Carrying forward a conversation I began a few days ago: It’s a short read, a preamble to this one, but sets up my purpose here, which is to contrast the aims of many conservatives who have, in order to save their personal ship of state, have jettisoned the American people as excess baggage, the people’s path to national survival no longer important unless it includes these peoples’ their guidance.
I can think of dozens of apt quotes, several from Shakespeare alone, but this is already long, and the subject is North Korea, not King Hal.
I want to survey Trump’s giant “failure” in Hanoi, according to “National Review”, the probably most venerated (at least in my house) for nearly 60 years, a good run actually, in light of its own giant “fail” in their historical perspective and general misunderstanding of the differences between “politics of status” and “politics of national survival.”
This is the Sophomore’s Crucible, including whatever Freshmen they’ve managed to drag along.
Jonah Goldberg’s departure from NR leaves David French as the reigning scold of NeverTrumpdom at NR, He also penned a piece on NR’s March 1 Gala Trump-Fail-in-Hanoi front page. They condescendingly painted Trump’s actions in Hanoi as being the correct ones despite his overall stupidity about the subject matter, based on the unspoken chestnut that “even a blind hog can find the occasional acorn”.
Problem is, this particular “blind hog” has found several dozens of acorns in just two years, suggesting, even while blind, his 70+ year senses recognize scents these sophomores don’t even know. Since I’m a few months older that Mr Trump, and actually have seen more of the front lines of the world than he has, I concur.
* * * *
Like David French, I also participated in war games in the Republic of Korea..
It was a corps-level exercise near the DMZ. This was in late Sept, ’74, beginning two days after my youngest son was born in Zama, Japan. I picked up my mother at Haneda in Tokyo, took her home, kissed my wife, new baby and older son, then grabbed my gear, and went to catch the bus to Yokota AFB and a waiting C-130.
I was gone a month. Mom was gone when I returned.
I was a JAG captain with no business in a war exercise. But my newly-arrived colonel sent me in his place since he had an aversion to any Army cot in a bunker. Not even a private shower. Harvard man. Our command post bunker was near Uijeongbu, near the DMZ. We carried loaded sidearms everywhere.
Since there were no law issues on the war game schedule my 3-star’s ADC tapped me on the shoulder, said I was the Corps G-5, handed me an FM, and told me I’d be handling all the refugee problems along the MSR’s (Main Supply Routes) from the various battle areas. The wargame observers back in Hawaii gave me good marks.
I was also the General’s deputy-ADC. His aide, a colonel, followed him around like a hound dog, said the stress was overbearing at times, as he had to do all the war game stuff in the TOC plus meet and greet the Commander of NATO Forces in Korea, the CG of the South Korean Army, and various allied commands because he had been a famous tank commander during the Korean War.
He introduced me to all of them as his “Judge”.
The General and I played several games of chess, only never finished even one since he was always being called back to the TOC (Tactical Ops Center). I can even say I’ve played chess on an over-turned footlocker with loaded .45’s laid at our side. Not sure why the general did that, but we were on the DMZ. (I always wanted to be able to do something cool like that.) Being a lawyer and he a Korean War hero, he liked to tease me about my lack of battlefield nomenclature. He’d ask me “What’s a FEBA?” and I’d scratch my chin and offer, “Far East Broadcast Association, Sir?”, and he’d chuckle. I don’t think he ever knew I was originally commissioned in the Infantry.
(After he retired he was part of the Panama Canal Treaty Commission which you post-sophomore history buffs can enjoy, where William Buckley and then-Governor Ronald Reagan debated on PBS in 1978. and which I saw live.)
When we came to Korea for that Corps exercise I was already its liaison with the Korean Businesswoman’s Association, who oversaw all the bar girls and brothels in the area, having made an advance team visit there a month earlier. Tough duty. The General told me (with a glint in his eye) that “some women have the ability to turn boys into men, but we don’t want any of our senior officers being turned back into boys.”
