North Korea

Some Tuesday Links-On Ken Minogue, Some Doubt About Even Dealing In North Korea, And Free Speech

From Quadrant: ‘The Conservative Mind Of Kenneth Minogue:’

‘From the 1970s, Oakeshott was the key figure in what Ken termed a group of LSE conservative realists that included Shirley and Bill Letwin and Elie Kedourie as well as Ken himself. They shared the view, he averred, “that the activity of conserving an established way of life” was the “central, indeed, virtually the defining concern of politics”. Conservatism in this realist sense was a disposition, rather than a plan.’

Hmmm…via Mick Hartley:

‘Judging by Pompeo’s remarks, the chances that Trump and the US team will be outwitted by a smarter political operative are looking increasingly strong.’

North Korea’s leadership really is more cunning and ruthless than you might imagine (despite the ludicrous artifice):

It takes a lot of patience to deal with people who treat you as not worth listening to, and potentially evil:

A Link To Some Official Photos Of North Korea, Catalonia, And A Great Morning Walk

Via Mick Hartley:  You never go full Stalinist (photos at the link):

So much emptiness and marble kitsch:

‘Dutch photographer Eddo Hartmann travelled four times to North Korea, between 2014 and 2017. He makes no claim that the resulting project and book – Setting the Stage – are a behind-the-scenes look at the real Pyongyang. On the contrary, he was chaperoned at all times, the images approved by his minders. This is the official North Korea, as they want it to be seen – which makes it all the more chilling. Pristine marble totalitarian kitsch, with the few isolated individuals only serving to emphasise the soulless alienation of the socialist utopia.’

Behold the Dear Leader promoting gleaming new make-glorious subway cars!  All is well!

Remember, Madrid has had to deal with ETA, and real terrorism, so the issue is complicated.

A while back, I was a young mole in Barcelona for a month at a law faculty, and there was an older woman who came in for a few hours a day, sharing our tiny, rented office. She explained her job was to make sure all posters and communications in Spanish at the law faculty also appeared in Catalan.  This was a very important job.

She was small in a way many Spanish (Catalonian!) people are small, diminuitive, and in her case determined and a bit mousy.  I can still hear her voice echoing ‘Si, digi‘ as she picked up the odd phone call.  Down the corridors she’d be off again on another stroll to ensure protocol.

Per Josep Goded:

‘Pro-independence parties have restarted talks on the formation of an effective government in Catalonia. The negotiations broke down two weeks ago, following a wave of mutual reproaches and criticism.’

Personal update: This blog is a way to communicate and share ideas, and if you were to meet me, you’d probably have a pretty good sense of what kind of guy I am after a few minutes of conversation (like all of us, right?). May we meet one day, talk, and share a few moments on this strange journey.

Today, I decided to hike alone at the rather pedestrian Cougar Mountain on a sunny and cold morning (out of the noise of the house and away from work).

The ground was frozen and crunched underfoot. There was a welcome stillness and only a few light breezes (5-10 mph from the west/northwest) occassionally clacking some smaller trunks together.

After an hour or so of walking, I arrived at the small falls where a healthy amount of winter water tumbled and cascaded down.  I decided to clamber up the left side and go off-trail.  I took a few photos back towards the falls, and for some reason, just kept going off-trail.

Exhilarated, I soon found myself powering through pretty dense undergrowth, getting lashed in the face, having my shoes pulled off occasionally, falling down a few times, and you know, wondering what I was doing, exactly.

I checked my phone and there was no signal.  I figured I had another mile to go through the growth at that heading, and such a mile was becoming long, unsure and miserable.  I did what any self-respecting suburbanite would do and decided to double-back towards the stream and the falls and the ravine.  Executive decision.

I sat and took the photo below in a little clearing under the 10:30 am sun along the way back.

I saw a female mule deer bounding ahead, in and out of shafts of sunlight, keeping a safe distance between us.  I must have disturbed her.  Her ears swiveled wildly and I could see her eyes watching me.

In another shaft of sunlight, back near the stream, I saw a piliated woodpecker swooping ahead of me from limb to limb (explains the woody, jackhammer sound I’d been hearing). Flashes of black, white and red.

