The Current Range of Derangement

I freely confess to having initially thought that when Donald Trump threw his hat into the political ring and began campaigning for election to the highest office in our fair land – it was a colossal joke and not one in particularly good taste. But I was never an adamant never-Trumper, and eventually came to think that hey – a wheeler-dealer Noo Yawk property developer (who after all HAD run a good-sized business enterprise for years) couldn’t possibly stuff up the job any more disastrously than He Who Dances With Teleprompters and his merry band of faculty lounge theorizers, career bureaucrats and second-gen beneficiaries of elite parental, fraternal or marital connections. In any case – I’d vote for practically anyone than Her Inevitableness the Dowager Empress of Chappaqua, even if I had to pin my nostrils shut with C-clamp. So – what the hell. Reader, I voted for him. I have to admit that when it sends rabid lefty celebs like Robert De Niro into a spittle-flecked rant on live television, I am tempted to rub my hands together and cackle with evil glee like Mr. Burns in the Simpsons, watching them come unglued with their hate for flyover country and those denizens of it which also voted for him. A man is known in a large part by the character and quantity of his enemies; Trumps’ are as numerous and as varied as any collection of grotesqueries in a Hieronymus Bosch painting.

So I started this post as yet another meditation on how ever-flipping-out-of-their minds the current iteration of Trump-haters are … and then the meeting in Singapore happened, and actually promises … maybe, if all goes well, a resolution to a war which started just before I was born, in a country to which my father was stationed as an Army draftee when I was born, in which I served for a year (three and a half decades later) and in which my daughter might very well have drawn duty in her turn. The Korean War – bloody and vicious, as we are reminded through M*A*S*H reruns – ended in an armistice and a heavily-armed border which slices the Korean peninsula into halves. Not anywhere equal halves, other than geographical.

Back at the start of it all, the northern part of that peninsula was the industrially-developed part. The inhabited part, whereas the southern bits were the rural and primitive parts. The whole of the place, as I came to understand in the year that I lived there, emerged as a feisty and independent kingdom, with a very distinct culture, identity, and language; a language with its’ own phonetic alphabet – the notion of one of their genius kings. Not Chinese, definitely not Japanese, in spite of seventy years of heavy-handed Japanese occupation, which only ended after WWII. I liked Korea enormously, for all that my taste of it was relatively brief. Seoul was a hectic, spectacular, modern city. I think that I went across it in every direction, via the subway, bus, or by taxi, innumerable times on my way to do an English-language voice-job, and never felt the least bit threatened or in danger because of being a foreigner. I was not much taller than the average Korean woman, or all that much more fair-skinned, and with my hair bundled up under a beret, not all that much darker of hair color. Unless people looked directly at me … I didn’t stand out all that much and I worked at not attracting attention to myself anyway. (But with one of my comrades in doing voice-work, who was about six and a half-foot tall … yeah, then we got noticed on public transportation.)

The Korean nationals that I worked with, on my various voice and broadcasting jobs were a relatively cosmopolitan lot, and we talked now and again about the North, and the threat intermittently posed, most notably to Seoul, well within artillery range of North Korean big guns. Indeed, about every six months or so, the Norks indulged in what another blogger termed the Korean Motherland Unity Game of Repeated Chicken – a regularly-scheduled theatrical bit of sabre-rattling, to which the old Korea hands (and possibly most ordinary Koreans) eventually became pretty blasé. (More here from The Daily Brief) Is there now a possible end in sight to a situation which has existed slightly longer than I have been alive, through Donald Trump’s surprisingly cordial summit with Little Fat Kim? Speculation on the imminent collapse of the North floats around at about the same frequency as the Korean Motherland Unity Game of Repeated Chicken. But this time, I do wonder if the Reign of Kim really is on very shaky ground – and Little Fat Kim knows it and is nervous about survival – his personal survival and that of his circle. Bits and dribbles of dismaying information keep trickling out of the hermetically-sealed kingdom; that the soldiers forage for food in the cultivated fields, that the Nork soldier who defected across the DMZ was riddled with intestinal parasites, that the underground nuclear test site collapsed the whole side of the mountain where it was located, that whole districts are stripped bare of vegetation … and perhaps at long last, the Chinese are not quite so blindly supportive of their favorite client state. Is North Korea circling the drain of history, and the Kim regime is trying one last desperate throw of the dice while North Korea still has the appearance of a viable state? Discuss.

