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The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

MORE ON NORTH KOREA

First of all, let us be very clear.  I do not read, write, or speak Korean.  Although one of my books has been translated into Korean, I know absolutely nothing about the country save what little I have read in English.  Even though I have spent eighty-three years in the United States, I often find it difficult to figure out what the American government is going to do.  So take what follows for what it is worth.

Newspaper reports paint Kim Jong-un as unstable and irrational and brutal, but not at all as self-destructive or self-defeating.  I am guessing he knows that if he launched a missile attack that hit any part of American soil [Alaska, if that is all he can reach -- who knows?] the result would be a nuclear response that would obliterate his country and result in his death.  Mind you, I do not know this, not at all.  I am guessing.  If what I have read is true [remember, everything I think I know, whether I learned it from CNN or Noam Chomsky, is second-hand and could quite possibly be wrong], a non-nuclear "limited" war between North Korea and South Korean and American forces would result in huge numbers of Korean deaths on both sides and a great many American deaths.

I seriously doubt that Donald J. Trump could find North Korea on a map with country labels attached, I am reasonably certain that he would not care in the slightest who got killed in a war, so long as his real estate holdings and brands were untouched.  I am extremely fearful that his tiny ego would become deeply engaged by any perceived slight from North Korea to his manhood or his magnificence.

There are extremely deeply rooted institutional obstacles to independent actions by the American military countermanding what they perceive as irrational orders from the Commander-in-Chief, but in the present circumstances I could imagine that saner heads in the Joint Chiefs would find ways to slow-walk such orders and even subvert them.  There is precedent for that during the Nixon presidency, I believe.

All of which, put together, is unsettling, to put it as calmly as I can.

Meanwhile, I am quite certain that the Trump Administration is right now doing great harm to the most vulnerable among us here in America, and will continue to do that at least until 2018 and probably until 2020.

From all of the above, I draw the simplest and most banal conclusion imaginable, namely that we must struggle to win back the House and even, God willing, the Senate, and that we must try to wrest from the Republicans the 1000 seats in State legislatures that slipped away while Obama floated above the fray with inimitable grace.  In short, I conclude that our only hope of a better future lies in banal, unexciting ordinary politics.

More anon.

3 comments:

s. wallerstein said...

I know as little as you do or less about Kim Jong-un, but from my observations, dictators are rarely complete autocrats (maybe Stalin was one, perhaps Hitler), and they generally have to answer to a ruling elite (or class), who, I doubt, want to have their country (which includes their children, grandchildren, themselves and their generally luxurious properties) destroyed. So maybe we can count on the North Korean ruling elite to moderate Kim a bit, just as maybe we can count on the Pentagon to restrain Trump. I believe it was David Palmeter who pointed out a few days ago that as Nixon became more and more irrational during the Watergate crisis, the then Defense Secretary ordered the generals to check with him and Kissinger before going along with any attack ordered by Nixon.

howie b said...

S. Wallertsein- was not Nixon surrounded by men of some substance in an institutional environment of some restraint?
Tell me what is holding Trump back? He is just taking his damned time and letting his (dare I say evil?) plots unfold naturally.
He is chaotic to the core and if evil is as evil does, then evil

s. wallerstein said...

Howie B.,

I really have no idea what goes on inside the Pentagon, but I've heard that Secretary of Defense Mattis is a rational person (whose political philosophy and outlook I do not share), and as far as I know, in order to become a general, one has to be fairly adept at rational decision-making and to be a good chess player (in metaphorical terms).

Trump, as you say, is chaotic. I doubt that he is a good chess player and he probably cheats at cards.