October 12, 2006


Kim Jong-il’s Suicide Watch (B. R. MYERS, 10/12/06, NY Times)

[A]lthough journalists persist in calling North Korea a Stalinist state, its worldview is far closer to that of fascist Japan.

Like the Japanese in the 1930’s, the North Koreans trace the origins of their race back thousands of years to a single progenitor, and claim that this pure bloodline makes them uniquely virtuous. The country’s mass games — government-choreographed spectacles with a cast of more than 100,000 — are often mistaken by foreign journalists as exercises in Stalinism. They are in fact celebrations of ethnic homogeneity. “No masses in the world,” the state-run Cheollima magazine reminded readers in 2005, “are purer and more upright than our masses.”

In state propaganda, Kim Jong-il is often linked, as Hirohito once was, to images of white horses, snow-capped mountain peaks and other symbols of racial purity. South Korea, on the other hand, is regarded as contaminated by too close contact with other races. At a recent meeting between generals from both Koreas, the North delegation’s leader condemned the South for allowing racial intermarriage. “Not a single drop of ink,” he intoned, “must be allowed to fall into the Han River.”

Naturally enough, the North Koreans’ race theory, like that of the Japanese fascists, actuates a blithe indifference to international law. A uniquely virtuous people has no reason to obey its moral inferiors, be they allies or enemies. China has now learned that despite decades of military and economic assistance it can draw on no residue of good will in dealing with Pyongyang.

Neither can the South Koreans, whom the North Koreans will revile for their ethnic treason no matter how much cash they pump northward. This utter imperviousness to gestures of friendship and conciliation bears obvious implications for the prospect of normal relations between North Korea and America.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 12, 2006 8:30 AM

Oh, this is just toooo cute:

Leftist: "We must stand by the freedom-loving North Korean agrarian reformers' efforts to arm themselves against American imperialism."

NYT: "Uh, actually they aren't Stalinists, they are fascists."

Leftist: "They are? Who knew? Well then, maybe we should impose sanctions."

NYT: "Not only that, they actuate a blithe indifference to international law."

Leftist: "Say what? We attack at dawn!"

Posted by: Peter B at October 12, 2006 8:49 AM

As long as Kim is willing to use the proper leftist buzzwords and phrases, he could pretty much run a feudal serfdom and your average Western leftist would have no problems supporting him when push came to shove (which is pretty much where the left is with the Chinese and their economic policies right now -- they're more facist than communist, but the old labels keeps criticism of their policies muted from the usual suspects).

Posted by: John at October 12, 2006 9:28 AM

I'd be interested to know where you have met these "average Western leftists" who support North Korea. To call people who support North Korea "average leftists" is about as accurate as to say that an average American conservative wants to reintroduce slavery.

Posted by: Mörkö at October 12, 2006 10:09 AM

CNN Interview on Sept 19, 2005

Wolf Blitzer: "Lot of those people are starving."

Ted Turner: "I didn't see, I didn't see any, I didn't see any brutality in the capital or out in the, on the DMZ. We went, we visit, drove through the countryside quite a bit to get down to Panmunjom and Kaesong. We traveled around. I'm sure we were on a special route, but I don't see, there's really no reason, North Korea's got enough problems with their, with their economy and their agriculture. I think they want to join the western world and improve the quality of life for their people just like everybody else. And I think that we should give them another chance. It doesn't cost us anything. We already have agreements. And North Korea never posed any significant threat to the United States."

Posted by: Gideon at October 12, 2006 10:37 AM

Mork, what would you call those who support North Korea?

Posted by: erp at October 12, 2006 11:07 AM

Ted Turner is hardly an average leftist, but he doesn't support the North Korean system, either, as is obvious from your quote.

Posted by: Mörkö at October 12, 2006 11:09 AM

erp: Lunatics.