All in all, a great morning:

IMG_1146

Some Links On That ‘Community Of Nations’-North Korea And The Use Of Force

From Millenial Transmissions-‘John Stuart Mill Predicts Soviet Communism’

Well, predictions are hard, especially about the future…:

I’ll just pull part of the quote:

‘The worth of a State, in the long run, is the worth of the individuals composing it; and a State which postpones the interests of their mental expansion and elevation, to a little more of administrative skill, or of that semblance of it which practice gives, in the details of business; a State which dwarfs its men, in order that they may be more docile instruments in its hands even for beneficial purposes, will find that with small men no great thing can really be accomplished; and that the perfection of machinery to which it has sacrificed everything, will in the end avail it nothing, for want of the vital power which, in order that the machine might work more smoothly, it has preferred to banish.”

Mill provided a fairly comprehensive underlying moral philosophy as to why to individual liberty should be championed; deep reasons as to how you should live and what you should do towards these ends.

It’s odd that some in the West look upon the post-ish-Communist landscape (China, Russia, North Korea) and merely see States not sufficiently included within ‘the community of nations.’  This, rather than seeing States with vastly different, and often competing traditions and interests than oursand who are still often crushing individual liberty underfoot.

It must be said that such folks in the West harbor deep sympathies with Communist collectivist ideological constructs themselves, or at least a kind of one-world secular idealism which sees any use of force as illegitimate (often on the way to radical and revolutionary freedom, or perhaps…something more like a global collective).

As you’ve noticed, there’s still a thoroughly bankrupt, totalitarian regime on the path to deliverable nukes in North Korea (yes it still possesses a reasonably competent military seeking all aspects of nuclear delivery…for all the worst reasons).

Force and the threat of force are still on the table, but now there appear to be fewer good options in the halls of American power.

From The Atlantic (complete with a standard underlying suspicion of all ideas realist and nationalist):

‘Kim Jong Un must be made to understand that, under no uncertain terms, can he ever use his nuclear weapons; doing so would mean the end of North Korea. Whether the United States likes it or not, the country now poses a clear strategic threat, and it must be treated as such.’

America has a soft and hard power game to play in the Asian theater in order to foster the kinds of freedom that lead to greater trade, understanding and knowledge, as I see it.  Self-interest is often a reasonably honest, and reliable guide.

For even if we apply Mill’s thinking to the South Koreans, the Japanese, and the Chinese, depending on circumstances, individuals with whom we deal may not return the favor, especially with their own interests and obligations to the traditions, governments, and institutions of which they are a part.

In the meantime, the mess that is North Korea sits on their doorsteps, after all, and seeks to increase its scope to our shores.

A previous piece here.

Via Readers-Two North Korea Links

What are some things China might have to gain and lose from a still-existing North Korean regime?

Some people have a lot of experience with this problem:


Even if there were a global collective and community of nations honoring every single human-rights bill and charter it would still use force and the threat of force…I should think.

So much for ideals of peace and harmony promised? (delivery from history and much of our own natures).

Where are we headed, here?

As previously posted:  Richard Epstein ‘Barack vs. Bibi:’ takes the classical liberal, non anti-war libertarian position (regarding Obama):

‘In the end, it is critical to understand that the current weaknesses in American foreign policy stem from the President’s adamant reluctance to commit to the use of American force in international relations, whether with Israel, Iran or with ISIS. Starting from that position, the President has to make huge unilateral concessions, and force his allies to do the same thing. Right now his only expertise is leading from behind.  The President has to learn to be tough in negotiations with his enemies. Right now, sadly, he has demonstrated that toughness only in his relationships with America’s friends and allies.’

From Malcolm Greenhill: ‘I believe my good friend, Jeff Hummel, has made the best attempt so far at solving the public goods problem of national defense:’

http://mises.org/document/274/National-Goods-versus-Public-Goods-Defense-Disarmament-and-Free-Riders

On this site, see: George Shultz & Henry Kissinger At The Hoover Institution: ‘What A Final Iran Deal Must Do’

Let Me Know Just How Much I’m Missing-Face The Nation’s Interview With Defense Secretary James Mattis

Here’s a May 28th, 2017 interview with the Secretary about current American foreign policy being coordinated through the Departments of Defense and State, under the direction of the President (it still feels a little strange to write….President Trump):

My takeaways below.

