Thursday, 25 February 2016

Korea: Frozen Conflict and the Forgotten Civil War.

As both the US and China come together to create a draft resolution imposing sanctions on North Korea for its continued obsession with developing its nuclear programme, differences between the Chinese and Us approach to how to go about preventing Pyongyang attaining nuclear weapons continues

As the Guardian reported,
China and the United States have had different views on how strong the response should be to North Korea since Pyongyang’s nuclear test in January, with Washington urging harsh punitive measures and Beijing emphasising dialogue and milder UN steps that are confined to non-proliferation.

US nationalists tend to blame China for being 'soft' on what is regarded as its 'communist' ally, even though China is only nominally communist and predominantly capitalist and steadily positioning itself to overtake the US as the world's predominant global economy, a great concern in America.

Us nationalists often maintain China is using North Korea as a 'buffer state' between it and US forces in South Korea. This is, of course, partially correct, though what actual purpose US forces have in being stationed in South Korea 60 years after the Korean War finished is not entirely clear.

China indeed fears having US military bases and forces and missile delivery systems running right up to its border. One answer is a withdrawal of US military forces from the ROK so as to lessen tensions. South Korea is more than capable of defending itself from North Korea as an advanced rich industrial society.

In the US , North Korea is either seen sensationally as a Hollywood evil regime or else a semi-comic farcical state. However, the idea that the US military presence is only about protecting the region from the evil of Kim Jong Un and not about maintaining bases to keep China in check is a myth.

Maintaining a military presence in South Korea is neither conducive to regional peace nor is it arguably even in the interests of the US, though as China rises and US imperial overstretch  becomes ever more a reality, the US is getting itself drawn in to potential conflicts. Anatol Lieven, noted this a few years ago.
'There is one region that the U.S. can and should bow out of now: Korea. North Korea's bomb test is obviously a very serious problem for the U.S., given its heavy military presence in South Korea. However, we should ask why, more than 50 years after the Korean War and 15 years after the end of the Cold War, the United States still has about 37,500 troops on the Korean peninsula.
In the long run, North Korea's nuclear weapons are an overwhelming problem only for its neighbours, and it should be their responsibility to sort this problem out. Of course, they may fail -- but then, the U.S. record in the region over the last decade has not exactly been one of success.
The U.S. is already reducing its troop levels on the Korean peninsula; it should accelerate the process and move rapidly toward ending its military presence. Moreover, it should negotiate a peace treaty with North Korea. This will remove Pyongyang's motive to attack U.S. interests, ensure that China could never again attack U.S. forces in a ground war and allow the U.S. to concentrate instead on maintaining its overwhelming lead over China in naval and air power.
We must be very clear, however, that this withdrawal would also mean ceding to China the dominant role in containing North Korea's nuclear ambitions -- along with Japan, South Korea and Russia -- and in managing the eventual collapse of the North Korean state and the appallingly difficult and expensive process of the reunification of the two Koreas'
The insistence on keeping a strong military presence in South Korea, notwithstanding the idea the South Korean government wants it for ideological and security purposes ( as opposed to offsetting the costs of defence to the US ) is based also on the ignorance in the US as to the reality of the Korean War.

One US nationalist blogger typically wrote in the Guardian,
'the issue is not the US military presence in South Korea, it's the blatant and outright ridiculous behaviour of North Korea (the US wasn't present when NK invaded SK in 1950). To somehow pin this on the US and the South Korean request for their assistance is not only ignorant of history but a delusion of reality'
It is simply not factual to maintain the US entered only in 1950. The US was present in South Korea after the defeat of Japan under a Military Government from 1945-48 It then set about shoring up a ROK regime that was undemocratic and consisted of collaborators with Japan after its occupation in 1910 and in the 1930s against China.

The US government imposed a government led by Syngman Rhee whose regime murdered some 100,000 Koreans in the south, lumping all those who resisted the regime as 'communists' despite the fact many were simply peasant rebels fighting landlords or trade unionists ( as in the Cholla rebellion of 1946 ).

Statistically, the ROK regime, which was not fully democratised until the 1980s, was responsible for more civilian deaths than even the North Korean communist guerrillas under Kim Il Sung managed.  The US ignored all this or turned a blind eye to it as part of its geopolitical strategy in East Asia.

The Truman administration arbitrarily set up the 38th parallel as a means to contain the communist threat and, in so doing, took direct sides in what was after 1945 a civil war within the entire Korean Peninsula between various Korean resistance forces against the Japanese and the elites who had collaborated.

Far from it only being aggression from Kim Il Sung, Syngman Rhee's regime was itching to invade the north and kill off as many in the resistance as possible and that only partially included the Korean communists who had fought along with Mao in China and has infiltrated south by 1949.

There were mutual skirmishes across the 38th parallel throughout the year preceding the outbreak of the Korean War that is remembered in the US as a discrete and time bound period of three years between 1950 and 1953. But it reflected the escalation of a civil war into a Great Superpower contest.

Moreover, though nothing justifies the conduct of the vile and repellant regime in Pyongyang, the arbitrary division of Korea, the failure to strike a peace treaty and the aggressive unilateralist policies of the George W Bush administration, with its 'Axis of Evil' and threats of bombing, retarded any political progress.

