“Those who are kind to the cruel end up being cruel to the kind”
–The admonition from Kohelet Rabbah 7:16
In March, 2011, I wrote a piece for QOL, Feel good, aid psychopaths. In it I was considering the West’s complicity in perpetuating the oppression of subjugated populations under various and assorted dictators. I was arguing that helping dictatorships (including with medicine and food) is not only futile but dangerous and irresponsible, as this aid prolongs the suffering of the tyrants’ oppressed subjects. Western help cements the oppressive regime’s ability to stay in power. As I wrote:
Consider that North Korea:
- trades in narcotics and counterfeit money as planks of state policy;
- openly kidnaps citizens of other countries and refuses to return them to their loved ones;
- attacks the navy of a sovereign state and shells its territory without any reason;
- disseminates nuclear weapons;
- proliferates the technologies of their manufacture;
- repeatedly threatens other countries with nuclear attack;
- holds its citizens at a starvation level of food supplies, being incompetent to feed them;
- incarcerates a significant part of its population in concentration camps
Now, almost seven years and huge quantities of the Western and Chinese help later, we can add another relevant point to this list of shame: North Korea’s dictator has been threatening the US and its allies with nuclear attack. That it has come to this is the unhappy result of a strategy of appeasement and bribes the West pursued long after it became evident they weren’t achieving the desired result. What the West has done is reward bad behaviour in the forlorn hope that it would not get any worse. That has failed, obviously.
The Poobah of Pyongyang is not nuts. Sure, he mouths off like a patient in the acute ward of a psychiatric hospital, but he has quite rationally and deliberately tapped into the classic behavioural patterns of a man with an anti-social personality disorder: aggression, bullying, a total lack of remorse, an immunity to shame. All the criminal actions and posturing of the supremely well-fed Dearest Leader have succeeded, rather brilliantly, in prolonging his rule over a prison kingdom. His actions served their purpose. He has remained in power.
So where did an impoverished and often starving nation get the technologies and the resources to develop its missiles? Where did the navigation guidance, computerisation and rocket fuel technologies come from? And what of the fissile engineering, nuclear physics, satellite expertise and all the other other arcane knowledge needed to build a bomb and, according to intelligence estimates, be poised to miniaturise it? Where did all that knowledge come from? It would be naïve to think North Korea had such homegrown expertise.
All of the above was not apparent even ten years ago, when few would have thought it credible that a famished nation could make such seven-league strides. So how did they did they do it? Please indulge by considering the military parades we see in Moscow and Beijing, noting how those in Pyongyang are cut from very much the same cloth. Think, too, of similar events in Teheran. I guarantee some understanding will dawn on you. In all cases the external policies of the respective states are profoundly anti-Western, while their internal policies make aggression a byword for loyalty and paranoia a virtue.
North Korea makes an ideal proxy for goading the US, even to the point of war. Should the shooting actually begin, Kim and his regime, being relatively unimportant in the grand scheme of things, could be sacrificed. In the meantime, watching the West’s wan response to year upon year of provocations has served as a guide for calibrating the state of its resolve. Kim Jung-Un would not have been bold enough to pull Uncle Sam’s whiskers by himself, nor of his own volition. As I mentioned, he is most definitely not an idiot. For him to do so, and do it so aggressively, he must have been supported. That would be totally consistent with the Stalinist worldview, to which Mr. Putin wholeheartedly subscribes. His sponsors’ idea is very simple: let others fight until they are exhausted. When the time is right, we will dictate the terms.
I am coming back to the beginning of this piece, which I started with the quotation relating to the Book of Ecclesiastes.
Question One: Why should Donald Trump refrain from hitting North Korea and its regime?
Answer: There are so many should nots that I am a bit spoiled for choice.
Start with the prospect of multiple mushroom clouds, nuclear devastation and related carnage that begins with radioactive illnesses and extends to ecological damage, refugees, famine, pestilence and epidemics, economic ruin and social unrest. These calamities are not containable and will spread well beyond the immediate war zone.
The prospects and consequences of a Korean war are awful.
Question Two: Why Donald Trump should hit the North Korean regime?
Answer: All of the above notwithstanding, war would be the lesser evil. If North Korea throws down the gauntlet and it is not taken up, the bigger players will be emboldened to test American resolve (and may G-d may have mercy on all of us if Vladimir Putin decides to explore that track).
The Kim dynasty has survived as long as it has in large part because myopic, gutless and naïve Western politicians found it easier, time after time, to kick the can down the road, buying “peace” with appeasement and largesse. Remember a certain Mr Chamberlain waving that piece of paper on the steps of an aeroplane just returned from Berlin? As he soon learned, making nice with tyrants doesn’t work, not for long anyway. In bowing repeatedly before the Kim dynasty’s demands, we have abetted the misery and terror inflicted daily on 28 million North Koreans. We are guilty of the crime, as the quotation atop this short essay explains, of undeserved compassion. We have been kind to the cruel. We are responsible.
Question Three: Does Australia have an obligation to assist the US in the case of war with North Korea?
Answer: Absolutely! There are moral absolutes. They include honesty, doing unto others etc., keeping one’s word, loyalty, assisting friends in times of need.
What more can I say?
Well, just one thing: just as North Korea has been an aggressive proxy for much larger mischief makers, so might Australia serve as a sacrificial target in the stead of bigger ones more likely to prompt retaliation in kind. Nuke Brisbane and the immediate and unavoidable surmise will be that, say, San Francisco might be next if an antagonist’s conditions aren’t met, demanded concessions aren’t given.
Think about that as the range of Pyonyang’s missiles grows ever greater.
Dr Michael Galak and his family came to Australia as refugees from the Soviet Union in 1978