  1. Regarding ISIS: ‘Accelerate’ confrontation and engage ISIS where they are, ‘clearing’ them once engaged and isolated (no longer allowing them either maintain territory, disperse and/or regroup).  Let the people on the ground pursue this strategy with a fair amount of latitude. ***As to the psychological, ideological, social, political and religious reasons individuals seem to be joining ISIS…from Molenbeek all the way to Raqqa, worry about that later, I guess.  No more territory and the legitimacy/revenue that comes with territory, seems to be the current plan regarding ISIS, which will require more resources.
  2.  Regarding Turkey’s NATO membership and internal pressures from the Kurdish PKK (Kurdish [Communist] militiamen who are Turkish citizens fighting ISIS), it seems Mattis is more committed to NATO obligations despite Erdogan’s autocratic moves.  The fact that Iraqi and Syrian Kurdish militias/leadership have been primary anti-ISIS combatants, means that Kurds should probably expect to receive some arms/logistical/tactical support during the fight against ISIS, but should probably expect to fend for themselves on any grander scale/later on.
  3. North Korea: While maintaining the DMZ, and honoring South Korean obligations, consulting Japanese leadership and leveraging Chinese influence, the goal is to try and hold the North Korean regime to some account in continuing the process of marrying ICBM technology with nuclear capability to fulfill its presumed ideological supremacy/destiny.  This will also be an attempt to reassert more of a leadership role for American hard and soft power in the region, while trying to deny the North Korean regime’s economic channels.
  4. Try and deal with Russia as it is, which is to say, Russian leadership continues a divide and conquer strategy in Georgia/Ukraine, and also continues the cold logic and vague threat of force with former Soviet satellites in the Baltics, testing the resolve of European and Western leadership and organization.  They’re not playing nice and pursuing a deeply anti-Western strategy (low birth-rates and Russian nationalism is being solidified around an assertive, kleptocratic regime heavily reliant on natural resources).
  5. NATO is not going to be abandoned, but it probably won’t hurt to have members pony-up some dough to realize the fundamental mission of security NATO offers to its members.  You may not need to change the by laws, but let’s make sure the members have reasonable skin in the game and review the membership rules from time to time.

Domestically, I suppose the plan is to maintain as much political/cultural unity in the American Republic as possible (a serious issue, indeed), while reaffirming American alliances abroad around this basic strategy.

Interestingly, Dickerson asks Mattis about Iran, and why post-1979 Iranian revolutionaries always seem to have a hand in all kinds of guns/money/terrorist activity throughout the Middle-East, so often aligning against American interests (Hizbollah in Lebanon, current uprisings in Yemen, meddling in Israel/Palestine etc.).

Mattis attributes this to the nature of their 1979 Islamic revolution, the beliefs and ideals of the people who grabbed and still maintain power in Iran (suppressing political dissent).

This reminded me that some in the West and the Middle-East will argue exactly the same about moral legitimacy since the American revolution (some with better reasons and understanding than others).  Why does America (and not so much Canada, Australia etc.) go around and keep trying to re-make the world in its image?

Isn’t it all just morally relativistic, anyways, man?

And more broadly: Do moral relativism, value pluralism and all manner of modern liberal projects run aground upon the rocks of nihilism?

Correspondence here.

Kelley Ross responds to a correspondent on Isaiah Berlin’s value pluralism, while discussing John Gray as well:

‘Now, I do not regard Berlin’s value pluralism as objectionable or even as wrong, except to the extent that it is irrelevant to the MORAL issue and so proves nothing for or against liberalism. Liberalism will indeed recommend itself if one wishes to have a regime that will respect, within limits, a value pluralism. I have no doubt that respecting a considerable value pluralism in society is a good thing and that a nomocratic regime that, mostly, leaves people alone is morally superior to a teleocratic regime that specifies and engineers the kinds of values that people should have. However, the project of showing that such a regime IS a good thing and IS morally superior is precisely the kind of thing that Gray decided was a failure.

Thus, I believe Gray himself sees clearly enough that a thoroughgoing “value pluralism” would mean that the regime of the Ayatollah Khomeini is just as morally justified as the regime of Thomas Jefferson. Gray prefers liberalism (or its wreckage) for the very same reason that the deconstructionist philosopher Richard Rorty prefers his leftism: it is “ours” and “we” like it better. Why Gray, or Rorty, should think that they speak for the rest of “us” is a good question. ‘

and about providing a core to liberalism:

‘Why should the state need a “sufficient rational justificaton” to impose a certain set of values? The whole project of “rational justification” is what Gray, and earlier philosophers like Hume, gave up on as hopeless. All the state need do, which it has often done, is claim that its values are favored by the majority, by the General Will, by the Blood of the Volk, or by God, and it is in business.’