Indoctrination and having North Korea on a permanent war footing with its insane belligerence in part results from the collective trauma imposed on North Korea as MacArthur moved north in the war and the USAF blitzed dams and razed cities with incendiaries and napalm. Pyongyang was 75% destroyed.

ROK force atrocities against civilians in 1951 became so embarrassing to the US that it prevented newspaper correspondents reporting from the front. The atrocities carried out by the ROK police against civilians before 1950 occurred mostly in South Korea where the Jeju uprising was crushed with brutality in 1949.

The fact 30,000 South Koreans with no connection to North Korean communists were slaughtered as a the price for creating 'stability' also failed as Rhee's government agitated, against US wishes, to invade North Korea and it was this and North Korean antagonism that sparked off the war.

Apart from the environmental issues, this is why South Koreans have an ambiguous attitude towards US military presence and in the case of the Jeju naval base there has been resistance and criticism that has its origins partly in the historical memory and humiliation of 1949.

South Korea has a radical tradition and many oppose their government.  As the NY Times reported in 2011,
'anti-base activists from the Korean mainland suspect that the naval base will serve less as a shield against South Korea’s prime enemy, North Korea, than as an outpost for the United States Navy to project its power against China.
This is, of course, true as the US attempts, without expressly admitting it, that it is containing China: that is trying to dominate the East and South China seas, partly due to Chinese arrogance and resource grabs for oil and gas but also as the US wants to cut off oil tanker routes from the Middle East if China gets too uppity.

Observations on PiS and Father Rydzyk.

PiS should not be described as Catholic conservatives: they are a far right authoritatarian Party and Movement in continuity with the radical right Endecja of the 1930s with their obsession with 'alien elements', the sin of 'free thinking' and idea Jews are  agents of communist plots ( zydokomuna ) 
So it is hardly surprising PiS intends funding a private college run by an odious toad like Father Rydzyk, Reuters reported,
 'Members of the ruling Law and Justice Party say they want to earmark 20 million zlotys ($4.9 million) from this year's budget for Father Tadeusz Rydzyk's College of Social and Media Culture in Torun, which offers degrees in journalism and other subjects.' 
Father Rydzyk is an alleged 'Christian' who preys on the gullibility of stupid uneducated people to spread anti-semitic propaganda and hatred of people whose lives he knows nothing about buy feels knowledgeable enough to prate on about with infallible authority. .
This fraud has established a business empire in a manner that would rouse the ire of Jesus, though it's doubtful Rydzyk is even educated enough to realise this,unless, he is but is just a complete cynic laughing as he counts the money he rakes in through his media empire, especially the maudlin Radio Maryja.
Yet the scale of his fortune raises questions about where he really does gain such a large amount of funds as it cannot be only from his 'newspapers'.but there appears slightly too mich respect for anyone in poland, just as in the US, who conceal financial ambitions and careerism in the garb of religion
Typical of Rydzik's pronouncements are such as those even levelled against the last PiS government in 2007 when he accused Lech Kaczynski of being a 'swindler' for even discussing the return of looted Jewish property during World War Two, 
In so doing, Rydzyk thus explicitly endorsed crimes committed against Polish Jews who were murdered or driven out of Poland through pogroms by those furious they might have to move out of Jewish property they grabbed once their fellow Polish citizens were marched off to concentration camps.
In a lecture in 2007 this 'priest' gave to students at his media centre in Torun, northern Poland, Rydzyk criticise Kaczynski for his subservience to the Jewish lobby. "You know that it's about giving $65bn," to the Jews, "They will come to you and say 'give me your coat. Take off your pants. Give me your shoes'," 
This is the usual pathological form of demagogy  is there: the theft of Jewish assets as a criminal act is turned on its head and the greedy Jew is seen as the agent of evil and his own downfall ( and during the Nazi era his extermination and, later, under national-communism of his deserved expulsion ).
The hypocrisy of PiS moaning about liberal 'media bias' when Rydzyk's media empire, ( with Telewizja Republika and TV Trwam part of it ) alarmingly popular, supports PiS directly through what can only be termed pure propaganda. 'Trwam' translates curiously as 'I Endure ). 
In fact, hypocrisy hardly does justice to PiS: it's doublethink in the pathological and cynical sense described by George Orwell in 1984 where the lie is accepted both as a lie but also as expedient 'truth'. And both Kaczynski and Rydzyk come across physically and mentally rather like the Pigs on Animal Farm. 
While Rydzk was critical of the slightly softer and less vindictive Lech, Jarek Kaczynski has had no qualms about supporting this charlatan and ugly little con man' in 2007, addressing a crowd of around 150,000 people, Jaroslaw Kaczynski told them: "Here is Poland.". If so, God help it.
Not content with relentlessly pumping out hatred of others, Rydzyk has been working on a huge Church and heath spa complex in Torun for the use of VIPs , as opposed to the common folks, those, of course, who make personal financial donations so that Rydzyk can thus carry on the work of God 
After all, like US tele-evangelist huckers and charlatans, it is thought God naturally favours the successful while having less to do with the poor who curiously tend to support his worldview out of desperation and the fact the politicians cared nothing for them after 1990.
But, of course, Rydzyk was found guilty of illegal forms of fundraising in 2011, so added to bigotry and rabid hatred of anybody who does not accept his deranged version of Christianity can be added the sin of corruption and greed and dishonesty.
In the 1990s, Rydzyk made his fortune by trying to act as fundraiser to save shipyards in Gdansk from closure. in 1997, the shipyard was at the verge of bankruptcy. Rydzyk exploited the opportunity and with the help of his wretched Radio Maryja to plead for private donations to keep the shipyards open. 
The idea was to raise sufficient funds to buy out the company and run it privately. People began sending in their entire life savings, because they felt an emotional connection with the cause, because it was the cradle of Solidarity and the struggle against communism
Not known for 'transparency' ( the ways of God are vouchsafed only to those with a close relationship with Him ) it remains unknown how much money was raised because there were no accounts or official bookeeping documents about it anywhere. It is thought the donations could rack up to hundred million dollars. 
Curiously, just after two years, the fundraising ended. The shipyard was taken over by another corporation.The money. however, was never returned, Rydzyk had other plans to continue the fight for God in Polish public life and that involved his expanding media empire 
Later on in the 2000s Rydzyk branched out further and, later, his VIP health spa and mega-kitsch Church and 'educational college' have become for him and PiS prestige projects designed to preserve the sanctity of the Polish Nation from a host of evils from within and without.
Well connected with 'Law and Justice', Rydzyk seems to have put himself above the law and appears to have networked his way into the position of being untouchable. Such tolerance is not shown to those who find themselves the convenient targets of a renewed bout of political witch hunts 