All that said, I never considered myself as having any special insights as to the geo-political nature of the Koreas at the ripe old age of 28. I wasn’t an insider, nor was there a billion-dollar opinion industry inside the northeast corridor to tell us what we were seeing or what we should think about what we were seeing.
I still tipped my cap to commentaries like Bill Buckley’s and Bob Tyrell’s since from the masthead I could tell that were staffed with observers more experienced than me. But by the time I started to write down my experiences, I found the situation reversed. By 2009 no one was interested in any life spent walking the beat in Las Cruces, Gorkiy, Plovdiv or Seoul…
….or old enough to know to ask. Today 10 years inside that mythical Green Line is all the cachet one needs.
Today I’m finding myself among a class of experts who had to go to Wikipedia to find out who Monica Lewinsky is.
Still, back to Korea, it was on those front lines that I learned a lot about Korea beyond the combined knowledge of the NR sophomores. Although I can still build a factory in my sleep, and dissect a corporate organization, both against pre-1980s templates, which is news the Second World can use, I made a fair living just by telling American companies about the business culture they’d find in “the Russias” as I called the eastern bloc.
But my business assessment of the American business culture was not the same in 2000 as it had been in the 1980s. My most offered advice, out of deference to people I knew in the Balkans in particular, was “Don’t go”, on the simple notion that all the people in that part of the world thought American businessmen, partners they desperately wanted to work with, as a type, hadn’t existed since the 1980s
This disconnect cost us Russia. While they were looking for partners to lift them up, our business class were looking for new geese to pluck.
They wanted to share pictures of the kids and grandkids, get drunk, sing songs together. They most wanted America as their business partners because they thought that was what we were still like, not Gordon Gecko and the corporate culture that had squeezed out the old American way of doing business by the time the USSR fell.
I wanted those doors kept closed, only Bill Clinton and Ron Brown opened every one. They never even knew what we had when they threw it away.
Back to Korea, I also knew a lot of background, though still not on the scale of what Victor Davis Hansen’s colleagues might know at Hoover. I had read TR Fehrenbach’s “This Kind of War” when I was in law school, and his background study on the rise of the Inmun Gun (North Korea’s military) from the 1940s is still a classic study. I visited Seoul several times, always during martial law. I often stayed in the Naija (Army NCO) Hotel sometimes, which backed up to a police barracks where they practiced riot control. A Vietnam combat veteran I traveled with pointed out their faces and the kinds of blows they intended to administer to their own people, and clearly not-killing them was not a major concern. Twice I saw on the city streets black vans that would suddenly pull over, jerk some kid with hair that was a little too long, hold him down, and cut it right there on the spot.
During those corps exercises, I got to witness firsthand that Korean flair for meanness, for there were KATUSA’s (Korean soldiers attached to the US Army) in our compound. A Katusa sergeant was chewing out a soldier, who just stood at attention, as a major from an Army division and I walked by, Apparently the soldier gave his sergeant some back-lip because the Katusa sergeant suddenly decked him, and as the soldier curled up in a bunch, began kicking him. I looked at the major and said, “Maybe we’d better step in?”
Major replied, “No, we’d better go” then wheeled and walked away. “If you’d have intervened he had the authority to shoot you. No really. Look it up. When it comes to trigger-finger anger, I’ve never seen anyone to match Koreans.”
That 45 years ago.
In the early 1990’s I got some confirmation of this cultural predilection when I tried to convince some SE Asian factories who made knitwear and sneakers to let me show them ways to beat the Chinese, who generally owned that market because of low labor costs. (Chinese had built-in flaws and I wanted to tell other Asians about them.) South Korean companies had done well with some name US buyers in sportswear, but when their labor costs got too high in Korea, they moved some contracts to places like Vietnam, Philippines and Malaysia. Trouble then arose when they sent in Korea plant supervisers. Many were so abusive with employees some companies were asked to leave by the governments.
That was only 25 years ago.
I can’t say if that is the way it is in South Korea today, for Christianity has taken a strong hold there as well. But it likely hasn’t softened in the North.
