There comes a time in every person’s life when they just want to get back into bed, turn the heating pad up to 9 and stay there for a week or two. It’s that terrible time when you realize everything sucks and nobody’s even trying anymore. Last week was one of those weeks; the only thing that saved it was St. Patrick’s Day. It’s amazing how much stupid can be crammed into seven 24 hour days.
When the headlines catch you under the chin, the only thing you can do is roll with the punch. In a not-so-surprising move, North Korea announced that it was going to test a long-range missile. Big deal! The North Koreans have been rattling their sabres ever since Joe Stalin sent the Red Army south of the Yalu River in 1945. In 1950, the Asian Cold War caught fire when North Korea invaded South Korea and President Truman sent Twenty-Star-General Douglas MacArthur to slap some sense into Kim il-Sung — this current guy’s grandpa. After three years of back and forth fighting (encapsulated for most Americans by 251 episodes of M*A*S*H) everybody was pretty much back where they started. The two Koreas then settled in and have spent the last six decades picking at each other like two kids in the back seat of a cross country mini-van vacation. In other words, this current Kim isn’t exactly breaking new ground in the dictator department.
North Korean long range-missiles are a problem, but they’re not the problem. Buried inside the news item is America’s response. Apparently, if North Korea tries to test this long-range missile, America will stop shipping food to the northern Hermit Kingdom. Whoa! Let me get this straight! America’s been shipping food to North Korea??? Which Brainiac in the State Department thought that up? And when did this diplomatic sleight-of-hand become accepted foreign policy? I cannot believe this. It’s so astounding I’ve run out of rhetorical questions.
Check it out! North Korea, a nation notorious for internationally jerking people around, is sitting on a pile of plutonium (Where did they get that from? West Edmonton Mall?) and America is shipping them tonnes of food every month so their people don’t starve. I am not opposed to feeding hungry people, really I’m not, but it strikes me as counterproductive to be sending food to a nation that has been spending billions on a nuclear weapons program. Hold it right there, Kim Whatever-Your-Name-Is! How about ponying up some bucks for a couple of orders of Kimchi and rice for the general population? Not only that, but the nuclear weapons program North Korea’s been building — on the starving peasant plan — is pointed directly at two of America’s most important allies in the region: Japan and South Korea. This doesn’t scan — not even in Cloud Cuckooland. But wait! There’s more! There’s firm evidence that the North Koreans have been exporting their nuclear technology to such world class malcontents as Ahmadinejad in Tehran and everybody’s favorite bad guy, Bashar al-Assad in Damascus. I’m sure somebody in the State Department must have heard of these boys. They’re the ones who want to make Tel Aviv glow in the dark. The logic here escapes me. It’s like picking up the tab for lunch so the guy you’re sitting with can buy a gun to mug your best friend.
I don’t know what went off the rails in the talks between America and North Korea last month in Beijing. American statesmanship isn’t always the brightest light on the diplomatic Christmas tree. However, it’s a good thing nobody told the American people what their State department was up to. There might not be that many folks in New Orleans or Detroit etc. who have ever heard of Danegeld*, but they know a protection racket when they see it. There can’t be a lot of Americans — who are about to pay their taxes in less than a month — very pleased to hear that they’ve been buying dessert for North Korean nuclear technicians.
The problem with extortion is it gets easy. It’s easier to throw money at the problem than do the hard work to fix it. Unfortunately, the problem remains. As Rudyard Kipling once wrote:
“That if once you have paid him the Danegeld,
You never get rid of the Dane.”
Sending food to North Korea is one of the Top Ten stupidest things I’ve ever heard of. Benjamin Franklins are not going to get rid of North Korea’s nuclear capability. However, what they are doing is propping up a repressive regime and giving Kim and his military buddies time and space to go nuclear adventuring around the world. It makes me wonder is there’s anybody even driving the bus anymore.
*For those unfamiliar with 10th century Nordic history, Danegeld was a special tax levied on the people of England and France. It was collected and paid directly to the Vikings so they would play nice and take their rape and pillage somewhere else. It went on for generations.