The persecutions range from from Lech Walesa's alleged role as a collaborator and informer, with the documents still curiously not published, and Donald Tusk, smeared as an East German Stasi agent a piece of surreal nonsense that came from the clinically paranoid Defence minister Antoni Macierewicz.

The fact these slanderous allegations are lies while there are real questions about Rydzk's finances and corruption, reveals the true essence of the absurdly named 'Law and Justice' Party. Rydzyk is the Polish equivalent of a Jerry Falwell or Ted Haggart and Poland needs a Christopher Hitchens to skewer him

Monday, 22 February 2016

Poland's PiS Regime , "Provocations", Paramilitaries and Propaganda

According to the fervent backers of PiS, the Polish nationalist Party-Movement that came to power in October 2015, those opposing them are always guilty of 'provocations' or being crypto-communists or else 'cultural Marxists' intent on destroying Poland's identity as part of a carefully 'concealed' agenda.

Bizarrely, 'enemies' are labelled in almost Stalinist manner as 'reactionary stooges', 'hired shills' and 'paid slanderers'. This is the vulgar style of language redolent of the People's Poland, the national communist regime given essential form as an ethno-nationalist construction under Wladislaw Gomulka, 

At the same time, the PO is absurdly labelled as 'socialist' because only PiS is truly anti-communist; the rest are either appeasers of 'crypto-Marxoid forces' or actually guilt of being a 'kolaborant' with Moscow. Walesa is Agent Bolek and Adam Michnik, editor of Gazeta Wyborcza, is really Adam Hechter. 

Representing demonic forces, earlier in December 2015 a group of PiS radical complete with priest tried to perform an exorcism on the Gazeta Wyborcza's  office. Something like a far right radical lunge for power has been coming for a long time because there are, in reality, two Polands. 

The more urban middle classes have never shown much sympathetic understanding of how callous and technocratic top down neoliberal 'reforms' have had a devastating  impact on ordinary working people ever since traumatic impact of Balcerowicz's extreme  'shock therapy' in the early 1990s. 

That destroyed Solidarity and the word has now been reduced to a largely vacuous soundbite and positive buzzword used by politicians such as Ewa Kopacz to imply poland should help Germany out in the Syrian migrant crisis or that Poland should be more pro-EU. 

As a consequence of the callous and failing neoliberal policies of successive Polish governments, the old idea of 'solidarity' has morphed into a rather nasty and shrill radical nationalism that sees transnational capitalism and communism as two equally destructive and interconnected forces. In many ways, 

PiS is clearly in 2016 a throwback to Endecja regime of 1930s Poland with Jarek Kaczynski showing signs of being a latter day Roman Dmowski  The lewica have been destroyed as a political force leaving the way open for far right nationalists blaming a host of evil enemies without and within for Poland's problems.

The situation in Poland does not look good and the most terrifying aspect is the danger Warsaw will do something extremely reckless and foolish in Ukraine such as sending lethal weaponry and paramilitary support for far right Ukrainian paramilitary groups fighting in Donbass or elsewhere in Ukraine. Neal Ascherson wrote 
'If there is danger to Europe here, it is strategic: that this Warsaw government could lose its head over eastern policy.,,,,There is a big difference between intense vigilance towards Russia and hysteria. Nobody has more experience than the Poles of living – and sometimes dying – next to Russia. But it’s little comfort that Kaczyński’s ministers and followers are almost as rude to the Germans as they are to the Russians. Demonising Russia with myths and insults, as opposed to watching and standing firm, is taking the eye off the ball in a critical period. If it stays on its course, this Law and Justice government will not only bring Poland to boiling point. It may undermine the security of all Europe.
The Defence Secretary, Antoni Macierewicz, appears to believe that Poland needs defence not merely from Russia but from other poles who do not share his conspiratorial outlook. Annoyed by NATO's refusal to place a base on Polish soil, he has now embraced Polish paramilitaries to bolster 'the eastern flank.'