27 thoughts on “The Current Range of Derangement”

  1. The political left is on a suicide mission, I have concluded.

    The Democrat Party has done this before. 1860 is one example and 1917 is another. If Harding and Coolidge had not been elected in 1920, who knows if the 1920s prosperity and innovation would have even occurred?

    Now they seem so radical that even Kevin Drum is dismissive of them.

    Six months into Donald Trump’s term, and Democratic politician’s ability to be an opposition party is, in a word, pathetic.

    When the poll came out saying that “Democrats stand for nothing more than opposing” Trump, I thought to myself, ‘If only that were true!’” But they can’t even do that well. When House Democratic Caucus chairman Joe Crowley was asked by the Associated Press just what his party’s core message was, he “hesitated” and then said, “That message is being worked on.”

  2. I think you’ve identified the motivators in inverse order of importance. Trump is probably the least important actor in making this happen. The Chinese are most. When Fat Boy went to Beijing on the train a couple of months ago, I’ll bet he heard that he had become a liability. The Merkins could crank up the sanctions, on us, the Chinese, too. He’s turning into a justification for the Japanese to rearm and slip the binds of their American imposed constitutional prohibitions on use of force. Think Korean Japanese American amphibious exercises. Not likely now, but at some point down the road, Fat Boy, you could be looking at the Seventh Fleet, the most powerful naval force in the world and it would blow your head clean off, you’ve gotta ask yourself one question: “Do I feel lucky?” Well, do ya, punk? And he’s gotten to the point where the Americans might well trade Seoul for the assurance that Los Angeles could never be attacked. (That was Trump’s contribution. “Merkins elected a crazy man.”) They offered Fat Boy the option to grow rich like them, they’d show him how. But first he had to bury the hatchet with the Americans in order to get access to their markets.

    The alternative was to keep the place a Stalinist/Maoist rathole. But he’d be on his own. He could do that, but the Kim dynasty is coming on 70 years old. History shows it’s tough to keep it going for 80 years. So would he rather be the Korean Gorbachev or the Korean Deng? Your choice Fat Boy. He grew up in the west. He wants to be Deng. And now that he’s secure domestically, he can be.

    0bama had poor timing and made the least of it. Trump came to office at a great time and has made the most of it. I’d rather be lucky than smart.

  3. Well, the internet crazies propose, and I think they make a plausible case, that the reality is that NK is a slave vassal of China. Thinking that China can be convinced to bring NK to heel has always been a fool’s errand, because China is perfectly happy to have NK be a constant thorn in the West’s side, and a distraction from their own brutalities. So what if what’s happening isn’t China cutting them loose, but Kim being helped to come out from under Xi’s thumb?

  4. In nearly every venue I read the Korea tapestry presented omits one astonishing thread: Christianity.

    Some truncated factoid teasers: Presently (as in now, 21st C) Korean churches send out more protestant missionaries than all other nations excepting the U.S. At the end of the 1800’s and in the first decades of the 20th C, Presbyterian missionaries (primarily from the U.S.), at the cost of martyrdom as well as long-term commitment to the locals, had significant success in establishing indigenous (=run by, maintained by, led by, taught by Koreans) churches (and accompanying social ministries, such as hospitals, orphanages). These folk were among those who suffered most at the hands of Japanese occupation that eventually became, via fortunes of war, communist occupation. Ironically, what is now the Nork capital was once so much a center of protestant church activity that it is was known as the Jerusalem of the East. (An outstanding eyewitness account of this: Korean Pentecost by Blair and Hunt. Not an accident that the book is subtitled ‘and the sufferings which followed’.)

  5. It’s very possible, Mrs. D – that China played a huge but silent part in all this. They’ve basically sheltered the Norks for decades, but if their PTB have decided that Little Fat Kim is more of a liability than a useful tool … then Little Fat might very well be recalculating his game.

  6. Indeed, Roy — Christianity is huuge in Korea – to the point where many of my Korean friends had western baptismal names.
    And also viscerally anti-Japanese, because of the Japanese occupation and exploitation of Korea for decades.

  7. I’m a fan of Scorsese and gangster films, film noir. Old, new, happy sad, bright, dark – I’ve seen most of the big ones multiple times. Having said that, my honest opinion is De Niro is possibly the most overrated actor in movie history. He can only plausibly perform in one kind of role, and that role is himself. When he tries anything else besides a New York City goon it turns into a cartoonish parody. Sadly, he has now turned into a self-parody of himself with this Trump Derangement Syndrome. Harvey Keitel was smarter and better trained. They should’ve switched roles in Taxi Driver. It would’ve turned out to be a much better commentary on contemporary society instead of a sick psychodrama that incited real life violence.

