The worst kinds of leaders, the megalomaniacal ghouls who drag countries into catastrophic wars, have a habit of being frighteningly similar to their adversaries. And so as history rhymes again, the world finds itself hostage to the whims of two narcissistic, slovenly, destructive, failsons smearing trans fats on their nuclear footballs, we are being told that military conflict between North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and America’s Donald Trump could see us wiped from the earth.
“It’s the scale and the pace of North Korea’s testing and the development of its ballistic missile program that makes it a threat not just to South Korea and nations in the region but to the United States and directly to Australia,” Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said last month after North Korea’s provocative test that coincided with America’s Independence Day.
Yet drums were beating well before July 4. Back in March, The Australian’s foreign editor Greg Sheridan reliably thundered, “North Korea — mad, bad, dangerous North Korea — will soon have the power to destroy Australia. This is part of, and symbolises, our seriously deteriorating security circumstances.”
Dr Peter Hayes, a professor in security studies and director of the Nautilus Institute, says that at this stage, North Korea’s “missiles are almost certain to be highly unreliable” and that re-engineering them to lift the weight of a real warhead to create an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) — the one that could hit the United States or Australia — “could take them two to 10 years, likely two to three.”
Time is a nice friend to have, but is much good when there are two petulant madmen at the helm? North Korea has long been provocative, relying responsible foreign powers to de-escalate tensions. Now, we have Donald Trump in office, with his long term obsession with “the norks” only exceeded by his fascination with nukes.
“The nuclear crisis is not a clash of two leaders, but the end stage of a long-planned North Korean strategy to reunify the peninsula”
“You want to be unpredictable,” he mused on the subject during his primary campaign last year. When pressed in a further interview about taking the nuclear option off the table, he asked, “Then why are we making them?” And at a foreign affairs briefing as the official Republican candidate last August, it is reported that he asked three times about using nuclear weapons, at one point saying, “If we have them, why can’t we use them?”
The threat of war in the Korean peninsula has never loomed larger. After the North Koreans recently conducted their largest nuclear test to date, the White House has responded with a pointed warning delivered by defense secretary James Mattis. “We are not looking to the total annihilation of a country, namely North Korea, but as I said we have many options to do so,” Mattis said. He continued, stating that “any threat” against the US or its allies will be met with a “massive military response.”
Historically, a build-up in arms makes war more likely, particularly if the other side reciprocates – and both Trump and Kim seem intent in at least enlarging their military capability, if not their forces. Disputes between nuclear-armed America and Russia, China and India, and India and Pakistan have shown that these conflicts can occur without ceding the world as we know it to the cockroaches, but the nature of the North Korean regime makes the escalating rhetoric all the more unnerving.
Professor B.R. Myers, whose groundbreaking book The Cleanest Race details how North Korea’s Juche communism is bullshit — that it is in fact a military-first regime based around a xenophobic race theory, fortified with elements of Japanese fascism, animism and even fetishising the leader as a naughty boy (seriously) — proffers a different theory about the current situation.
“The nuclear crisis is not a clash of two leaders, but the end stage of a long-planned North Korean strategy to reunify the peninsula,” he says. “North Korea is therefore unique. It keeps vowing to reunify the peninsula, and threatening other states with total destruction, only to be told that it's really just insecure. This is wishful thinking taken to an absurd degree.”
like so many other ghastly leaders before them, Trump and Kim are feasting on each other because they need the idea of each other
For Trump, the embodiment of a different kind of thinking taken to an absurd degree, North Korea is as much a convenient enemy as an existential threat, a sledgehammer with which to bash out a tweet when his senile brain forgets that China is long-time family business partner. The Kim regime, which lives in perpetual conflict with an impure, abstract outside world, is happy to play along to achieve its own ends.
As too, it seems, is Australia. Perhaps it’s that seething need to feel important on the world stage, or a handy distraction in the back pocket of a floundering government, or just a chance to play with the big boys and boost defence spending. (A Liberal Party politician once told me that Australian Labour politicians all want to be prime minister, conservatives all want to be defence minister.) Such delusions are indulged by elements of the Australian media, a bizarre concentration of crypto-fascist dullards unprepared to shed any skin in the political game but who yearn measure their dicks against a bit of military hardware.
“It is silly loose talk by people who should know better,” Dr Hayes says. “Trump is attempting to use American hegemony as a means of predatory power, that is, to have the US ‘paid’ for its security services. Apart from technical issues, the North Koreans have far more important and urgent targets in a war than Australia to expend their munitions upon.”
While the nuclear threat is real, the chances of Australia being wiped out by a couple of madmen playing chicken is so minimal that it outlines our own democratic barbarism, in which theoretical risks are infused into domestic politics to scare the shit out of people for power’s sake.
What’s really going on is that like so many other ghastly leaders before them, Trump and Kim are feasting on each other because they need the idea of each other; without an easily identifiable enemy, their power and legitimacy diminishes and their world blows up. If we go down, it will be as one, because this grotesque, two-headed creature decides that the best way to look tough is to step away from guarding the gates to hell and press the button at the same time.