This is especially the case as attention has been deflected away from Ukraine by Russia's military intervention in Syria and Obama is hated by PiS as weak and not prioritising the 'defence' of Poland.in favour of his shift towards focusing on Asia. In fact, some PiS politicians just dislike him for being 'black'.

Poland is heading towards a resurgence of the radical far-right as it is a nation that underwent a disappointing and traumatic economic transition which, despite the image given to the contrary, has failed to lift living standards and provide long term economic security to millions of its citizens, especially in small towns. .

Pyscho-social anxiety is propelling the rise of the far right and the polarisation of politics. The 'losers' from globalisation regard Poland as beset by enemies within and without that 'collaborate' with evil Russia or its allies in the shape of a German dominated EU that wants to destroy Poland's National-Catholic identity 

These fears of PiS  recall those of the Endecja and the writings of Roman Dmowski, with the West imposing its values on Poland and the Jews or other aliens such as intellectuals attempting enforced atheism and the imposition of Godless liberalism in a way that would destroy the National Community

Paranoid conspiracy theories define the PiS outlook towards the world and the Smolensk air crash that killed Lech Kaczynski is seen as a political assassination carried out by Putin in league with the opposition PO party, one that culminated with the Russian involvement in creating the separatist para- state in Donetsk. 

Macierewicz wants to defend Poland against the next stage-the invasion of Poland. Yet Poland is firmly in NATO so the idea of an imminent Russian attack is simply neurotic and about redirecting attention away from the domestic deficiencies of PiS and pointing to the 'enemy over there', the oldest demagogic trick.

The emphasis on paramilitary forces stressed by Macierewicz has an even more sinister aspect. According to Ukraine's UA Today, 
The country could follow Ukraine's example, where volunteer battalions play a key role in the fight against Russian-backed separatist forces. But some fear co-opting irregular fighters may not only be about deterring external threats.Professor Roman Kuzniar, Department of Strategic Studies of Warsaw University: "I am afraid that the ministry of defence is trying to take control over these spontaneous paramilitary organizations to be able to use them later for the purposes of internal politics. That is what I would be afraid of."'
The trauma of Polish history, the morbid desire for the 'eternal martyr status' as unique victim is being instrumentalised to serve a revanchist far right nationalist agenda that wants to ratchet up the battle against Russia and to seek out and destroy internal collaborators and traitors : i.e  Poles who oppose PiS. 

The chilling aspect of this is not that it is cynical; PiS really is led by ideological fanatics who are clinically paranoid and locked into a mindset determined by anti-communism some twenty five years after it ended. For the PiS ideologue it is forever 1986 and there is some mental inability to accept the Cold War finished.

NATO nations need to keep a  watch on Warsaw because the danger of a PiS government doing something very reckless to provoke Russia is highly likely. Macierewicz is already gearing up for conflict by removing defence and security personnel in what appears part of a slow motion and piecemeal coup d'etat. 

Macierewicz shows real signs of having a pathological personality disorder-he's a dangerous figure who would best be off in a pyschiatric institution than in the Polish Ministry of Defence. His removal from office should be a demand by the civil society KOD protesters as he is not only bad but also manifestly mad.

Criticism of PiS would always be met with accusations that there is a conspiracy of sinister liberal elites ( and Jewish 'cosmopolitan' influences ) which are backing the opposition protesters against Kaczynski's constitutional changes. George Soros is a maligned figure blamed for trying to 'destabilise' Poland's government. 

Opposition nationalist Kukiz, supposedly the radical 'counter-cultural' anti-politician against 'the system' in Poland referred to him as a 'Jewish banker' probably behind protests against the government. Despite Poland's Jewish community being minimal, 'anti-semitism without Jews' remains a potent force

Anger at the disappointments of the post-communist transition, the anxiety that comes from declining birth rates and emigration of the youngest and brightest -as well as the threat of mass migration from the Middle East-is causing a very uneasy mood in Poland. 

This has never been well understood outside Poland to the West where it was portrayed wrongly only as a seamless  economic success story with few social stresses and tensions. The reality is different. Entire small towns have died or decayed leaving only jabcok drinkers and babcie behind. 

Many young Poles think only of leaving before they even finish school. Those who stay feel they have been left behind and take refuge in radical nationalism to reaffirm their sense of worth in the face of economic insecurity. The National Radical Camp is exploiting this mood of alienation.

In Chrzanow pamplets advocating the ONR are handed out. The ONR is on the march in Malopolska against the oligarchy, the decadent parliamentarians, leftist propaganda and stands proudly in the continued tradition of Roman Dmowski, Jan Mosdorf, Tadeusz Gluzinski, Henryk Rossman and Adam Doboszynski

Paramilitary groups are gaining in popularity as they await a' Russian invasion'. Part of this is due to a strain of anti-Russian racism, the idea of barbarian hordes from the East rathather than any realistic need for a firm and decisive response to Russia's attempts to expand its influence once more.

While PiS has probably overplayed its hand and seen its popularity decline within a month due to its rushed constitutional changes, it has a four year term to serve and may well be able to override criticism by exploiting distrust of 'them' or 'globalised elites' as 'enemies of the people'.

