March 27, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
This highlights the extreme stakes of whether or not mass resistance, in the name of humanity, will drive out the fascist Trump/Pence regime before they have fully locked down the reins of power.
The “Logic” Behind the Madness
In response, North Korea released a propaganda video showing U.S. aircraft being blown up and its foreign ministry said, North Korea “has the will and capability to fully respond to any war the U.S. would like to ignite” and “The nuclear force of the DPRK [the official name for North Korea] is the treasured sword of justice and the most reliable war deterrence.” A week before Tillerson’s trip, on March 6, North Korea test-launched four ballistic missiles, three coming within 200 miles of Japan.
To many it seems like the threat is in the hands of two madmen—Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un. And on one level, this is true. But it is not just two madmen with their fingers on nuclear buttons. In this truly explosive situation, with two seemingly “unhinged” rulers, there is a method to the madness and a logic to the logic of these “madmen” that is extremely dangerous.
When Donald Trump talks about “Making America Great Again,” he, and sections of the ruling class who have rallied around him, are talking about dramatically reinforcing and strengthening U.S. domination over other imperialists and the world as a whole. For them, this requires profound, violent recasting of the way things have been for decades, including rewriting the rules not of whether, but how overtly to threaten humanity with war, including nuclear war—which would bring unimaginable horror to millions of people and the Earth.
The “logic” of this requires a hyper-aggressive and militaristic foreign policy, which we now see in how the Trump/Pence regime is dealing with North Korea. This fascist regime wants no perception whatsoever of the U.S. being “weak” or having a “lack of resolve.” So, in the face of North Korean defiance and continuing refusal to heel to U.S. demands Trump is doubling-down with escalating warnings—with the ultimate threat of a nuclear attack. And as part of all this, the madman “lunacy” and “unpredictability” of Trump serves a strategic calculus.
And it is NOT irrational for Kim Jong-un to think the U.S. would launch a war against North Korea that would kill millions of people. There are people in North Korea who were alive in 1950 when the U.S. invaded Korea and waged a war of MASS MURDER, killing 3 million people—where there was massive carpet bombing; the use of chemical weapons against civilians; the wholesale rape of women; and almost every building over one-story high in North Korea was destroyed. (See “American Crime: Case #93: U.S. Invasion of Korea—1950” at revcom.us)
Ever since, the U.S. has worked to politically isolate, economically strangle, and militarily threaten North Korea. It has worked to enlist countries throughout the region in these efforts. And the U.S. has openly talked about its desire for a “regime change” in North Korea.
During his campaign, Trump said, “I would get China to make that guy [Kim Jong-Un] disappear in one form or another very quickly.” And when asked if this meant assassinating Kim Jong-un, Trump shrugged and said, "Well, you know, I've heard of worse things, frankly. I mean this guy's a bad dude—and don't underestimate him.” And according to The Wall Street Journal, an internal White House strategy review on North Korean includes the possibility of “both military force and regime change to counter the country’s nuclear-weapons threat.” (WSJ, March 1, 2017)
So, from the point of view of a reactionary, oppressive regime trying to survive, there is a “logic to the logic” of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
Strategic ImplicationsNorth Korea is a small country, but the conflict between the U.S. and North Korea has strategic implications. Tillerson’s trip and the Trump/Pence Regime’s response to North Korea need to be seen in the context of the larger interests of U.S. imperialism. There has been a general consensus within the U.S. ruling class that greater strategic focus has to be applied to East and Northeast Asia—specifically China, which the U.S. sees as its main challenge in Asia. And the Trump/Pence Regime has indicated it regards China as U.S. imperialism's main long-term strategic adversary. So while the sharpest tension in this region right now is between the U.S. and North Korea, this is taking place in the context of the sharpest rivalry in Asia being between the U.S. and China.
