Cadence of Conflict: Asia, December 11, 2017

More smoke got blown this week. South Korea’s president is stepping-up efforts to talk to China about North Korea. Asian culture dictates that a country as big as China doesn’t give a rat’s synthetic tail about what a small country like South Korea thinks. All South Korea can expect is to be in China’s debt merely for listening since the diplomacy won’t affect outcomes whatsoever. China probably knows this. Whatever “deal” does or does not follow Moon’s efforts with the Chinese will be an indication of China’s greater intentions for the future. Don’t expect too many fireworks; it’s mostly politicians blowing smoke.

Things in Korea are stepping up, however. More sanctions are coming down. Secretary of State Tillerson commented about possible naval blockades, which sent a threat of “declared war” bouncing back from the North Koreans—more blown smoke from all sides. As for South Korea and Japan cooperating with the US—they will be “watching” missiles from North Korea. Usually, missiles have little to watch other than a trail of—well, a trail of smoke.

The big note to take about Moon is that his obsession with “talking” and “reconciliation” could prove very valuable after other players (the US, the UN, possibly China and others) do their parts to initiate reunification on the Korean Peninsula. When Korea becomes one country again, it might benefit from a leader like Moon who hungers for an opportunity to get opposite sides talking. But, we’ll see.

China’s state-run tabloid commented that a visit from the US Navy to a Taiwanese Naval port would activate a kind of “Anti-Secession” law in China and China’s PLA would invade Taiwan and immediately reclaim the territory. The statement came months after US Congress approved and planned such port visits between Taiwan and the US for 2018. Taiwan is responding by constricting and banning select visits from Chinese diplomats, usually surrounding topics of “Human Rights” and warlike rhetoric. Again, all sides blowing more smoke without a shot fired, yet.

Usually, boiler cars bellow more smoke, blow their whistles, and let off steam as buildup to a conflict mounts—or just before a train wreck. The smoke is not without meaning, but as of this week, smoke blown remains little more than blown smoke and neither the topics nor the players have changed.

In fact, every small development reported by news outlets seems to follow the format of new facts in the first few paragraphs followed by the same, long background story, whether the background is about a conflict between North and South Korea or between Taiwan and China. That’s what you call a clue: The press seems to feel that the public will need that background for the avalanche of news to come.

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Encore of Revival: America, December 11, 2017

Little to nothing new happened this week. The supposed Democratic attempt to fry Moore by frying Franken only fried Franken. Franken’s seat is secure for Democrats; Moore’s seat would be up for party grabs in Alabama. The theory goes that the Democratic party viewed Franken as expendable since a Democrat would likely replace him, but Moore, a Republican, would be replaced by a Democrat, thus the Democrats would gain a seat in the Senate. By accusing and frying Franken of the same kind of sex scandal as Moore, it seemed to be non-hypocritical for Democrats to expect that Moore step down.

That’s the theory anyway as to why so many Democrat-leaning voices went after Franken.

Theory or no, it didn’t happen. The Clinton years cemented the unofficial Democratic position that “sex and morals” don’t affect politicians—that a man can cheat on his wife and remain loyal to his country. Republicans are the party of “morality police”, in a sense. Once a sinner proves he is a sinner, it’s time to hang a “scarlet letter ‘A'” around his neck and burn him at the stake. But, especially with the public being tired from having to remove Kevin Spacey from their “favorites” lists, the Republican voters don’t want anymore. “A Republican proves to be a sinner in need of forgiveness” no longer means that “moralless Democrats need to gain power” in the minds of Republican voters. The press “pooped in its diapers” over scandals one too many times and the Religious Right just doesn’t care anymore. The “scandal trump card” is no longer part of the rules as of this political season.

With the Alabama special election coming up tomorrow, and a tax bill about to get through Congress, headlines may finally change a little from what they have been for the past month. Thanks to the continued distraction provided by Mueller’s ongoing and seemingly directionless investigation of Russianewsgategate, the White House is moving forward and may start creating new headlines soon. Not having to write the same story week after week will come as a relief to some writers, but a disappointing alarm to get off the couch for the mainstream.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, December 4, 2017

The US is gearing up for a demonstration of it’s new Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II jets. North Korea is providing the perfect opportunity. When all is done, be ready to count the headlines in which the F-35s appear.

