Friday, April 21, 2017

Korea - Must we go there again?

There's been a good deal of sabre-rattling in Pyongyang, North Korea, lately. Weapons-displaying too. Like a youngster who has just reached puberty and is unsure about his manhood [Does size matter? See post below. Ed.], the Dear Leader of the world's last Stalinist dictatorship [What about China? Ed.] has paraded his totally tubular ballistic missiles to show the world what he can do to us if he gets mad [as understood in British English. Ed.] enough to use them. If he's not firing blanks, that is.

Should we be worried? Or should we just ignore the kid's strutting and shouting? Dismissing as idle the threat of a Communist invasion of the Republic of Korea (aka South Korea) was what the USA, on the advice of General Douglas MacArthur, did in 1950. Look how that turned out. "Gee, Walt," (I hear you ask), "How did that turn out?" For the answer, read The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War, by David Halberstam (Hyperion 2007). Here's an excerpt.

By early 1950 [Kim Il-sung, grandfather of Kim Jong-un] had systematically taken control of all the levers of power. The great problem in his mind was that he ruled only half a country. Above all else, he longed to unleash his increasingly powerful, Soviet-trained, Soviet-equipped, well-disciplined army to invade, and to his mind liberate, the South, where hundreds of thousands awaited his strike. He would turn two Koreas into just one.

Although the West was, through its own ignorance, taken by surprise by the North Korean invasion of the South, Kim I didn't get `er done. But millions of people -- Koreans, Americans, Canadians, Anzacs, Chinese, etc -- "died for a tie", as Mr Halberstam puts it. Unfortunately for us, the vision of a united Communist Korea persists in the alleged mind of Kim III.

Should we sit back and wait, as we did in 1950, to see if he'll actually make good his bunny-brained threats? I say not. I say we should take action, in the form of a preemptive strike, or at least a demonstration of the kind of power that the USA -- aided by Japan, perhaps -- can unleash should such be required. That means more than sending an "armada" off in the wrong direction!

Let's leave war-mongering for the moment and turn to a little-known story from that time -- part of Walt's effort to make you more knowledgeable for reading WWW! This is about the little-known brother of Kim Il-sung's counterpart, Syngman Rhee, President of the Republic of Korea (South Korea). Mr Rhee is described in The Coldest Winter as "the most irascible, contentious, and independent of totally dependent clients." But, like many other Asian dictators ["presidents", surely! Ed.] he was indeed the client of the USA. The Truman and Eisenhower governments did all they could to prop him up and keep him happy.

One of the things the US government did was to find a job for Syngman Rhee's younger brother, who aspired to be a journalist. Thanks to the close relationship with the Luces, a position with Life magazine was found for the younger Rhee. When war broke out, the editors of Life sent their only Korean staffer to the battle zone to cover the hostilities "from the local perspective". Unfortunately, Mr Rhee got separated from the unit with which he was embedded, becoming MIA.

Fearing a diplomatic disaster, the US Army mounted a search-and-rescue operation, along the lines of Saving Private Ryan, and finally located the missing Korean VIP in a hotel (???) in Inchon. When the sergeant leading the search party burst into the room where his quarry was found, he burst into song... "Ah, sweet Mr Rhee of Life, at last I've found you!"

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