Posted by: Mörkö at October 12, 2006 11:10 AM

It's not that they support North Korea, but more that they are absolutely unwilling to do anything to change the status quo over there. I don't think that the "average Western leftist" loved Saddam but they were dead set against doing anything that would have weakened his regime, like sanctions or the use of military force. Same deal with North Korea. We can all agree that Kim is a naughty, naughty man but when it comes to doing anything about him all the "average Western leftist" can do is wring his hands and talk about how it's all the US's fault.

Posted by: Bryan at October 12, 2006 11:23 AM

Conservatives don't seem to be any wiser. It was Bush Senior and Dick Cheney who refused to topple Saddam in the first place. Clinton's administration, on the other hand, had no qualms about sanctions against Iraq. Due to the current Iraqi quagmire it's difficult to see America going to war against North Korea.

Posted by: Mörkö at October 12, 2006 11:41 AM

Morko, ever read the Baghdad Broadcasting Corp's "Have Your Say?"

But since I've never "met" any of them, I guess it doesn't qualify.

And the UN supports "stability" over all.

Posted by: Sandy P at October 12, 2006 11:45 AM

We aren't going to occupy N. Korea, just liberate it. Let the Chinese, Russians, and South Koreans carry some weight for once.

Posted by: oj at October 12, 2006 11:48 AM

Bush Sr's inability to take out Saddam was one of the biggest failures of his presidency, and that's saying something. Clinton continued the sanctions strategy that Bush Sr put into place, much to the outraged howling of the average Western leftist. Remember Ralph Nader saying that the sanctions were killing umpty-millions of Iraqi children every day? And, as Orrin delights in pointing out, Clinton was hardly an "average Western leftist."
So, what's your point? And what would you have done about Saddam and what would you do about Kim? It's easy to nitpick history but not so easy to come up with practical solutions.

Posted by: Bryan at October 12, 2006 11:53 AM

North Korea is only a threat, but a lethal one, to North Koreans. Why should Ted Turner care about them?

Posted by: oj at October 12, 2006 12:11 PM

The Religious Right abolished slavery. The Realists would have supported it because it offered stability.

Posted by: oj at October 12, 2006 12:25 PM

OJ: North Korea can't destroy us, but if they ever get the Taepodong working (and they can, eventually) and the warhead working (and, so far, they're the only country that hasn't gotten the bomb to work on the first try) they can threaten us with a mushroom cloud over Seattle or Honolulu. I'm no particular fan of the Mariners or the Seahawks or Starbucks coffee, but I really don't want to see a major American city incinerated and hundreds of thousands dead, and it's no comfort to me that we could avenge them by incinerating thousands more of Kim Jong Il's wretched subjects.

There is no moral case for tolerating a nuclear-armed tyrant, and no practical one either.

Posted by: Mike Morley at October 12, 2006 12:42 PM

"We aren't going to occupy N. Korea, just liberate it. Let the Chinese, Russians, and South Koreans carry some weight for once."

That presumes a diplomatic facility that this administration does not have. Unless you mean by this that the U.S. will bomb North Korea in the hopes of decapitating its government and destroying whatever nuclear capabilities it may have, and then leave the neighboring countries to do as they will in cleaning up the mess. In that case, be careful what you wish for. The Chinese government is not likely to tolerate a reunion with South Korea, or a functioning democracy.

Posted by: M. at October 12, 2006 12:45 PM

"The Religious Right abolished slavery."

Abolitionism on both sides of the Atlantic started with the Quakers. Their beliefs would never be considered compatible with those of what we now call the "Religious Right."

Posted by: M. at October 12, 2006 12:52 PM

They were entirely orthodox conservatives.

Posted by: oj at October 12, 2006 1:06 PM

China needs a a North Korea with a growing economy, so they'll push is towards liberal democratic capitalism, more importantly, the North Koreans will pull it that way.

Posted by: oj at October 12, 2006 1:08 PM

Mike M: Deterrence in not vengeance. It would be blatently immoral to kill thousands of people out of vengeance.

