IMAGINE: The Elephant Party and the Donkey Party have split and broken up. The new Goat Party has won a landslide victory and I, its standard bearer, am installed in the White House. As one of my first priorities, I deliver a foreign policy address on the situation in Korea.
Recently a previous administration stationed three aircraft carriers off the Korean peninsula. I have ordered them home immediately . They’re not only a big waste of money, they’are a display of impotence. They can’t fire a shot without disastrous consequences for South Korea. We need to abandon the illusion that the DPRK (North Korea) can be either pressured or starved into abandoning its nuclear arsenal. The whole concept of trying to intimidate North Korea militarily is a waste of time and money. We have previously bombed them practically into the stone age, killing millions of their people, and they have come back stronger than ever.
I am hereby extending formal diplomatic recognition to the DPRK. We are going to welcome the DPRK to the “nuclear club.” We will formally end the Korean War and sign a mutual peace treaty, whereby we pledge to defend South Korea militarily if the North attacks it, but otherwise North Korea and the US renounce aggression toward one another. We will exchange state visits.
We will promote the opening of wide ranging dialogue between north and south, aiming at eventual peaceful reunification of Korea within twenty years. There are no vital American interests in keeping Korea divided. The tensions rooted in this division distort our relations with China, Russia, Japan, South Korea, and the whole East Asian region.
The fact that the northern government doesn’t live up to a Disney model of capitalist democracy is neither here nor there. Neither does the government in the south. We have maintained close and supportive relations with dozens of other countries that are as bad or worse.
You’d think that the previous administration’s attendance at a gathering of heads of state in Vietnam would teach us a lesson. Successive American administrations spent uncounted hundreds of billions of dollars, sacrificed more than 50,000 American lives, and bombed and poisoned more than three million Vietnamese during the war. Yet just decades later, an American president flew there on a state visit and held hands with its head of state to talk about trade. That peaceful conference could have been had decades ago without doing the war. So, too, normal civil relations can be had with North Korea, and it won’t be long before we’re wearing sweaters and socks made there, and young American couples will be traveling there for their honeymoons. It’s supposed to be very pretty in spring time.
The advent of a state of peace on the Korean peninsula and between the DPRK and ourselves will pose major challenges to the governments on both sides of the DMZ. The powerful right wing forces in the south, who build their reason for existence largely on fear of the north, will suffer a loss of support. Popular movements, including workers’ rights movements, will benefit. Wages will rise and domestic consumption will grow. South Korean manufactures will become more expensive in the U.S. The Korean trade surplus will shrink. We can assist this beneficial process by requiring and enforcing clear fair-manufacturing standards on imported goods. Stuff made with child labor, or under unhealthy or oppressive conditions, will be barred from import. In the North, the advent of peace will have profound and unpredictable consequences. A government whose popular support depends heavily on national defense in defiance of America will be forced to scramble for other bases of legitimacy, or fall. Whether the Pyongyang authorities have the flexibility and resilience to make this sort of 180 degree adjustment is anyone’s guess.
As for those three aircraft carriers, we will refit them. We will paint them light green and equip them as disaster first responder forces. Leave the fighter and bomber jets home. Keep the helicopters. Stock the ships with potable water, emergency rations, tarps, tents, medications, earthmoving, fire fighting, and construction equipment and materials, with generators, solar power gear, and whatever else first responders require. Staff them with trained emergency personnel in all the skill sets that save lives in disasters. Then, when a hurricane, a tsunami, an earthquake, a flood, a fire or other disaster hits anywhere in the world, in a short time the appearance of the giant green ship on the horizon will give courage to the survivors. That’s the least we can do.