There are a variety of factors in the North Korean conflict. As you count them, don’t exclude the need for the US to show force in the region. Just two examples include Putin’s manners in Crimea—where Russian soldiers flew a flag over a building they had taken before a proper referendum became final—along with China not playing by UN rules with its man-made islands, yet remaining a UN member. There are other situations in the region.

Suffice it to say that North Korea is a perfect opportunity for the US to beat its chest and clear its throat for all to hear. Were there no such need, the US military presence might be a lot more low-key in the process of North Korea’s government being on the way out anyway. Always remember that Washington occasionally thinks like Hollywood—in the White House as in the Capital Building and at the Pentagon. America loves theatrics and, knowingly or otherwise, nearly all Pacific nations played their roles as the foil.

Once Korea becomes one nation, tryouts for the next performance will likely soon follow.

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Encore of Revival: America, December 4, 2017

Demagoguery hit the fan. It’s never been more obvious. Reputable news sources—not the average British tabloids trying to tell Americans what to do—are rehashing old plays from the playbook: Congress is worried about the president saying things on Twitter. If the president doesn’t obey someone he hired and can fire, now that’s called “finding a loophole”.

The president can say what he wants. The president can do what he wants in the White House without having to find loopholes. That’s especially true with the village of cards Obama made with his executive orders that he knew would be so easily blown away by whoever the next guy was to take office. If Obama can create czars with no legal basis, the president should be allowed to talk to a White House staff member without getting permission.

But now, the Russianewsgategate scandal is making its full about turn, though the boomerang isn’t quite back in hand yet. The DOJ oversees the FBI; Congress oversees both. Whatever—whatever—Congress says, the FBI and DOJ must do, including answer questions. It seems that they didn’t answer questions. Congress is moving for contempt action, which isn’t pretty. Though the president kept his peace, now the “directionless” special investigation is so obviously without good purpose that the president feels it’s okay to say so.

The funny part is, had Jeff Sessions not caved into the anti-Trump pressure to recuse himself, he would be hit with the contempt action from Congress. But, he played by anti-Trump rules, so, ironically and poetically, Congressional action against a seemingly anti-Trump motive won’t hurt him. Grab your popcorn. This will only get more entertaining.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, November 27, 2017

Korea has on display the essential cultural clash that causes and sustains conflict across the world. North Korea’s leaders won’t communicate. They think non-communication entitles them to get whatever they want. South Korea’s president harbors something against Japan. It would be indefensible to claim his resentment is anything other than pure racism; the WWII Japanese government is gone and most WWII-era Japanese who harmed his country have died. His resentment against Japan can only be against their descendants—the Japanese people themselves, categorically defining him racist.

That’s the leadership in the Koreas. No wonder the country is still in a state of civil war.

This week, the spineless diplomacy of South Korea’s president proved itself so incapable. North Koreans are so desperate to keep people in their country that they tried to kill a defector before he escaped—a stark contrast to the US Military’s verdict on Bergdahl. In their desire to contain and kill their fellow soldier, North Koreans blundered, firing over and crossing the Military Demarcation Line. The violation of the armistice was clearly not malicious, but out of control.

The UNC (South Korea & US) solution to the armistice violation was communication—to request a meeting. North Korea’s solution was to cut the phone lines, dig a ditch, and close the bridge. The UNC responded by blasting messages on megaphones across the border. We don’t see South Korea solving problems by digging ditches or closing bridges nor do we see North Korea solving problems by communicating with a stack of megaphones.

It’s clear who is who, who wants to communicate, and who wants to be a hermit. “Trying to talk” with North Korea is a ridiculous suggestion. Cozying up to China won’t help anything either, regardless of China’s view of the matter. China looks like the adult in the room—canceling airline flights to a self-doomed hermit kingdom and yet remaining open to talks with both North and South Koreas.

In times like these, flimsy leadership methods don’t measure up to the great problems staring straight in the eye—no matter how much racism a flimsy leader uses to think himself wise.

Though the armistice has been tested, though it is still in place, the US will not back down on the request for a meeting to discuss the armistice violation. If North Korea does not answer the call, the US will have all kinds of excuses to badger and approach, and perhaps even invoke certain provisions of the armistice for such times that it is broken.

We could be looking at an avalanche that leads to the end of the North Korean regime, when all the North Koreans had to do to stop it was simply pick up the phone.

That describes almost every conflict, at every level from families to friends to companies to religions to governments, everywhere in the world. It’s just easier to recognize our own problems when they seem unique to the Korean Peninsula.

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