Rather, massive retaliation, killing tens of millions of people is deterrence. It is not immoral, by the logic of deterrence, for it is the least destruction possible. The mystery of deterrence is that to work it must not be a bluff. The adversary must believe (that's what "credible" refers to) that utter destruction is the absolutely enevitable consequence of a nuclear attack on the United States.

This does not mean that they hit one of our cities and we hit one of theirs; it means that they hit one of our cities and we hit all of theirs.

It seems so strange to a veteran of the other "long war," the one to bring down THE FORMER SOVIET UNION, that this should now be questioned.

Posted by: Lou Gots at October 12, 2006 1:10 PM


They can do all those things...if they become a liberal democracy with a functioning economy and state.

Posted by: oj at October 12, 2006 1:11 PM

Lou: I'm not really disagreeing with you on the concept of deterrence, and sorry if I phrased myself inelegantly. I would rather see us take down the NK regime sooner rather than later -- before it reaches a point where we have to erase Pyongyang to retaliate for the big hole in Tacoma, or even threaten to erase Pyongyang to deter a shot at Tacoma.

Posted by: Mike Morley at October 12, 2006 1:26 PM

"They were entirely orthodox conservatives."

That include the ones who burned the Constitution as a "pact with slavery?"

Quakers were not then, and are not now, what I think you are referring to when you name them "orthodox conservatives."

Posted by: M. at October 12, 2006 1:37 PM

It was a pact with slavery, which is why Lincoln alternatively ignored and rewrote it. It's terms of implementation could not be reconciled with the Preamble, so he vindicated the latter.

Posted by: oj at October 12, 2006 1:40 PM


The racialist society described in the article is reflected in cultures that predate Darwinism by several thousand years, and they have always been just as likely to recruit God and religion to their cause as more recent rationalist arguments. It's a perversion in either case.

Posted by: M. at October 12, 2006 1:42 PM

No, he amended it.

Posted by: M. at October 12, 2006 1:44 PM

There's nothing more quintessentially Darwinian than exterminationist racism.

Posted by: oj at October 12, 2006 1:49 PM

Exterminationist racism can be found in the Bible, and in some cases sanctioned by the Old Testament God.

Posted by: M. at October 12, 2006 1:56 PM


Not a history major were you?

Posted by: oj at October 12, 2006 1:57 PM

Ad hominem. Your usual signal that you are done with the discussion.

Posted by: M. at October 12, 2006 2:00 PM


Ad hominem? There's no shame in not being a history major. There is in not knowing anything about history and arguing it. Which amendments did Lincoln sign?

Posted by: oj at October 12, 2006 2:08 PM

Yes, the Jews are the Chosen people. The North Koreans, English and Germans aren't--they all have to turn to Darwinism.

Posted by: oj at October 12, 2006 2:09 PM

Alright. You caught me in a severe brain fart there. It also was not clear which comment you were referring to, however.

The Emancipation Proclamation hardly rewrote the Constitution. It only applied to the seceded states.

Posted by: M. at October 12, 2006 2:14 PM

No. Like every other "exterminationist-racist" culture, they'll grab whatever's handy and pervert it to justify what they're going to do anyway.

Posted by: M. at October 12, 2006 2:34 PM

Exterminationist racism is definitely an example of Darwinism at work. The regimes that practice it disappear, thereby demonstrating their lack of fitness.

Posted by: Joseph Hertzlinger at October 12, 2006 2:50 PM

I thought Unitarians played a major role in stopping slavery, but that was when they could be compared to Wahabi Muslims with a straight face.

Posted by: Joseph Hertzlinger at October 12, 2006 2:52 PM

If you believe in Darwinism then exterminationism isn't merely justified but required.

Posted by: oj at October 12, 2006 3:21 PM

No, if you believe in darwinism, exterminationism is just the natural order of things. Race,class, nationality, religion are all good determinents. "What are you rebelling against? What've you got?"

Posted by: T at October 12, 2006 8:09 PM