And that business can quickly lead to ever-greater intrusion into our lives:

‘J.S. Mill, etc., continue to be better philosophers than Berlin or Gray because they understand that there must be an absolute moral claim in the end to fundamental rights and negative liberty, however it is thought, or not thought, to be justified. Surrendering the rational case does not even mean accepting the overall “value pluralism” thesis, since Hume himself did not do so. ‘

Are libertarians the true classical liberals?  Much closer to our founding fathers?

What Henry Kissinger still has to offer:

On Burkean Conservatism:

‘The billiard table is a seductive analogy. But in real foreign policy, the billiard balls do not react only to physical impact. They are also guided by their own cultural inheritances: their histories, instincts, ideals, their characteristic national approaches to strategy, in short, their national values. A realist foreign policy needs a strong value system to guide it through the inherent ambiguities of circumstance. Even Bismarck, the supreme realist, emphasized the ultimate moral basis of realist statesmanship: “The best a statesman can do is to listen carefully to the footsteps of God, get ahold of the hem of His cloak and walk with Him a few steps of the way.’

and a partial look at ideas underlying his multipolar vision:

‘The distinction between idealism and realism rejects the experience of history. Idealists do not have a monopoly on moral values; realists must recognize that ideals are also part of reality. We will be less frequently disillusioned if we emphasize a foreign policy designed to accumulate nuance rather than triumph through apocalyptic showdowns, and our values will benefit over the longer term.’

Related On This Site: Isaiah Berlin, as a youth fled a well-integrated family of Latvian Jews to Britain (for his life), subsequently spending more time with Marx than any man should…but also Mill, is value pluralism a response…or does it just lead to the same relativism and nihilism?: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

John Gray is criticizing many claims to progress in ethics and politics in the Western World, with a heavy Nietzschean influence (man is still capable of great barbarism & achievement) Repost-Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-‘Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

Robert Kagan At Brookings: ‘The Twilight Of the Liberal World Order’

Some thoughts on Fukuyama and Leo Strauss: Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Via Readers-Two North Korea Links

From Mick Hartley: ‘At The Mausoleum Of The Dear Leader

Take a trip to the Hermit Kingdom:


Via another reader-

Christopher Hitchens on North Korea: ‘Visit To A Small Planet

What about value pluralism…positive and negative liberty?: The classical liberal tradition…looking for classical liberals in the postmodern wilderness: Isaiah Berlin’s negative liberty: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-’Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

The End Of History? –Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

From The China Daily Mail: ‘The Cultures Of North Korea And China: Conflict Escalation Explained’

Full piece here.

‘Beijing, in all likelihood, anticipates that their military drills should make the American Navy flee home. That’s how it always works in their Chinese companies and governments and State-registered churches. North Korea is expecting food from UN members. And it’s all having a reverse effect.’

Gordon Chang says we could have bigger problems:

‘North Korea is a regional menace. Thanks to China’s arms and technology transfers to North Korea—and the reach of its KN-08 missiles, which have sufficient range to hit targets on US soil—the Kim regime is on its way to being a global one. We don’t just have a North Korea problem. We have a China problem.’

According to Chang, some in the Chinese military see the U.S. as simply an enemy, and they are very touchy, indeed, regarding their client state.  They are undergoing a shaky leadership transition themselves.  The old Cold War chess game is still playing out.

North Korea has been frozen in time since 1948, when the first Kim was installed by the Soviets.  Since the Korean War, it’s grown into a cult of personality, headed by the divinely inspired, thoroughly repressive Kim dynasty and in its wake, a totalitarian State.  It is bizarro world, but still has a large military, with missiles pointed at Seoul, and virtually little else.  Kim Jong Un has taken the reins and a more fluid, unpredictable situation has developed.

Take a trip to the Hermit Kingdom:

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Related On This Site: From The Online WSJ: ‘Henry Kissinger on China. Or Not.’

Over a billion people and a culturally homogenous Han core.  Rapid industrialization atop an ancient civilization.  There is state-sponsored hacking and espionage, a good bit of corruption and a lot of young men floating around fast-growing cities.   There are people fighting for their freedoms, better laws, and making their way forward.  There is an often lawless, ruthless capitalism (and hefty State involvement and cronyism) and it will take smart leadership to maintain steady growth. Can they do it?  TED Via Youtube: Martin Jacques ‘Understanding The Rise Of China’From Foreign Affairs: ‘The Geography Of Chinese Power’From Via Media At The American Interest: ‘History Made; Media Blind’From The New Perspectives Quarterly: Francis Fukuyama’s ‘Is America Ready for a Post-American World?’