There is a clear danger this could get worse should ominous events elsewhere cojoin to bring back a situation akin to the 1930s: a global economic crash triggered off in china appears to be more possible as does the collapse of Saudi arabia and the destabilising results of an oil price spike.

The dark irony is that PiS nationalism shows all the hallmarks of the very national-communist 'people's Poland' a number of its leading figures were once committed to fighting. The reason is the continuity with the ethno-nationalism of the Endeks that the post-1945 national communist regime appropriated.

That basic truth about Polish history would be one reason why PiS ideologues are intent on stripping the historian Jan T Gross of his honours for pioneering historical work into the murder of Jews by Poles at Jedwabne and the continued anti-semitism and pogroms that happened after Auschwitz ( in Fear )..

Clearly objective documented historical truth, the sort produced by years of carefully cross referenced research, is not truth if PiS finds it offensive that some Poles were complicit in Nazi War crimes against Jews. This is connected with the inability of PiS to confront 'ghosts in the consciousness of Polish society’’

The stupidity of this is clearer. Gross' Revolution from Abroad was one of the first to document in detail the inhumane treatment of Poles-both gentile and Jew-by the Soviet authorities after they invaded from the east in September 1939 and attempted to liquidate 'class opposition' from those despised as the 'pans' ( lords ).

Such evident attempts at objective history are not wanted by PiS which, in Orwellian style as the Party and Nation-as embodied by Jarek Kaczynski who actually physically resembles one of the Pigs from Orwell's Animal Farm- has set itself the task of defining something akin to Nationalised Truth.

Trying to force early elections and the protests of KOD could help ensure the regime is challenged and removed, But in the longer term, the substantive greivances of those 'losers;, those left behind by a failed US style neoliberal economic order require redress:and real economic reform is required.

The alternative is to return to the 1930s. 


The Role of North Korea in the US Pivot to Asia Strategy and Containment of China

The US would have been better off still engaging in peace talks with North Korea instead of rejecting them because of its 'nuclearisation' process. The Korean War needs to be officially  brought to an end despite North Korea's nuclear tests because there is no alternative to engagement and diplomacy anyhow.
A peace treaty linked to withdrawing US troops from the Korean Peninsula would help to de-escalate tensions without affecting the ability of the ROK or the US to defend Seoul should Kim Jong Un's regime be insane enough to try using its primitive atomic weapon systems as a threat.
However, the US is more interested in profiting from the North Korean threat to sell patriot missile systems in East Asia and as part of a pretext to project power and contain China as it gets embroiled in disputes over rocks around which copious supplies of oil and gas are located.

 So the lack of interest in diplomacy with North Korea is interconnected to the increased role the US wants to play as a counter force in East Asia, Obama's 2010-11 Pivot to Asia strategy.One of the foremost historians of Korea and the Korean War, Bruce Cumings wrote in The Nation 

'The truth is that Pyongyang ought to be paid by Pentagon hard-liners and military contractors for its provocations; the North Koreans are the perfect stalking horse for America’s stealth containment of China—and for keeping military spending high' 

Of course,, China is itself responsible for some provocative moves in the South china Sea and in East Asia but even South Korea and Japan are often at loggerheads over uninhabited islands and the reason is the maritime waters are unclearly demarcated as sovereign territory and, of course, contain oil and gas.
The military industrial complex and the global role of the US as a world power with bases across the globe during the Cold war was essentially initiated by the Korean War. Of course, the Soviet threat , a genuine one, played its part, though Stalin actually backed off from involvement in the Korean War.
The obvious reason was Truman made US nuclear capabilities very clear at the time. Only Mao was prepared to shore up Kim Il Sung who, despite the image, was no Kremlin stooge and had been fighting the Japanese occupation of Korea for decades ( between 1910 and 1945 )
China needs to be engaged by the US in diplomacy to end the Korean War and not subjected to threatening B 52 flights screeching over Korea as a signal of US resolve, as if China was North Korea's 'ally'. The last thing Beijing wants is North Korean tests to lead to South Korea and Japan developing nuclear weapons too.
Events to the north east of Asia are interconnected with US moves in the South China sea. Chinese island building is an attempt to ensure it can get the prime stake in the oil under the sea, a secure supply given the increased instability in the Greater Middle east to the west of its growing partner in Iran.
The Iran nuclear deal between Tehran and Washington shows that sabre rattling and subtle diplomacy could work well: part of the reason was to get the Iranians to shore up Shi'ite dominated Iraq but also to remove sanctions so that western firms could gain secure access to oil and gas in competition with China.
The Pivot to Asia represents the US reprising its role in the Asia-Pacific region once more as the centre of global economic gravity shifts towards that region away from a declining Europe. But it also represents, from that pivotal year of 2011, a US desire to withdraw its military focus from the Middle East.
Even more of a continuity is with US policy before 1914 as in the post-Cold War age, Great Power politics and geopolitical struggles over resources have made a stronger reappearance. In Asia, China is seen as some sort of new version of Imperial Germany, fearing encirclement by hostile powers.
The US, on the other hand, always intended in the Theodore Roosevelt era to be primarily a Pacific power. It could also could be regarded in 2016 as a balancing power and counter force ensuring the security of its regional Asian allies at their request and even Vietnam wants stronger bilateral military tiles.
China is using its economic superpower to build up its missile and air forces enough to deny the U.S. Navy access to the seas around China. The reason the US Navy wants control of the seas is to block oil tanker routes from the Middle East and threaten China's economy should it grow too assertive.
One thing is certain: Asian nations are no longer going to regard themselves traditionally as 'tributary nations' of the Middle kingdom: China's arrogance in this regard is both counter productive and dangerous, though the insistence on the nine dash line in the South China Sea is motivated by energy interests.
China would need to recognise the US is going to be valued by smaller Asian powers as an esteemed ally. Likewise, to avoid conflict, the US need to try to rein in the arms race, cooperate with China and make its policies in Asia more transparent: demanding 'regime change' in China should be dropped too.
China's economic success came precisely because it rejected the IMF and 'shock therapy': it has raised Chinese living standards immeasurably and constant lectures from US diplomats should be dropped, though human rights concerns should be communicated subtlety to avoid the Chinese 'losing face'.
As for North Korea, the US should stop the arrogant and belligerent manoeuvres with B 52 bombers that make Pyongyang even more crazy and paranoid: the collective trauma of the USAF razing of North Korean cities remains in the North Korean psyche and alienates China, a power needed to bring it to heel.

