The level of analysis of the North Korean situation in America’s corridors of power is laughable. Yes, literally.
Trump’s recent comment about his button being bigger than Kim Jong-un’s “button” was ROFL tier and highlighted the general absurdity of the situation as it is perceived and projected in America. Then, following this Bond-villain slapstick, we saw the lumbering bulk of Trump and America deftly side-stepped by a mini-thaw in relations between the two Koreas, ironically brought on by the forthcoming Winter Olympics, with China and Russia looking on approvingly.
The real flaw with most of the analysis is simple. It views things purely from the American side of the windscreen, when the fact is the US Empire is no longer on the motorway—as it seems to think it is—but is in fact entering the metal scrapping yard, headed for the crusher. The real story here is that America is the object, not the subject, in the situation, and in ways that its ruling elites are clearly oblivious of.
So, who is really in the driving seat here?
Obviously, it is the Chinese. Yes, the same “Eternal Empire” that US news sources will smugly tell you is being cajoled into imposing sanctions by the bloviated, “mad man” rhetoric of America’s latest here-today-gone-tomorrow political “leader.” As a non-democracy, the Chinese have the freedom to pour their higher average IQ into a much longer, more cunning, and deeper plan than the knee-jerk Twitter ramblings of the present 2D checkers player in the White House with his Deep State distractions.
The Chinese have been playing for keeps ever since they were relieved of the selfish and narcissistic excesses of a syphilitic Mao Zedong in 1976. But the problem for China, as a rising power and future global hegemon, is displacing the present hegemon without what could be a debilitating struggle.
Debilitating struggles are important in world history. The conflict between the Persian Empire and the Roman one cleared the way for the rise of the formally insignificant Muslims; while the (almost) mutually assured destruction of Nazi Germany, the British Empire, and the Soviet Union, allowed America to step into the role of World Number One with comparatively little “blood, sweat, toil, and tears.”
In fact, it could be said that one of the characteristics of global power is avoiding debilitating struggles on the way up. This will not have been lost on the Chinese, and this concern must be one of the key premises in any analysis of the North Korean situation, especially as North Korea has a long history of being a Chinese client state.
The Chinese know that they must push America back in some way, but they also know that direct confrontation could lead to a chain of unintended consequences, spiralling towards a mutually debilitating conflict. This is especially true in this case, not only because America operates under a system defined by poor leadership (namely oligarch-controlled-media-influenced democracy) and foreign interference, but because the “Chimerica” phenomenon makes China especially vulnerable to any souring of relations. However, not confronting America in some way is not an option, because, from a Chinese point of view—and speaking objectively—America clearly is over-extended and impinging on China’s natural sphere of influence.
The best way to challenge the US therefore is to present a threat that America finds extremely dangerous to deal with militarily, but, which if it did, would not directly hurt China, but rather increase its influence—the old win-win. It is no accident that such a formulation actually describes, in essence, what North Korea has become. In short, it is a political entity that is perfectly designed in every aspect and feature to play such a role.
The key part of this is to present a carefully calculated level of perceived threat to over-extended US power, interests, and sensibilities, one that also serves the function of gradually bleeding the US Empire of credibility—a strategy of nibbling at the edges and getting under the skin. The only way for the US to stop this negative effect of slowly being undermined, deflated, and stripped of face, is to overreact and overstep the mark, but that has too many costs to make it appealing to any leader there for the usual 4-to-8 year period in power.
But why is something as superficially absurd as North Korea able to achieve this effect?
The reason is that despite the recent fad for globalism, we live in what is essentially still a Westphalian moral system, one in which morality is structured through national entities, except in the most unusual and extreme of circumstances. This means that it is generally unacceptable for a large state like America to directly impose its will on a smaller one, even if that small state behaves in a way considered reprehensible, as long as it does so in its sovereign space.
The Westphalian system went through something of a weak period following the collapse of the Soviet Union and America’s unchallenged dominance, but America’s subsequent disasters in the Middle East—Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria—have restored it to strength. This means that North Korea’s self-contained tyranny and extreme militarism (given its economic base) is broadly acceptable in a moral sense, as long as it doesn’t impinge directly on the interests of other nations. And it clearly does this a lot less than Israel does.
But alongside the dominant Westphalian system, the alternative globalist morality also subsists, and even enjoys marginally higher status in the main states of the West, like America, the UK, and France. This moral ambivalence in these countries between the two systems can be both a strength and a weakness, however, it is the purpose of North Korea to expose this ambiguity and transform it into an unmitigated weakness, something that it has been successfully doing for several years now.
The way in which North Korea does this is by having a completely outlandish system of government and society, complete with comic book villain leader and an overblown image, especially one that rubs up against boomer individualism in the most abrasive way possible: cue mass military parade with tens of thousands marching with robot precision. The point of all this is to effectively “troll” and “trigger” the boomer leadership of the USA into behaving as if North Korea is a rare exception to the dominant Westphalian moral system when in fact it is not.
This then lures America into projecting power in what turns out to be an ineffectual and self-weakening manner. Sanctions, tough talking, military drills, various kinds of threats, references to penis size, etc., all directed at the wrong target, but with little effect as the target, with its Juche ideology, is also designed to soak it up, lean back, and keep giving Boomer America the middle finger, drawing further splutterings of impotent outrage.
For the true global hegemon, the only logic from this would be to escalate into actual military action, but, it is at this point, that America turns in on itself and is revealed as a mere paper tiger. North Korea’s awkward location, evident toughness, and ability to cause regional havoc makes US military action extremely problematic, especially with potent but concern trolling China right next to it.
While America is triggered into behaving in an aggressive but ultimately blustering way, and then forced to back down, drop the ball, or kick the can down the road, China is left looking like the voice of reason and the only adult in the room.
No finer or more precise mechanism of exposing the over-extension of American power and it’s limits could be devised. It is of course possible that such a state arose by mere chance or to serve its own ends or that of its leadership, but that is extremely unlikely. North Korea has all the hallmarks of intelligent design, and the design is clearly that of the World’s next superpower.