Against this larger background, the Trumpites see the current rulers of North Korea as an intolerable danger and threat to the projection of U.S. power in the region and the world. So, in the face of North Korean defiance and continuing refusal to heel to U.S. demands Trump is doubling-down with escalating warnings—with the ultimate threat of a nuclear attack. And as part of all this, the madman “lunacy” and “unpredictability” of Trump serves a strategic calculus.
This has backed the rulers of North Korea up against a wall. Despite rhetoric condemning “U.S. imperialist aggression,” and claiming to be a “socialist” country, the North Korean regime is essentially a dynastic feudal aristocracy in the name of communism. None of which justifies in any way moves by the rulers of the U.S. to fuck with them.
In this situation, the North Korean rulers have seized on the development of a small but potentially destructive nuclear weapons arsenal as a bargaining chip and a last resort in maintaining their rule. Professor John Delury of Yonsei University in Seoul noted of North Korea’s ruler Kim Jong-un: “He has no reliable allies to guarantee his safety, and he faces a hostile superpower that has, in recent memory, invaded sovereign states around the world and overthrown their governments.”
For both Trump and Kim Jong-un, the projection of a certain “madman” persona is part of their strategic calculations. And that “madman” persona has a logic of its own that further ratchets up the danger of a horrific war breaking out, either planned or by some combination of events spinning out of control and accident.
Escalating DangersToday the U.S. has a nuclear arsenal thousands of times more destructive than North Korea. There is a fascist in the White House, who—before he was elected—repeatedly asked a national security expert, “If we have nuclear weapons, why can’t we use them.”
The U.S. has threatened North Korea militarily. But the policy of “strategic patience,” which Tillerson says is now over, led with international economic sanctions aimed at forcing North Korea to halt its nuclear weapons program. This approach considered a military strike on North Korean an option of last resort—recognizing that a retaliatory nuclear or conventional strike from North Korea would endanger, in South Korea, more than 20 million people and 13 million people in Tokyo alone. And from the point of view of the U.S. rulers, there is the concern that such an attack would wipe out 28,000 U.S. forces stationed in South Korea and 50,000 U.S. troops in Japan.
The Trump Regime is now setting out to increase economic sanctions against North Korea, while escalating military threats, with “no options off the table.” In addition to a pre-emptive military strike, the U.S. is also threatening to orchestrate a “regime change.”
The U.S. wants Japan, China and South Korea to work together with the U.S. against North Korea. But these alliances are fraught with intense and shifting contradictions, creating unstable conditions and an increasingly dangerous situation.
For example: On March 10, after months of mass protests, a South Korean court ruled to oust the conservative, slavishly pro-U.S. President Park Chung-hee. This same day, the U.S. deployed, ahead of schedule, its Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea—designed to intercept and destroy short- and medium-range ballistic missiles during their final phase of flight. China, sees this—as well as the continuing buildup of the U.S. military in the region—as directed at them, which it is. And China responded by saying it will work with Russia to retaliate against South Korea for allowing THAAD.
Meanwhile, leading contenders in the upcoming presidential elections in South Korea are from parties that opposed Park. And the U.S. is concerned that a new president will be less servile to the U.S. and despite U.S. advice, move to improve relations with North Korea and China. This has ratcheted up the perceived urgency for the Trump regime to knock down North Korea.
Also, the U.S. faces big contradictions in imposing sanctions against North Korea—where it has to rely on China and Russia—which provide the most economic aid to North Korea. The U.S., China, and Russia all have competing geopolitical interests that affect the level of commitment and enforcement of the sanctions.
Urgent StakesAll of this emphasizes, again, that between the Trump/Pence fascist regime’s “America Über Alles” designs, and the position the rulers of North Korea find themselves in, plus a volatile mix of other factors, there is a “logic” driving the madness that threatens to break out in a devastating war. And, if that war breaks out, it could be seized on to implement drastic leaps in domestic repression by the Trump/Pence regime.
For all these reasons, the U.S.—North Korea conflict is one reason why the stakes of whether or not mass resistance, in the name of humanity, will drive out the fascist Trump/Pence regime before they have fully locked down the reins of power.