A Short Note on the Korean War 


North Korean aggression was an important part of the outbreak of the Korean War but it was more than matched by the regime of Syngman Ree and those collaborators with the Japanese occupation from 1910 to 1945. There were skirmishes across the 38th parallel throughout 1949 to 1950. Statistically the majority of atrocities were carried out by the ROK against internal rebels in places like Cholla against the landlords and Korean elites who had done welll from collaborating with the Japanese. The US simply accepted that any opposition even in the ROK against the regime was 'communist'. Bruce Cumings emphasises that the US waded in on the one side in what was after 1945 a brutal civil war across the Korean Peninsula as part of a geopolitical design to create a new co prosperity sphere and bulwark against the communists to the north in Mao's China and the USSR. While that did have beneficial dividends after the Korean War ended, though they were much delayed in the ROK until the 1980s, the price of the victory through using excessive air power helped create the paranoid hermit state in north Korea that endures to this day. Not only were dams blitzed, causing huge flooding and loss of life, the US dropped 635, 000 tons of bombs on Korea and 32, 557 tons of chemical napalm that sticks to human skin and fries humans to death in agonising pain. The tonnage of bombs exceeded that dropped in the entire Pacific theatre during World War Two. The 'turkey shoot' was demonstrated as USAF pilots machine gunned down peasants working in the fields and left most North korean cities smouldering ruins. Pyongyang was 75% destroyed, Sinanju 1000% and Hungnam 85%. Such lethal use of air power could be described as dispropotional in the extreme. Despite the obsessive, corny and absurd propaganda of North Korea and its resemblance to Orwell's 1984, these salient facts about the US involvement in the Korean War, which later set the tone for US crimes in Vietnam, should not be put down the Orwellian memory hole: the North Koreans have not forgotten.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