  8. In any case – I’d vote for practically anyone than Her Inevitableness the Dowager Empress of Chappaqua, even if I had to pin my nostrils shut with C-clamp

    You crack me up! Wish I had thought of that. I too was a reluctant Trump voter but now i am glad I did –

    As for Korea my father, who was there 2 years as a LT, refused to ever go back there. Never could understand why he would never go camping with me until my mother told me, after he died, that he lived in a tent there for 2 years.

    And remembers the bodies and children rummaging through the Army garbage piles.

    Maybe Kim is a modern day Gorbachev who is trying to reform his unreformable system. Hope the end result is the same – we shall see.

  9. My dad lived in a tent there too – only for most of a year in a forward artillery observation post centered around a truck-mounted radar unit. Fortunately, for him the armistice was signed before he had been in-country for more than three months. But he said the misery of the ordinary Koreans was horrific; he remembered sitting in Camp Coiner, eating c-rats from a can, and having all these starving locals staring through the barbed wire at them. Quite took the appetite away, he said. It blew him away when I told him of how bustling and modern Seoul was, and how prosperous and well-dressed the locals were, fifty years later. A nation of incredibly snappy dressers, too. Your average street scene in the business district looked like a line-up for GQ.

  10. Thinking that China can be convinced to bring NK to heel has always been a fool’s errand, because China is perfectly happy to have NK be a constant thorn in the West’s side, and a distraction from their own brutalities.

    You could be right, in which case unlike Iran, we will be back where we started.

    I think Kim might see SK and wonder if they could join the party.

    China is losing low wage manufacturing to VietNam and Indonesia.

    Maybe they would rather have it close to home with NK.

    I don’t know. I got some good input from my Chinese student who was from high class parents. She told me that the part of China close to NK is one of the poorest parts of the country.

    China is sort of sitting on a volcano. There is speculation that Taiwan could end up swallowing China instead of the other way round.

  11. Communist China has no future. Literally. No kids.

    As I said, the internet crazies make a plausible case that what’s going on is Kim, with presumably some serious behind-the-scenes help, and various inducements of both positive and negative forms, is being aided in moving out from under China’s thumb, towards being much closer to South Korea. He is the first NK leader who knows anything outside the system, and there is what to me is plausible photographic evidence they’ve shown that he has been basically a prisoner of senior NK military leaders who are beholden to China.

    I also have to say, seeing pictures of him smiling and laughing compared to earlier photos where he is always completely stone faced indicate he is either a genius actor (way, way, way out of DeNiro’s class…) or something has seriously changed.

  12. “China is losing low wage manufacturing to VietNam and Indonesia.”

    Maybe will lose some of it to the US and Europe, too…If some of the things now being worked on in the automation of apparel manufacturing turn out to work for a wide range of products, the implications are going to be vast, and potentially very bad for people and nations dependent on doing this work on the cheap.

  13. What I’m enjoying is Trump wandering around doing what he thinks is best and lying to everyone, including his handlers.

    I’m liking him more and more actually. To watch the MSM meltdown over a possible peace on the Korean peninsula is especially sweet. Both the right and left are upset and he is actually making progress. ;)

  14. then Little Fat might very well be recalculating his game.

    Indeed he might. If the ChiComs did read him the riot act, he may well be looking to the US for security guarantees for protection from them. It hasn’t worked out so poorly for the south. And in 20 years he could run for president of a newly united Korea.

  15. “Communist China has no future. Literally. No kids.”

    Interesting, what makes you think so? I expect them to be leading the world, assuming you don’t wreck it, in 20 years or so.

    As Trump destroys your various alliances and you continue your slide into immense debt, you will lose the currency of record, probably to the Yuan. That will be devastating and is already in progress.

  16. “he may well be looking to the US for security guarantees for protection from them”
    Bingo. Look at the text of the agreement. It does NOT say we will not attack them. What it says is “President Trump committed to provide security guarantees to the DPRK.”

  17. Pen, the PRC has lots and lots of old people and few young people. Compare China’s porky, top heavy geezer demographics to Canada’s (or the United States’) evenly distributed age demographics.

    China will be the first major country to get old before it gets rich. I think that’s why many Chinese are OK with very authoritian government. Gotta’ keep the relatively few young people from rioting over the taxes they’ll have to pay to take care of all those geezers.

    The PRC won’t be a nice place in another 20 years or so.

