Saturday, July 29, 2017

Nuclear North Korea and the Follies of the Grand Chess Board

While the US and its limited circle of allies went chasing after phantom WMDs in the early 2000s, and then the prospect of US style post-Obama culture in Middle East rallies the Western powers around destabilizing governments on the promise of a mid-east spring (look how well that turned out), and the American media spent (and continue to spend) the majority of their efforts focusing on Trump Drama, North Korea put its nose to the grind to develop an ICBM that successfully, according to current estimates, puts the US mainland (and many other Western powers) within striking distance.

The significance of this latest test is two fold. First, most talking heads are taking the claims seriously. Second, the intel behind this latest test indicates that North Korea was well ahead of previous Western estimates.

One wonders if said estimates were deliberate attempts at domestic propaganda designed to keep attention from Arabian escapades. The common wisdom is that no one wants a conflict on the Korean peninsula - the results would be catastrophic and there are risks of it spiraling into a conflict with China.

China's role as North Korea's strongest trade partner ought to come under scrutiny, at least for the purposes of better understanding the current context. The US has spent the better part of two decades pussyfooting around North Korea's nuclear program for the sake of not provoking China. It is worth asking if the US and its allies took stock of how strategic North Korea really is to China's ambitions for dominance in Asia and the South China Sea. North Korea is a bulwark against US influenced South Korea. It may also be argued that a nuclear capable North Korea (with an unstable head of state) is the most successful deterrent to US military presence in the South China Sea and intervention in any future dispute or conflict with Taiwan. It also provides a distraction from China's creeping global military expansion. China opened its first base in Africa. It is to be expected that China will open more military facilities in Africa, competing with the more limited US presence, as it continues to invest in a continent that the West has let slip by since the end of colonization.

The US (and the West in general) have always played with a short view on the grand chess board. China, by contrast, has played a long game, leveraging the shortsightedness of Western policy, and the addiction to oil, cheap goods, superfluous social issues, and, in the case of the US, debt as an industry.

It's our move...

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