This is just news you can use when trying to assess the North Korean culture and how it might have brought about the death of Otto Warmbier, which Donald Trump is also falsely accused of mucking up while in Hanoi.
In April 2017 I wrote a piece about how “dynasty” probably trumps Communist ideology in North Korea, with a few comments about how sometimes weak kings, such as John Lackland might have paved the way for England to go to places stronger kings would never have allowed. (Victor Davis Hanson would have a greater sense of this than David French, I think.) The English Common Law was just one such result, as were freeman farmers at the height of the Feudal System. Kim Jong Un may today be similarly situated. I do know Donald Trump has a better sense of this, in the “sizing things up” department that does most of his own cabinet, much less the Sophomores.
So back to Otto:
The X-factor in young Otto’s death was young Otto himself, and what I just described as a culture that leans toward violence even in the most civilized areas of its society.
Otto stole a 50-cent propaganda poster, probably on a lark, probably assuming if he got caught, no harm, no foul. I know absolutely nothing about the way he was raised, but assume no one ever schooled those kids who took that side-tour to North Korea that they were walking into a medieval society and form of government that would and could impose the most severe punishments for the most trivial of infractions.
All Otto had to do was hesitate when told to do something, as when mother says “Otto, come here” and he ignores her. Depending on the mood of the prison guard who was ordering him, they could have slapped him silly in short order. With a stick.
Worse if Otto was raised as a snow-flake (which we don’t know), his troubles would have been magnified and speeded-up. I think he was the victim of multiple beatings.
Not a pretty picture, for in North Korea they use big sticks.
Otto’s beatings was exacerbated by the Obama administration not making a national and international cause-celebre about Warmbier’s initial 15- year sentence the moment it was rendered.
Even then, North Korea was sensitive to a bright international light being shined on their system. But Obama’s government never caused it to be shined, and there is some history to indicate the Obama people were rather indifferent to Americans in foreign prisons anyway, witness the limp response they made to Iran’s abduction of US Navy personnel in the Persian gulf.
We don’t even know if Warmbier was even listed as a “special watch” prisoner in the Korean prison system. In any case, I think there’s a high likelihood that the individual or individuals who beat Otto were executed long before he was ever returned to the US.
And the likelihood that Un actually knew of Otto, or placed any significance on his status as an American, is no better than 50-50, at least during the Obama watch. The CEO of Coca-Cola would more likely be told if a can of Diet-Coke had exploded killing a person in a Kroger’s in Cincinnati within an hour than Un would have about Otto within a week. North Korea is a nation of 25 million, with thousands of prisoners in their jails, with a lengthy chain of command of information in a bureaucratic system that would put the Virginia’s driver’s license bureau to shame. So the chances that those injuries would have made it up to the palace front office were slim.
Until Trump made a big deal of it.
I refer to those nearly 50-year old’s as sophomores, (there are exceptions) for that’s about where their real-world learning ended. Once upon a time 50 was when one moved into the wisdom-class of scholarship, and God knows they do try the beard-stroking, so it’s at least a concept they’d like to fake, which I’m told, is the sincerest form of flattery.
There’s just so much less there there.
And Victor Davis was just a phone call away. Or Andy McCarthy, who doesn’t have to be a great historian to know how to dissect any situation that is fact-based, as to the sorts of intellectual inquiry an observer must ask in order to arrive at a working universal theory. He’s also expert at estimating how much an observer doesn’t know should figure into a political calculation. (Both Science and Law have a built-in respect for the ideal of humility.)
What a magnificent un-use of available talent.
The good ones are forever students, always asking and questioning, self-critical.
Seriously where do people go when they do not even seem to know to ask?
This is how cultures hobble down.
This is a great danger to our Republic, when our self-described best and brightest have the depth of understanding of a shallow pool of warm piss, yet control so much territory.
This has been my criticism of the Sophomores for as long as I have been writing.
Goodbye “National Review”, we hardly knew ye,