  18. Some observations:
    Re Kim in Korea: When you consider the number of fairly close family members Kim has whacked in various very public methods (fed to wild dogs, nerve gas precursor, a freakin anti aircraft gun), I get the feeling sometimes he must lay awake at night listening for footsteps. He’s got a good gig, but I think he’s looking for an exit ramp that might get him some breathing space. He’s got that for a while now.
    Re “the Dowager Empress of Chappaqua”: I was never a Trump fan; As far as my criteria for who I would vote for was concerned, it was a short list. Anyone but Hillie the Horror. Trump wasn’t Hillary. Everyday I get up, and he still isn’t Hillary; The rest is gravy. Trump sort of bumbles around, but he knows how to close the deal: Always ask for more than you’re willing to settle for, and be willing to let the other guy make the deal.
    Re dealing with Koreans in general: They have a (I guess) ‘Japanese’ sort of reserve in public (so how do you know the Japanese don’t have a ‘Korean’ reserve), at least until you get them to laugh the first time. That’s when you find out that they built a culture on ‘the merry prankster’ and dear god those guys can drink.

  19. I expect them to be leading the world, assuming you don’t wreck it, in 20 years or so.

    What a fool. Expect or hope? In 20 years, the average Chinese will be older than the average American. And their income will be no where near equivalent. By then the Chinese tension will be over due either to their need to support the elderly or their previous disastrous overstretch. Technological progress over the next two decades will have a much more deleterious impact on them than the US. The mandate of heaven will be withdrawn. And we will be worried about the Indians. And Sergeant Preston will finally be streaming so we can hear “Well King, looks like this case is closed!”.

  20. Well I’m almost 72 so I could easily be dead. America is really clapped out and although I have a much better understanding of inertia than I did, I don’t expect smooth sailing. The US is not bigger and stronger than everyone else and that’s what its coming down to. A graceful withdrawal from supremacy would be good for everyone.

    Various ‘what ifs’ are not gonna do it. China, and at the moment, most of the world is ready to try new things. You go down gracefully or not.

  21. Agreed that the rest of the world is ready to try new things. France, Hungary, Norway, Italy, and just recently Ontario voted to try new things, voted to try many of the new things we in the US voted to try a year and a half ago.

    We live in interesting times. I’m guessing Frau Merkel will be the next to bite the dust.

  22. “…doing what he thinks is best and lying to everyone…” I can appreciate the sentiment Pengun, but really, “lying” is too good a word.

  23. most of the world is ready to try new things.

    Then they should love Trump, because that’s exactly what he’s doing.

  24. I have become a fan of South Korean TV and movies — one of the unexpected benefits of the internet. They are largely free from Political Correctness, thank goodness. Here is a view from the outside, lacking the benefit of any “on the ground” experience in South Korea.

    One of the surprises for me was how hard the road was for South Korea to get from the devastation following the Korean War to today’s prosperity. It seems that most South Korean dramas center on corruption — everyone in power is assumed to be corrupt: President, politicians, prosecutors, police. But there are always doughty ordinary Koreans who take on the corruption, at great personal sacrifice.

    This many stem from a history which was another surprise to me — the viciousness of the military dictatorship which emerged in South Korea after the war. As recently as 1980, the Korean military was shooting down Korean citizens in the street, following orders from the top.

    This may be a giant (and unwarranted) leap on my part — but it does seem that culturally the Korean people are highly attuned to following orders and taking direction from the top. Perhaps if Kim publicly changed direction and embraced de-militarization and improving the lives of his citizens, the transition in North Korean society would be less traumatic than some of us might have expected.

  25. To me, this is just Reagan all over again.

    Remember how Reagan was a shoot-from-the-hip cowboy who was going to “blow up the world”? How, he was an “amiable dunce”, who the didn’t know his ass from his elbow? How, as all the “Smart” “experts” said he was constantly in the wrong?

    I can remember all pompous foreign Policy poo-bahs telling us – for 8 years – that Reagan was a dangerous Cowboy, who didn’t know nothing about nothing. And the “Evil Empire”? Why how gauche, my dear.

    And then it turned out that Reagan – while he made mistakes – was mostly right about everything regarding the USSR and the Cold War.

    So spare me the WaPo/New York Times “experts”. And the Bush crowd.

  26. PenGun – What do you think a graceful climbdown would look like? In what way is Trump not executing one?

    The great fear among the responsible set is that we’ll go down and there will be nobody sane to take over. After us, the deluge is not a good legacy. Trump’s insistence that Europe pulls its weight is prep for a less dominant America.

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