israel firing a nuclear weapon than Iran, at this point. Which is not exactly to disagree with you. A very very unstable situation, and getting worse by the minute.Report

              • Avatar Bob2 in reply to Bob2
                Ignored
                says:

                James Hanley:
                I’m from New Jersey actually, and I’m most definitely not Israeli.

                I was trying to get at it from an Israeli perspective for Kazzy which is probably why you thought that. Like I said in comments further upstream, I really don’t think it’s likely Iran’s going to do anything ever if they get a nuke, and that Iranian leadership very much likes staying alive to use the spoils of power.

                I don’t really blame Israel for trying to keep a worst case scenario off the table though. Even given the most minuscule chance of a disaster, a disaster will happen in the long run. The best we can do in a lot of situations is to plan against likely worst case scenarios by building levees and so forth.

                NewDealer: I believe Kim was talking about a dirty bomb?Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Kazzy
                Ignored
                says:

                The Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty regime has done a pretty admirable job of keeping the proliferation of nuclear weapons to a minimum. As signatories to the NPT, states have a moral obligation to try to reach the goals of a nuclear-free world, while making sure everyone gets the benefits of nuclear power.

                In that respect, Iran’s actions, assuming they’re after actual weapons capability is a violation of international norms and it’s certainly within the US (and the international community writ large) to expect them to play by the terms of that agreement.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Nob Akimoto
                Ignored
                says:

                What if Iran formally withdrew from the NPT?Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Nob Akimoto
                Ignored
                says:

                I think it becomes trickier to make the argument that they’re not following international norms. Weakens the case of trying to get them to back down.

                Now, the problem is there’s actually precedent for going and continuing to be allied with violators of NPT and norms, and the US going and signing a nuclear technology deal with India was probably the worst possible precedent it could have set under the circumstances in making the case against Russia, China, et al staying engaged with Iran.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Nob Akimoto
                Ignored
                says:

                As a secondary point, I think Iran’s not quite willing to risk “rogue state” status on the level of a DPRK or even a Syria at the moment nor provide reasons for it to be portrayed as anything other than a state trying to develop a domestic nuclear energy industry. Staying within the NPT framework lets them do that for now.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Nob Akimoto
                Ignored
                says:

                Good points, Nob.Report

  15. Avatar Bob2
    Ignored
    says:

    Burt: despite your frustration with the ineffectual response, it would seem that the ineffectual response is intended to avoid escalating the situation while still seeking a long term diplomatic solution to nuclear proliferation. Too strong a statement and the DPRK is going to feel like it has to send a stronger response, escalating potential conflict. Also, it will make them less likely to negotiate for terms in delaying their nuke program, negotiations the US desires.

    In effect, this has been our policy with Kim Jong-Il long before Kerry became Secretary of State.
    I just have no idea how sane his son is. His father was a much better known quantity.Report

    • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Bob2
      Ignored
      says:

      I agree. For a very bad analogy, handling North Korea is like handling a drunk person. Don’t antagonize the drunk.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Bob2
      Ignored
      says:

      I get that, Bob2, totally. I’m not exactly itching to go to war with DPRK.

      I wonder, though, what exactly it could do that we would find intolerable — and they seem bent on finding out precisely where that limit is through practical experimentation. And the more they get functional nukes, the higher our tolerance threshold becomes.Report

      • Avatar Bob2 in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        Practically speaking, we never could do anything major anyway without China’s permission, nor could the DPRK because of assured self-destruction were they ever to use a nuke if they ever obtained one. It feels like we’re just trying to buy time as long as possible. The knowledge on how to build a nuke is easily found after all, but getting the correct uranium isotope and centrifuges operating and having a delivery system worth more than spit is the difficult part.

        As far as US interests, we probably just don’t want them to develop ballistic missile tech that could reach US soil because having potentially insane future DPRK dictators control nukes is just bad juju if they ever decided they didn’t mind being obliterated in the process of firing one. I think what BlaiseP said earlier about China being the bigger player here than the US holds.Report

      • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        “I wonder, though, what exactly it could do that we would find intolerable — and they seem bent on finding out precisely where that limit is through practical experimentation. And the more they get functional nukes, the higher our tolerance threshold becomes.”

        Maybe and maybe not. I’m not sure we really know what they are doing. We hear the public scolding, but we don’t know what if anything is being done behind the scenes.

        “Our” tolerance* has been pretty high after 1953 and even before this all started in earnest in 1994 or 1995. The USS Pueblo incident didn’t result in an invasion. Granted, it was a different era with the Cold War (which kind of proves your point….N. Korea had the protection of a superpower with nuclear weapons….it still does).

        *I think it’s healthy to keep in mind that when we speak about “our” tolerance or whether “we” should do something more, what we really referring to are decisions that will put the lives of others who likely are not us in danger. This is, by the way, one way in which the “sullen young adult” hypothetical doesn’t work. If his neighbors did more than scold, they’d be saving their own skins and harming (actually, probably helping) the sullen young adult. In DPRK v. rest of the world, our own skins are on the table, definitely, but their (N. Koreans’) skins and others’ (S. Koreans’, Chinese’, Japanese’, Russians’, U.S. soldiers’) are up for consideration sooner.Report

  16. Avatar Michael Drew
    Ignored
    says:

    When you don’t have anything to back your tough talk up with, it doesn’t really matter whether it’s *really* tough, or just pretty tough, or even a little tough. In fact, you probably want to save your really tough talk for those situations where you have some pow in your bag.Report

  17. Avatar Kolohe
    Ignored
    says:

    I don’t care for the analogy either, because it way downplays the deliberate evil of the DPRK regime. An evil that they are fully self-aware of.

    The modest proposal solution is for China to withdrawal their support from the DPRK and allow South Korea to forcibly take over the whole country in exchange for the complete and immediate withdrawal of all US (and UN) troops from the peninsula. There’s enough enduring antipathy in (South) Korea for Japan (and historical links to China) that Korea will naturally gravitate towards China’s orbit anyway.Report

    • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Kolohe
      Ignored
      says:

      I think that depends on just how long it takes a unified Korea to recover. At some point (and even now there’s nationalism related controversy with regard to the Goryeo Kingdom) there is bound to be a border spat between the Chinese and the Koreans and the broader cultural antipathy of being a stepping ground for the Chinese, Russians and Japanese for the last 500 years is likely to interact with Korean nationalism/ethnic pride and lead to trying to carve out its own foreign policy.Report

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