The Geopolitical Advantages of the North Korean Crisis

North Korea under Kim Jong Un and his atomic weapon tests reflects the failure of is diplomacy to end the official state of war would lessen tensions and should be done in tandem with a withdrawal of US troops from the Korean Peninsula. South Korea is more than wealthy enough to defend itself.
As international security scholar and historian Anatol Lieven argues '
it should negotiate a peace treaty with North Korea. This will remove Pyongyang's motive to attack U.S. interests, ensure that China could never again attack U.S. forces in a ground war and allow the U.S. to concentrate instead on maintaining its overwhelming lead over China in naval and air power.
There is 'no surrender' to North Korea involved here nor any way in which South Korea or Japan would be abandoned but it may well remove the propaganda benefits North Korea derives from having US troops garrisoned south of the DMZ and expedite a final end to the state of war existing since 1953.
North Korea is not some sort of Oriental Third Reich waiting to dominate East Asia. It's a gimcrack totalitarian regime which uses the threat of atomic weapons and ballistic missiles as a means not to blow up the world, as though Kim Jong Un were Dr Evil, but to increase its bargaining hand in negotiating its survival.
The alternative to the sort of promising diplomacy pursued by President Bill Clinton in the 1990s after the end of the Cold War. Negotiations between Clinton, Albright and Kim Jong Il almost resulted by 2000 in a agreement in which the US would have supervised reductions in its missile stocks to negligible proportions.
This series of measures negotiated by the State Department's William Perry and others would have guaranteed to cessation of testing and for the US to buy out North Korea's intermediate and long range missiles. In return, the US too would have provided $1bn in food aid annually
That chance was scuppered by the controversial constitutional crisis within the US caused by the controversial election of George W Bush in 2000 who rejected Colin Powell's attempt to continue Clinton's policy as well as starting to come under the influence of a coterie of neoconservative fanatics to started to dominate policy.
The belligerent rhetoric of the "axis of evil" in January 29, 2002, the exaggerated claims at that stage of nuclear weapons capabilities, the plan for the US to use preemptive strikes against North Korea using its nuclear weapons,; the progress on non-proliferation from 1994 was destroyed by Cheney and Rumsfeld.
While South Korean support for the US ( as general approval ratings ) remain high, it does not necessarily translate into uncritical approval of all the US does: resistance to the proposed Jeju base in a case in point. But Seoul has the best in modern defence weaponry that Pyongyang could not compete with.
North Korea's military is feeble compared to the ROK; it is outdated, depends on massed troop formations and much obsolete military hardware. Pyongyang would be incapable of overrunning the south and would be obliterated if it even attempted to do that. The missiles are about state preservation.
The real reason in 2016 the US is seeking to blame China for what North Korea does, is not only a consequence of its own failures after 2000 to formulate a sensible policy towards North Korea; it's about the Pivot to Asia announced in 2011 and fear of and the need to contain the China as a US global rival.
As a January 2013 Congressional Research Service report (PDF) explained, the U.S. has sought “to have a world-wide, continuous global military presence,” in order to preserve the extraordinary military and economic superiority it had at the end of World War II.
As in the case of South Korea, these military postures came with their own specific justifications. But the real goal has always been to maintain military dominance and prevent the rise of so-called peer competitors, or great power rivals that would undermine U.S. hegemony in the region.
Ironically, the U.S.’s continued military presence and defense treaty with South Korea does nothing to weaken Pyongyang. Instead, it engenders geopolitical calculations on the part of regional great powers like China to prop up the North Korean regime.
This is the broader geopolitical context to the controversy over who is responsible for North Korea's atomic weapons programme. China wants to use trade to gain bargaining power over Pyongyang. It may well have failed and those seen as too close to Beijing , such as Kim Jong Un's uncle, get executed.
China simply does not want a collapsed state on its borders with migrant problems as well as the threat of a unified Korea with US bases running contiguous with its borders. This is one reason continued and pointless US military presence in South Korea is counter productive, other than as part of the military-industrial complex.
This involves blaming China for North Korea's missile tests so that it can profit from East Asian insecurity to sell THAAD systems, a measure that only raises concerns in Beijing as it threatens to make obsolete its ICBM systems. The broader US aim since 2011, when Kim Jon Un came to power, is containment of China.
There is a good case for US interests ( outlined e.g. by Mearsheimer ) not to be too closely engaged on the Korean Peninsula as there is no reason why it should be sucked into a potential conflict should North Korea collapse as it would be of more importance to Chinese security and not America's.
But China has become an increased economic superpower rival to the US which has Washington deeply worried about its future role as global political hegemon. These concerns are exaggerated as China has always regarded itself as a regional civilisation and not a world power.
Other Asian powers , however, do look to the US understandably as a balancing power against overbearing Chinese domination of the East and South China Seas ( and indeed the vast oil reserves contained around disputed island chains ). The problem comes with the US trying to compromise Chinese sovereignty.
The sending of a pair of nuclear-capable B-52 bomber over South Korea on January 6th after Pyongyang's test was a far swifter reaction than back in 2013 and was as much designed to impress upon the Chinese that the US remains a power in the region capable of dealing with North Korea and its supposed 'ally' in Beijing.
As historian of Korea Bruce Cumings put it ' The truth is that Pyongyang ought to be paid by Pentagon hard-liners and military contractors for its provocations; the North Koreans are the perfect stalking horse for America’s stealth containment of China—and for keeping military spending high'
Sending a message to Pyongyang is one thing, as if it could really threaten the US with any ballistic missile, but aggressive moves on the periphery of China over a North Korea that is not considered much of an all at all is dangerous and aggressive militaristic posturing.
China aside, such manoeuvres invariably carry with them the sort of threatening menace the neoconservatives under Bush used in the build up to the Iraq War in 2003 when the Pentagon moved twenty four long range B1 and B52 bombers from Guam to South Korea, conjuring up fears of bombing raids.
This sort of behaviour divorced from forceful diplomacy with Pyongyang only intensifies the spiralling levels of paranoia that make North Korea edgy and hysterical. The traumatic collective memory of US carpet bombing and colossal destruction of Korean cities in the 1950s remains raw.
As Bruce Cumings shows ( The Korean War ) ' The United States dropped 635,000 tons of bombs on Korea ( not counting the 32, 557 tons of napalm ) compared to the 503,000 tons in the entire Pacific theatre in world War Two...estimates of the destruction of towns cities in North Korea ranged from 40 to 90%'
Irrespective of grotesque and hysterical propaganda in North Korea, the memory of the destruction visited upon civilians in North Korea remains, though in time, as that generation grows old or dies off, the first hand experience of smouldering cities, some 90% destroyed, will start to fade into memory.
It is 80 years since the Korean Civil War started which then helped trigger off US intervention in the Korean War which has not officially ended. It is long overdue for there to be a final peace settlement to this ongoing 'war' that does not depend on rival powers exploiting the North Korean threat for geopolitical advantage.

Bibliography 

Cumings, Abrahamian, Moaz Inventing the Axis of Evil ( 2004 )
Bruce Cumings,: The Korean War ( 2010 )

PiS: The Challenge to Liberal Democracy in Poland

There is no doubt the new PiS government, elected on October 25 2015, has made a protracted power grab and attempted to use its electoral mandate to change the rules of the constitutional game. None of the legislation being forced through Parliament in late 2015 through Christmas into the New year of 2016 appeared in its manifesto.

