Fear Chasing the Peninsula

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Kevin Drum asks frankly, “Why Did North Korea Do It?

Even by North Korean standards, torpedoing a South Korean ship is nuts. What on earth were they thinking? In the Financial Times today, Christian Oliver runs down the theories:

Kevin Drum asks frankly, “Why Did North Korea Do It?

Even by North Korean standards, torpedoing a South Korean ship is nuts. What on earth were they thinking? In the Financial Times today, Christian Oliver runs down the theories:

  • Revenge
  • To smooth the succession
  • An internal power struggle
  • A reversion to hardline ideology
  • Breakdown of command in North Korea
  • To distract from economic woes at home
  • Bitterness about G20 meeting in Seoul

I have to say that I find all of these unsatisfactory, and I haven’t read anything better anywhere else. It’s just weird as hell. Even granted that North Korea acts like a mental case much of the time, this doesn’t make sense. There’s simply nothing good that can conceivably come out of this incident from their point of view.

So: my guess is that it was an accident. Or perhaps some combination of #3 and #5, a rogue commander who fired the shot because of some kind of chaos in the chain of command. Then, once the deed was done, we got all the usual North Korean bluster and delusion that we’ve come to know and loathe over the past few decades.

Oliver is on firmer ground, but Drum’s resort to the “craziness” meme is all too common. Pyongyang’s action are rational, even if the cause of the incident is accidental. And, Beijing’s irrational reasons for supporting the DPRK are also the stuff of reason. Bureaucratic inertia and special fears – for the Chinese, it’s refugee flows – are quite reasonable policy perspectives. I would even go on to argue that inertia and those special policy priorities with which every state shackles itself go farther to creating situations like the impasse on the Korean peninsula than any amount of evil or craziness.

Filed under: East Asia, Korea, Maritime, Military Tagged: cheonan, china, dprk, kevin drum, kim jong il, mother jones, north korea, prc, rok



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