There is a steady stream of news these days about North Korean missile launches and nuclear tests. Accompanying this news are debates and discussions about how the United States should handle the situation. I wanted to offer my own assessments and opinion on the matter.
China’s Double Game
We must begin by making a realistic appraisal of the intentions of the key players and the balance of power in East Asia. The inescapable fact is that China is, and always has been, the chief patron of North Korea. China expended hundreds of thousands of its own men in the early 1950s to save the regime in Pyongyang, and has continued to prop up the depraved government there for many decades. It is a Chinese vassal, pure and simple. It may not have control over everything that goes on, but it could very easily switch off the utilities in North Korea if it wanted to.
But the reality is that it does not want to. China is not the friend of the United States. China prefers to use North Korea as a bludgeon with which to torment and antagonize the United States, Japan, and South Korea. China wants to be top dog in East Asia, pure and simple, and it finds it amusing and useful to use their puppet to tweak the tails of the Americans. Despite all the smiles and pleasant words coming out of Beijing, China will never step in and solve America’s problems for itself. China wants to evict the Americans from East Asia, and it believes that creating one crisis after another in the area will drives wedges between Washington and its allies, and perhaps tire the Americans out. This is the duplicitous game that the Chinese are playing.
A good representation of how China eggs on her North Korean puppet
Take a good look at the photo above. This image is a magazine cover from September 1950, and portrayed Stalin’s Russia as being responsible for egging on the North Koreans to war. A Soviet officer towers over the North Korean, pushing him into conflict. We now know that this was not the case; at best, Stalin was apathetic about launching the war. The Russians did provide some support, but the war was primarily a North Korean and Chinese venture. It was Kim Il Sung who engineered the war, and it was the Chinese who intervened in force to save him when he was getting smashed. If we were to remake the photo above today, it would be more accurate to have a Chinese officer (not a Soviet one) egging on its North Korean puppet, using this attack dog as a tool to antagonize the West.
How To Solve The North Korean Problem
The best way for the United States to exert leverage in the current situation is to make it clear that it will not be thrown out of East Asia. It is there to stay, and will not be bullied or intimidated by threats. The following approach would yield results in the long term:
Japan must be encouraged to rearm, and to acquire a first-class military. The time has come to end the post-1945 relationship between Japan and the US. Circumstances have changed. Japan needs to be able to protect itself, and it must pay for its own defense. America is not Japan’s permanent mercenary army, and this point must be made very clear. Japan must rearm and become the first-class military power that it has every right to be.
China must also be contained to the south by America’s shrewd cultivation of ties to Vietnam. Vietnam despises Beijing and has a very capable military; they would be an ideal ally to contain China to the south, to irritate the Chinese Dragon, and to let Beijing know that two can play the game of tweaking the giant’s tail. If China wants to use North Korea to play its little games, then the United States can start putting bases in Vietnam, and we can see where that goes.
Powerful, meaningful economic pressure must be put directly on China. The Chinese need to know that the days of the United States’s turning a blind eye to their double game are over. They need to be made aware that there will be serious consequences to using their pit-bull (North Korea) to intimidate and threaten the US and its allies. The question then become: what kind of economic pressure are we talking about? There are a number of things that could be done: we could hit Chinese goods with punishing tariffs across the board, and stop buying their products; we could label them currency manipulators and take punitive actions against them; and we can frustrate their economic exploitation schemes around the world. Creative thinkers could find many, many ways of putting the screws to China if they really wanted to. This needs to be done, despite all the whining and screaming that will take place.
America must completely revive her manufacturing base. The biggest crime against our country in the past forty years has been the systematic dismantling of our manufacturing base. This crime was carried out by the collusion of weak, cowardly leaders working hand-in-hand with American plutocrats. These rich elites sought to enrich themselves at the expense of their patriotic duty to the nation. They found that they could make more money by using slave labor overseas than by keeping industry and factories here in America. So they were allowed to outsource our entire manufacturing base. China became the workshop for America, the place that can turn out cheap, low-quality goods.
I know there are many who say that it is not possible or realistic to put economic pressure on China. A thousand excuses are offered. “We’re too dependent on Chinese imports!” or “It will cost too much!” or similar excuses. My answer is this: bullshit. We can do whatever we set our minds to do. We just need good, strong, inspired leadership. We have lost the traits and initiative of our ancestors. If the will is there, the actions will follow, despite all the screaming and shouting that will be let loose. America is not some Third World country that does not know how to manufacture things. For decades, we used to be the world’s workshop. Yet our cowardly leaders sold out the people, with the collusion of the rich elites.
I know people who have started factories in Omaha, Nebraska, making household goods that are better than what can be bought from China. We have the skill, initiative, and will to do this kind of thing here in America. People want to buy goods made in America. But we have leaders who lack the drive, discipline, and imagine to unleash this potential. And we have a selfish, parasitical elite class who cares nothing about its national duties. We are being sapped of our strength by a small elite class that has no sense of social responsibility.
Despite my deep suspicion of China, I don’t blame them as much as I blame the American ruling elites. Lest anyone think this article is gratuitous China-bashing, let me say that my unrelenting anger is actually directed at the American political and business elites who sold their people out and put us in this situation. They are exactly like the parasitic Roman elite so well-described by Ammianus Marcellinus in the fourth century A.D. in his Res Gestae:
But the magnificent splendor of the assemblies is ruined by the worthless mediocrity of the few. They pay no mind to where they were born, act as if their vices gave them permission to do what they liked, and concern themselves with corruption and shameless behavior. For as the lyric poet Simonides used to say, to live happily and be governed by Reason one should have above all things a glorious nation. Some of these people chase after statues, believing that a statue might allow them to live forever; they think they can get greater benefits from some bronze shapes than from the awareness of virtuous and morally right conduct…[When Cato] was once asked why he alone out of so many others did not have a statue, he responded: “I would prefer that good men should ask why I did not deserve a statue, than (which is worse) he should wonder why one was made for me.” [XIV.6; translation my own]
This is the ethic we have now in our ruling elites: selfish, conniving, and unwilling to do what is best for their country. Anyone who thinks that the proposals in this article are not realistic should remember that imagination and initiative can solve any problem. We must begin to think in ways we have not thought before. As the British novelist D.H. Lawrence once said in his essay The Future of the Novel:
The novel [has] got to have the courage to tackle new propositions without using abstractions; it’s got to present us with new, really new [things] that will get us out of the emotional rut…[I]t’s got to break a way through, like a hole in the wall. And the public will scream and say it is sacrilege: because, of course, when you’ve been jammed for a long time in a tight corner, and you get really used to its stuffiness and its tightness, till you find it suffocatingly cozy; then, of course, your horrified when you see a new glaring hole in what was your cozy wall. You’re horrified. You back away from the cold stream of fresh air as if it was killing you. But gradually, first one and then another of the sheep filters through the gap, and finds a new world outside.
This is the ethic, and this is the spirit, that the United States must bring to the table in East Asia. We need to force ourselves out of the ruts we are in. We don’t need China’s cheap junk. We can manufacture things better than they can. We must get out of our old way of thinking, and embrace the current reality. And beyond this, we need strong, enlightened leadership that is not only astute but also courageous and virtuous. Only in this way can we unlock our true potential.
My new annotated translation of Sallust can be found by clicking below:
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