It was feared even before the election of PM Beata Szydlo that both she and President Duda were mere figureheads and that the party chairman Jarek Kaczynski was the controlling force behind what was clearly an act of political choreography. Polish voters were deceived by the pretence Kaczynski had largely taken the back seat.

It is said that the last outgoing PO passed a law in November allowing it to elect two out of five judges to replace those who were due to stand down anyway. This is true and blatantly partisan. The other three, however, were positioned legitimately but the Constitutional Court rejected the PO law as unconstitutional.

PiS used that as a pretext to claim all five judges were illegitimate without waiting for the court's verdict on the legality of the judges who were appointed and to swear in their own appointees. As with most political moves PiS takes, it exploits the shortcomings of the opposition and builds that up into an excuse to act even worse.

 The Orwellian doublethink at the centre of PiS 'ideology' is clear. Having obsessed about collaborators with the communist People's Republic, as a means to position itself as the representatives of 'Law and Justice' against corrupt others, the constitutional changes were brought in by two PiS representatives who did, in fact, collaborate. 

Moreover, one of the constitutional court judges appointed by PiS-Henryk Cioch-was an actual member of the Polish Communist Party and was actively involved in prosecuting Solidarity members. Yet Antoni Macierewicz, the Defence Minister, is on record accusing Tusk of being a spy connected with the East German Stasi secret police !

The PiS 'political narrative' is very much about projecting on to opponents the sort of actions that their representatives themselves routinely indulge in. That from a pyschological perpective makes it easier to rationalise the authoritarian concentration of power as a means to 'defend' Poland from alleged 'enemies within'.

The new laws drafted up by PiS in November 2015 were the work of Stanisław Piotrowicz, who was also directly active in repressing opposition to the Communist government in the 1980s. While Piotrowicz was not responsible for prosecutions under Martial law in 1981, it is reported,
in 1982 his name appears on an indictment against Antoni Pikul, a 28-year-old architecture graduate who had been arrested for distributing the then illegal Information Bulletin on behalf of Solidarity’s Co-ordination Committee.
In fact, the great irony with PiS and some of its supporters is that their mindset are products of the People's Republic as it was before 1989-1990. The obsession with 'enemies within', the insinuations about sinister cosmopolitan elites ( i.e Jews and profiteeers ) being the cause of all honest Poles suffering was used by People's Republic functionaries

Indeed, Macierewicz did not claim that he thought aspects of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion were true on Radio Maryja back in 2002 just as a 'provocation' ( a favourite part of the conspiratorial language PiS politicians use ) For sure, the idea of 'Judeo-Bolshevism and capitalism is closely interconnected with a paranoid worldview PiS promotes.

It is clear PiS did not have a 2/3 majority in the Sejm to start making changes to the constitution, not least within a two month time span and as part of a broader attempt to assert political control over the judiciary and to bring the public media under the direct control of the government and avoid accountability to journalists. 

This is to be done through new laws empowering it to fire all executives in charge of TVP and Radio Poland and replace them by appointees chosen by a media council selected by Parliament. Even so, is it really at all the same as a 'coup' or the creation of a 'dictatorship', though it is a move towards a more authoritarian version of democracy. 

The media law is disconcerting as there may well be far more coverage of insane conspiracy theories as fact, such as a sinister Kremlin-PO plot to kill off Lech Kaczynski in the Smolensk air crash. Apart from that, the PiS government proposed a new draft law to ramp up surveillance powers of the state over society 

The special services would have the right to extend wiretapping from three to eighteen months and to monitor online communication and social media. This would indicate PiS is anticipating resistance to its rule and the need to spy on potential dissenters the better to try and discredit them without the need for open political debate.

The obsession with 'enemies within', the insinuations about sinister cosmopolitan elites ( Jews ) being the cause of 'honest Poles; suffering, the idea the Solidarity elites sold out to the hegemonic communist nomenclatura class has embittered Polish society for a quarter of a century since the Round Table Talks of 1990.

That was the explanation given for the protests in Warsaw in 1968 by Wladislaw Gomulka. He blamed the protests against the regime's attempt to stop a performance of Mickiewicz's play Forefather's Eve on 'Zionist agents' in order to outmanouevre General Moczar's bid for power.
Moczar blamed the mass killings in the 1950 carried out by Stalinist Poles on the work of the Jews he termed "Muscovites" who were compared unfavourably to "partisans" who had stayed in Poland to fight the Nazis during the Second World War. That propaganda trope has remained potent. 

There is a belief among those supporting PiS, one given voice by its politicians and ideologues, that since 1990 Poland is divided into those who 'really' fought against Moscow and Communism and those who only pretended to because they had a 'plan' to destroy Poland by other means.

Both global communism and global capitalism as promoted by corrupt post-communist elites are held to be part of a seamless 'plot' by 'them' to cheat the honest Pole, turn Poland into a colony of Germany and Russia and demonise it for resisting a German led EU superstate.
The danger of this rather paranoid worldview is that it offers a false substitute for a real life understanding of what has happened in Poland since the end of Communism as well as offering a way to rationalise the failure to raise living standards for a good number of Poles by creating scapegoats.