This isn’t about North Korea, but the American intelligence communities, but you know I’m right here.
When Donald Trump became president he looked at the totalitarian regime in North Korea through an entirely different lens than had all the presidents going back to Harry Truman, when that part of North Korea was carved out with a deft move by the USSR to wait until after the Hiroshima bomb to declare war on Japan, after Japan had rejected the Potsdam Declaration demand for unconditional surrender.
We were snookered by the Reds. See the word, “Mokusatsu” here, which was the reply of the Japanese to the demand by Churchill and Truman, in July ’45. Both the demand and reply went through the Soviet embassy in Tokyo, who also translated the answer returned to the Allies, causing Truman to drop the Bomb days later. In that two short weeks the Soviets declared war on Japan and swept through all of Japanese-held Manchuria, larger than Alaska, without any resistance, and had taken almost half of the Korean Peninsula, where they bumped into the American army, racing to keep Korea out of the hands of the Soviets.
Still allies on paper the Red Army and US Army agreed to the 38th parallel as the DMZ, dividing the country in two, and which was incorporated into the terms of the Japanese surrender on the USSR Missouri a month later. In 1948, 3 years later, South Korea declared itself a republic under the elected authoritarian, (hold onto that term as we progress) rule of Syngman Rhee, while the Soviets withdrew, handing the North over to Kim il-Sung, grandfather of the current dictator of North Korea, Kim Jong-Il, who is now 36, having been “in charge” since he was 28.
It’s been the only dynastic Communist dictatorship in history.
In April, 2017 I wrote a short history of this period by comparing it to early European dynasties, looking through a royal prism instead of an ideological-political totalitarian prism.
A year later, June, 2018, I added a synopsis of what I thought Donald Trump was hoping to achieve with North Korea by appealing directly to what (my best guess) he thinks are the innermost desires of that half of the young Kim that might be in competition his other half, which expects him to remain a solid chip off the old block of his brutal father and grandfather and a feudal empire of 25 million, 80% of whom live in abject poverty.
About how that upper 20% operates, if you saw the 1987 film “The Last Emperor” about Pu-Yi, the last Manchu emperor of China, (recommended), the young emperor wanted to modernize China, then found out he had to expel his entire “deep state” inside the Forbidden City in order to do so. He did, only to find himself in a “Now what do I do?” moment.
There are several perils involved in Kim suddenly changing course, moving toward the West even a little. At the beginning I thought the Chinese government might help Trump, I no longer believe they are trustworthy even a little. But North Korea has been less bellicose and testy.
I do believe they do believe Donald Trump means what he says,
But neither did I think in 2018 that the combined efforts of the American diplomatic and intelligence communities would conspire against Trump in this endeavor as well. I at least suspect that now, which at the very least reveals a cynical indifference about the misery of the “other” 80% of North Koreans living there on death’s doorstep.
How can intelligence gatherers looks for optimism in a culture when they have none themselves?
Previously American policy was to bend over backwards to at least alleviate some of North Korea’s misery. George HW Bush sent boatloads of “chicken wings” (Bush wings) but with no political gains in return. But no risk or loss. Clinton and Madeleine Albright signed a “treaty” on nuclear testing, which the North under Kim’s father promptly abandoned once we paid the “quid” part without even getting a whiff of the “quo”. (“The fair Madeleine whined, “But we had a treaty!” as if some large thumb was supposed to come out of the sky and squish the breaching party.)
Donald Trump was holding to a very old “classical liberal” belief that as long as you give nothing away in the national security sense, why not see if you can, using hand-shakes and extending face-to-face respectability (“Face”), help ease the hard-fisted controls the government has over its people, especially by increasing cross-border traffic with the South. Something long sought by both populations.
Being the same age as President Trump, and having lived in the Far East for three years, including frequent visits to Korea, plus the added pleasure of seeing the lit-up faces of hope for a better future among the peoples of the USSR and the Balkans for nearly 20 years, I also have a sense of the possible for North Korea and Kim.
The North Koreans’ internal apparatus is now 75 years old, about the same as the USSR when it collapsed. And also the CIA when it was formed. Certain immutable laws apply.
Trump has been right to pursue this insight.
Segue to the intelligence community since the end of the Cold War in 1992:
Remember Eisenhower’s parting admonition to the American people in 1960 about being wary of the military-industrial complex?
Of course you don’t…unless you’re over 70. But you may have heard it mentioned from time to time. Just know that all these resistance notions to an outside-the-box thinking president have been thought before.
For instance, there was a best selling novel in 1962, while JFK was still alive, followed by a blockbuster Hollywood film by the same title, “Seven Days in May” (1964) where Kirk Douglas, (RIP) played a White House Army liaison officer who refused to help a military coup by high officers, led by Burt Lancaster, to overthrow a “liberal” president who wanted to forge a peace agreement with the USSR.
The theme of the film wasn’t about the merits of the peace plan, so I never knew whether “conservatism” at the time would have been for it or against it. I was a college freshman. It was about a military establishment who had been fighting Soviet military adventurism their entire careers. The Cold War was their raison d’etre. Protecting that turf and their careers was the same as defending the country, but none of them could imagine the world any other way short of a war…in which America won.
It was a novel.
So the notion that an American president can come along and gum up the works of an entrenched military-industrial establishment in foreign affairs is not a new one.
With three years under our belt now we know that Donald Trump is a uniquely independent problem solver. As Butch Cassidy once said to Sundance (sic) in a film almost no one under 70 even recalls, he “has vision where the rest of the world wears bifocals.”
In 2016 we had only a faint notion of an apparatus called “the New World Order.” If for no other purpose, Michael Bloomberg is giving America a good look at the down-the-nose attitude that “new corporate order’ has about the America of our fathers. So we instinctively reject it. (Since ordinary citizens are beginning to wake up, this is a good thing for America.)
But for purposes of this series of inquiries, where does the “intelligence” bureaucracy; State, CIA and all the other intel groups, fit into the nexus we call “the deep state”? And what is their true purpose? To defend the United States-as-founded, or a new order? Or are there other more mercenary motives: Money? Power? Status?
We already know, for instance, that they are not only willing to surveil their own citizens but will attempt to blackmail them. And work with other foreign agencies (just allies?) to carry out some of their schemes. And if need be, they will lie and scheme to have them indicted, which can serve several purposes for the criminal mind.
They now even tell us who our enemies are. Without proof.
Have they simply succumbed to the immutable law of old age for bureaucracies, going on 70 years now? This is when, as HomoBureaucraticus, they can destroy an entire system, as they did the Soviet Union. This is when the healthy nation steps in and reorganizes or even, if need be, rebuilds the system from scratch.
The acid test for me: If they had truly loved America the deep state would have gotten rid of Barack Obama and Eric Holder, not Donald Trump. Instead they attempted to imbed them into a “new America” design.
So there appears to be a “higher” cause in their minds, and while I don’t know who or what yet, if it’s not America, I want them all gone, and some in jail.
At the barest minimum, my opinion today is that the American intelligence community does not want to see the Devil saved…unless they can be his instrument. So far the Devil appears to be their friend.